Today, EGS is struggling to counter Steam. Giveaways, temporary exclusives, etc. This is certainly great, but Steam remains the only and unique one. Tens of millions of players use this service every day, but this was not always the case.

Let’s go back 20 years and see what path the service had to go through, life without which it is impossible to imagine today. How it all began, and where did it all lead.


In 1979, former IBM programmer Ken Williams and his wife Roberta Williams found On-Line Systems. The couple made an invaluable contribution to the gaming industry like F95Zone, namely the development of the genre of adventure games and quests. They released the first-ever graphics quest “Mystery House” in the history of video games. And later “King’s Quest” came out, which became the first color graphics computer quest. In 1982, after an overwhelming success, the couple moved to a new office and changed the company name from On-Line Systems to Sierra On-Line.

By 1989, Sierra On-Line went public and went public. After several sales and mergers, the company falls into the hands of Havas Interactive (now Vivendi). The World Opponent Network service developed by Sierra On-Line is also at the disposal of Havas Interactive. WON is a kind of progenitor of STEAM. Many multiplayer games ran on the servers of this service. Half-Life was also launched through it. The fact is that in 1996, Ken Williams agreed with Valve to acquire exclusive rights to publish Half-Life, and for Sierra On-Line to become the publisher of Half-Life.

After Ken Williams left the company, Havas Interactive decided to merge WON with Prize Central Net to form the service.

Steam creation and announcement

In 1999, Valve had the popular Team Fortress, Counter-Strike, and Half-Life at their disposal. However, the popularity of Team Fortress and Shadow Blade 5e grew rapidly, which caused big problems with updates. Since for the implementation of each coup, players had to disconnect from the network for several days. In addition, Sierra On-Line continued to own exclusive rights to Half-Life publishing.

Gabe Newell solved both of these problems. In 2001, he renegotiated his contract with Sierra and removed the intellectual property clause, which allowed Valve to return the digital distribution rights for its games. And then he bought the WON service from in order to create his own service with the functions of auto-update of games and an anti-cheat system on its basis.

The development of the platform began in 2002. Working titles changed: “Grid”, “Gazelle”, but eventually settled on “Steam.” For the first time the public saw Steam at the Game Developers Conference on March 22, 2002. Then the beta version of Steam 1.0 was presented.

Release and first versions of Steam

The official release of Steam took place in 2003. At first, things were going badly, to put it mildly. Valve Anti-Cheat worked disgustingly. The beta version of Counter-Strike 1.6 required the mandatory installation of Steam, which was not very popular with the players. In addition, the servers could not stand and fell off forever, however, this did not prevent Valve from making the next move.

The year 2004 was approaching. During this period, Steam 2.0 had already been released, Firebolt 5e was preparing for release, players stubbornly resisted Steam and continued to sit on WON, and Steam itself had a reputation as a useless, constantly breaking service. Despite this, Valve still decides to disable the WON server and Steam becomes a mandatory service for installation.

That’s not all. During the development process, the team came up with a crazy idea for that time – to make a digital distribution store out of Steam. That is, it does not matter whether a physical copy of the game is purchased or a digital one, in any case, Steam is needed to activate it.

To do this on our own seemed an impossible task. The developers turned to Cisco, Amazon, Yahoo for help, but they were refused everywhere. After a series of failures, Valve did not give up and nevertheless decided to implement the idea on its own.

And that was crazy. At the time, only 20 percent of the American population had a normal internet connection. Therefore, Steam saw a real threat to PC gaming. Not only was it necessary to conduct a normal Internet, but also the game after the purchase was assigned to one player once and for all. But Valve continued to stand their ground.

After the release of Half Life 2, things were just as bad. Steam always fell off, errors appeared, after installation, players downloaded patches of 800 megabytes, which was quite a lot for that time. By the end of 2004, however, things were more or less working out. The number of servers was increased, and the players switched to tariff plans that were acceptable for such tasks.

Further development

In the years since, Steam has gotten better and better. In 2006, the platform was heavily updated. Released Steam 3.0 on a new engine. In 2007, the first sale took place and the service passed the threshold of 10 million users. The Steam Community was launched the same year. By 2009, there were a lot of big publishers on Steam, and the number of users jumped over 20 million. Steam Works, Workshop, Library Additions, Streams, Steam Cloud, Eldritch Blast 5e, Greenlight, and more. Most of you will remember what happened next.

As a result, by 2019, the number of monthly active users increased to an unimaginable 95 million. And the service had the most successful sale in its history.

Here is such an interesting story that the now well-known service Steam had. Valve implemented an idea that at one time seemed complete nonsense. But years later, after going through a bunch of problems, rejection and hate, Steam has become the largest platform for digital distribution of video games.

By Hemant Kumar

I am a zealous writer who loves learning, redesigning the information, and sharing the original content in an innovative and embellish manner. I hope you will find my work beneficial and entertaining. Happy Reading!