On the horizon
First, I'd like to address Valve's idea of incorporating BitTorrent-style file sharing into Steam. Just what the hell makes Valve think they're entitled to my bandwidth? I know they can put all sorts of click-through licenses and disclaimers stating that in order for me to play their games I need to allocate X bandwidth to the network, but what does that have to do with entitlement? The only reason Valve will need my bandwidth is because their self-serving application can't work the way it's designed now. Thus, there wouldn't be a need for my bandwidth if Steam didn't exist.Discuss the article on the FiringSquad forums!
Just what do I get out of Steam, exactly? Some cheat protection. That's good, but hardly worth losing upload bandwidth over. What else? Well, I get a buddy list, but really, I'd rather just use Xfire, since it works with non-Valve games. I get automatic patching. Wonderful, that has drawbacks of its own - like I said earlier, maybe I prefer an earlier version of your game.
All I get out of Steam is a big hassle. I need it to connect, update itself, update the game I'm trying to play, and then maybe I can play. Assuming the network is up. On top of this, it looks like I'll have to share my precious upload bandwidth with you for your own benefit.
Why would Valve cram this hassle down our throats? Do they want gamers to dislike them?
With Steam, Valve gets almost complete control of who plays its games. Piracy is significantly more difficult, since multiplayer and singleplayer will be denied to pirates. This is a noble goal - piracy on the PC is rampant and I'm quite certain our industry wouldn't be lagging so badly behind consoles if theft were as difficult as it is on a console. Any obstacles to piracy are a Good Thing ™.
While not every pirate would have bought the game he stole, there certainly have to be some. Even if it's just 20% of thieves who would be willing to pay, that's a big chunk of change to publishers and developers, large and small. Piracy is getting ever easier, with Kazaa, more advanced IRC file servers, BitTorrent and private networks like WASTE. Maybe Steam, as bad as it is, is the only way of combating this growing trend to steal? Look at the number of games that have been cancelled recently.