Serving in the gaming community as that noisy neighbor who is always revving up a project car in the garage at any given hour of the day or night, Valve spent 2014 rolling out a ton of landmark updates to its Steam digital distribution clients.
To help gamers get up-to-date as the new year will very likely bring a new round of software moves, here is a look at all the tweaks Valve made in the past 12 months.
Known for its own sales, which have increased in frequency, Valve gave game developers the ability to set their own sales for their titles whenever they want. The change, which came back in February 2014, also gave developers a heads up about the Steam online gaming platform's Weeklong Sales and enabled them to set price cuts months before their games were included in one of the weekly events.
As Valve methodically works out what it means to be a Steam Machine, the Portal creator released In-Home Streaming to the public back in May 2014. In-Home Streaming, for the uninitiated, empowers a low-end PC to stream game content that is crunched by a workhorse rig that's connected to the client device via a local area network.
For gamers who choose to build their own Steam Machine or simply want to run demanding games on low-end laptops, Steam In-Home Streaming was a landmark development in helping PC gaming enter living rooms. Now business laptops can serve as a gaming console, relaying games crunched on powerful hosts with generally indiscernible amounts of latency.
The introduction of Steam Music in September 2014 was a luxury and definitely not a necessity, as lightweight media players like VLC Player and Media Player Classic were capable of playing music with negligible impact to system resources. But Steam Music was one more element that made Steam more of media center, as users of the client hope and wait for support for third-party apps like Netflix and Spotify.
The Discovery Update brought a deeper recommendations system and support for curators when it arrived in September. With what some would call a plague of bad games having too much time on Steam's front page, the Discovery Update help more-deserving titles enjoy more time in the spotlight and enabled curators to point out the gems that were overlooked even as they glimmered in the Greenlight. The Greenlight is Steam's system where the community helps pick some of the new games it releases after developers post information, screenshots and video for their game as they seek to build support and get feedback during the development process.
The last landmark feature of 2014, arriving in December, Broadcast Streaming was one of the few major updates that weren't telegraphed through announcements and publicized betas. While Valve has indicated the ability to broadcast games isn't meant to rival Twitch, Steam's live-streaming service is tapping into a market that has grown from novelty to a reliable stream of revenue.
Broadcast streaming is another one of Steam's features that helps the client claim more screen time in living rooms. As Twitch has proven, millions of people like watching other people play video games.