STEAMing pile of filth

By Shamus
on Jan 6, 2006
Filed under:
Video Games

Yay! It’s time for a rabid, spittle-covered rant on computer games! Enjoy!

How would you react to finding out that when you purchase something at a store (let’s say, a big TV) that you are forced to register your TV before you can use it. You have to call up the company and let them know you have one of their TV’s before you will be able to turn it on. Let’s also say that it is impossible for you to give or sell this item once you have done so. If the manufactering company loses power, you can’t turn on your TV until they recover, even if you have power and everything is fine on your end. If they go out of business, your TV will cease to work forever. Oh yeah – they don’t tell you all this up front when you buy the thing. You find all this out once you get it home and unpack it. Also, if you take it back to the store you won’t be able to get your money back. You can only exchange this bizzare television for another of the same model with the same restrictions.

Let’s see: You can’t sell it, you can’t loan it out, you can’t return it, and you can’t use it without the blessing of the maker. I suggest that you don’t even own the TV. You paid for the right to keep someone else’s TV in your house and watch it as long as they allow.

I am, of course, talking about the crime against gamers that is Steam. People were all over this last year when Half-Life came out, but I’m having my say now.

But first: I freely admit that Half-Life 2 is one of the greatest games ever made. It is important that I stipulate that my love for this game is surpassed only by the raw hatred I have for the way in which it was sold. Half-Life 2 is a beautiful piece of work crafted by people who clearly know exactly what they are doing. It is marvel of both technology and design. It is a wonder to behold and a thrill to experience. We are talking Citizen Kane or Gone With the Wind of computer games, here. Okay?

The problem is, that in order to play the game, you must run another piece of software called Steam. Steam is a “content delievery system” which means that you can buy games over steam instead of going to the store and getting the boxed version. Since they don’t have to print out a manual, burn a CD, jam it into a cardboard box, ship it accross the country, and pay a retailer to keep it on the shelf until you buy it, this lets them save a lot of money. The folks at Valve software pass $0.00 of that savings onto you, the customer.

Now, if this were the end of it, I wouldn’t mind so much. I am happy if talented people become rich when they work hard. That is their right and the natural order of things. But it doesn’t end there.

If you buy a game that runs through Steam, then you NEED Steam to run the game. It doesn’t matter if you download the game or get it retail. The software you bought is encrypted onto your hard drive, so that it cannot be run directly. Not without the help of Steam. To register for Steam, you need to give them a real name and a credit card to verify your identity, so don’t get any ideas about making up a bogus name and using a throwaway hotmail account. Note that you find all this out after you open the box, at which point everyone assumes you’ve ripped images of all the CD’s and uploaded them to your pirate network in China. You can’t return it. Not for money, anyway.

You don’t just need the software when you install the game, you need to LOG IN, online, with your name and password, every time you want to play the game so their server can give you permission to play the game you paid for. I’m talking about a slow pig of a software system that more than doubles the already lengthy time it takes to launch the game. It runs in the background, downloading and applying “patches” and “updates” without so much as a “by your leave”. If their server goes down, or you lose connectivity, you can’t play your game because you have no means by which your computer may ask to run it. You can’t sell the game or give it away, unless you feel confortable with the other owner impersonating you on Steam. Your account can only be logged in at one place at a time, so if you own more than one game through Steam (you idiot) then you can’t play one of them while your friend plays the other. I hope you don’t expect to be able to loan the game out, as if it was a movie or a book.

Steam runs in the background, chewing on memory and bandwidth unless you hunt around in the options and find the checkbox that tells the program to piss off. Imagine what the system tray would look like if everyone did this. Keep in mind that all of this stupid hassle is to keep you from stealing a game for which you have already paid.

All of this copy protection is in ADDITION TO the normal hassle we’ve all grown accustomed to: Typing in huge serial numbers the size of nuclear launch codes and always keeping the CD handy so we can prove to the game that, “Honest, it’s just me, and I’d like to play my game now please.”

Once I realized what STEAM was, I would have returned their filthy software to the store right that moment, without ever playing the game, without seeing what all the buzz was about, and without even taking a peek to see how it looked. It would have gone right back in the box and right back to EB games, that very day, if I could have. But you can’t. I could only return it if it was defective (the disc was scratched) and even then all I could get was a replacment disc. As far as I’m concerned the software is unaccepeable, non-returnable, and impossible to sell. Software that doesn’t run when I tell it to is of no use to me. My day is too full to go around asking software if I can have permission to run it. These punks at Valve software have robbed me in the name of protecting themselves from pirates. (As an aside, pirates have indeed cracked Steam, and people who have never paid for the game enjoy it without any of the hassles I describe.)

