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New Steam Logo with name.jpg
Basic data

developer Valve
Publishing year Windows: September 12, 2003
macOS: May 12, 2010
Linux: February 14, 2013
Mobile devices: January 26, 2012
Current  version Steam API: v019
Steam Pack Version: 1568860339
(September 16, 2019)
Current preliminary version Steam API: v020
Steam Pack Version: 1572045180
(October 25, 2019)
operating system Windows from 7
macOS from 10.11
Linux - x86
programming language C ++
category Sales platform
License Proprietary / Freeware
German speaking Yes

Steam is an Internet distribution platform for computer games , software , films, series and computer devices that is developed and operated by Valve Corporation . According to the manufacturer, it had over 1 billion active user accounts in 2019 . Around 47 million users use the platform every day (2018). In March 2020, a record was set of over 20 million concurrent users, including over 6 million active players.

The system enables the online distribution , maintenance ( patching ) and monitoring ( DRM ) of the games as well as communication between the players, the formation of communities and the provision of publicly viewable player profiles . It was released for Windows on September 12, 2003 . Valve's games, such as Half-Life or Counter-Strike , have since been updated exclusively via Steam. For games from this manufacturer, Steam is required for installation and subsequent operation. The previous multiplayer platform World Opponent Network was shut down in August 2004. Since October 2005 it has also been possible to purchase an increasing number of games from other providers via the system.

In addition to games, other software has also been sold on Steam since October 2012. In order to use purchased or free games or software on the platform, the Steam client is required, which can be downloaded as freeware under a proprietary license from the official site. The Steam Community and the Steam Shop can, however, also be used via a conventional browser .

Since May 2010, Steam also supports macOS . At the beginning of March 2012, the Steam client was added as an app for Android and iOS . This version includes the ability to send and receive direct messages on the go via notifications, purchase software and games, and access the mobile version of the Steam Community. It can also be used to add tracks to the wishlist and some methods can be used to increase the Steam balance. In addition, you can provide your Steam account with two-factor authentication , in which the access code generated in the app must be entered when logging on to a computer. The official Linux version was released in February 2013 .


By its own account, Steam's story began in 1999 with the success of Team Fortress Classic (TFC) and Counter-Strike (CS) . Before these games were released, the most popular multiplayer titles reached up to 3000 simultaneously active players. The numbers of players at TFC and CS grew beyond this limit and held out for many years. As a result, Valve began to rethink the traditional way of managing online games. For this purpose, a two-part list was drawn up with changes that were required immediately and changes that were necessary in the long term in view of further influx of players. This list included automatic updates, improved anti- cheat measures, the playability of own games from any computer and in-game communication.

While working on this system, the developers came up with the idea of ​​selling games on such a platform. Their own implementation seemed too complex to them, which is why Valve asked various companies such as Amazon , Yahoo and Cisco Systems and suggested the concept, but was put off to an unknown point in the future. Since Valve needed the system at short notice, the company finally implemented the idea itself.

Version 1.0 of the Steam client was released on September 12, 2003 and was used for testing Counter Strike 1.4. At this time, use was only mandatory for testers, otherwise voluntary. After the release of CS 1.5, Steam users were given the opportunity to play with WON users on the same servers. Some time later, Steam 2.0 appeared together with CS 1.6 beta . Steam 2.0 had a redesigned user interface and the integration of the instant messenger Tracker as Friends . In July 2004, Valve announced the closure of WON, making Steam mandatory for Valve's online games. This angered many players, who then created WON2 as a replacement. In November 2004, Half-Life 2 was the first game that required the Steam client.

After the release of Half-Life 2 (HL2) , there were legal disputes between Valve and the publisher Vivendi . Vivendi claimed that selling HL2 through Steam was in breach of publisher contracts. Vivendi was defeated in court and the company was banned from continuing to license Valve's games at internet cafes . As a result, the companies separated, and Valve chose Electronic Arts as its new retail publisher.

In August 2006, the transition to Steam 3.0 began. Next came the first beta version of the Steam Community in August 2007 , which was released the following September.

