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Veteran Member - Level 11
Steam. To most people it means "Pressurized water vapor used for heating, cooking, or to provide mechanical power". To anyone who plays PC games it means digital download service from Valve. Quite possibly my favorite piece of non-game software I have Steam gets plenty of use on my computer. There are many features that Steam packages together that makes them great.
The ability to purchase a game thru Steam and then have it download onto any of your PCs is fantastic, but it is trumped by the fact that Steam updates the games on its own. No more downloading and installing patches or verifying your on the most current version. Steam does all the updating by itself and keeps your games organized. Even better is the fact that some games support Steam Cloud saving. Which means play the game on one computer and then go to another and pick up right where you left off. The convenience this provides is grossly understated when people talk about Steam.
Since it is a digital download service you have to talk about the store portion. They have a large library of games to choose from. Everything from major titles to quirky indie games there is something for everyone. Purchasing a game is a quick and painless process and is similar to any other online purchases someone would make. Steam also almost always have sales going on games where you can pick up titles at a discount. Especially on the holidays they have some really crazy discounts that no one should miss.
Community on Steam entails friends lists and groups. Each user can maintain a list of friends who they can either chat, group chat with multiple friends, join them in game, invite them to a game, see what they have been playing, see their achievements, and much more. It is similar to Xbox Live but it takes it up a level. Also in game you can open the Steam Community Overlay which allows access to chats, friends list, the internet, previous player lists, and more. Also in game you can get chat notifications, game invites, or notifications telling you a friend is online and if they are playing something what it is. While this area is not new it is the newest feature on Steam and really made it a solid package.
This is where Steam outclasses its competitors. In the tools section of Steam there is access to mod tools for the source engine and dedicated servers for many Steam Games. Just like the games these all update themselves automatically. While these are not necessities for gaming they are really nice to have and would normally be a separate download from a game. The fact that Steam packages it all for you is a big help in Staying organized.
Steam continues to grow and I'm confident that Valve has ideas in the pipeline for it. In a world where digital downloads are becoming more and more prevalent Steam reigns supreme as their King.