Now I hear there is an expansion coming and I just laugh. There is no way in hell I’m giving them another cent. I’m sure it will be another landmark in gaming, but I’ll never see it. I am a principled man. I won’t buy the game and I won’t have anything to do with piracy. But I’ll tell you this: If the kids out there skip paying for the expansion and use their already-developed cracks to acquire it, I will be very happy.

Talented, hardworking people should get filthy rich. Dishonest, arrogant, paranoid, ignorant bastards that don’t respect the property of others (i.e. my computer) deserve to see their efforts thwarted at every turn.

Yes. That would be very pleasing indeed.

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201434 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.

From the Archives:

  1. ME AGAIN says:

    doesn’t it frustrate the living crap out of you knowing that no one important is going to read your article on steam and that you wasted an hour of your life typing your heartfelt thoughts down and not one damn thing is going to change. Your still going to get sodamized by the “MANS” preverbial dick.

  2. Peter Burns says:

    Thank you for saying this. I’m an outspoken critic of DRM and its obvious fallacies, but the magic of Half-Life 2 blinded me to the reality of what Steam is and what it means.

  3. Random Dood says:

    Great article, don’t know why some arguments always end with dick or any part of the human anatomy.

    I agree steam blows simple as that, oo thee monopoly never ends corporate suits eep!!

    They even called it steam, like I couldn’t be steamed enough as it is :P

  4. SteveDJ says:

    Here is a work-around so you can return software (or DVD movies, which I have done before) after you have opened it. Take it back to the store, and say “It doesn’t work. My computer (or DVD player) cannot read the disk. It is defective”. They will gladly exchange it for a brand new copy — unopened even!

    Now, a day later, you take that unopened copy back to the store and return it for a refund. :)

  5. Paul says:

    They tried to do something similar to this in the home electronics industry with DIVX DVDs and players. The public simply refused to buy them, and they went away.

  6. Yunt says:

    Worse now, in my circle of friends there has been more than one instance of “This CD-Key is already registered”.

    Someone sneaky opened the box, took a legitimate CD-Key and left the rest of us to buy a useless, unreturnable, box.

    In one case we were referred to the retailer by the publisher, and the publisher by the retailer. The retailer won’t replace an opened software product but the publisher has nothing to do with the box on the shelf.

    This gets worse yet when you’re dealing with an online game, specifically SOE told us that as long as the account with that key is in good standing that it isn’t any concern of theirs that we purchased a useless box. They have absolutely zero interest in preventing theft (from you), even less if the thief is giving them a kickback.

    DRM and other forms of copy protection are failed experiments. We have no reason to believe at this point that there will be a technological solution to this problem but most companies, publishers and retailers, are absolutely opposed to any other avenue of change.

    With Steam specifically, my brother was damn good at Counter-Strike. He was so freakishly tuned into this game that without realizing it, he was responding to the framerate drops when a person around a corner popped into RAM just before emerging (his gameplay suffered accordingly when he upgraded his video card). It wasn’t intentional on his part but it did get him accused of cheating. And there’s the rub. Cheating, or being suspected of cheating, on a “Steam Powered” game can get your game key revoked. You will no longer be able to play, even in single player modes, because you were deemed guilty of cheating in a no-appeals process.

    It’s my belief that this stems from an overwhelming conservativism in our investors. Companies are regulating their profits, guaranteeing x% of growth or profit per quarter which is not reinvested in quality but given out as dividends or reinvested in expansion, a broadening instead of a deepening investment. Protecting investors has become *far* more important than pleasing customers. As consumers we accept less and less from the companies which serve us and they’re happy to oblige.

  7. Me says:

    Hi, nice article. I just had to laugh at one point though: “I suggest that you don’t even own the TV.” The funny thing about that is, that if you read some of the licence agreements that come with almost all pieces of software (including Windows), you will notice that you do not own any “TV’s” at all. You simply own a licence to use the “TV”.

