Steam news: nominations are open for the first ever Steam Awards

Categories include the “Villain Most In Need Of A Hug” award and the “Best Use Of A Farm Animal” award

Steam is the digital download service and online gaming community from Valve Corporation.

It is available for PC, Mac, Linux and SteamOS. Steam offers thousands of digital games for all three of these desktop platforms. It also features social networking, an achievements system, cloud game saves and chat functions.

In this article you’ll find the latest news about the online gaming platform.

Steam news

24/11/2016: The first ever Steam Awards have now started, with fans able to cast their votes for their favourite games on Valve's platform.

The awards coincide with Steam's autumn sale, one of Valve's legendary bonanza events that sees hundreds of games across the platform slashed in price.

While games awards like the Golden Joysticks have been around for years, Valve is taking its own inaugural event less seriously. The gongs fall into eight categories, all of which are humorously named and fall outside the usual 'Game of the Year' or 'Best Visual Design' brackets.

There's the 'Test of Time' award for older games that have managed to retain their appeal, the 'I'm Not Crying There's Something In My Eye' award for titles that "blindsided you emotionally", the 'Just 5 More Minutes' award for those games that are fiendishly addictive, and the 'Whoooaaaaaaa, dude!' award for the most mindblowing experiences on offer.

Elsewhere, there are even more off-the-wall accolades to be won; 'Villain Most In Need Of A Hug' celebrates those antagonists who are just misunderstood, while 'Best Use Of A Farm Animal' is fairly self-explanatory -- cult hit Goat Simulator is expected to be a shoo-in for the latter.

The 'Game Within A Game' award honours the best mini-games in existing titles, while the 'I Thought This Game Was Cool Before It Won An Award' award lets gaming's smug hipsters congratulate themselves for sniffing out the medium's hidden gems.

Finally, there's the 'We Didn't Think Of Everything' award - a sort of 'people's choice', where members of the Steam Awards Selection Committee can come up with their own category and nominee. A new category will then be determined by senior members of the committee.

Voting closes on November 29, with winners to be announced in December.

02/11/2016: Steam has moved to ban developers from using anything other than in-game shots to promote games on the Steam Store.

The move comes after criticism levelled at No Man’s Sky (see below). Listing will now have to screenshots instead of pre-rendered images or artwork created during a game’s development.

“We haven’t been super crisp on guidelines for screenshots in the past, so we’d like to take this opportunity to clarify some rules in this space,” according to a message to developers.

“When the ‘screenshot’ section of a store page is used for images other than screenshots that depict the game, it can make it harder for customers to understand what the product is that they are looking at. Additionally, we’re going to start showing game screenshots in more places as described above, and these images need to be able to represent the game.

“We ask that any images you upload to the ‘screenshot’ section of your store page should be screenshots that show your game. This means avoiding using concept art, pre-rendered cinematic stills, or images that contain awards, marketing copy, or written product descriptions. Please show customers what your game is actually like to play.

“For elements such as marketing copy, awards you’d like to show off, or descriptions of your Deluxe Edition, we ask that you use the specific spaces already available on your store page to put that content rather than including it in your screenshots.”

Valve said it had broken this new rule with Dota 2 and will update its listing with screenshots instead of artwork.

29/09/2016: No Man's Sky is being investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority over claims it may have misled fans in the run-up to launch.

The investigation, which targets PC distribution platform Steam as well as developer Hello Games, was kicked off by fan complaints after many players felt that it did not deliver on the creators' promises, Eurogamer reports.

The game had been in development for several years prior to its release, and there were grand claims made about its scope and sophistication during that period, including the presence of multiplayer interactions and advanced gameplay mechanics.

The ASA investigation currently centres on the game's Steam store page, which features screenshots, artwork and videos which the ASA says may be unrepresentative of the final product. The organisation has put a number of questions to both Steam and Hello Games based on the content of complaints.

