Valve co-founder and CEO Gabe Newell believes piracy stems not from price, but from convenience. And as Steam boasts fast access to a dizzying selection of games, so piracy has become "basically a non-issue" for Valve.
"For example, if a pirate offers a product anywhere in the world, 24x7, purchasable from the convenience of your personal computer, and the legal provider says the product is region-locked, will come to your country 3 months after the US release, and can only be purchased at a brick and mortar store, then the pirate's service is more valuable. Most DRM solutions diminish the value of the product by either directly restricting a customers use or by creating uncertainty.
"Our goal is to create greater service value than pirates, and this has been successful enough for us that piracy is basically a non-issue for our company.
"For example," Newell added, "prior to entering the Russian market, we were told that Russia was a waste of time because everyone would pirate our products. Russia is now about to become our largest market in Europe.
"We were told that Russia was a waste of time because everyone would pirate our products. Russia is now about to become our largest market in Europe."
Gabe Newell, CEO and co-founder, Valve
Steam's digital distribution platform requires you download and log into a Steam application each time you wish to play a game. This simple check performs a service many DRM services are criticised for. Steam also ensures games are up to date, as well as offers multiplayer matchmaking facilities, friend lists, achievements and various other platform-based community features.
Such is Steam's persuasion that many top-tier publishers and developers now opt for Steamworks tools to be implemented deep within their games. This packages Steam's clever bits - multiplayer, cloud saving, authentication, etc. - so that developers can build them into games early on.
Half-Life 2 effectively launched Steam in 2004, but it wasn't until 2005 that the service welcomed its first third-party games. Today, seven years after HL2, Steam dominates the PC (and Mac) digital distribution video game market.