    Also, I think that Steam is great, I like the automated patches (which you can optionally disable), and I think that it is a great gaming tool, which many developers will probably start to use or emulate in some way. Already EA requires you to connect to the internet to register Battlefield 2142, even for single-player.

  8. PanDeSal says:

    It’s an overzealous combination of getting the user to follow the EULA, market their crap, and absolutely making sure that no one rips them off again. I do remember when the source code for HL2 was leaked.

    Let me fist clarify that I come from a third world country where pirated movie DVDs you can buy off the street for roughly 2$ a pop, games for 4$(last I checked). Not everyone has decent internet, and the decent internet isn’t really decent. The mid-range computer bits you get in the US are 1.5x more expensive here. So not everyone has internet and a strong enough computer to run HL2.

    It’s quite obvious that some guy who designed that system(I never did touch HL2) doesn’t realize that the more requirements you lay down to run something the more people won’t use it. It gets even more ridiculous when these requirements contradict each other. In other words: needing an internet connection to play the game single player.

  9. Christian Groff says:

    In other words, if you buy the game, you might as well just throw it into an incenarator and become a goth cutter, because you lost $50. Man, I am SO glad I hate Half-Life games.

  10. CyberGorth says:

    Of course, it’s not just valve that’s gotten into steam. They were the first to market it, but now Eidos has joined the bandwagon and so have Activision and a couple of good Indie game companies and modding groups too. Yeah, Steam can be and frequently is a pain in the ass what with the bugs and lengthy updates and such but those’re getting fewer and fewer. More and more great games are becoming available through it, some of which are kinda hard to find on store shelves anymore, it provides links to the major mods, auto updates the software for you, and lets you purchase a game at midnight in your underware and start playing. So far, I’ve found these perks to be worth the occasional headache. Oh, and I believe that it was Vivendi Universal who talked Valve into going through with the Steam idea. Be sure to give them the flak they deserve.

  11. Luke says:

    Just so you know, it’s perfectly possible to run Steam-based games without an active internet connection, and it has been so for as long as I can remember.
    I bought HL2 back when I had dial-up, and my gaming PC didn’t have internet access at all. I hauled the box out to a phone line, connected it up, spent about an hour authenticating & downloading updates, then disconnected it and moved the box back to its offline location. Until our cable internet came along I just played HL2 in offline mode, and never had a problem.
    I also don’t have a credit card, and didn’t need one in order to use Steam.

    I’ll admit that it’s annoying not being able to loan Steam-based games to friends, but by the same token, “loaning” games to people is quite different to loaning someone a book. I can’t remember the last time I borrowed a book from someone and proceeded to copy every page of it so that I had my own book, but that’s certainly something which is possible with games.

    And as for Steam running in the background – there are thousands of programs that, by default, do exactly the same thing. Have a look at just about any relatively inexperienced computer user’s system tray, and you’ll see them lined up there, collectively doing nothing but using up valuable memory.

    I also find it odd that part of the reason you want to return the software is because you can’t return it. I know that that’s not the only reason, but it’s certainly an odd sort of Catch-22.

    And at the end of the day, as far as I know Steam has been a very effective anti-piracy measure, which no-one seems to have matched for its effectiveness. I understand some people’s frustrations about stolen keys & the like, but I’d say that Valve is making a lot more money through people buying their games instead of pirating them, than they’re losing from people who hate Steam and no longer buy Valve products.

    At the end of the day I’m pretty happy with Steam. I haven’t had any problems with it, and now that they accept Paypal I can buy games through it – and if I want to pick up an older title, it’s certainly handy to be able to get it for $25-odd without leaving my chair, rather than having to go hunting for it on sale at some games shop.
    I understand that some people have a near-pathological hate of it, but I think that once you’re used to it, it hardly bothers you any more. It’s certainly nice to get regular updates of all my Steam games, rather than having to keep up-to-date on what patches are released when for which of my games, and going hunting for new ones if I haven’t played a game in a few months.

    I apologise if that was a bit rambling, but it was really a train-of-thought thing, so there’s probably not a logical order in there.

  12. Jack says:

    I see your point, Shamus.

    However, I dislike (and am unable) to get in my car and drive down to brick-and-mortar storefronts and deal with people. Yes, I have deep rooted anti-social issues.

    Steam, like Ebay and Gamefly, fixes all this for me.