In early 2008, Valve opened the Steam platform by releasing Steamworks . With this package, developers and publishers can use the functionalities of Steam (or parts of it) for free. Valve mainly advertises the statistics and DRM functions. The reason given for this step is a hoped-for strengthening of the computer games market and a wider spread of Steam. In mid-February appeared with the Independent - music game Audiosurf the first Steamworks-use product. It is distributed via Steam and uses Steamworks to integrate the Steam Community and within its framework to award Achievements . However, the use of the DRM functionality is not mandatory and a small number of games do not use it.

The release of Bethesda's new open-world RPG from the Elder Scrolls series, Skyrim , on November 11, 2011 brought Steam a new record of 280,000 simultaneous players in a single game.

On June 14, 2015, Valve set a new record with the Steam platform and for the first time had over ten million simultaneous active users. However, active users do not represent playing users, but users who have started the Steam client on the PC.

As of January 1, 2019, support of the Steam client for older versions of the Windows (XP and Vista) and OS X (older than version 10.11) operating systems was discontinued. Valve referred to the embedded version of Google Chrome as the reason , on which a large part of the newer Steam functions is based, but which can no longer run on earlier operating system versions. In addition, future Steam updates require security features and other functions that are not available in older versions of the systems. As early as 2018, new functions, such as the revised chat, were reserved for newer systems.

Sales concept

Steam allows the purchase of software licenses over the Internet , so follows the form of distribution of digital distribution . This includes the necessary financial transaction , the download of the program data , the activation / decryption of the program data and the installation of the software. Updates for programs purchased through Steam and for Steam itself will be downloaded and installed automatically. It is also possible to buy games as gifts for another Steam account .

The platform has sophisticated options for territorial control. The origin of the user is determined using the IP address , credit card or PayPal registration. The Steam Shop is adapted on the basis of this data: Games that cannot be bought are hidden or instead switched to cut versions; the prices can also be adapted to local conditions. These measures are used for licensing , youth protection and market reasons .

To use it, you need to download and install the Steam client and register with Valve. When a game is purchased, its license is saved in the customer's user account and is henceforth linked to this account. You can pay by credit card , PayPal and Paysafecard . Once purchased, the game can be downloaded from the client. The number of downloads and the number of computer systems that can be downloaded is not limited, but only depends on the authorized access using the buyer's user ID and password. However, an account can only be used once at the same time, so that it can only be downloaded or played on one computer at a time.

After uninstalling a game, its license remains in the user account and the title in question can be downloaded again at will.

Since Valve classifies the purchase of a game as the conclusion of a non-transferable subscription to the use of a game and not as a purchase of a game, acquired games cannot be passed on or resold. Therefore Valve refuses to activate serial numbers of used Valve games in Steam. Another consequence of this is that Valve reserves the right to block access to the games and the Steam account at any time if a breach of the terms of use is identified.

Passing on a personalized Steam account is also prohibited.

Customers also lose access to the games they have already purchased and their account if they do not unilaterally accept the terms of use changed by Valve, as happened in August 2012, for example.

Since 2015 it has been possible to remove purchased games or receive a refund.

Valve's most famous games can still be purchased in parallel to Steam via conventional stores on data carriers. However, this only avoids direct purchase via Steam and downloading the game files. The Steam client and a user account are still required for the game itself. The data carrier comes with a serial number that must be registered with Steam in order to decrypt the game files after installation and to start the game. Games registered by serial number are treated by Steam in the same way as games purchased online. Most third-party games that can be obtained through Steam are also typically available through retailers. However, their serial numbers can usually not be registered in Steam.

Games that you would get twice by purchasing packages that may partially Steam as so-called Gifts ( english are given away for "gifts"), their resale was prohibited for a long time, but since 6 September 2011 on the system Steam Trading ( English for trade ) approved and controlled by Valve. Furthermore, the owner of certain games receives Guest Passes (visitor passes) with which other users can test them as a full version for a limited time.

