Personally, I don't use Steam - I find it idiotic to buy a game online, and in order to do so, download a client to "manage" my games.
What exactly makes this idiotic? You get reliable and multi-server (ie, FAST even on phat pipes like 20mbit ADSL) downloads using the steam client - more reliable than using a typical browser HTTP or FTP download.
And it has to stay installed, taking precious MB (my laptop had 555MB free of a 30GB XP partion this morning, now at 1.2GB due to cleaning it up as much as possible).
Less than 50 megabytes for the STEAM platform on my system, and that seems to include some cache files etc. Keep in mind that this platform is used and shared
by the installed games... if you take a typical StarForce protected game, you probably have executables of at least 16 megs per game, because that protection system bloats up the executables bigtime. With STEAM games, you don't (or at least shouldn't
) get that.
Anyways, EA jumped on the bandwagon long ago - EA Download Manager, a program I used to purchase and download Need for Speed Carbon Collectors Edition, has gone through lots of stages over several years. Same issue. I no longer have Carbon, or EADM, installed.
It's a real shame that several companies feel they need their own system. It's obvious why, though: cash. Might be solvable by doing some peering contract though, where other companies could use the STEAM system, and Valve would only get a small cut of the price.
In a way, it's convenient - no disks, but then you have the 2 hour waiting period for the 4-6GB to download, whereas you have a disk and it is just install and play.
It's extremely convenient when you have fast
broadband. Also, STEAM often lets you pre-download game content before the game is released, meaning that on release day you might not have to download any content at all, or perhaps a few hundred megabytes - meaning almost instant play as soon as the game is released.
Furthermore, you don't need
to download the larger games, at least Valve's own titles when purchased on DVD still use the STEAM system. This means you get the same auto-update ease, the same non-messy game protection system etc., and without requiring a massive broadband line for the download.
The only real problem I can see with STEAM is that you need to have an internet connection to use it. Feels a bit silly for single-player games. But you can always choose "go offline" from the STEAM menu, which allows you to play your single-player (and LAN?) games without being connected to the net.