Best gaming product of 2013: Steam

best gaming 2013 steam of 970

After a lot of thought and several discussions, we are proud to announce that Digital Trends’ gaming product of the year is Valve Corporation’s Steam. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it’s the only one that feels right to us.

It beat out a lot of tough competitors. In terms of hardware, 2013 was the biggest single year in decades, with two next-gen systems debuting within a week of each other. Handheld systems also saw a huge increase in sales, especially the Nintendo 3DS, which may have single handedly kept Nintendo afloat while the Wii U struggled.

Yet when it came time to select a single product to award our best of the year in gaming, the choice was clear. Between the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, both systems have their highs and lows, and despite claims from fans on both sides, neither truly outstrips the other. They are excellent systems, and both will continue to make a major impact in the gaming industry. But quietly, Valve may have changed the way we look at gaming.

Steam Living RoomIn 2012, Steam was best known – primarily among dedicated gamers – as a PC platform, and Valve was the company that refused to release Half-Life 3. In 2013 though, Steam became something of a household name, and Valve the driving force behind its innovation.

It’s been building for years, but the explosion of “Big Picture” mode was an important milestone in gaming that established Steam as a living-room presence . The announcement of Steam Machines – essentially PCs built to act like consoles – sent shockwaves through the gaming industry. We won’t actually see what those systems can do until 2014, but the magnitude of their potential is already being felt.

Disruption defines what Valve is all about. Look at the Steam Controller, which uses dual circular trackpads rather than joysticks. Whether or not it’s a success, it establishes a new, disruptive approach for interfacing with video games. We saw what a similarly innovative move could do when Nintendo introduced the Wii Nunchucks. They led to Sony’s Move controller, which in turn influenced the PlayStation 4’s new DualShock 4 controllers. You can argue that Nintendo’s gesture-based controllers led to, or at least influenced, the development of the Kinect as well, which is finding uses even outside of gaming. And all it took was one company thinking differently.

It’s too early to tell if the Steam Controllers will be anywhere near as revolutionary, but they have people paying attention. And thinking. We recently spoke to Sony Online Entertainment President John Smedley about the future of gaming, and he singled the Steam Controller out for the same reasons we’re interested in it.

“I was very heartened to see Steam’s invention of a new controller,” Smedley told us. “I’m not saying I like it or dislike it – I’m just saying it’s time somebody is innovating.”

Above it all, that’s what makes Steam our product of the year: innovation and disruption.

While the relatively similar next-gen systems battled back and forth for the headlines, Valve took Steam in a different direction. One advantage console users have had over PC gamers in the past is the ability to loan out physical discs. When Microsoft’s new hardware looked like it wasn’t going to allow this, gamers voiced their rage and Microsoft changed its policies to keep an old tradition alive. Steam, on the other hand, introduced the ability to share titles digitally. Valve took an old concept in a whole new, forward-looking direction.

Steam OSThe Steam platform has also become renowned for its incredible sales, which have publishers rethinking their digital strategies. The less a game costs, the more people will put eyes on it. For publishers, there is no reason not to heavily discount older games that otherwise might not sell at all. With Steam doing the promotion and distribution, it gives new life to older games (and many newer ones too).

Then there are the games themselves. While Microsoft and Sony were both taking criticism for the lack of backward compatibility in their new hardware, Steam topped 2,500 games in its library in 2013, many of which are from indie studios that aren’t nearly as prolific on consoles. That’s changing, but consoles are still far behind. Linux integration also came to some Steam games this year, and the new SteamOS is currently available.

Competition is always a good thing, and Steam, which registered over 7 million concurrent users this year, is proving to be a powerful competitor. The platform currently accounts for 70 percent of all PC game sales, and now it has its eye on the console market. Steam Machines should directly challenge the consoles.

In 2013, Valve shook the gaming industry with little fanfare, only a handful of ads, and under the shadow of next-gen consoles manufactured by two of the world’s biggest companies. Thanks to the next-gen consoles, 2014 was always going to be an important year for the gaming industry. With the rise of Valve and the expansion of Steam, it is likely to be a pivotal one as well.


You forgot all about these 6 phones of 2018. Prepare to forget them again

The best phones of the year are memorable, exciting, and ones we all want to buy. But what about the others? We're not talking about bad phones, we're talking about forgettable phones -- ones that aren't even bad enough to be remembered.
Virtual Reality

Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive: Prices drop, but our favorite stays the same

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the two big names in the virtual reality arena, but most people can only afford one. Our comparison tells you which is best when you pit the Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive.

Want to watch Netflix in bed or browse the web? We have a tablet for everyone

There’s so much choice when shopping for a new tablet that it can be hard to pick the right one. From iPads to Android, these are our picks for the best tablets you can buy right now whatever your budget.

These are the best video games you shouldn't leave 2018 without

Developers showed up with a number of amazing games this year. Each capitalized on something unique but there's always one that outdoes them all. Here are our picks for the best video games of 2018 and game of the year.

Sharing your best gameplay moments is quick and easy on the Xbox One

The current generation of consoles make it easier than ever to share your gaming highlights with the world. Here's a quick guide on how you can record a gameplay video on Xbox One.

‘Kingdom Hearts III’ out in the wild, director asks for support to stop spoilers

Kingdom Hearts III has been leaked, with several copies of the game out in the wild. The game's director, Tetsuya Nomura, responded to the situation, calling for help from gamers to stop spoilers from spreading online.

The history of Battle Royale: From mod to worldwide phenomenon

Battle royale games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds’ and Fortnite have become the biggest trend in video games. The genre is also pushing the envelope in streaming and eSports in a way that might hint at the future of the industry.

The DualShock 4 is one of the best controllers ever, and you can use it with a PC

Sony's new DualShock 4 controller has become a fan favorite, and some people want to use it with a PC. Here's how to connect your DualShock 4 and start using it, either with an official adapter, or unofficial software.

Project Stream testers get to keep a free copy of ‘Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’

Those who participated in Google's technical test of Project Stream won't be able to access the service to play Assassin's Creed Odyssey after January 15, but they'll get to keep the game on PC anyway.

Newest ‘Destiny 2’ raid already completed by two-person team

The latest raid in Destiny 2: Forsaken is Scourge of the Past, and a two-person team has already managed to complete it. The task took 15 hours of trial-and-error effort before the duo managed to take down the final boss.

The 25 best SNES games

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System might be the greatest game console ever made, but what are the best titles for the system? Here are our picks for the best SNES games, including A Link to the Past and Chrono Trigger.

Need a discounted Xbox bundle by Christmas? Walmart has you covered

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have both come and gone, but you can still save some cash on a new Xbox One bundle at Walmart. Both the Xbox One S and the Xbox One X are on sale now.

With our Steam guide, you can give the gift of gaming this holiday season

The holidays may have passed, but it's always a good time to give the gift of gaming (especially when there's a Steam sale)! Here's our quick guide on how to give a Steam game as a gift.

‘Fortnite’ update 7.10 brings a rotating selection of modes big and small

The latest update for Fortnite introduces 14 Days of Fortnite, an event that brings back large and small battle royale modes as well as brand new ones to enjoy during the holiday season.