This phenomenon echoes throughout history and manifests in a variety of ways, be it in the literal context of international affairs, or the rise and fall of corporate entities.
It's therefore completely unsurprising to see the current predicament of Valve's Steam platform playing out in a similar fashion within the landscape of the video game industry. The only real question I find myself pondering is precisely what form and role Steam will take now that Ubisoft, one of the last significant purveyors of third-party, AAA game content on the platform, has actively begun to move away from it.
In some ways, the dwindling amount of third-party, AAA content on Steam could be viewed as a positive. The platform has certainly cultivated and maintained a strong reputation and community around independent (indie) game development over the years. One could argue that the absence of titles by major publishers like Activision, Blizzard, Bungie, EA, Microsoft, and Ubisoft undoubtedly enhances the visibility of indie and middle-market offerings that might otherwise be overshadowed by releases from those giants.
Of course, it could also be argued that AAA, third-party titles have historically served as a catalyst, drawing new users to Steam who might not have otherwise adopted it. As such, it seems reasonable that the near-total absence of such offerings moving forward may adversely affect the platform's long-term growth.
It's no secret that Valve has actively been working on new, first-party titles for the past several years, likely in anticipation of this exodus, but it remains to be seen how effective they will be in filling the void. If the negative to lukewarm reception for "Artifact," Valve's recently-released collectable card game, is any indication, the company's renewed first-party game development efforts may well prove insufficient, or outright ineffectual in retrospect.
Personally, I don't see Steam going anywhere anytime soon; however, I do think Ubisoft's slow-motion departure from the platform does represent a pivotal moment in its lifespan. In my mind, and I suspect in the minds of many gaming enthusiasts, Valve and Steam are no longer the big dogs of the industry, leading through innovation and excellence. I increasingly see them as just another participant in an increasingly-fragmented and competitive marketplace, having nearly lost track of all the various game launchers I currently find installed on my PC.
As a consumer, I absolutely see the objective value in this increased level of competition, despite it often creating a somewhat-less-convenient and streamlined user experience. Moreover, I readily acknowledge Valve's many mistakes over the years, particularly those they've yet to properly address. Still, there's a part of me that misses the simplicity inherent in the vast majority of my game library being consolidated within Steam. There was something comforting and reassuring about the experience that meshed well with the escapist, often-artificially-simplified nature of gaming as a hobby, which I always found compelling. Of course, reality and its complexities always, inevitably intrude into every sanctum as surely as empires rise and fall but in my mind, the Empire of Steam was a worthy, wonderful thing while it lasted.