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In 2015, users purchasing titles through Steam or through Steam keys from third-party vendors totaled roughly .5 billion, representing 15% of the global PC game sales for the year, based on estimations made by the tracking website Steam Spy.By late 2017, the service had over 150 million registered accounts, and had reached a peak of 17.5 million concurrent users.In accordance with its Acceptable Use Policy, Valve retains the right to block and unblock customers' access to their games and Steam services when Valve's Anti-Cheat (VAC) software determines that the user is cheating in multiplayer games, selling accounts to others or trading games to exploit regional price differences.
Authorized players can install the game locally and play it separately from the owning account.
The Steam client was first made available for public beta testing in January 2003 during the beta period for Counter-Strike 1.6, for which it was mandatory to install and use.
At the time, Steam's primary function was streamlining the patch process common in online computer games.
The software provides a freely available application programming interface (API) called Steamworks, which developers can use to integrate many of Steam's functions into their products, including networking, matchmaking, in-game achievements, micro-transactions, and support for user-created content through Steam Workshop.
Though initially developed for use on Microsoft Windows operating systems, versions for OS X and Linux were later released.