Steam had humble beginnings, but over the years, Valve has turned it into the most popular game distribution service around. One could argue that Steam revolutionized the way games are sold, and the service continues to evolve. Surprisingly, the next step in that evolution may see Valve vacate its role in determining what's sold via Steam. During a talk at the University of Texas, company founder and gaming luminary Gabe Newell said Valve is becoming a bottleneck between consumers and content creators—and it needs to "get out of that connection as much as possible."
Newell characterizes Steam's current form as a "curated store," but he thinks it would be better as a network API. "Essentially anybody should be able to publish anything through Steam," he says. Individuals and companies should be able to create their own stores that plug into the Steam backend, and the market will decide which of those venues succeeds. Video of Newell's full talk is embedded below. The relevant discussion starts around the 44-minute mark.
Although Newell doesn't lay out a specific plan or timeline for transforming Steam from a Valve-run store into an accessible API, it sounds like that's the direction the company is heading. Interesting. I'm not sure how a patchwork of Steam-based stores would actually work out—or how much of Steam's community functionality might be built into an API—but I'm curious to see what would happen if Valve democratized distribution in that way. As Newell points out earlier in the talk, "I do my job, but if I get Reddit to do my job, they'll do it a lot better." Thanks to Rock, Paper, Shotgun for the tip.