Is Steam Labs a Step in the Right Direction?

Jul 18, 2019 | 1 Votes by jose 10 rate Your vote
Valve-Steam just launched a set of three experimental features under it's newly implemented Steam Labs platform. Let's take a closer look to find out if this move is heading towards the right direction.


WWGDB - Is Steam Labs a Step in the Right Direction?


When Steam started operations in 2003, it's initial purpose was to provide an accessible way to maintain, update and distribute their games via the internet. Online gaming was already in heavy use during those times and Valve needed a way to make it easier for their customers to play their games. What prompted Valve to initially create the Steam-Store platform where the problems that arose with their most popular game of that time, CounterStrike 1.6 which was being played globally both LAN and on-line at such a growing rate.

Valve started development of the platform in 2002 to address the CounterStrike issue mainly to provide easier direct updates to the game and as a way to combat massive in-game cheating and piracy the world over. It worked when implemented the next year as players had to generally download their registered copies of CS 1.6, get automatic updates and play under the watchful eye of a security anti-cheat system called VAC implemented by Valve to prevent unsavory players from rigging the game and gain unfair game play advantage over the others.

Another reason for this was that Valve was now involved with the soon to rise most popular sports competition on the planet, eSports. Steam was a way to make CS1.6 copies official as well as implement the VAC anti-cheat features during official CounterStrike Tournaments worldwide. Then CS Source, Team Fortress 2, CSGlobal Offensive, DOTA 2 and other competitive multi-player online games followed ushering the world of eSports gaming with Valve-Steam providing an effective distribution, update and anti-cheat platform to officially deploy these games.

Aside from eSports, Valve had a lot of other game titles which where always at the top of the gamers list. Naturally Steam served as the foremost means to update, distribute and officially support these games as well. At first, Half-Life 2 and Portal where sold via retail copy but as access to the internet grew, everything was done online. Steam was the store to go for all the glorious games and game mods that Valve officially provided to the public to purchase, download and automatically install.

Valve's most popular and best selling titles where actually game mods, primarily CounterStrike as well as Team Fortress which came from the venerable Half-Life. Steam became a way for mod developers, artist and level designers to distribute their game creations through the platform-online retail network. This was then called the Steam Workshop. Valve has this policy of encouraging modding as well as level development by loading their games with additional development tools to do this. Other resources where also found online through game and modding groups. Valve encouraged many of these resources to be placed on the platform so developers as well as players had access to them.

As the years went by, Steam started to grow not only as a store but as a development platform as well. Valve then started selling other games made by other game companies as well as providing an online distribution and support channel for these companies so the games can easily be purchased, downloaded, installed and updated via the internet. Almost all game genres where provided for gamers worldwide to peruse and buy if they wanted to. Valve then went one step further by including Indie game distribution and sales as well. Then Valve allowed Early access games or games in the Alpha or Beta stage (as long as it was already playable) to be distributed as free test copies. This was something that the gaming crowd loved and accepted. This led to a bigger forum feature where developers and players testing the games could communicate and share insight regarding the games progress and direction.

Steam is now he largest digital distribution platform for PC games and as of 2017 had roughly a total sales of around 4.3 billion USD. Today (2019), Steam has around 90 million monthly active users and over a billion registered accounts. Initially, the Steam Client was released only for Windows but has been made available to Linux and Mac OS as well as the mobile based operating systems like Android and IOS. Steam has become the one-stop shop for both online and offline gaming as the client allows game owners with the games installed on their devices to run them in offline mode. The platform has provided server connections to it's other distributed games as well as providing features like matchmaking, auto-updates, downloadable contents, item stores and many more others. If one needs to purchase a game, one has to do it on-line nowadays and Steam is definitely one of (if not) the top go to sites for this.

In line with all of these, it seems that Steam is starting to become inundated with content. The platform has a screening and acceptance system in place called Greenlight whereby a game or content first has to meet certain criteria and quality standards before being accepted into the platform for deployment and distribution. However, because Steam has become like a retail store overfilled with merchandize which range from those for sale to those for free testing and those that are just plain free, and it has reached a point that not all the merchandize can be easily spotted by the window shopping customer.

To this, Steam has started to device a way to make it easier for their customers to view all their available products using features and tools that will scan through them. This current work in progress is what is now called as Steam Labs. This new platform (if we can call it that) within the Steam Platform has a much more wider function however. It is also a way to integrate the current features that Steam currently has and sort of open a channel to direct customer participation and feedback. Steam plans to have the customers or players directly rate a game being developed, give feedback and decide whether they would like to have it's finished version on the platform for them to buy. This is only one aspect of the Steam Labs objective. However, the ongoing project is an experiment in itself and Valve is letting customers test drive it as an alpha or beta version in the works and will have to rely on user feedback if implementing a system such as this is something Steam customers would want.

Steam Labs Experimental



At this point in time and since the first three test features of this Steam platform of sorts has just been released for public testing, there are still no concrete signs or evidences where this will all lead to. It is after all experimental with the purchasing public as the guinea pigs. However, as mentioned, there are already three features that are running for those interested to try it out. The first experimental feature is called Micro-Trailers. A bot will generate groups of mini-trailers for games on Steam that have existing trailers. The customer can watch these mini-trailers by hovering their pointers over it or selecting it. Not much really but will give one a good idea of what the game is all about.

The second experimental feature called Interactive Recommender is a system that generates recommendations based on your user profile. It scans your game library, the games you usually play, how long you play it and your Steam activity in general. Based on this, it uses AI to determine the games you may be interested in and recommends them to you. Just like those of you who love spending a lot of time on YouTube, the platform finds out which vids you keep watching so the next time you drop by, those kind of vids will be prominently displayed on your feed. Well, it's sort of like that. The last feature is called the Automatic Show. A daily show will be generated showing specific games in detail. It's suppose to work like those product marketing games on TV and will show that this game is like this etc etc then that game is like that etc etc.. A marketing show for games so to speak.

So as we now have an idea what Valve-Steam Store is and where it currently is in the worldwide gaming marketplace, the conclusion as to whether the implementation of a new advanced platform which is currently being developed and tested via the Steam Labs experiments is in the right direction can only be determined by the final outcome of it all. It's just too early to tell. At one point Steam has the right to seek new ways to better serve their customers and at the same time gaining a stronger hold and grip of the marketplace to continue it's dominance and on the other hand, is the question if the final results will benefit Steam more than it's customers in the long run and end up more exploitive than accommodative is something to be vigilant about as well.

There will be many issues that will no doubt crop-up as Steam Labs continues on into the immediate future like probably identity and privacy issues as employing SmartBots who can monitor ones gaming activities and preferences can possibly lead to many uncomfortable incidents. With this in mind, it would be up to both Steam and it's customers to work closely together hand-in-hand so the end results will be a good outcome for both. After all, that's what Steam Labs is suppose to accomplish in the first place.

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