Valve’s Steam distribution platform has long meant more than mere DRM. It’s become synonymous with PC gaming itself. Now, Steam is progressing into an entire brand range of software and hardware. If Valve’s antecedent is of any insight, this expansion might change everything about gaming, forever. It’s probably a good time to look at how far Steam has come since its release.
21 March 2002
Although Steam was not launched until September 2003, this page was up over a year prior. Notice the green colour scheme, which would stick for another seven years. It matches Half-Life 2 Beta’s neatly:
The Beta was leaked on October 2003. This prompted Valve to remake the entire game. While the new Half-Life 2’s scheme no longer featured the army-green colour, they kept it for Steam. It would remain the main colour until 2010, and still present as an accent even by 2015. It’s poignant how deeply Valve’s branding revolved around its games back then.
Also check out Valve’s press release from 2002 and the GDC presentation slides. Unfortunately, none of the slide images were archived, but their titles provide excellent insight on Valve’s goals at the time.
6 August 2003
Steam was either about to launch or had just done so. The website updated to feature a Counter-Strike character, making it feel less corporate and more consumer-friendly.
1 November 2004
The Steam site now boasted a storefront. The only games featured were Valve’s, and game packages included physical merchandise as well as digital downloads. Site design was charmingly web 1.0.
15 May 2005
The site proudly displayed Half-Life as a main reason to download the client program. Players still needed some convincing. Notice the prompt near the top that read “Play Half-Life 2 Now!“, reminiscent of tactics employed in skeezy ads for free-to-play Asian MMOs. Nowadays that would have been unthinkable!
3 September 2006
The storefront would remain largely unchanged from this point on. Valve games started being deemphazised in favour of other developers’. Yellow was dropped as a text highlight colour and blue was incorporated instead. It would eventually become Steam’s Big Picture mode’s colour in 2012, followed by the main platform’s in 2014.
2 February 2007
Green was re-incorporated in the platform’s text as a highlight colour, where it would stay until today. The side-scrolling feature box made its debut.
13 June 2008
Steam was made less clunky and conformed better to modern webdesign standards. It looked more like a gaming platform and less like a website.
30 April 2010
Green as a main colour was killed off for good in favour of moody black. This design would remain virtually unchanged until late 2014, although blue as a feature colour could already be seen in late 2012 in the form of Steam Big Picture mode:
15 November 2014
Younger Steam users associate the platform with cool blues. Green survives as a text highlight colour, a distant vestige of Half-Life’s influence on Valve. Design is sleek and grown-up, and vaguely mirrors Microsoft’s choices in some places:
The Steam Universe announcement gimmick of late 2013 featured the planetoid design and the start of the incorporation of purple:
This sale anouncement from mid-2015 already also has a hint of the next colour sceme:
As does this early screenshot of the Steam OS:
We might see a new Steam design in late 2015, if rumours are to be believed. Whether you like change or not, you might feel inclined to agree that most redesigns of the platform have been pleasing. For all of Valve’s faults, they have never made Steam look condescending to users like so many other developers. I for one am excited for the possible new redesign.