Valve's Steam online game distribution service has already managed to garner support from an impressive number of publishers and studios, with games from the Quake series and BioShock to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Civilization IV currently available on the Steam store. Shacknews reports that Valve now intends to go one step further by letting third-party developers hook into Steam's various community features—and more.
The initiative, dubbed Steamworks, presents as a set of tools to help developers implement features like auto-updating, voice chat, multiplayer matchmaking, social networking, real-time statistics (from sales and activation to gameplay tracking), piracy protection, and various development tools. As Shacknews points out, the toolkit is similar to what Microsoft provides on the Xbox 360 via its Xbox Live subscription system—except Valve's version is entirely free, both for developers to implement and for gamers to use.
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