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What if Valve brought Steam to mobile? (ammaar.me)
44 points by asronline on Nov 13, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 42 comments

What an awkward thing to say in this space but Steam is for curating quality products whereas mobile gaming on google play/app store is mostly about selling absolute garbage to punters. When Steam eventually does mobile their own way they'll blow them charlatans out of the water.

Gaben has made it pretty clear that Steam's role as a curator is not something he wanted, and not something that will continue in Steam's future.

> "One of the worst characteristics of the current Steam system is that we've become a bottleneck. There's so much content coming at us that we just don't have enough time to turn the crank on the production process of getting something up on Steam. So whether we want to or not, we're creating artificial shelf space scarcity.

> "So the right way to do that is to make Steam essentially a network API that anyone can call. Now, this is separate from issues about viruses and malware. But essentially, it's like, anyone can use Steam as a sort of a distribution and replication mechanism.

> "It's the consumers who will draw it through. It's not us making a decision about what should or shouldn't be available. It's just, you want to use this distribution facility? It's there. And customers decide which things actually end up being pulled through. So Steam should stop being a curated process and start becoming a networking API."


It's not us making a decision about what should or shouldn't be available

We have that, and it's called "installing from the developer's website".

Allowing everyone on Steam would be a mistake; driving down the minimum quality of games makes it harder to discover and reward the best games. Steam's success so far has been in quality and discounts.

Quality hasn't been a selling point for Steam for a couple of years, they pretty much allow anything on there.

Gaming critic Jim Stirling has a youtube channel dedicated to this, e.g. Air Control (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYArgbWVtGc) was a famous example. Day One: Garry's incident (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjTa_x3rbJE) was another trainwreck which got famous because the dev filed false DMCA claims to take down negative Youtube videos.

Both of these and many more were on steam for $30 or so

>Allowing everyone on Steam would be a mistake; driving down the minimum quality of games makes it harder to discover and reward the best games.

They are working in steps towards this. The last discovery update addresses a lot of the problems they had with discoverability and also focuses on rewarding better games more than subpar ones.

except steam quality already has taken a massive planned nose-dive already

The reason behind showing metacritic score, user reviews, and curator reviews, along with introducing a discovery system that considers the quality of the games it suggests, and pushing some of the approval process onto the users (greenlight), has been all to try and decrease Valve's position as an authority on game quality.

There are some horrifyingly poor games on steam already, most of which get removed after a bunch of people complain about it either a) being a scam, or b) being literally unplayable, after which no refunds are given and the game is removed from the store.

But bad games, who make truthful claims, are fine, and that is intended

That is not really true anymore. While Steam had a time when there were only good games, now there is quite a lot of crap on Steam.

I firmly believe that Valve is in a great position to be a hardware company. All they have to do is realize that hardware is the only thing that matters, and get their properties on as much hardware as possible.

Imagine, if indeed Valve brought Steam to nothing but the OpenPandora/Pyra game consoles:


In fact it could be a momentous thing for Valve to get behind this effort and add Steam to the open repo. It'd blow open the doors on Android and iOS and move Linux - as an embedded operating system platform - into the stratosphere.

Valve+Pyra (or something similar) = new masters to follow.

Just my opinion. Before all the 'hardware nay-sayers' get started, think about this: the Pandora happened, without Valve. Irrespective of commercial success (yet), the Pandora/Pyra community is positively thriving as an emergent platform. Linux, and a very open atmosphere, is at the core of why this works, at small scales; and also why it can scale, too.

What would the Pyra be like if gaben gave, like, a million bucks to people like EvilDragon and notaz and the rest of the Pyra team, and said: "kids, gimme 100,000 Pyra devices, and we'll put Steam on them for our customers" ..

Frankly, it could happen. I wish it would! Frankly it'd be the kind of bold move that would make sense to me, were I in a position to direct a few bucks. The thing is, whether Valve arrives on Steam or not, things like the culture which produced http://repo.openpandora.org/ are going to happen, regardless. May as well be a player, homie ..

Could happen, but I don't see it. They have cold feet when it comes to making their own Steambox hardware (they retracted on their initial intentions to do so) and in that sense I don't see them actually moving towards making their own hardware anytime soon. Even if I agree it would be a great idea.

Don't Apple and Google have clauses in the developer contracts that prevent distributing a store from within their stores? It'd have to be Humble-Bundle style side-loading on Android, which is not ideal, or simply "unpossible" on iOS.

I assume the Humble Bundle app didn't leave Google Play on it's own yesterday:


This is what's keeping them from doing the same. They could always fork Android, but then you end up with Amazon Kindle Fire. Although... If the Ubuntu phones get anywhere it could be part of that ecosystem if Ubuntu makes it so, but who really knows at this point, it's too early to tell. It's much too complicated when Steam is it's own App market, and it would not provide much revenue for other companies, or incentives if you will?

There's the steam box I suppose. A steam handheld would be pretty cool. I love the 3DS, but it is underpowered and the games are hella expensive. A good alternative with a controller and lots of reasonably-priced indie games would be great.

The upcoming Dragonbox Pyra could be a great Linux portable machine running Steam (provided they provide ARM runtimes + ARM recompiled versions of games).

This is probably another issue. They definitely haven't started to deploy ARM version of games yet, even though there's numerous games that are 'ARM' compatible. Although, any game coded in Java and similar frameworks could in theory already run on top of arm versions of said frameworks I suppose.

Well, this is obvious for Valve. They created the first successful online store and they want it everywhere, but Apple and Google do not.

You are competing against Apple and Google Play online Stores.

If they support Steam they would be making the platform a commodity(as Steam does not care about the platform), this is something Apple can't let happen, or just replace Google Play as the gatekeeper for Android(as steam already knows how to sell commercial titles).

