Edit: Via one of our commenters, Valve has said this is purely fiction.
According to the Inquirer, Google is closing in on a deal to acquire Valve, a US-based video game development house, and more importantly, creator of the highly popular video game content distribution system called Steam. Even though we’ve recently wondered if Google was losing focus with too many projects that don’t contribute to its core business of search, acquiring Valve and Steam might make some sense.
Steam is a beloved digital content distribution engine in the video game industry. There are hundreds of games available on Steam and generally about a million users logged into the system at any one time. When we wrote about why people pirate software in August, independent game developer Cliff Harris wrote that, “Lots of people claimed to pirate because it was easier than going to shops. Many of them said they pirate everything that’s not on [Valve’s] Steam. Steam got a pretty universal thumbs up from everyone.”
Users love it. Developers love it. It’s an efficient system, provides a ton of valuable user data, and a hook into a $42 billion worldwide business that is expected to grow to $68 billion by 2012. Sure sounds like a fit for Google, and would definitely help them in their mission to control organize the world’s information.
72% of Americans play video games — which is more than use Google — but just 42% play online. That number is growing however, and video games are an industry that Apple is now entering with its refreshed iPhone/iPod Touch line and that Google rival Microsoft has a major foothold in with its Windows monopoly and Xbox 360 console system.
Google also quietly announced plans to introduce a developer API to Lively, its recently launched online 3D virtual world, which would allow developers to create mini arcade games playable inside the world. Lively creative director Kevin Hanna told a small crowd at Austin GDC’s WorldInMotion event that the eventual goal was a complete toolkit for creating full 3D games distributable through Lively.
Acquiring Valve’s Steam content distribution engine and Source 3D engine might be helpful in seeing those plans through to fruition.