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Steam Heats Up Gaming for Mac Users

By Richard Adhikari MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
May 12, 2010 10:56 AM PT

Valve Software on Tuesday launched the Mac OS X version of its Steam online gaming platform.

Steam Heats Up Gaming for Mac Users

Steam, a portal through which users buy, download and play both old and new PC games, was until now limited to the Windows operating system.

Valve will soon extend Steam to the Linux platform.

Steaming Ahead on Mac OS X

Valve launched a collection of game titles Wednesday on Steam for Mac OS X. Additional collections will be unveiled each Wednesday, Valve said.

The first collection will include "Torchlight" from Runic Games, as well as "Portal," the first of Valve's Source engine-based games available on the Mac. Valve has made native Mac OS X support for its Source game engine available immediately to licensees for use in developing games.

Steam is a digital distribution, digital rights management, multiplayer and communications platform developed by Valve. It offers more than 1,100 game titles and had more than 25 million active user accounts. Users buy computer games online, and they can download content from Steam servers any number of times to any number of computers that have the Steam client installed.

Steam automates game updates every time the user logs in. It is available in several languages, including English, Russian, Chinese, Spanish, French and Italian.

Valve's game portfolio includes titles in the "Half-Life" universe; "Left 4 Dead," "Team Fortress," "Portal" and "Counter-Strike." Steam also has games from major publishers, including Electronic Arts, Activision, Ubisoft, Sega and LucasArts.

Developments in the Games Steam Room

In addition to offering Steam on the Mac, Valve will launch its Steamworks suite of publishing and development tools on OS X. These include product key authentication, copy protection, auto-updating, social networking, and anti-cheat technology. They will be available free.

Together with the launch of Steam on OS X, Valve has added a new feature, "Steam Play." This lets users who buy a game for either the Mac or Windows platforms to play on the other platform for no extra charge. The game is stored in the "Steam Cloud," a cloud service Valve launched in 2008.

The "Steam Cloud" lets users play Steam games on multiple computers. Any changes to game files are stored on the main server, and newer files are automatically downloaded and used when a game is started.

A New Outlet for Steam

Although the Mac has only five percent of the personal computer market, making Steam available on OS X may prove lucrative for developers, Laura DiDio, principal at ITIC, told MacNewsWorld.

"Apple's riding an unprecedented wave of popularity because of the iPad and the iPhone, and it's always had great graphics," DiDio explained. "Apple's share of the personal computing market is growing slowly but surely."

The advent of Steam on the Mac has made it economically feasible to develop games for OS X, Max Schaefer, CEO of Runic Games, told MacNewsWorld.

"Given the smaller overall volume that the Mac game market provides, developers like us need a developer-friendly platform like Steam to make it worthwhile," Schaefer pointed out.

Games like Runic's "Torchlight" retail for US$20, which translates to "razor thin" profit margins, Schaefer said. "Outside of electronic distribution services like Steam, it's just not economical for us to devote time and resources to making ports for Mac."

Steaming in the Pot

Runic will develop new games for both the Mac and PC platforms, Schaefer said. Meanwhile, reports have it that the new release of Valve's "Portal 2" this holiday season will be available in both PC and Mac versions.

Other developers may think of releasing games for the Mac now that it's going to be more cost effective to do so.

"Steam has really honed their service and offers substantial features to gamers, so having this platform available for Mac users is just fantastic," Schaefer remarked. "Hopefully this will create a chain reaction, making more games available on the Mac, and therefore leading to more Mac gamers."

Valve did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

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