If the ASA is not satisfied by the answers, it could force the offending marketing material to be permanently removed. The ruling would also apply to other promotional channels, such as listings on the PlayStation Store or on the game's official YouTube channel.

Details of the ASA's response to the issue have been posted to Reddit by user AzzerUK, one of the complainants, who says he just wants to stop companies from feeding the 'hype machine' with unrepresentative marketing.

"Cases like this can have an effect on future games being posted to the store," he said, "and act as a reminder to Valve to ensure that they should do more to ensure publishers are being open, and honest, and not providing misleading advertising."

He also denies that his complaint was "an act of pettiness", explaining: "I was simply fed up of people seeing complaints about such misleading practises on game forums and Reddits etc. but not actually doing much to try and change things."

01/09/2016: Internet service provider BT has taken Valve to court over supposed patent infringement relating to its Steam platform.

The suit has been filed in Delaware, an area that is sympathetic to patent claimants. The company is pursuing damages and demand that Valve redesign the platform so as not to violate BT's Gittins, Newton, Buckly and Beddus patents.

According to BT's complaint, for example, the Gittins Patent "relates generally to providing users with content that originates from multiple subscription services and delivering it through a single portal where a customer may access content for which it has access rights".

The Newton patent "relates generally to a method for delivering structured messages comprised of information and data parts to an intended audience in a reliable and predictable manner."

The Buckly patent "generally relates to a multi-user display system and method for controlling a communal display that includes at least two independent workstations and an interface server for connection to a data network."

The Beddus patent "relates generally to a communications system in which a user is provided with different communication mechanisms and each mechanism is associated with a call control protocol."

BT claims that Valve has ignored repeated attempts to get in contact and resolve the situation. Valve has yet to comment on the lawsuit.

23/08/2016: Game developers can now use YouTube annotations to link directly to their Steam store pages.

Google has now added Steam to YouTube's list of 'approved merchandise sites', which means that it can be used with YouTube cards and overlays.

The system helps content creators make money, by making it easier to direct fans to storefronts where they can buy their goods or merchandise. Other accepted outlets include Songkick, Spreadshirt and Kickstarter.

The move will likely prove incredibly beneficial for developers, as it will allow the thriving industry of games critics and livestreamers and lets-players to direct their considerable fanbases to a game's store page, thereby driving sales.

Online video, particularly on YouTube, has become one of the biggest marketing avenues for game developers. Over 470 million people globally watch online gaming videos on a regular basis, according to research by Newzoo, with YouTube controlling that market by a 2:1 margin.

Steam is currently the only digital games marketplace on the list, but alternatives like GOG, Itch.io, the Humble Store and Green Man Games may be soon to follow.

14/07/2016: Valve has announced its intention to begin cracking down on unofficial Steam gambling sites in the wake of the CS:GO Lotto scandal.

Many multiplayer games, such as Counter Strike: Global Offensive, feature cosmetic items and weapon skins as unlockable extras. These skins have become sought-after commodities, with rarer examples going for thousands of pounds.

A cottage industry has even sprung up around them, allowing players to wager their skins against each other on the result of a coin toss. Although this is not legally defined as gambling, these sites have drawn severe criticism for allegedly encouraging gambling in younger players.

Earlier this month, it emerged that two prominent YouTubers had allegedly been using their channels to promote one such site without disclosing that they owned it, leading to a lawsuit from a collection of parents.

Valve, which is named in a related suit, has responded to the controversy by distancing itself from the many gambling dens. "We'd like to clarify that we have no business relationships with any of these sites," Valve's Erik Johnson said in a blog post.

"We have never received any revenue from them. And Steam does not have a system for turning in-game items into real world currency."

The company also levelled threats at sites like CS:GO Lotto, stating that using Steam to run a gambling business is "not allowed by our API nor our user agreements".

"We are going to start sending notices to these sites requesting they cease operations through Steam, and further pursue the matter as necessary," Johnson said.