Valve offers a program for various organizations (including Internet cafes , schools, libraries) that provides access to some of the Steam games, management software and other specific advantages.


Screenshot from Red Orchestra , one of the first third-party games on Steam

All games offered by Valve, such as Half-Life and Counter-Strike , can be purchased and maintained via Steam. Since the introduction of Half-Life 2 , Steam has been required to operate newly released Valve games. Modifications (mods) of source games by other providers have been supported by Steam since 2008 (updates and patches ). All mods unavailable via Steam must be installed and even maintained by the user, after the installation is to use the Steam infrastructure, such as the server - browser , but possible for the modification.

The Steam client offers the opportunity to study game files for errors, backups (English backups to create) from them and the files defragment . Defragmented data can significantly reduce loading times. You can also switch between different localizations for a game at any time . These are - if necessary - reloaded from content servers.

Steam plays an important role in combating cheaters in multiplayer games. If a fraud is detected by Valve's anti-cheat tool VAC , the relevant Steam user account will be blocked for future multiplayer games on all VAC-secured servers, but this does not happen immediately, but after a certain time.

Since October 2005, games not developed by Valve have also been sold on Steam. The first titles were the 2D fighting game Ragdoll Kung Fu, the independent game Darwinia (late 2005) and the top-down shooter Shadowgrounds . In April 2006, the World War II multiplayer game Red Orchestra was released. Since then, the number of manufacturers and publishers who publish computer games (and in some cases also corresponding tools and SDKs ) via Steam has increased. These include a. Activision , JoWooD , Ubisoft , Electronic Arts , Rockstar Games , Firaxis Games , Atari , id Software , Eidos , Epic Games , THQ and Infinity Ward . Currently (September 2015) more than 6,400 different games are distributed on Steam. Due to youth protection regulations (see review ) and license restrictions, around 100 fewer games are available in Germany.

For many games, Steam offers videos, demos , manuals (as PDF ) and a metascore from the website .

Steam Community

In September 2007 Valve opened the Steam Community and integrated it into the Steam client as an update package. The community offers the user the opportunity to create a profile that can be accessed from both the WWW and the Steam client. There (similar to the well-known services Myspace and Xfire ) it can provide images, text and links, and visitors can view statistics on games and software used, friends and memberships. Steam users can also form groups or clans , which serve to better organize the friends list and provide a text and voice chat room as well as a kind of appointment calendar for the members.


Games can about the community called for special achievements Achievements ( English for Achievements awarded), each of which is set by the developer of the game. This function was introduced with the publication of the Orange Box game collection in October 2007. There are many reasons for a reward - from actions that are necessary to successfully complete a game (for example, “killing” the Weighted Companion Cube in Portal ) Awards that can be achieved over time (playing a round on each map in Team Fortress 2 ) up to meaningless actions (laborious transport of a garden gnome through the entire game in Half-Life 2: Episode Two , as well as an Easter egg in Left 4 Dead 2 ) . Collected achievements can be viewed on the user's community page. In some cases, achievements cannot be activated due to bugs, for example. In July 2017, a limit of a maximum of 5,000 achievements per game was introduced. Existing games that exceed this number remain unaffected by this rule, but developers cannot create new achievements.

Steam overlay

The Steam Community can be reached from many games started via Steam (even non-Steam games can be integrated via a menu) using a configurable key combination without having to quit the game. This is implemented using an overlay , the community system is displayed as a partially transparent graphic above the actual game graphic. Even friends of the instant messenger of Steam, has been in the Steam Community integrated and strong inter alia, supporting voice and group chats expanded.

Steam Translation Server

In March 2010 Valve started the Steam Translation Server as a closed beta, and in October of the same year the system became available to everyone. This is a translation project in which Steam users can apply with their community login and help translate Steam and games from Valve.

