In the midst of the company’s continued growth, megapublisher of free-to-play massive-multiplayer titles Aeria Games announced today the formal beta launch of Ignite, a new digital distribution platform they’re calling the “first of its kind.” Acting as a central hub for play and social networking, Ignite is being pitched as a Steam of sorts for the burgeoning genre of online and mobile fantasy, action, and multiplayer experiences.

Having already been soft-launched to a limited release Aeria’s players, Ignite is currently attracting 200,000 daily active users. Through the platform, players will be able to manage a profile, contact fellow gamers, and boot up any of the catalog’s available titles – which seem to be primarily concentrated on Aeria’s library. With that said, the announcement also made clear that Ignite will be a “unique distribution [platform],” offering developers the chance to “instantly distribute their games to a large free-to-play audience and gain access to various features such as analytics and monetization provided by the Aeria platform.”

What this means specifically is still up in the air, but I can imagine that with Aeria’s growth, they’re probably positioning themselves more as the service provider than the publisher. Less a Chillingo and more a Valve, for those who are interested in industry analogies. Anyone? No? Just me? Personally, I think this represents an inevitable move towards a proliferation of software as service that will really help set games companies apart as time goes on, but am interested in hearing the specifics about what’s entailed in becoming an Aeria-friendly developer.

Feel free to sound off in the comments with thoughts on the growth of platforms, and on Aeria as the potential frontrunner in this space.