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Report: Google to buy Valve Software

Why buy video game maker Valve Software? Probably for Steam Powered, an online hub and software distribution network with 1.2 million active users during peak hours.

See update below that dashes some cold water on the report.

Google is on the brink of buying noted video game maker Valve Software, according to a report in The Inquirer that cites "well-placed sources."

Bellevue, Wash.-based Valve rose to prominence through games such as its Half Life series, but The Inquirer's Charlie Demerjian speculates the reason Google would be most interested in the company is its Steam Powered technology, a multipurpose online hub with throngs of users.

Valve's Steam Powered service
Activity on Valve's Steam Powered service currently crests with about 1.2 million users. (Click to enlarge.) Valve Software

That rationale makes some sense to me as well, in part because getting into the video game business in and of itself doesn't sound terribly well aligned with Google's mission "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." Steam is an online foundation for selling and distributing games, updating patches, enabling multiplayer online chat, and using digital rights management to control who has permission to use elements like game versions or game terrain.

While a lot of that is specific to games today, I see no reason why it might not apply more broadly. Google, of course, likes to be the clearinghouse for online activity, and this could add some expertise.

Steam Powered shows 448 games available now, and in February, Valve said Steam had 15 million account holders. But this is the more telling statistic: During peak hours, online activity crests at about 1.2 million users every day. That's clearly a lot of activity.

"We do not comment on market rumor or speculation," Google said in a statement. Valve didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Update 9:40 a.m. PDT: Gaming site Kotaku threw some cold water on the report after speaking to Doug Lombardi, Valve's director of marketing. The site said Lombardi called the Google acquisition report "purely a rumor, a bit of fiction." Though that wasn't a direct quote, and there's some wiggle room in the wording, Kotaku also concluded that Google is "out of the picture."