Privacy settings

The community function of Steam has been criticized by some users because there is no longer any possibility to delete a community profile after it has been created. Since July 2008, however, it has been possible to make an existing profile only available to friends or to hide it entirely. In April 2018, Valve introduced new ways to determine the visibility of its profile. It is now possible to completely hide individual parts of his account, such as information about his library, his friends list or inventory, or to display it only for friends. The information about your own library includes, among other things, the playing time, the achievements or the wish list and is hidden by default for every user with the update and only visible to you. In addition, you can now hide your own online status, so you can still write with friends and see their online status, but appear offline to other people.


The Steam Workshop is a function with which free and paid modifications (mods) and content for selected games can be published and installed via the Steam client. The Steam Workshop emerged from the Mann Company Store, a shop for in-game items for Valve's free-to-play game Team Fortress 2 . The Mann Co. Store enabled players, among other things, to submit their own creations to Valve. If users were involved in the creation of a purchasable game item, they received a proportion of the sales proceeds. One year after the opening of the Mann Co. Store, the Steam Workshop was introduced in October 2011 with the so-called Manniversary Update. It allowed players to post their own modifications for Team Fortress 2 publicly and to comment or rate these modifications. The top-rated modifications had the option of being included in the game by Valve. Over time, more games were approved for the Steam Workshop, for example The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in February 2012. The option of offering modifications for a fee initially remained on the games Team Fortress 2 , Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global developed by Valve Offensive limited. By January 2015, Valve said it had paid content creators around $ 57 million. In the same month, paid modifications for third-party games ( Chivalry: Medieval Warfare , Dungeon Defenders: Eternity ) were approved for the first time and the opening for further titles was announced. The introduction of paid mods in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim , which had a very active modding community, led to massive criticism in April 2015 . Among other things, the division of the income was criticized, of which only 25% went to the creator, while the remaining 75% remained with Valve and Bethesda , the manufacturer of the game. At the same time, the responsibility for the modification lies solely with the creators, who have to cope with the legal framework and risks that have not yet been clarified (example: do the mod developers have to offer support for their mods or not?). Due to the protests, the function was withdrawn in the case of Skyrim .

Steam Greenlight / Steam Direct

In August 2012, the Steam Greenlight service was launched , which gives smaller developers the opportunity to present their games to the community and vote on them for a one-time entry fee. With a sufficient number of pro votes, the game will be added to the Steam sales catalog. At the beginning of September the community functions were also fundamentally revised. In February 2017, Valve announced a simplification of the service by eliminating the voting process; From spring 2017, the developer only has to pay an "application fee". In this context, Valve announced a renaming of the service to Steam Direct .

Trading cards

In 2013 the beta of a trading card and experience point system was started. Trading cards are obtained by playing on Steam. They are combined in sets. As soon as you have collected all the cards in a set, you can make a badge.


On December 2, 2014, Steam Broadcasting was added to the Steam Client. This service allows users to stream games live directly from Steam. Currently only Windows (from Windows 7) can be streamed, but support for Windows Vista, macOS and Linux will follow. So far, every user can watch via the Steam client or an up-to-date web browser.

Family library

With the family library it is possible to share the user's games with other Steam users. To do this, the user who owns the game must log into the other user's computer and authorize that computer. The authorization is then only valid for the computer (or in the case of several operating systems only for one). The authorized computer can then use the purchases of the Steam user who authorized the computer without having to pay themselves. However, there is a restriction that only one user can access a game library at a time.

Steam Awards

Since the beginning of 2017, Steam has been organizing the Steam Awards, a computer game award ceremony in which the users of the platform vote in different categories. In contrast to other award ceremonies, not only games from last year are nominated. A list of categories and winners can be found in the main article.

economic aspects

Development and margins

Steam is increasingly developing into a general distribution platform that enables the manufacturers involved to trade some conventional levels - such as B. Publishers , wholesalers and retailers - off. This allows the manufacturer to keep a much higher share of the sales price for himself. For example, Valve achieved a return on sales of over 80% on sales of Half-Life 2 through Steam versus a profit margin of just 36% through traditional retailers. This can have a greater impact on lesser-known developers, because they usually receive a fixed percentage of between 10 and 15% of the profit per unit sold from the publisher. On Steam, they reportedly get 60% of the proceeds. In the case of modifications, the author and valve each share half of the amount. For Valve as an online publisher, this means an expansion of their own business area: fees from development companies that want to use Steam for their products represent an additional source of income.

