Geek Economy: Steam and the Videogame Industry

If you are a PC gamer, you often will find yourself looking for games new and old. In the old days your house would have shelves coated in thin CD cases which store your library of gems. But it’s likely those CDs are now scratched to death due to the multiple replays and certain gamer abuse they have received from you – don’t be ashamed, we are all in the same boat. But as you know, technology changes affect the gaming industry drastically and we now live in an era where digital copies are preferred. They take less space, the won’t break due to scratching, etc. But more importantly even if you tried to buy physical copies of the games this would become a challenge. There aren’t many shops that sell them. All good if you’re a console gamer though, otherwise…so of course you must result to the internet. And as you know you have a few options – downloads, or the comfort of Steam. And Steam knows you don’t want a thousand Trojans killing your PC. So because Steam is free to use, you will end up there. And to be honest, Steam has good features – mods, community forums, access to thousands of games at the same time, some indie some mainstream. So why wouldn’t you love Steam?

Well, have you ever heard the saying “Steam eats the souls of your games”? It is a fairly common saying among us geeks, that you buy a game, you play it, all looks good, and at some undetermined point – this is a bit like the red ring of doom in your Xbox 360 – your game just doesn’t wanna work how it should. But why?! IT’S A DIGITAL COPY!! you find yourself shouting and all sorts of outrageous behaviour and violence thrown at your machine, to find out, it was Steam all along. Steam was updating something, Steam was downloading something, Steam was recovering something, Steam didn’t like you, today, for no apparent good reason, so your game crashed about 10 times in a row, because. Point.

But that is a minor issue. Sure. Now let’s get into the depth of the matter. Just with GW, when you have the monopoly of a business, you will exploit it. The anxious gamer that waits and takes advantage of the Steam sale that is Only Going To Last This Weekend…And the Next…And the Following…And another one Next Month…Every time you log into your Steam account it’s like Navy following you: “Hey Listen, There Is This Goat Simulator which You Will Clearly Enjoy On Sale for Only £10.00!!??”. Really? I mean did I spend 30 minutes of my life going through my queue several times just so you ignore everything I’ve done and through me some bad RPGs and a Goat Simulator? Are you kidding?…Then you start wondering if some of the features Steam offers you actually work or they are just another initiative to drag you in-front of their merchandise and make you buy something.

Then you have the Steam Only items. This is a feature that bothers me greatly – not only of Steam, you start finding this in places like Kickstarter too. The exclusivity. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind exclusivity, I appreciate like with everything in life some people just want certain items and some people need/desire/WANTTHEMALOT#. Cool, no worries. But perhaps I wouldn’t be so annoyed if I knew the exclusivity was for real and not just a pretend one. Some of these exclusive items, after a little while become not exclusive anymore. So what was the point to begin with? I am a collector. I own things I know there are few, or limited in the world, period. I have gone through the trouble of finding them, or someone else has because they are exclusive. And it’s their rarity that makes them so. But if you pretend something is special and then make it ordinary, you are just fishing – it’s a bit like my problem with the MTG cards from my previous Geek Economy update…

So how does all of this affect your precious geek wallet? Well, depends, do you have self-restrain? If you do, you will be able to take advantage of the good features, maximise the most out of your budget when the sales come around – in fact you will learn the different stages of the sale, the period you need to wait to get the better value for money – and overall be relatively satisfied with this service. If not, you may end up with a ridiculously big library with pointless, poor quality titles for which you pay far more money than you should have, alongside a few good titles that you wanted anyway. Don’t believe me? Or you think I am being cynical? Ask yourself how may items you purchased just because they were only a few pounds from Steam sale, or ask your friends – I have recalled that among mine the over-expenditure goes beyond the hundreds of pounds. Personally, I’ve only spent money unwisely in a couple of games on Steam – yet that would have been budget for a new comic. So I won’t complaint much, but next time you see the marketing bombardment, Think Again.

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