The smartest guy in video games just did something absolutely incredible.
Steam is really good stuff. Steam encapsulates many of infrastructure needs of a gaming company. Software distribution, advertising, pre-sales, sales, post-sales, special sales, credit card payment, subscription sales, on-line matching, cheat prevention, ranking systems for online matching.
Gabe Newell, the guy who runs Valve, is a genius at this stuff. He's brought us some of the best games ever (Half-Life, Counter Strike, Portal, Team Fortress 2). But this may go down as the biggest thing ever.
OK, here's what he's doing. He's built all that infrastructure, and he's giving it to his competitors to use to distribute their games. Valve gets a cut, but it's a WAY smaller cut than a retail arrangement would take, and that cut gets them vastly more services.
He's empowering his competitors to compete with him on even ground with respect to distribution, AND MAKING MONEY WHILE DOING IT. And helping game developers everywhere spend more time making more games better and less time writing the same networking code over and over again.
So that means that the games need to compete based on quality: is the game reliable and is it fun? That's something that Valve can compete on successfully. And if you don't know why, you haven't played Portal.