Pricing models

The low distribution costs and quick response times on Steam enable the more intensive use of special price models compared to traditional sales via retailers. Examples for this are:

  • Sale of several games at package prices (also from different manufacturers and publishers)
  • Discounts
    • time-limited pre-sale discounts
    • Short-term discount campaigns, the price advantages of which are sometimes around 50 percent or - especially on certain occasions and holidays - sometimes up to 90 percent
  • Encores (e.g. older games from the same series)
  • Free games (sometimes limited in time; examples: Free Weekends, ATI & Nvidia promotions, code name: Gordon )

Although Valve publishes almost no information on sales figures, game statistics show that at least the Free Weekends are a success, as significantly more players were active at the same time after they ended than before the promotion.


The introduction and expansion of Steam have an impact on the development of the entire computer game industry. Sharply rising costs for the production of commercial games (since 1997 increase by up to thirty-fold) lead publishers to a strategy of risk avoidance, which is why they tend to reject innovative ideas for fear of loss. Online sales channels such as Steam counteract this by significantly reducing distribution costs .

“The most difficult time for developers was during the cartridge games for the Nintendo, the publisher's money was stored in the warehouses in the form of silicon. You couldn't take any chances, so you stayed strictly conservative about things that worked. With Steam exactly the opposite is the case, you can try everything without losing any money. The unlimited shelf space also makes Steam interesting for old, no longer available games. "

- Gabe Newell (Valve CEO)

Steam not only allows developers to take greater risks, the threshold for commercialization of mod developers has also been lowered by Steam. This made possible the success of the Garry's Mod , for example . Initially developed for fun by a single hobby developer, the mod was so successful that it was turned into a standalone game. It has now been sold over 6 million times.

Statistics functions


Steam sales statistics example

The Steam platform provides publishers with the latest sales statistics for their products, which sets them apart from traditional retail sales with weekly or monthly sales figures. This allows them to assess the success of a game much faster and, for example, align their advertising campaigns accordingly.

Hardware and software

Extract from the hardware survey

The mostly constant internet connection when using Steam is used by the program to send various, partly anonymized data to Valve. There is no specific list of the transferred data; by using the Steam platform you implicitly agree to Valve's privacy policy . According to this, personal data can be passed on to third parties as required. Some of the fundraising campaigns and their results will be announced via publications in the Steam Update News, interviews and Valve pages.

Only in the case of the Steam Hardware Survey , which is reissued at longer intervals , the user is asked for permission before transferring software and hardware data from the PC . Installed programs are also queried. Valve paid particular attention to Mozilla Firefox , Apache OpenOffice , Windows Firewall and ZoneAlarm . However, Valve collects even with non-participation in the survey data on the respective computers: So Valve stated, for example, data on the hard drives - fragmentation to have collected a problem with long level to fathom -Ladezeiten. Furthermore, data about crashes are automatically transmitted and can be processed with special programs.

The statistics on the hardware and the operating systems are also publicly available and thus give an overview of the hardware common in gaming circles, which sometimes differs significantly from the distribution on the overall market.


Some time after Half-Life 2: Episode One was released , Valve began using Steam to generate detailed statistics regarding behaviors and events in both single -player and multiplayer games. These should help the developers to identify and fix possible game balance and level design problems. Since the appearance of the Orange Box , the so-called death maps have also contributed to this, which use color tones to show the number of deaths in different levels.


System requirements

According to the manufacturer, Windows 7 or higher (as of May 2019) is required as a minimum requirement for using the Steam client under Windows .

Since May 12, 2010, Steam has also been available for the Mac . According to the manufacturer, the minimum requirements for macOS are OS X 10.11 or higher (as of May 2019).

