Valve's Portal 2 comes out next week, and a lot of gamers are pretty excited about it. I don't usually talk about specific game releases in this blog, but I'm going to make an exception because Portal 2 is breaking some new ground – at least the Sony Playstation 3 version is.
Portal 2 marks the first time that Valve's social gaming network (and digital distribution system), Steam, will appear on consoles. So what does this mean? It means (once you link your Playstation Network [PSN] and Steam accounts) you'll be able to keep tabs on what your Steam friends are up to from within a game of Portal 2 on the PS3. Just hit the Select button on your controller to bring up the Steam Overlay.
Even better, you'll be able to play Portal 2 with friends playing on PC or Mac. I can think of at least one other example of cross-platform gaming (Shadowrun supported both PC and Xbox players in the same game servers) but it's still very rare. Perhaps if more console games start using Steam it'll be less so. In this case Xbox 360 gamers are still left out in the cold so we're still waiting for a truly platform-agnostic online game.
Steam has an achievement system and the PSN has Trophies. These are synced up in Portal 2, so when you do something that earns you a PSN Trophy it'll also award you the corresponding Steam Achievement.
Portal 2 will be "Steam Cloud" enabled, which means you can store your save games in the cloud. The PSN already supports this (at least for Playstation Plus members) and save games aren't interchangeable between PS3 and PC/Mac versions of the game, so I'm not sure how much this feature will get used. If you happen to bounce around between several PS3 systems and aren't a Plus member, then I'm sure it'll be a welcome feature.
As a bonus, purchasers of the Playstation 3 version of Portal 2 will get a code to unlock the PC and Mac version, too.
When Valve's Gabe Newell talked about Portal 2 at Sony's E3 2010 press conference he said the PS3 version of the game would be the ultimate console version. Seems like Valve is putting its money where Newell's mouth was. For more details on Portal 2 and Steam on the PS3, check out Valve's FAQ.