Disrupting video game distribution

A diachronic affordance analysis of Steam’s platformization strategy

Open access

Abstract

This article analyses the disruptive potential of Valve’s game distribution platform, Steam, focusing specifically on how Steam has evolved into a de facto online social network and how Valve uses constant feature changes as part of its corporate rhetoric. Despite its profound influence on the video game industry, scholarly inquiry into Steam has focused on analyses of user or value creation. However, Steam arguably derives its long-term disruptive potential from combining the gamification of digital distribution with the formation of ephemeral public spheres around the games that it distributes, thereby becoming a de facto online social network. To investigate this strategy, the article employs a historically comparative affordance analysis, drawing on a small data set of Steam blog posts and tech blog coverage from 2007 to 2018 to map patterns of affordance change.

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