Under Linux there was initially only the option of using the Steam client with Wine without official support. In July 2012, Valve also announced that it was working on porting the Steam client and Left 4 Dead 2 to Ubuntu- Linux, as well as making all games available for Linux distributions in the long term. On November 6, 2012, a closed beta of the Steam client for Linux started. As games were Team Fortress 2 and selected titles from third-party Linux delivered. An open beta started on December 20, 2012 and a freely accessible bug tracker was set up on GitHub . On February 14, 2013, Steam was released for Linux.


Steam uses a combination of the network protocols TCP and UDP . The download of media via Steam is done via TCP. The Steam client connects to the so-called content servers. In 2008 there were more than 200 pieces available all over the world. The concentration of servers is highest in the USA . Germany ranks second. In some countries, the content servers are provided by authorized third parties. These are largely "filtered", which means that only Steam users from the respective country can obtain data from them ( geotargeting ). To speed up the download, the data is compressed before transport , and the client can receive from several content servers at the same time. The most accessible servers are automatically selected by stations distributed at nodes in the network. However, logging in to Steam depends on a central authentication server at Valve's Bellevue (USA) location .

Offline mode

Since 2004 the Steam client can be switched to offline mode . This is primarily intended for single players and LAN parties and can be used if no internet connection is possible or desired. To do this, the account data (including password) must have been saved and verified by Steam during the last online operation. If the offline mode is activated, you can neither play on the Internet nor update software. New games cannot be registered either. Games must be fully downloaded to operate in this mode. In offline mode , multiple players can play together under the same account on a LAN server.

Content streaming

Steam supports content streaming due to its file system . In theory, this makes it possible to start a linear game while the priority list is available while loading. The remaining files are transferred in the background in the correct order. If this is not done in time for a level , the game pauses. Content streaming requires considerable effort on the part of the developer, which has resulted in mainly old GoldSrc games ( engine from Half-Life ) using the system. If the broadband internet connection is fast enough, these can be played almost immediately after the charging process has started.

Voice chat

Steam has been using the SILK for voice transmission since March 2011 . This is used and further developed by Skype . The bandwidth utilization is now dynamically regulated and fluctuates between eight and 30 kbps. The previous method used 15 kbps all the time.

Game Cache Files

The Game Cache File format (file extension .gcf) was originally developed for the local storage of game data downloaded via Steam . This represents an uncompressed file container in which all game data is located. This format is intended to facilitate the transport of game data and prevent its search service indexing by operating system services . In addition, its use makes manipulation in multiplayer games more difficult, since the loading of game files from the game cache files can be forced. In this way, the required storage space can be requested in full at the beginning of the transfer, thus avoiding fragmentation of the file system. Individual files, such as executable files or libraries, must be extracted from the Steam client into a normal directory before starting a game so that they are also directly accessible to the operating system . The archives also exclude content that was created by other players, for example, and that has to be temporarily stored locally for the course of the game.

In fact, almost all of the games published by Valve use the format. Instead, games from third-party providers use .ncffiles (No Cache File), which only contain references to the game data open in the installation folder.

Valve has not released any software that allows you to fully view Game Cache Files . Corresponding programs are, however, sold by other providers; known is GCFScape.

Steam Cloud

With the Left 4 Dead game , Valve introduced a system that controls game settings such as: B. stores key assignments on a central server ( cloud computing ). If you reinstall the game or install it on a different computer, Steam will download these settings from the servers. Steam Cloud was later expanded in functionality so that game statuses can also be saved; this functionality was made available to other game developers as well.

In the meantime, the Steam Cloud has been introduced in almost all in-house games, including a. for the multiplayer shooter Team Fortress 2 , which not only saves key configurations but also graffiti online.

In 2011 there was a client update that included a screenshot function. Each user has one gigabyte of storage space available to save and present around 1000–2000 screenshots online.

Big picture

In September 2012 Valve released a beta version for the Steam client, which contained the "Big Picture" mode. The finished version was released for all users in December 2012. The “Big Picture” mode enables the user to use Steam with a gamepad- friendly user interface, which is also adapted for television. For this purpose, among other things, an adapted web browser and an input method called "Daisywheel" to enable quick keyboard entries via the gamepad are offered.