    I’m only going to play the game on one machine, and for a certain amount of time. It’s nice to know that the game will be there on their servers, for all eternity, should I need to download it again. Even if my house, game collection, and current PC all burn up in a fire.

    If we add in the cost of the time spent going down to the store to our price of the game, it actually costs more to hoof it to the local shop, doesn’t it? But that’s not really what pisses you off, is it?

    On a side note, I was extremely happy to be able to recently Steam a copy (that worked perfectly on first run) of X-COM: Terror From the Deep. So, for me, the service has it’s occasional perks.

  13. Dave says:

    I understand that some people have a near-pathological hate of it, but I think that once you’re used to it, it hardly bothers you any more.

    Yeah.. every good dictator counts on you getting used to it.. 1984 anyone?

  14. blrtxh says:

    Hi! I was just whining about steam on IRC when a friend of mine posted this article. Even though I agree with you on most of the points, I guess steam would be alright if it would at least work the way it’s meant to. Ahh, the long hours trying to fix the “this game is currently unavailable” error..

    I made this picture almost a year a go:
    http://www.sci.fi/~vopal/steam.jpg

  15. Evan says:

    (yay a dead post!) i have steam, and i love it, mainly because pepole tat work at stores like gamestop are usaly jackasses so steam is a very helpfull thing. besides, i got used to updates through starcraft, the first game i used online alot. i was used to auto updates, and i hate haveing to hunt around for them (when i played civilicaton 3 when i had dial up, i had to wait 3 days for a patch and it was like ver 1.1 out of 1.14 or something like that) steam is more useful for ordering games, if a game is on steam, i don’t bother getting the CD/DVD. and now steam has an offline feature. and for people who like old games they have all id software games or a leas most of them (even commander keen). i my self am waiting for blizzard and bungie to hop along (blizzard for starcraft, bungie for there old games, and because i love marathon :]). although i am a little worried about the monie issue, if they go bankrupt or go out of buisnes will another company get steam, will we get our money back?

    steam isn’t a bad thing you just need to get used to it. i loved it you may not, but it’s very easy to adapt to.

  16. Fuloydo says:

    I loved Half Life.

    I’ve never played HL2.

    Steam is the reason why.

    The ever expanding DRM thing is the reason I haven’t played any new game since….I dunno. Been a loooong time.

    Make the game enough of a headache to run or insult me enough by assuming I’m a thief….I won’t play your game.

    Which means I won’t buy it.

    Maybe, as some have said above, Steam is ok now. All the bugs worked out, seamless updates, etc.

    I don’t care. They are still treating me like a thief.

    I’ll subsist on Windows Solitaire before I’ll give money for something that assumes upfront that I’ve stolen it.

  17. Argiod says:

    Luke said:
    “…as far as I know Steam has been a very effective anti-piracy measure, which no-one seems to have matched for its effectiveness…”

    I’m sure, that with enough tedious routines one can make a game that is totally incapbable of being pirated. But I can assure you, that if you make it tedious enough no one will buy it, either.

    In fact, I’d be willing to bet that the companies that make games based on Steem would make twice as much money if they sold the game without any ‘protections’ on them at all; if the game is as good as everyone says it is.

    Of course, with all the crap attached, I’m not likely to know; as I refuse to be blackmailed into buying stuff that makes me feel like a paranoid recluse with twenty dozen locks on my apartment door.

  18. PhoenixUltima says:

    Steam user here (“phoenixultima” in CS:S and TF2, come find me and get your ass pyro’d!). I’ve bought a number of games over the service, including Orange Box, and Deus Ex 1 and 2 (yes, I bought 2, this is because I like it, fuck off). I’ll probably buy more at some point (Thief 3, most likely – oh god i can see shalebridge cradle in my mind already oh god zombie mental patients get them off me help please oh sweet jesus). Now, I get that you want to have hard copies of the games you buy so you can do whatever you like with them. That’s cool, I respect that. My perspective on this, though, is that I can buy the games, play them, uninstall them, reinstall them, play them some more, and on top of it I don’t have to dick around trying to get patches off of filefront or fileshack or filepayusamonthlysubscriptiontogetfreefilesdickface, because steam will pull them down and apply them for me automatically. This is cool. I approve of this. It does suck that I can’t give my copy to a friend (not that I have any). You can, however, buy another copy and give that away. This is basically Valve’s way of saying “hey jackass, don’t copy that floppy”, and I’m fine with that. Maybe that makes me a tool of the man. I don’t know. All I know is that I can buy games that I want, and if my buddy likes one of my games and wants his own copy he can buy one too. “Hey, I can’t make a copy of this game for free and give it away anymore!” isn’t exactly a winning argument. “Hey, this doesn’t stop pirates from making free copies of your game and just hassles legitimate users!” is, but try convincing a group of computer-illiterate shareholders of that. It’s nowhere near as bad as, say, StarForce or SecuROM, and I’m willing to accept it.

