Valve Confirms its Mac Plans

Ending speculation that reached a fevered pitch on Monday, Valve confirmed that it will bring Steam, as well as its library of games, to the Mac next month. “The Mac represents a great opportunity,” Valve co-founder Gabe Newell told Wired ahead of the opening of the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday.

Wired noted that Steam currently makes available over 1,000 games to 25 million users, giving it ownership of over 70 percent of digital game downloads and prompting Telltale Games CEO Dan Connors to say to Wired: “If there’s anything like iTunes on the PC right now for games, it’s Steam. So you’ve got two great leaders in digital distribution coming together.”

Mr. Newell told Wired: “The traditional model has always been that you have these really extended development times … where you do nothing for customers for several years and then you try to drive everybody into the theaters or into the stores on a given date. It makes it hard to steer your decisions based on customer feedback, and customers don’t particularly like that. They would like to have the experience of being part of an entertainment community where they’re getting something on a daily or more frequent basis.”

He confirmed that for anyone who owns the PC versions of Valve’s games, a new feature called Steam Play will allow them to download the Mac versions for free. In addition, Steam’s existing Steam Cloud feature will allow gamers to switch between platforms when playing Valve games, so, for example, a user could save their progress in Half-Life 2 in Windows and then continue playing on a MacBook while traveling.

Mr. Newell also said that Steam gives his company control over Mac and PC releases of its games, something that doesn’t come easily on consoles, like Microsoft’s Xbox Live. Mr. Newell gave an example: the more than 100 updates to Team Fortress 2 since its release in 2007 would have cost several hundred thousand dollars on Xbox Live. “And that ignores the fact that the cycle on these closed platforms would have taken years to get all these updates through,” he added.

Mr. Connors said he wants the Mac versions of Telltale’s games on the Mac, and Mr. Newell commented that “(Mac) has all of the right pieces, and we know other developers see that as well,” although he wouldn’t say which ones might also be planning Mac versions of their titles.

AppleInsider spoke with Jason Holtman, Valve’s director of business development, who said that companies which sell games through Steam are “very excited” about the platform coming to the Mac, and John Cook, Steam’s director of development, commented: “We looked at a variety of methods to get our games onto the Mac and in the end decided to go with native versions rather than emulation. The inclusion of WebKit into Steam, and of OpenGL into Source gives us a lot of flexibility in how we move these technologies forward. We are treating the Mac as a tier-1 platform so all of our future games will release simultaneously on Windows, Mac, and the Xbox 360.

"Updates for the Mac will be available simultaneously with the Windows updates. Furthermore, Mac and Windows players will be part of the same multiplayer universe, sharing servers, lobbies, and so forth. We fully support a heterogeneous mix of servers and clients. The first Mac Steam client will be the new generation currently in beta testing on Windows."