SteamOS and Steam Machines

Steam controller

On September 23, 2013 Valve announced its first proprietary operating system called SteamOS. SteamOS is based on Linux and should be specially adapted for playing in the living room or on large screens and for high graphics performance. This means that Steam games can also be streamed from other PCs. A hardware solution that is only designed for wirelessly transferring game content to a screen is Steam Link . The associated app for iOS was banned from the App Store in June 2018 because it enables access to a software store outside of Apple's ecosystem and thus violates Apple's company policy. SteamOS will soon be available for download free of charge, in future all new releases will also run on SteamOS.

On September 25th, Valve presented a hardware concept called Steam Machines . From 2015, Valve-certified complete PCs in connection with SteamOS were offered for sale via providers such as Alienware and Zotac . In 2018, Valve discontinued the program due to unsuccessfulness. The reasons given were the in-house competition with the Steam Link and the poorer performance of the games under SteamOS compared to Windows systems. With the release of Windows 10 at the latest, important points of criticism of Microsoft's operating system, which were a trigger for the development of SteamOS, disappeared, so that Steam's operating system was not widely used. In contrast to the hardware product lines, the maintenance of the Linux distribution was continued.

HTC Vive

Valve introduced in 2016 in collaboration with HTC , the VR goggles HTC Vive to market and optimized Steam for Virtual Reality .


In order to run games that have only been released for Windows on Linux, Valve is working with Proton on a compatibility layer based on Wine .

Remote play together

After a month in the beta phase, Steam released the Remote Play Together feature on November 21, 2019 . With this function it is possible to play a local multiplayer mode that is not actually intended for online gaming, but can still be played over the Internet. Only the host has to own the game itself, while the image and sound are transmitted to the individual devices of the other players via live streaming and the inputs of the players are transmitted to the host's game session.At the start, around 2000 games are available that support the function support.


Valve regularly advertises new releases, discounts and promotions via the switchable Steam Update News . When downloading game data, advertising banners from the content server operator are also displayed.

Since February 2006, an agreement has existed between Valve and the American in-game advertising provider IGA Worldwide (IGAWW) on the integration of advertising messages in Steam games. In February 2007, Valve introduced in-game advertising as a beta in Counter-Strike 1.6 . Two months later, the advertising banners were made visible to all users in the best lists and as virtual poster advertising on walls within the games.

After protests from customers, Valve's managing director Gabe Newell stated that the advertisements in Counter-Strike 1.6 were just a test run and that there were no plans to extend this refinancing method to other Valve games or Steam, and that this might be canceled again as soon as everything went smoothly 1.6 would be removed. He also stated that the advertising option was intended to finance the future of cheap or free games from smaller game developers .

Following the example of Counter-Strike 1.6 , advertisements can also be seen in Counter-Strike: Condition Zero since January 2008 .


Internet compulsory

One criticism of Steam is that it requires an internet connection to log in to play. Although there is an offline mode , this is partly still linked to the Internet functionality of Steam - especially when it comes to activating the retail versions. Due to insufficient information on the sale of Half-Life 2 , Valve was warned by German consumer protection and signed a cease and desist declaration in March 2005 . Since then, a clearly identifiable notice has to be attached to all sales packages.

Protection of minors

As found out in 2007, Valve has been violating the provisions of German youth protection since 2005 at the latest, despite the adjustments. Games that have not been approved for young people by the USK (USK 18) or have been indexed by the BPjM are made accessible to young people through the platform. Valve only uses a simple age check (over or under 13 years old) for legitimation instead of legally prescribed personal procedures such as Postident .


If the server is switched off or access to the user account is lost, it may no longer be possible to play games that are dependent on Steam. This can particularly affect older games for which product support has been discontinued and which the respective manufacturer has not prepared for this shutdown. This problem is a fundamental point of criticism in digital rights management . At the same time, this dependency also offers the advantage that all online games, regardless of age, can still be played online and will remain so until Steam is switched off. With old games with their own server architecture, on the other hand, it is common to switch off the main server after a few years - the dependence on Steam has positive and negative sides.


