Steam is a digital distribution, digital rights management, multiplayer and communications platform developed by Valve Corporation.
It is used to distribute a large number of games and related media entirely over the Internet, from small independent efforts to larger,
more popular games. Steam is set apart from similar services primarily by its community features, completely automated game update process,
and its use of in-game functionality.
There are over 1,100 games available through Steam, and in January 2010 Valve announced that it had surpassed 25 million active user accounts.
 It regularly services in excess of two million concurrent users. Although Valve never releases sales figures, Steam is considered by its competitors
and clients to be the market leader, controlling an estimated 70% of the digital distribution market.
Many major publishers have catalogs on Steam, including Electronic Arts, Activision, 2K Games, Ubisoft, THQ, Sega, Codemasters, id Software, LucasArts, Capcom,
Rockstar Games and Bethesda Softworks.
Steam allows users to purchase computer games entirely digitally. Instead of receiving a box, disc, or even CD key, purchased software is immediately and
permanently attached to the user’s Steam account. Content can be downloaded from Steam servers an unlimited number of times to any number of Internet-connected
computers that have the Steam client installed. To play, users typically launch the game from the client’s built-in list of currently installed games. Steam provides
a server browser for users to search, filter, bookmark, and join Internet and LAN servers for games that integrate with it. It can be accessed from the desktop and from
an integrated game’s menu system, and queries friends to show a list of servers to which a user’s contacts are connected.
Steam automates the process of downloading the content and keeping it up to date for the user. All patches are downloaded as soon as they become available through Steam, though often they become available later than those for the retail versions, and if there are multiple versions (e.g. a 64-bit edition), the correct one will be chosen automatically based on the computer’s hardware and/or software environment. This process happens every time the user logs in, or a game is launched, ensuring that as many users as possible will have the latest software. Once a patch has been applied, it cannot be removed unless Valve issues a new update to reverse the previous patch. While there is no option to globally disable automatic updates, it is possible to set a specific game to only update when requested by the user. Steam requires that games be fully patched before they can be played, however.
Steam transfers content over its own protocol, as opposed to the more common web protocols, such as HTTP and FTP. It downloads from a set of dedicated content servers spread out across the world, connecting to several at once to try to ensure a fast and stable connection.
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