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The Internet Entertainment Games

The Age of Steam 159

Ant writes "Edge Online has a six-page article titled "The Age of Steam" about Steam's history that begins: 'The name could hardly be more appropriate. Just as railroads swept the US, leaving in their wake a west that was significantly less wild, so has Valve's Steam client spread across the PC, centralising, simplifying and consolidating. What started as a way of administering updates has become a delivery platform so powerful that it has threatened to render even the big publishers' alternatives obsolete, an online community so well-supported that it sets standards even for those found on consoles, and a no-fiddling environment that allows your games, settings and saves to follow you from one PC to the next every time you log in. Looking back, such success seems inevitable, but in reality Steam was far from an obvious idea. Creator Valve was a developer, not a publisher or distributor, and the service's opening months were marred by bottlenecks and a frustrating online registration experiment. More interesting than the triumph, then, is the journey: what has made Steam such a powerful platform? Which forces shape its evolution? And how can it rewire not just the PC market, but the way that games themselves are developed?'"
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The Age of Steam

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  • by GReaper ( 86963 ) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @07:40AM (#27132735)

    They might do some great offers if you manage to catch them, however any long term users of Steam know that if you want to get the best deal for a game then sometimes you have to look elsewhere. This is starting to build up a lack of trust for customers, games on Steam are often more expensive even though it costs less to sell than a physical box - customers will end up doing Google searches for the cheapest deal elsewhere. It reminds me of people going into stores to find the product they like, then ordering off the Internet to get the best deal.

    Apart from pricing it's a nice platform.

  • by FinchWorld ( 845331 ) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @07:59AM (#27132831) Homepage
    It was a HUGE victory for Valve when Half-Life 2 was released and paying customers were the first to play it, rather than pirates downloading leaked gold master copies two weeks before the street date.

    I don't recall that at all. I do recall not being able to activate it via steam, because the servers were too busy. Luckly by this point a crack had been released.

    If I'd had payed for the game (I got a coupen for it bundled with my ATI 9600xt) I would have been annoyed. But I can assure you, many people who payed played after the pirates.

  • Re:Good sales : (Score:3, Informative)

    by Chabil Ha' ( 875116 ) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @08:13AM (#27132927)

    A lot of these deals will pop up on your Steam client when you first start it up. Also, they typically show up with much fanfare on the 'Store' page. I picked up L4D for 50% off on President's Day weekend.

    There was an interesting article on Valve's sales strategies [] of late.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @08:18AM (#27132955)

    Let steam log in and authenticate.
    Close steam completely.
    Disconnect your Internet connection.
    Start steam, log in offline.
    Close steam.
    Save the steam .blob files somewhere else.

    The next time your ISP is down or the steam servers are down. You can still use your local games if you copy the blob files back. Don't allow steam to try to connect at all after you replace the files. I use Comodo and just disallow all Internet connections.

    It used to work anyway.

  • by The Ultimate Fartkno ( 756456 ) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @09:14AM (#27133371)

    It's not a corrupted save, according to the Steam forums. It's a long-standing bug in the game that no one seems to want to address. You can work around it by bringing up the console and doing a bunch of tinkering, but this is the sort of thing that Steam was supposed to make obsolete. One coder should be able to fix this in a day and have the patch rolled out to the entire userbase within hours, so it's quite frustrating to still be waiting to open that door for the past six months.

  • by dapendragon ( 832274 ) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @11:36AM (#27135355) Journal
    Steam pricing in Europe went from good to poor after they decided to implement the 1 € = 1 $ pricing scheme around new year.

    This happened at the same time that they introduced the € as currency for everyone in Europe but UK residents, even for countries that do not use the euro. There's a long topic [] of complaints and documentation about this on the Steam forums.

    Up until this change I would usually buy from Steam since it was cheaper or the same price as any other place, with the digital distribution as a bonus. Now I'll only buy from Steam if there's no other option available.

    Despite Valve's reputation as an open company, there's currently been no official comment regarding this change.
  • Re:Steam Objector (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @11:52AM (#27135711)
    If you've got the box, why wish for a chance? You have the code, it'll be "free" to try steam.

    I'll agree... there are things that should be better. Minor DRM, 'what if they go under?' and other minor issues aside, they have gotten things right.

    What's the worst that happens? You use the game you paid for, still don't like it, and never spend money there again. What have you lost? What has Steam gained? Nothing but lost bandwidth.

    "I had one bad experience years ago now I refuse to think any other way"... bleh.
  • Re:Steam Objector (Score:3, Informative)

    by Creepy ( 93888 ) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @12:22PM (#27136227) Journal

    true - it'd be nice if they had some phone number you could call to activate it like Windows in case you didn't want to use the service for privacy reasons, but since games tend to be less of a sure thing than Windows (well, at least until Vista...) or MS Office releases, I don't think the game companies always have that luxury (maybe Activision Blizzard could do it, but companies like Midway or NCSoft are struggling too much as it is).

    Privacy issues aside, I've actually had some pleasant surprises with Steam lately, like when a friend dropped by and we were able to play left4dead between my desktop and laptop and all he had to do was log in (since I had it downloaded on both machines but I only had one license). I also can switch steam to offline mode on my laptop and still play the games, which some intrusive DRMs don't allow (I forget the game, but I had at least one that checked back with the mothership every time it started, so it was no fun when I was on the road with no internet). It's also nice to be able to switch between my laptop and desktop and not have to worry that I only have a 3 or 5 install limit. Since I typically don't back up games that is an issue - I average about 1 system wipe a year due to hardware failure, and my laptop had two wipes within two months because they had failed to set a bios setting when it was sent in the first time and Windows update wouldn't work. They also forgot to install the restore partition the first time (is it any wonder why I don't have any respect for repair people...).

  • Re:Steam Objector (Score:3, Informative)

    by Goldberg's Pants ( 139800 ) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @12:49PM (#27136637) Journal

    I'd much rather have online transparent validation than crap like Starforce or Securom infecting my store purchases.

    I love Steam. Yeah, it has issues. As DRM goes, I'm happy with the compromise. However, what I am increasingly unhappy with is Steam allowing other companies to bundle junk like TAGES with games on Steam. Valve could clearly take the high ground and say no since they're the 800 pound gorilla of online game distribution right now, and could use their power for good, but they don't.

    What's doubly sad is around Christmas they started listing on the games pages if it had third party infections likes TAGES. That information has quietly disappeared again I've noticed, making buying new games on Steam a much riskier proposition. (The new X3 game had TAGES listed for example, a listing which disappeared shortly after Christmas, despite it still being bundled with the game as far as I'm aware.)

    I like Steam because it has spared me from the system damaging issues of Starforce and the like (own one system that Starforce damaged, and a friend owns two), but now that cancerous malware like TAGES, Securom etc... is slowly spreading on there, I am no longer as enthusiastic as I once was.

  • by kalirion ( 728907 ) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @01:29PM (#27137281)

    You should still back up the Offline blobs. That way next time the steam servers are down you'll be able to start in Offline mode. Otherwise it's a Catch-22 situation - you won't be able to switch to Offline mode until you log in.

"Well, it don't make the sun shine, but at least it don't deepen the shit." -- Straiter Empy, in _Riddley_Walker_ by Russell Hoban