Steam's response to online stores have been to create the Steam machine, that probably will extend over mobile devices in the future(using wifi playing first, creating devices on their own later).

Remember that real Linux needs to get to tablet-phone space, with efforts like Ubuntu's Unity it will soon. Valve will be the first to benefit from it(as steam machine is very similar to ubuntu).

> Ubuntu's Unity it will soon

Is there any device that will be released anytime soon ?


There are companies working on tablets too. I probably know a couple of companies working on this but I can't talk about it. :-D

It is almost a prototype now. In a couple of years I will consider using them.

The most important thing right now is improving and stabilizing the graphic system with Wayland and Mir.

It's very apparent that XCOM (the game referenced in the article), even in the Steam version was very much designed for touch screen use. The game requires no continuous input or precise input that a keyboard + mouse would provide, and as such is ideal for tablet devices.

The same can't be said for most games. It's not really a case of steam directly making their library available to mobile audiences, it's the lack of appropriately designed content.

IMO most virtual joypad style games on mobile devices offer a terrible user experience, and the majority of touch input focussed games wouldn't be as successful for a PC gamer audience.

The problem is the controls. There is a big difference between a touch screen and a keyboard/mouse. Unfortunately few mobile developers get this.

I think a lot of mobile developers "get it", it's just a very challenging problem to solve.

That's why devices like the Open Pandora are good ideas in the first place, since they integrate physical controls and keyboards. Very unlikely that such devices will ever take off on the market, however.

Yeah, this is very true but when we do get titles like Slender, XCOM, Five Night's, and more that are pretty much full clones - I feel like this should be done.

What could really knock this one out of the park is In-Home Streaming. Why buy an nVidia Shield and a high-end GTX graphics card when you can stream to the iPad you already have?

Oh for sure, similar to the way OnLive were doing it. I'd call this feature a game changer.

Edit: added this to my blog post quoting you.

OnLive are still around. I fired it up to play Mafia II the other day.

I don't really understand this comment. What does "In-Home Streaming" mean in this context?

Steam has a feature called In-Home streaming where it runs a game on your fast computer and streams it to a smaller/quieter one. It's useful if you have a big desktop box somewhere but your TV is hooked to a weaker home theater PC on the opposite end of the house. Quality and latency aren't perfect, but they're pretty good.

On the Nvidia side, they added a GPU feature to stream things to their Nvidia Shield tablet (Android based, I think).

quarterto is suggesting that if Valve made an iPad client for In-Home Streaming it could compete really effectively against the Shield, since IHS works with both Nvidia and AMD graphics cards and so many people have iPads already.

Thank you.

Apple would never allow this, it competes against their App Store, their Game Center, and would probably also fall under the rule against "app curation / collections" apps.

So, I don't think Apple has a policy against social platforms within games. EA, for example, has Origin in FIFA. However, a custom Steam game store would only be possible on Android.

Ah okay. They used to have wording about not allowing functionality that "duplicates" built-in features...

maybe this article should be: what if apple and google weren't draconian dicks with their app stores?

maybe valve and apple could reach some kind of agreement anyway, but the real blocker there i see is that steam fundamentally violates the app store requirements because apple don't want anyone to sell anything unless its through their app store.

google i'm less sure about, i'm not up to date with the latest dev requirements, but i suspect they have introduced similar things recently.

however... cross platform integration is something that developers can do anyway i don't see any reason why savegames can't be shared if the api is based on normal current network technology and is platform agnostic. an obvious example would be a rest api interface to a server for save games - such an api can be used identically across all platforms, although gamedevs might want something lower level and less filled with cruft than a TCP/IP connection with HTTP over the top, even those constraints aren't very prohibitive... UDP communications work fine across everything, and the good ol' BSD sockets/Winsock are easy to work with cross platform so long as you respect things like using network byte ordering and don't rely on exotic socket options.

I think this has always been part of the plan. When encouraging people to port to Linux/Mac OS X they made reference to the fact that the work would translate to mobile too.

What should be?

Humble Bundle is on mobile and it's not much different.

I can buy games, install and update them.

Humble Bundle already have a head start on them in mobile.

So would that let Steam compete against Game Center only or the whole App Store? Not that we couldn't use competition there, but Apple won't let that happen voluntarily.

I definitely think they can compete against Game Center with this. I know I'd pick Steam over Game Center any day given that I game on my PC a lot. However, the App Store is a tricky one on iOS because of the restrictions Apple imposes. It's possible on Android. But on iOS maybe you'd have offers like get the promo code for the mobile version of the game via Humble Bundle or something? Not so sure.

What if folks developed better Game Center apps?

A more plausible scenario has Google buying Valve/Steam and making a play for the Windows App market (and perhaps the Mac market as well).

That is not a plausible scenario at all. Gaben made it clear he's never going to sell out, and generally makes fun of people for suggesting it.

It's not like we haven't ever seen people swearing they won't sell out and then selling out later because of changing circumstances. When push comes to shove will he really lay off half of his employees?

Fundamentally Valve is two companies and Steam's chances of conquering the world and remaining independent don't seem great to me. Business today is great and they have many users who love them.

They are however, ultimately an extra middleman on an increasingly irrelevant platform that they don't control. They're also about to enter another market with fading relevance against established players with much deeper pockets. That's not a bet-the-company move but, if it's a mild initial success, it may spiral into something like it. That could be worse than if it flopped out of the gate as Valve may end up issuing lots of stock to support growth in the cutthroat console world, where the competition spends billions on subsidizing hardware, marketing and gaining exclusives and is also facing growing pressure from Android and iOS. Yes Steam has millions of avid fans today. Ask Sega, Nokia, RIM and others how long that lasts in the hardware world.

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