It's truly hard to imagine just how much Valve managed to change what PC gaming is thanks to Steam. On September 12 2021, the Steam client celebrated 18 years. Steam is now old enough to buy alcohol in the UK.
Do you remember what Steam originally looked like? I sure do. It was a much simpler time, with none of the fancy tricks Steam does now. There was no Steam Play, no Linux client, no macOS client, no reviews system and just — not much of anything. A few games, a couple of buttons and that was mostly it. This was long before the likes of GOG, Humble, Epic, itch.io, Origin and so on.
Not only was it a bare-bones client, a lot of people really didn't like it either. This was back in the days where most people went into a real-life game store, picked up a box and took it home to insert a CD and read the manual while it took forever to install. The idea of needing the internet and a client to register and play was just weird. Back then Steam had a bit of a history for being unreliable too, with all sorts of server and login issues.
It wasn't long until Steam was a requirement with Half-Life 2 releasing in 2004, which truly set the stage for PC gaming digital distribution from that point to slowly become the norm. Later in 2005, the first externally developed titles arrived on Steam like Rag Doll Kung Fu but Steam remained a firmly closed system with Valve firmly curating the titles until later in 2012 when Steam Greenlight appeared for indies to submit their games, get votes and eventually (hopefully) get accepted.
Things are vastly different now of course. There's over 51,000 games on Steam and thousands release every year, thanks to Steam Direct allowing developers to pay $100 to get their game listed.
Looking at my own purchase history, looks like Day of Defeat: Source was actually my first purchase on my own account back in 2008. What was yours?
Happy Birthday, Steam.