He further hinted that players using these sites may be in danger of receiving bans, adding that "users should probably consider this information as they manage their in-game item inventory and trade activity".

04/06/2016: Nearly half of Steam gamers are using Windows 10, according to figures released by the platform's owner, Valve.

According the Valve's analysis for June, 42.94 per cent of computers accessing Steam are running the 64 bit version of Microsoft's latest OS, an increase of 3.26 per cent compared to May, with all other Windows platforms declining.

Notably, the use of Windows 7 64 bit has reduced by 1.64 per cent, now totalling 30.61 per cent, while Window 8.1 has reduced by 1.01 per cent to 10.07 per cent of the install base.

Alhough 95.5 per cent of Steam users run Windows on their computers, itself an increase of 0.08 on previous figures, there is a small sliver - 3.6 per cent - that runs OS X.

While the latest results show there has been a 1.13 per cent shift towards the most recent version of the operating system, OS X 10.11.5, overall there has been no change in the total proportion of computers running Steam that use OSX.

Instead, Windows' overall growth in Valve's rankings seems to be at the expense of Linux, where the number of computers running the operating system that also use Steam shrinking by 0.04 per cent to 0.8 per cent of the total install base.

13/06/2016: Valve has released a free tool on Steam that allows users to create their own virtual reality scenes.

Destinations Workshop Tools allows designers to create VR locations either by stitching together real-life photographs – a technique known as photogrammetry – or 3D models, reports The Verge. Sounds and interactive elements can also be added to the locations.

Valve describes Destinations as a "VR content creation package that enables the creation, sharing, and exploring of both real and imaginary worlds on the Steam Workshop".

The tool is compatible with all headsets supported by OpenVR and supports both motion-tracked controllers and x-input controllers, such as the HTC Vive.

Several demo scenes are included with the download, including a churchyard, a close-up of a pile of popcorn (based on photos taken from an iPhone 6S) and the surface of Mars complete with the Curiosity Rover.

Those who are interested can get the beta version of Destinations for free from Steam's Early Access.

10/06/2016: Valve brings back Steam Dev Days for 2016

Valve has announced the return of its two-day developers' conference. 

Steam Dev Days debuted in 2014 as a conference to bring game makers together to talk about their work, attend lectures and obtain SteamOS and new Steam hardware. Valve decided to forgo the event last year however, deciding to focus its efforts on the Game Developers Conference instead, but it is bringing it back for 2016. 

Topics at this year's conference will include virtual reality, Steam hardware, user-generated content and business and marketing, reports PC Gamer.

This year's Steam Dev Days will take place 12-13 October in Seattle. It is a "press-free event," so there will be no on-site reporting during the conference. Those who are interested in attending can register at the Steam Dev Days Page. Signing up doesn't guarantee one a ticket, but does ensure priority in the virtual queue. Tickets are $95 each.

06/06/2016: Valve has sold just 500k Steam Controllers

Valve has sold more than half a million Steam Controllers since the launch of the Steam Machine last November.  

The number was shared in Valve's Steam Controller June Update post, which announced updates to the controller's functions. These include enabling users to configure and use the controller from their desktops.

Additionally, Valve stated that developers are fine-tuning their games to work better with the Steam Controller, citing DOOM, XCOM 2 and Dark Souls III as recent examples.  

Because the company has also verified that the 500,000 controllers sold encompasses console-bundled controllers, it is likely that even fewer Steam Machines have been sold. 

Comparing these numbers to the competition emphasises just how low sales were. PlayStation 4 and Xbox One respectively reached 10.2 million and 5.5 million in sales in their first seven months on the market, according to Yahoo Tech 

Enough controllers have been sold, however, to give Valve a user base from which to gain valuable feedback.  

"With every controller that comes online we get the opportunity to get more feedback on how to make the Steam Controller even better," Valve stated in their update. 

