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Valve, a Video Game Maker With Few Rules -

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A decade ago, long before every media executive figured out that downloading was the future, Valve started an online service, Steam. It has since become for games what iTunes is to music — a huge online distributor, in its case one with more than 40 million active users and that, by some estimates, accounts for about 70 percent of the PC games bought and downloaded from the Web. Through Steam, Valve effectively collects a toll on other companies’ online game sales, in addition to making money from selling its own products.

On Monday, the company will begin a public test of a new television-friendly interface, Big Picture, for buying Steam games and playing them on computers in the living room.

 “They’re on the cutting edge of the future of this industry,” says Peter Moore, the chief operating officer of Electronic Arts, a big games publisher that is both a Valve competitor and partner.