The close relationship with Valve is viewed negatively by many game developers because it leads to a conflict of interests between Valve's original main business, the development of computer games, and Valve's new business as an online publisher. In October 2009, the founder of the Gearbox Software development studio , Randy Pitchford, warned against Steam and suggested a spin-off of the distribution platform from Valve. He also lamented the exploitation of small developers by Valve. Several independent developers who distribute their games on Steam immediately denied these allegations.

Terms and Conditions / Right of Resale

In September 2012, having Consumer Federation the Valve Corporation due to a change in the terms and conditions warning from Steam. These would put consumers at a disproportionate disadvantage and put them on the virtual door too quickly.

In February 2014, the lawsuit against Valve ended and the Federation of German Consumer Organizations suffered defeat. The company may continue to sell games through the Steam platform and these may not be resold. In another ruling by the European Court of Justice, video games were rated higher than software because of their audiovisual component, and this was also argued here. A final case law on the subject is not yet available.

Following a lawsuit brought against Valve by the French consumer organization UFC , the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris ruled on September 17, 2019 that Steam's Terms of Use violated EU law as they did not allow the resale of purchased games. The ruling also affects the gaming portals of other manufacturers, should it actually come into force across Europe. Valve announced that it would challenge the court ruling.


In November 2011, strangers broke into Valve's servers and may have been able to access customer data (including billing addresses and credit card information). Valve then advised all customers to carefully check their credit card statements. In October 2012, a critical security vulnerability in connection with a Windows protocol extension "steam: //" was discovered by the company ReVuln. ReVuln u. a. to take full control of affected computers through manipulated URLs and a logging function of the source and unreal graphics engine. The problem still exists today in principle. In October 2013, a critical security hole in connection with the Windows NT privilege “SeDebugPrivilege” and insufficiently secured memory areas was discovered by the security expert Graham Sutherland. Graham Sutherland warned of the possibility of full rights takeover by malware. Valve responded a little later with a security update. In the meantime, users can secure their account with the two-factor authentication Steam Guard, which sends a PIN by email when logging in from an unknown device.

Right-wing extremist communities

In 2018 and 2019, Süddeutsche Zeitung , Bayerische Rundfunk and criticized the fact that right-wing extremist users present themselves in the community area of the platform and share right-wing extremist content in groups. Steam is accused of not applying the community guidelines and not blocking the groups. The Network Enforcement Act had not been observed, instead the groups had simply been made more difficult for the public to find.

Geographical blocks within the EU

The European Commission regards geographic blocking of product keys between EU countries as a violation of EU competition rules. Consumers should be able to purchase games in other EU member states. In this regard, the Commission complained to Steam operator Value and five video game publishers in April 2019, which it also accused of illegal mutual agreements on this matter. In a statement, Valve pointed out that geographical blocks would only be used in those cases in which this was necessary due to legal provisions; for the remaining cases, Valve had lifted geographical blocks since 2015 at the Commission's concerns. Furthermore, Valve, as a platform operator, does not see itself as liable for the video game publishers.


In addition to Steam, there are other digital distribution sales platforms such as B. Gamersgate , Green Man Gaming , , , Epic Games Store , Origin or Uplay . In contrast to all others, (formerly: Good Old Games) is completely DRM- free and at Green Man Gaming it is possible to sell certain purchased games for credits that can be redeemed for new games. In addition to Steam, only Origin,, Uplay and GOG offer social integration through text chat, but not voice chat, or the management of a friend list, which enables easy play with them. In addition, these alternatives are not available for all games, because all Valve titles since 2004, as well as other games from other publishers, require Steam.

Also console bound platforms such as Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network represent alternatives.

Web links

Commons : Steam  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: steam  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

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This article was added to the list of excellent articles on July 4th, 2012 in this version .