Stardock's Wardell: 'Age of Steam' May Not Last

Stardock CEO Brad Wardell recently took exception to a recent Edge editorial proclaiming the "Age of Steam," writing a stiff defense of competition in the digital distribution market.

Wardell's company maintains Impulse, a service similar to Valve's Steam that launched in 2008. And while Steam has taken a lead in the digital PC gaming marketplace, Wardell argues that it's still too early to name a clear winner.

"I must confess that I am surprised to see Edge, or anyone else for that matter, imply that Steam's early lead in digital distribution translates to permanent dominance," said Wardell, who quickly made the case that Valve's 20 million accounts and half-million daily visitors can partly be attributed to "shrewd business practices," such as acquiring Counter-Strike and its user base.

"As new titles come out bundled with Steamworks, which requires a user to become a Steam user in order to play the game (something I would normally think that the press would raise alarm about if this were being done by say EA or Microsoft or even Google), the Steam user base has continued to increase," he added.

Wardell concluded by pointing out Steam's lack of true competition, and predicted that its market share would drop in the coming years.

"Steam does a lot of things right," said Wardell. "But there's certainly room for improvement which viable competition encourages. After all, MySpace once looked unbeatable in the social networking world but such premature assumptions look quaint in 'the age of Facebook'."