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Through user polls at the time of its announcement in 2002, Valve also recognized that at least 75% of their users had access to high-speed Internet connections, which would only grow with planned Internet expansion in the following years, and recognized that they could deliver game content faster to players than through retail channels.At the time, Steam's primary function was streamlining the patch process common in online computer games.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.Valve later changed its policy to be similar to that of Electronic Arts' Origin platform, in which blocked users can still access their games but are heavily restricted, limited to playing in offline mode and unable to participate in Steam Community features.

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Steam's primary service is to allow its users to download games and other software that they have in their virtual software libraries to their local computers as game cache files (GCFs).Initially, Valve was required to be the publisher for these titles since they had sole access to the Steam's database and engine, but with the introduction of the Steamworks software development kit (SDK) in May 2008, anyone could potentially become a publisher to Steam, outside of Valve's involvement to curate titles on the service.Prior to 2009, most games released on Steam had traditional anti-piracy measures, including the assignment and distribution of product keys and support for digital rights management software tools such as Secu ROM or non-malicious rootkits.Around that time, Valve began negotiating contracts with several publishers and independent developers to release their products, including Rag Doll Kung Fu and Darwinia, on Steam.Canadian publisher Strategy First announced in December 2005 that it would partner with Valve for digital distribution of current and future titles.

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