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Steam is a video game digital distribution service platform developed by Valve Corporation. It was launched in September 2003 as a way for Valve to provide automatic updates for their games, but eventually expanded to include games from third-party publishers. Initially launched as a software client component to help keep Valve’s games up-to-date, the Steam service has expanded to include web- and mobile-based interfaces for consumers and developers for third-party games. Between the standalone software client and online services, Steam offers digital rights management (DRM), matchmaking servers, video streaming, and social networking services. It also provides the user with installation and automatic updating of games, and community features such as friends lists and groups, cloud saving, and in-game voice and chat functionality.
The software provides a freely available application programming interface (API) called Steamworks, which developers can use to integrate many of Steam’s functions into their products, including matchmaking, in-game achievements, microtransactions, and support for user-created content through Steam Workshop. Though initially developed for use on Microsoft Windows operating systems, versions for macOS and Linux were later released. Mobile apps were later released for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone in the 2010s. The platform also offers a small selection of other content, such as design software, game soundtracks, anime, and films.
The Steam platform is the largest digital distribution platform for PC gaming, estimated in 2013 to have 75% of the market space. By 2017, users purchasing games through Steam totaled roughly US$4.3 billion, representing at least 18% of global PC game sales. By 2019, the service had over a billion registered accounts with 90 million monthly active users. The success of the Steam platform has led to the development of a line of Steam Machine microconsoles, which include the SteamOS operating system and Steam Controllers, and the Steam VR platform.
Epic Games, Inc. (formerly Potomac Computer Systems and later Epic MegaGames, Inc.) is an American video game and software development company based in Cary, North Carolina. The company was founded by Tim Sweeney as Potomac Computer Systems in 1991, originally located in his parents’ house in Potomac, Maryland. Following his first commercial video game release, ZZT (1991), the company became Epic MegaGames in early 1992 and brought on Mark Rein, who is the company’s vice president to date. Moving their headquarters to Cary in 1999, the studio’s name was simplified to Epic Games.
Epic Games develops the Unreal Engine, a commercially available game engine which also powers their internally developed video games, such as Fortnite and the Unreal, Gears of War and Infinity Blade series. In 2014, Unreal Engine was named the “most successful videogame engine” by Guinness World Records.
Epic Games owns video game developers Chair Entertainment and Psyonix, as well as cloud-based software developer Cloudgine, and operates eponymous sub-studios in Seattle, England, Berlin, Yokohama and Seoul. While Sweeney remains the majority shareholder, Tencent acquired a 48.4% outstanding stake, equating to 40% of total Epic, in the company in 2012, after Epic Games realized that the video game industry was heavily developing towards the games as a service model. Following the release of the popular Fortnite Battle Royale in 2017, the company gained additional investments that enabled to expand its Unreal Engine offerings, establish esport events around Fortnite, and launch the Epic Games Store. As of 2018, the company has an estimated US$15 billion valuation.