Confirmation that Valve is committed to releasing a universal client functional across all operating systems gained steam with the current Steam client’s latest update. Files show that large swathes of Steam’s scripts, made up of code used to show, hide, and animate certain functions of Steam, were altered. A completely new feature was also leaked in the Steam update, and it’s called Steam Rewards.
There is only one hint for what Steam Reward points will be used for, as we know that users will be able to see the total amount of points they have when they check out of the Steam Store. Along with an entry for the total number of points, another code block is named “steam_rewards_possible_savings.” It is safe to assume that these points are used to discount purchases, and that they might be earned from spending money in the Steam Digital Store.
It’s also possible that the points are directly tied to Steam’s subscription model. More files that dictate how the Steam Store works had new entries that described different time frames that a user could subscribe for, as seen in the image above. While Steam has never offered a rewards program before, Valve has partnered with publishers to hand out coupons that give a percentage off a particular game. The layout files also had a reference to the background used for the box that contains a player’s reward points total, as seen below:
Both Steam Rewards and Steam Subscriptions are big deals on their own. The ability to apply discounts to games with rewards points as the file suggests automatically catapults Steam back into to top spot when it comes to digital distribution, while a subscription model has served other retailers, including software giant Microsoft, very well.
Microsoft is an interesting addition to the leak, if only because they should be around it at all. With the launch of Windows 10, Microsoft was determined to take Valve on in the digital distrobution game through the Windows App Store. That plan failed miserably, as users downright refused to download games from the Windows storefront. It wasn’t long before Microsoft turned to their neighbors at Steam for some help distributing a classic game.
The broadened release of Halo: The Master Chief Collection marked the death of the Windows App store as a gaming platform. When the title appeared on Steam with exclusive content for Valve’s own shooter, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, it was clear that Microsoft and Valve had come to some sort of aggreement.
And who better to show Valve the ropes of a subscription model than the company that boasts the most successful such model today? Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass bundles hundreds of games together for one monthly price with the added bonus of four free games a month that they can keep even if they stop their sub.
Since the release of the MCC, several other Microsoft properties have quietly appeared on Steam. The most recent annoucment revealed that Sea of Thieves, Microsoft’s pirate simulator, was coming to the platform. Labeled as “Coming Soon,” the popular multiplayer game looks like it’s rolling into Steam in style. Microsoft has quietly released 36 of its first party titles on Valve’s Steam platform including Gears of War 5, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Sunset Overdrive, and rereleases of the classic RTS series Age of Empires.
If Valve was looking to create a subscription service, players would need a whole host of games to subscribe to similar to the Xbox Game Pass. Enter Steam Packages, Valve’s internal name for what users usually call “bundles.” A website called Steam Databases tracks those bundles and the games and software inside them. According to SteamDB, Valve has added games to packages at a growing rate. Additionally, games inside Steam’s own package have been updated more frequently than they have in years.
Valve’s own package, consisting of its own titles like Half-Life, Counter-Strike, and others was updated just 12 days ago. It now contains games that aren’t even Valve property, much like the Game Pass gives its subscribers access to some games Microsoft doesn’t own.
While Valve’s smoldering feud with Epic Games has taken a backseat recently, it looks like Valve always had a nuclear option at the ready. As for the timing of the reveal, no one really knows.