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Steam makes it easier to find and download game soundtracks

Jon Fingas
Associate Editor
Jon Fingas/Engadget

Steam's approach to game soundtracks has been broken, to put it mildly. It's been treated as downloadable content for its associated game, forcing you to buy the game in question -- and you could forget about having an easy way to manage your collection. Valve is thankfully fixing that experience. It's introducing a "soundtrack" app type that lets you buy soundtracks whether or not you own the core game, manage them in your Steam library and place them in a central music folder instead of scattering them across multiple game directories. Developers can even sell soundtracks when the game isn't available on Steam. In theory, a creator with an Epic Games Store exclusive could still peddle the soundtrack.

The audio itself is getting a boost. There's a new interface for soundtracks, and producers can offer high-quality versions of tracks (such as in FLAC or WAV) in addition to the usual MP3s.

The revamped soundtrack features should debut on January 20th. And don't worry about any soundtracks you already own -- Valve is giving developers a tool to convert their DLC-oriented music releases as standalone versions, and the new editions will still be part of your collection.

This doesn't amount to Valve launching a music store. However, it is an acknowledgment that game soundtracks are increasingly popular in their own right, rather than nice-to-have bonus items. It's also a recognition that where you play games and where you listen aren't necessarily one and the same, and that it's better to get some money from a soundtrack than to let other music services fill in the gap.