First introduced in 2010, Steam Play was designed as a way for Steam users' purchases to automatically apply regardless of computer platform, including downloading the appropriate version for a user's operating system, whether it be PC, Mac, or Linux. The system covers nearly every Steam game which offers more than one platform, although some semi-exceptions exist, such as Portal 2, where purchasing the game on PC, Mac, or Linux does not allow the game to be downloaded on a PS3, but activating the PS3 version on one's Steam account allows the game to be downloaded on PC, Mac, and Linux as well.
Alongside cross-platform purchase, Steam Play was also used to describe Steam's cross-platform server system, allowing players to use compatible servers regardless of whether they use a game's PC, Mac, or Linux version.
In 2018, Steam Play was rebranded to describe Valve's Proton compatibility layer for Linux. Rather than being implemented on a per-game basis, Proton automatically applies when Steam users attempt to run games without native Linux ports while on a Linux-based OS.
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