    “But PU, saying that DRM X is merely less shitty than DRM Y isn’t really a compelling argument for DRM X, now is it?”, I hear you say. And fuck it, you’re right. But the way I see it, there’s always going to be a level of stupidity about this. No amount of people screaming in user reviews or on forums is going to change that. This has been around ever since games made you type in word 3 on page 47 of the game manual (and if you lost the manual? Fuck you buddy, that’s what). DRM Stupidity that merely inconveniences you and limits who you can give the software to is, in my eyes, acceptable. Not ideal, lord no, and not really even encourageable, but tolerable. DRM Stupidity that introduces massive security holes and could theoretically damage my hardware? Absolutely not acceptable in the slightest. DRM Stupidity that does the same, but doesn’t even have the decency to tell you it’s being installed? Yeah, that’s malware, I don’t care what you call it. I don’t care if a game is the best, most well-designed game ever made in the history of the universe. It could be so good as to change the lives of those who play it, ascending them to pure enlightenment. I’m not installing malware to play it. If it turns out to actually be that good (on the word of people who put up with/didn’t know about that shit and played the game), I’ll pirate the fucker. I know how to pull down a .torrent and scan/run a crack, it’s not rocket science. I’m even smart enough to google how to hide my IP, though they usually don’t go after the guy who torrents a game or two anyway. If the game turns out to be merely overhyped (and Bioshock – which I own the 360 version of, though I may buy it on steam now that that version doesn’t have SecuROM, or so they say on the steam forums at any rate – falls squarely into that category. It was good, make no mistake, but it failed to ride down from the heavens in a golden chariot and summon the Second Coming of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ), I’ll simply not bother either way.

    God, that was long as fuck. tl;dr version: steam flawed but ok, securom/starforce pure bad.

  19. The Poet says:

    I love STEAM. I love the simplicity of just downloading the game I want to play, and within a short time, play it. STEAM has a larger supply of games than my local Wal-mart. I can have it on both my PC and laptop. I especially love having it on my laptop, which means I can travel, and still have 10 or so game choices without having to transport CDs or make ISOs and run off emulators. I definitely like the Friend Chat options, much more than I like X-fire. I have no “install” limits, no entering long CD keys, which really sucks if you lost the game manuals. Instant patching is great, and if you don’t want to patch at the moment for bandwith concerns, just hit the pause button. I’m fine with just “leasing” the rights to play game software, technically it is no different than my 5-computer limit for Microsoft Office.

  20. rayen says:

    i was wondering where this post was. I have come close to ranting in one of the other (newer…) posts that mentions steam. I don’t have a problem with running the legwork that DRMs require these days, but the limited number of installs (note I’ve installed spore on two different machines and will be very picky about the third), and some of the things that require internet registry are annoying. I just moved, I lived in texas i now live in kentucky, thats a big move. everything familair is gone from me left at my former home.

    In my apartment right now is my computer my TV my bed and some of my furniture. With comp and TV come video game systems, DVDs, games, etc. I have no internet right now. that means the thing i usually take refuge in (ie GAMES) I can’t play right now including the best (half life, portal, and my STEAM version of borderlands). STEAM games that you buy at a store ARE NOT games, they are a CD with steam install stuff on them and a coupon and no game. ANd the fact that they do not say up front is the most despicable thing ever.

  21. Jeremiah says:

    I understand that change invokes suspicion and distrust, but I’m still dissapointed that you didn’t explore the other side of the story, that with Steam your game is saved forever on the network and once you buy it once you will never lose it or break it and have to buy it again. You could never buy a defective product, because there is no physical aspect of it to get damaged, lost or to become clutter. Not to mention, its excellent for connecting with friends for an online game. Steam is a great organizational tool.
    Plus, it lets developers protect their games without having to break it purposefully (like, Spore’s “only install thrice” DRM. What if my computer breaks or I buy a new one, while I want the game installed on my laptop too? I lose my game, and I have no way to reinstall it without buying a new copy).

