Part two of a four part series.
So now that I’ve succinctly summarized the failures of the internet’s most ridiculed console platform, I feel it’s time to take on the seemingly unquestioned hero of the PC: Steam.
It’s hardly a perfect storefront, but considering the market share that Valve has managed to carve out for Steam, it has become the unofficial home of PC gamers. Very few publishers are able to release games on storefronts other than Steam with any degree of success, and even then any attempt to release a game on services like Origin or Uplay is met with ire. Granted, Steam is a rather stable platform, but it isn’t without faults.
Evolving Into A Corporate Powerhouse
Gone are the old days of Steam, back when it was simple launcher for Half-Life 2 and Counter-Strike: Source. The days of it being the undisputed darling of PC gaming is over too, now that Valve has shifted from being a game developer to simply taking a cut of a majority of PC game sales. Of course, it makes perfect sense that they’d stop development of games in favor of just skimming the top of the profits from the people doing the majority of the work.
They don’t even seem like they have a physical presence anymore. It’s as if the don’t exist outside of their storefront and the occasional appearances of Gabe Newell.
Shady Is Okay, Until They Start Taking Heat
Nothing makes for better PR practices than not saying a word when a scandal is unfolding. Oh wait, that’s a terrible idea. Apparently the only time that Valve will step up to clear the air is when the public starts actually turning on them. Take for instance the latest scandal, Counter-Strike gambling.
It took Valve until they were the focus of legal action to even come out and make a statement about the gambling operations happening under their noses. They did end up profiting from it though, and that doesn’t bode well for Valve’s image at all. Only once the story of CS:GO gambling blew up in the news did Valve bother condemning the practice at all.
Basically, they only admitted that something needed to be done about the unlawful gambling through their service, using assets from their game, while profiting from it, after it blew up in their faces. Are they the only company that would do something like this? Well, no. But one would think that such a supposedly consumer friendly corporation would give a damn about their loyal customers getting bilked by scammers and exploited by gambling sites linked to their service.
No Marketplace Oversight
The quality of content on Steam has been watered down with a deluge of hot garbage. For every Undertale on Steam, there are hundreds of “[Insert Job Here] Simulator” games. For every PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, there are countless Unit Z ripoffs. That’s not even considering the metric crapton of other “asset flip” titles that have somehow found their way onto the store.
A major reason for this is Valve’s refusal to institute any form of oversight on their storefront. Apparently nobody is watching to make sure that “developers” aren’t just uploading whatever trash they can cobble together from purchased assets. Instead, they’ve taken the approach of limiting uploads to those that are willing to front a hundred bucks to throw crap at the wall to see what sticks.
Well, at least until Valve axed Steam Greenlight in favor of Steam Direct, removing any form of oversight into what games are sold on Steam. Greenlight might not have been
perfect any good useful even slightly effective at mitigating the inconceivable torrent of terrifyingly horrible refuse that’s made it onto Steam. I mean, people think AAA games are bad, but at least Ubisoft makes games worth playing every now and then.
Now instead of games getting voted for by a community of people, even if the community was corrupted by receipt of free game keys, the only thing stopping crap slinging developers from parading their wares on Steam is a $100 refundable charge. Brilliant. At least developers whose games that sell terribly won’t have their money reimbursed. I guess that’s supposed to help limit the hurricane of trash a little.
A Ridiculous Return Policy
Well, at least they have a return policy. It’s a little unfortunate that it’s locked down the way it is, leaving little recourse if a customer’s issue falls even slightly outside of the return policy. If you purchased the game more than 14 days ago, you’re screwed. Played more than two hours of it? Good luck getting your money back.
The real question is: is two hours even enough time to get a feel for a game being good or not? If it’s a multiplayer game, which many games on Steam are, would only two hours of gameplay be enough to tell if it’s worth the money? If you bought a game and didn’t play it for a while, only to boot it up and realize it won’t work at all after a month (like I did after the return policy was firmly in place), do you have the ability to get your money back?
To the first question, it’s subjective. However, the answer to the second question is a definite “no”. If you plan on buying a game on Steam, you’re best off to be damn sure that you have time to evaluate it immediately and within the two whole hours you have to make up your mind. Otherwise, you might as well be asking for a refund from a brick wall.
The Monolithic Game Distributor Is Here To Stay
Steam has PC gamers firmly in their grasp, and that doesn’t look like it’s changing anytime soon. Their prices are often too good, their customers are well invested in the platform, few alternatives exist that people are willing to try, and many folks seem to have Stockholm Syndrome anyway. Valve seems to be incapable of doing wrong. Either that, or people are just willing to look the other way because they feel trapped or are too enticed by low priced games.
That said, I’m hoping to see more alternatives to Steam gain traction in the market eventually. Maybe GOG and Humble Bundle can snatch away some of their customers and force Valve to start actually trying again. Until then, I guess PC gamers have the Steam Summer Sales to look forward to.
What are your thoughts on Steam? Love it? Hate it? Have a normal opinion about it? Ready for a new contender to come in and steal the spotlight? Let me know what you think!
You can find the other pieces here:
- Failures Of The Xbox One
- Failures Of The PlayStation 4
- Failures Of Nintendo
- Failures Of The Gaming Community
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