20/05/2016: Steam Summer Sale 2016 date leaks

Steam’s annual price-drop bonanza, the Steam Summer Sale, could begin on 23 June, according to a Reddit user.

MrFreemanBBQ posted a Russian-language screenshot, supposedly from Valve, suggesting that this year’s sale will run from 16:45 BST on 23 June until 17:00 BST on 4 July.

Steam’s summer sales have quickly become an annual treat for PC players. Scores of indie games can be picked up for less than £1, and in some cases for free, while classic games and major titles can be bought in bundles or at greatly reduced prices.

The fervour for these limited-time offers has meant that leaks have become more frequent. Last year, MrFreemanBBQ tipped off Steam users when the 2015 Summer Sale was set to begin. Shortly after, Valve announced the dates for the sale, which matched those that the tipster had predicted.

The observant informant has previously done the same with Steam sales in 2012 and 2013.

Valve has not yet announced any information on a summer sale, but it is a safe bet that they are planning to hold more, especially given the Steam community’s attachment to them.

28/04/2016: Valve to take payment in Bitcoins

Steam is to accept Bitcoin as payment for games. News of the tie-up was confirmed by Valve's partner Bitpay.

"Valve reached out to us because they were looking for a fast, international payment method for Steam users in emerging gaming markets in countries like India, China, and Brazil," Rory Desmond, director of business development for Bitpay in North America and APAC, said in a blog post.

"While more users are coming online in these countries, traditional payment options like credit cards often aren't available. As the Internet's universal currency, Bitcoin will allow Steam to easily reach gamers in every market around the world - without the high fees or the risk of chargeback fraud that come with card payments," he added.

The cryptocurrency firm is also looking to partner with more gaming platforms in the future, Desmond added.

26/04/2016: Valve offers feature films to Steam customers

Steam is expanding its digital marketplace to offer features films, pitting it against rival video services Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and those offered by Sony and Microsoft’s online game platforms.

Valve, the owner of Steam, has signed a deal with Hollywood film studio Lionsgate allowing its users to rent more than 100 of the studio's films. Some of Lionsgate’s best-known titles include the Hunger Games, Saw and Divergent series, as well as Reservoir Dogs, Dredd and The Cabin the Woods.

However, these titles are not yet available to UK Steam users, who are currently being offered a narrower set of Lionsgate releases, which includes the Leprechaun series, Russkies and Natural Born Pranksters.

Lionsgate's president of worldwide television and digital distribution, Jim Packer, said: “With over 125 million users, Steam represents a unique, exciting and disruptive opportunity to expand our global distribution business.”

Valve head of marketing Doug Lombardi added: “Lionsgate has emerged as a major creative force with a deep pipeline of blockbuster franchises, making them important content suppliers for our platform."

This not the first time Steam has offered films on its digital service. It also hosted docu-films about game development and the eSports scene, namely Indie Game: The Movie and Free to Play. Other film releases, such as Mad Max: Fury Road and Temps, have appeared from a handful of studios.

Although Steam boasts 125 million users, its new video ambitions are unlikely to threaten lead video streaming players Netflix or Amazon just yet.

Netflix reportedly has fewer subscribers than Steam – 81 million worldwide as of April 2016. But Steam is currently only offering video streams to compatible platforms, which are predominantly desktop devices - PC, Mac and Linux.

Films from Lionsgate and other distributors are also limited by region, meaning Valve won’t have the content reach that Netflix has in its markets outside the US. And pricing will also be an issue. Currently, films from Lionsgate are available to rent for 48 hours on the UK Steam store for between £3.49 and £5.59, while cheapest independent films can be rented for £1.59.

Where Steam does stand to ruffle feathers with its video rental ambitions is against the Sony and Microsoft, both of whom offer their users film and TV programmes on their respective online gaming platforms. PlayStation Video and Microsoft Moves & TV both have much larger video libraries than Steam, but they also offer films at £3.49 each.

The selection of Lionsgate releases on the Steam store can be viewed here.

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