On May 12, 2010, Valve made its Steam platform available on the Mac. There are a few key points of the way Valve chose to do this that show design decisions which support the needs and desires of the customer base. All too often, software companies do things the way that is easiest for them, at the expense of end user satisfaction. The Steam platform has grown in a way that exhibits the exact opposite: Valve gave themselves extra work, and sacrificed some potential revenue, to build a platform that caters to the users.

The main things that stand out to me are:

  1. Allowing users to buy a game once and play it on any supported platform without any additional cost.
  2. Engineering its multiplayer servers to house users on all platforms in a single universe, allowing everyone to play together.
  3. Implementing the Steam Cloud service which synchronizes save game data across multiple machines allowing players to pick up where they left off no matter what machine (or platform) they are on.
  4. Adopting a “first class citizen” approach for Apple as a platform, promising simultaneous releases on Mac and PC of all future titles.

All of these decisions on Valve’s part have one stellar result: gaming is about the games again. Today’s gaming world has become increasingly fractured by the number of mainstream platforms available, platform exclusivity, and cross-platform incompatibilities. Valve has shattered these barriers, extending its support as far as the XBox360 and PS3. This allows gamers to once again focus on the games and just have fun.