Failures Of Steam

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:


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21 thoughts on “Failures Of Steam

  1. Good post – the Steam Direct doesn’t seem like a better alternative than Greenlight, even if it wasn’t that effective to begin with. And I agree; for every great game out there, there’s hundreds of trash Indie games / rip-offs.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It makes me a bit sad. I gave up on the recommended games and my discovery queue because despite my attempts to make use of the customization options, I still get bombarded with garbage on a regular basis.

      Part of the reason why I’m looking more to GOG and the Humble Bundles these days instead of Steam.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Interesting article! For me… meh. I’m a console gamer, but when I was looking into getting an account for some PC games I’d like to play, I was actually drawn more toward GOG. It just seemed a lot cleaner somehow, although at the time I couldn’t quite put my finger on why it seemed that way. But I guess my gut was right; it has a huge library, but just seems to ride on its own coattails a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Something happened and my comment didn’t go through… Sorry if this posts twice.

    Interesting article! I’m not a big PC gamer, but when I was looking at getting an account for some PC games I’d like to play, I was actually drawn more toward GOG. It just seemed cleaner somehow. But I guess that makes sense; it seems like Steam rides on its own coattails a bit at this point.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have no issues with Steam – it’s a creative outlet for thousands of fantastic indie developers, I can pick up amazing games on the cheap, the returns policy has always worked fine for me, and so many wonderful indie games to play! This year alone we’ve had Hollow Knight, A Night in the Woods, Monolith, RiME, Dead Cells etc. Other than the Switch, it’s the only reason I pay attention to modern gaming.

    Like

  5. I have more than my fair share of Steam games but recently I’ve been looking outside the platform to find games. GOG’s classic games almost always work better than the versions that get dumped on Steam. And the Windows 10 Store offers Play-Anywhere on certain games, which ups my interest considerably. Steam is still home of a lot of my library but I’ve long since stopped caring about the sales events because I’ve bought so many games for them that I’ve yet to play that I it just isn’t exciting anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the issue with games running poorly with Steam has to do with the pseudo-DRM that Steam actually is. Obviously, it’s possible to play without being connected to Steam’s servers, but launching a game purchased through that storefront still requires the service to be launched for some reason. I’ll gladly take DRM-free games instead.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great Article.

    We never got into Steam. Steam like Facebook
    makes millions of dollars being a middleman.

    If you want to destroy any industry fill it up with
    Middle Men who are paid to do absolutely nothing.

    We are now in an era of creative game stagnation since
    innovation & new ideas are not something developers
    are willing to risk $$$ on when they can make a clone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What kills me is that Valve wasn’t a middle man originally. They were making great games, but stopped. I think once it became apparent that they could make more money just selling other company’s games, they settled on that. I mean, their last game was DOTA 2 I think? Back in 2013?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. WOW! It reminds me of Magic: The Gathering.
        For YEARS, MTGO was the only digital card game,
        but never invested in the upgrades necessary. So
        when something like Hearthstone came along &
        blew the market up! So funny how many of these
        Old Giants are now grasping for air. Its 2017, you
        either keep up, or shut up shop. We no longer live
        in a reactionary reality, you have to be proactive.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Great article! I’m not the biggest fan of playing on PC, which is why I’m not huge into Steam, but it’s pretty much all I’ve got when it comes to getting computer games. Plus, I like the Steam sales, at least…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love Steam. Sure there is an influx of trash games, but I’m able to avoid them with simple research, and often times, I think you can tell by looking at some of the games on the store page and know what you may be getting into.

    As for refunds, I’ve had good experiences where I bought a game, played for way more than 2 hours, and I was issued credit to another game. I think it’s pretty fair. I think it’s good they offer refunds even if it’s limited. I can’t think of many other gaming platforms that do this. For PC it’s tough because everyone has different rigs and configs, and Windows being the way it is, you can never guarantee my game will run as stable as yours. So it’s in place for situations like this. I think within 2 hours of play time is suitable to know if a game is entirely unplayable.

    I feel PC gaming has gained back a lot of popularity over the past 2 years. Prior to that, people kept thinking PC gaming is dead, but it’s far from dead, and I think Steam has played a big role in keeping it alive. Despite it’s problems, it’s done a lot for PC gaming IMO. The fact that my brother and I can share libraries is pretty sweet on it’s own.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amen, it’s done a lot, like saved it from the “Please Insert Game Disc” virus-ridden DRM scheme nightmare of the late 90s, early 2000s! Remember that mess? Bah!

      Liked by 2 people

  9. I’ve stopped buying games on Steam due to personal reasons (I only go GOG or bust now since I actually own a copy on that platform), but they really saved the steaming pile of garbage that was PC gaming when it desperately needed to be saved.

    Now I think there is far too much fluff, but I will admit that they do a fine job of promoting games that would be of interest to me. I rarely see this Greenlight garbage I keep hearing about, because I just ignore it.

    The return policy got the ball rolling to make refunds an industry standard, something we were without yet complacent with for, oh I don’t know, a decade?, as fans spent thousands on steam sale after steam sale for digital games, not once wondering what happened if a) it didn’t run correctly, b) they didn’t like it, etc. Only now are people talking about refunds at all, and it’s because of Steam!

    To jump ahead to your most recent article in the series, I think it’s been a catastrophic failure on the fans’ part by allowing companies like Valve to take advantage of them since the mid-2000s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are a number of reasons why I keep Steam installed (mostly because I have about 40-50 games that require it), but I’ve since switched to trying to get games directly from their source if I can. Either that, or I try to get DRM-free versions.

      Thank you for reading, by the way!

      Liked by 1 person

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