Computer gaming's Steam-powered war

For weeks now, bits and pieces of Valve Software's "Half-Life 2," one of the year's most hotly anticipated computer games, have been trickling onto nearly 2 million computers around the world.

Along with Tuesday's release of "Halo 2" for Microsoft's Xbox, the game is one of a series of sequels that the game industry is betting on for a record sales season. "Half-Life 2" won't be out until next week, but Valve's new broadband content distribution network, called Steam, has been slowly loading players' computers with the game so they'll have it at their fingertips the moment it's released.

The network, which has been used to a lesser extent over the past few years to distribute updates and less-anticipated games, is getting its toughest market test with "Half-Life 2." By selling the games directly over the Net, the company is experimenting with a model that could substantially transform the video game business, which now rivals Hollywood in annual revenue.

News source: C|Net News.com

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