  22. eljacko says:

    I never really saw Steam as a DRM, but as a gaming platform in of itself. It allows you to download an entire game without going to the store and saves me a lot of room in disc space. It conveniently sorts out all of my updayes, patches, and mods, and lets me use my ready-made Steam profile for online FPS games instead of me having to make a whole new one for that company. Steam is also a social network, allowing me to have friends, groups and clans, and easily organize games with them in a system that I would describe as even better than Xbox LIVE. I have used Steam for a long time and I have never found it to be a hindrance. I am predominately a PC gamer and 75% of my PC gaming is done with Steam. It has been this way for years now and I have no complaints to speak of.

  23. Mike says:

    My most recent issue with Steam is that I got Supreme Commander 2 at GameStop (as an actual product with a DVD inside), but you have to install it, then enter a steam code, then wait one hour for the game to patch. Then you realise that the game has been associated to the steam account, so basically I will never be able to play the game: I let my gf install it (I was playing another game), so I will never be allowed to play it myself.

    Basically they killed the second hand market, they removed from me the right to own this game I bought. As a result when I will want to play this game I will use a pirated copy – without any remorse.

    (And just for the sake of completeness, I work in the video game industry, and I found this kind of system hard to accept.)

  24. Joe says:

    Steam may be DRM, but at least it’s a step in the right direction. It provides a vast array of goodies for the people who use it, unlike a lot of other similar ventures, that offer all of the headaches but none of the helpful bits (coughcoughUBITHOFFcoughcough). One of the big advantages to it is that it’s usually pretty well-behaved (and if it’s not, just throw it into offline mode), and it seems to recognize that it needs to not make a huge ass of itself.

    Anyways, consider my $.02 thrown into the whole STEAMy mix.

    And yeah, it’s an old post. So sue me.

  25. Daniel says:

    @Jeremiah: Your games are not safe on Steam’s server forever, but until Valve goes out of business, decides to shut down the Steam server, terminates your account (which they ensure in the ToS they can do for any reason at all), or otherwise decide that you now should not have any access to your game anymore. I agree with your point on the physical copies though. If you scratch your game disc beyond repair, you’re screwed as well. It’s not like the classic way of retail game distribution is without its own downsides.

    As for the goodies, are people really that willing to overlook all the negative aspects just as long as the company gives them cookies? I’m not saying that the social features, the execution of game downloading/patching, etc., aren’t nice, because they are. But none of it changes the simple fact that the step from a retail game (non-online-activated) to a Steam game is the step from a purchase to a rental. All of Steam’s nice feature will be worth squat if 10 years down the line, you would like to play one of your old games again, and have to discover that the Steam service has been closed down and your thousands of dollars you invested in your account’s game collection went away, at the flick of a button somewhere in a corporate headquarter, conveniently covered by the EULA you agreed to when you paid for the stuff. You didn’t pay for your copy, you paid for a time-limited situation-dependent license-to-use.

    Just to be clear: I am a Steam customer myself, and as of today have 174 games in my account. I am not condemning Steam, and I greatly enjoy many of its features. Installing and playing all my Steam games on a freshly bought computer after just hooking it up to the Internet and installing the Steam client? Awesome. In-game overlay with browsing and chatting abilities? The only social-network/gaming mashup I have ever grown to like. All I am saying is: verify what you are actually paying for, and make informed purchase decisions. I buy a lot of games on Steam. But into my decision process always entails: is the price still O.K. if I consider that the game will be tied to my account for life, can only be activated when I’m online, and that I could lose the license to use it some time down the line? Often, especially during Steam’s sales, the answer is yes. A game rental isn’t cheap either, and it’s okay for Steam to be a little more expensive because it gives me more: the reasonable safety that at least for the forseeable future and in normal circumstances, I can freely play the game for as long as I want.

    But the broad public is not well-informed. They pay full-price for games on Steam, or quite often even more than the game costs in retail. They just pay the money in the belief that they will own the game as if they purchased it in a store. The shock comes later when, like what happened recently with Reflexive Arcade, they have to find out that they never really owned the stuff, and have now lost it all. The public needs to be better educated on this. People need to be aware of the fact that there are very palpable reasons for why a Steam- or otherwise online-activated copy of a game is worth considerably less than a DRM-free one.

