According to a press release that went out to GameSpot and others this morning, the PlayStation 3 version of Valve Software's forthcoming Portal 2 will ship this April with support for an assortment of features that tie the game in with Valve's Steam PC gaming software.
Among the announced features, Valve says the PlayStation 3 version of the game will ship with cross-platform chat and multiplayer among PS3, PC, and Mac Portal 2 players, as well as support for Valve's Steamworks cloud-based storage system that lets gamers store saved game files, settings, and other data remotely to use between client systems. The PlayStation 3 version of Portal 2 will also ship with a key gamers can use to download the PC version of the game for free.
While Portal 2 will be released for both the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, only the PlayStation 3 version will come with Steam support. You will still need to purchase the physical game disc in order to run Portal 2 on either console, so the PC version remains unique in that it is also available for direct download. That might change over time, as both Sony and Microsoft offer older games for direct download to their respective consoles. How that might happen with Portal 2 remains to be seen, and we have no indication of a forthcoming PlayStation 3 Steam client.
From a strategic standpoint, this cooperation between Valve and Sony offers the potential for some longer-term intrigue in the console market. Considering that Valve offers a near-exhaustive library of games for direct download through its Steam PC service, including plenty of games that also appear on the PlayStation 3, it's not unreasonable to imagine that Valve could work Steam support into some of those titles as well. A broader Sony/Valve partnership would run directly counter to Microsoft's splotchy efforts to bridge platforms between its Xbox 360 console and its Games for Windows Live PC service, which has earned little enthusiasm from gamers due to uneven execution and limited game selection.
We have a feeling gamers would, however, embrace a Sony and Valve partnership that enabled them to buy a game once and then play on, and move saved games between, a PlayStation 3 and a PC at their whim. That scenario would not only need broader buy-in from Sony and Valve, but also any other game publishers, whose titles are often subject to tricky licensing agreements regarding console exclusivity.
We can see other potentially game-changing scenarios in a broad Valve/Sony partnership. A fully cross-compatible Steam/PlayStation 3 digital download library would surely accelerate the death of physical game media. Slap a rendering farm and a compression algorithm or two on the back-end and all of a sudden you've got a cloud gaming behemoth that would surely get the attention of, the cloud gaming service that debuted last year.
How would you like to see Sony and Valve work together? How should Microsoft respond? Let us know.