  26. Maxaxle says:

    Pros:
    -Friends system, Community, groups, etc.
    -Doesn’t require you put in the game CD to play a given game.
    -Sales/clearances/etc. on games.
    -Games are ALWAYS available, regardless of release date.
    -Gifting, guest passes!
    -IM system works well enough.
    Cons:
    -Can’t play Steam games without Steam running.
    -Memory-wise and CPU-wise, it’s hefty.
    -Screenshot function bugged out when using GTA4 (if only for me; using a GeForce 9800 GT that I hope to dump soon).
    -Games are locked to my account, cannot give away/sell games.
    -Advertisements (but they DO want to turn a profit…)
    -In-game web browser is shit.

  27. thenoob says:

    Oh and Steam Games have atrocious region price discrimination. Modern Warfare, $59.99 in the US. In Australia? In USD even when our AUD buys more? $89.99. [i]USD[/i]. Yup. That’s what I refer to use the plague that is steam.

    -Games are locked to my account, cannot give away/sell games.

    That’s exactly what Blizzard are doing too, and why I despise their company (but not their games).

  28. Apolloin says:

    Well, I’m sorry but when people decided it was just fine to make an industry out of reducing the price of second hand games by exactly the amount that retail usually deigns to pass to the Publisher/Developer and reselling said game five or six times, it was obvious that ways and means were going to be developed.

    Frankly I like Steam, even minus the fact that it fires a great fiery harpoon into the withered black heart of Retail.

    It keeps track of updates to my games, makes it easy to see what DLC has been released and provides a single easy point of sale for everything. Games on Steam don’t disappear from the shelves, you can easily hit up the Steam Forums on a game to see if it’s any good or to find fixes for issues. Usually older games on Steam are pre-tweaked to work on Vista/Windows 7. I could go on.

    Of course a service like Steam DOES underline the fact that we don’t actually buy a game physically when we shell out the cash for it, we merely buy a license to use it, but that’s been the case for about 25 years and perhaps its time we woke up and smelled the coffee.

  29. Demitrovish says:

    Of course, everyone here is being FORCED to use steam. Don’t like not being able to share games? buy the disk. Feel like Steam is getting all up in your business? Get the download from the company itself. Don’t like the fact Steam keeps all your games in one place – not even a physical place – on top of offering games cheaper on average and creating a fertile ground for a community? then DON’T USE STEAM.

    Nothing like beating a dead horse.

  30. Dreadjaws says:

    Wow, there’s an awful lot of people here who don’t realize how old this article is. Steam has severely improved with the years, but the time the article was written all those complaints were valid. There wasn’t even an offline mode, if I’m correct.

    These days Shamus doesn’t despise Steam (let’s say he tolerates it), and he acknowledges all those pros the system has, but here’s the thing: all those pros weren’t there in the beginning.

    And this article is based on Valve games, which definitely force you to use Steam.

  31. John Magnum says:

    Do all the people who fret about apocalyptic scenarios where Valve goes offline and this somehow also obliterates the games saved on your hard drive and nukes Steam’s Offline mode also prepare themselves against the day when it becomes impossible to run retail games just due to OS issues? I mean, yeah, today there’s stuff like DOSbox and whatever that emulate environments in which the games are capable of being run, but the nightmare future of “You want to play a game twenty years after it came out, BUT IT DOESN’T RUN ON YOUR COMPUTER” isn’t limited to Steam. Certainly, they could just hold onto vast piles of old computer hardware to make sure they can always run their game. But the other major alternative, a virtual environment emulating the environment they actually run in, would seem to be compatible with Steam. It’s certainly conceivable that, at some point ten or twenty years from now when Valve has collapsed, someone is able to provide a client-side replication of the authentication and decryption. So people can run their games in virtual-Steam when the real one is dead and gone.

  32. Roger says:

    How the world has changed in 10 years, eh?

    (For the record, I no longer use Steam, for the last few years or so. But most people unfortunately do.)

  33. WJS says:

    Looking back at this from ten years later, it’s really ironic, considering how often we’ve heard “Gah! Fuck [GFWL/Origin/Win10 Store]! Why can’t they be like Steam??”

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