Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
23 December 2010
Merry Xmas to me: How I learned to hate Steam

When Steam come out for the Mac and brought with it Team Fortress 2, I was excited. Getting Portal (and some TF2 earbuds) for free made for a nice bonus. Figuring out that I've got a gaming store in my office (along the lines of the music store Apple put in my pocket) has me more worried.

It really is a heroin situation. The first hit (Portal) sure enough was free. The micropayments for games on sale drives me crazy. That I came out of a game of MLB 2k10 and saw a bulletin board filling the middle of my monitor full of games I'd like to buy for 50% off (see above picture), all only a few clicks away, is unsettlingly effective. It's a continual vortex. Play game you bought for $2, enjoy, quit, see six more games that you're only a micropayment away from, and buy two more. Wash, rinse, repeat. It's Herculean labor.

Perhaps a better parallel would be World of Warcraft's quests with their perfectly timely partial reinforcement. (Which reminds me, I need to go click my cow.) It's not that I've spent hundreds, but I've purchased more PC (Win and Mac) games in the last year than probably the two previous combined. Again, not that much cash. Significant, and some was unavoidable, like Civ IV, but the lack of barriers to entry into the games marketplace scares me.

I'm also a little concerned about the shift in my gaming dollars away from the local Play N Trade, which has used games from the 2600 [sic] on up, to Steam, which ain't hurting, I don't think. And I think some of these games must be played online -- AC2 said as much in the description, requiring a "permanent" internet connection.

Here, I'll come clean. You can see that I need to stop the Xmas bleeding before it becomes significant. The first three games I wanted. The next three, not so much. AC2 was on the "to get" list, but not this quickly.

Assassin's Creed II 14.99 USD
21-Dec Prince of Persia: Sands of Time 2.49 USD
21-Dec Lara Croft GOL 5.10 USD
1-Nov MLB 2k10 1.99 USD
3-Sep Braid 9.99 USD
4-Jul Sid Meier's Civilization IV: The Complete Edition 9.99 USD
27-May The Orange Box 20.99 USD

Note also that Mass Effect 1 and 2 are on sale now, one minute after I bought Assassin's Creed 2, for 50% off. See what I mean? Collect X of Y and then see me for more XP and faction rewards.

It's like the iTunes Music Store, but even more WoW questy. And I don't see Genius recommendations taking up my entire field of view after using my iPod. Steam encourages you to "rent" games. It makes me wonder how much serving these bytes is costing them.

And none of this would be a big deal if I didn't already have...
  • D
  • Driver
  • Doom 3
  • GTA: SA (two missions away)
  • GTA IV
  • GTA 3 (one mission, but I can't finish it for the life of, well, Tony)
  • Metal Gear Solid 3
  • The Temple of Elemental Evil
  • Railroad Tycoon 2
  • BloodRayne (finished 2 on PS2, but not 1 on Mac)
  • Halo
  • Tomb Raider Chronicles
  • Sin
  • Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
  • The Fallen: DS9

... and plenty of others I can't recall off of the top of my head sitting around waiting for me to finish them.

You feel my pain.

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--ruffin at 13:07
Comment [ 9 ]

Comments on this post:

Yeah, I have that problem, to the degree of having over 200 titles from Steam, most of which I've never booted (Many of these come from the "Buy this publishers entire collection for 80% off" sales).

By Blogger Morphix, at 23 December, 2010 22:10  

This comment has been removed by the author.

By Blogger Morphix, at 23 December, 2010 22:13  

I'm deeply invested in Sony's store.

PS3 games: 51
PSP games: 12
minis (PS3/PSP): 22
PS1 games (PS3/PSP): 24

It's kind of insane. The new PS+ subscription program ($50/y) has netted me at least a dozen games for free I wouldn't have spent money on ... and I still have nine months left on my subscription*. It's basically rental for those games, since you can't access them unless you resubscribe each 12 months.

* I subscribed at the outset and got 15 months for $50, so I'm six months into that 15, with 9 left.

By Blogger jvm, at 23 December, 2010 22:25  

I've only had limited exposure to dlc on PS3, and it didn't seem to be in your face like Steam. That is, the Sony store seemed to be fairly compartmentalized. Still much closer than the Gamestop, obviously, but not a billboard on your screen each time you finished playing.

Is that accurate? I'm trying to think of other "would you like fries with that" experiences in places I wouldn't necessarily expect. WoW does it each time you fire the launcher -- it used to be news, but has slowly morphed into StarCraft and vanity pet adverts. Maybe car wash offers when you pay at the gas pumps, or the stupid offers on my debit card that pop up when I view my account online. What, you bought something at Target? Try 10% off next time!

@Morphix -- Yep, I've made a point of trying to limit the purchases to the smallest available. Just MLB, just Prince of Persia, no Director's Cut or expansions. I did slip on Civ4 and wanted the Orange Box, but no publisher's collection yet.

It's the possibility of micropayments that gets me. I noticed a writer for WoW Insider got pulled in too. How can I pass up a deal that's cheaper than lunch?!!/1!

By Blogger ruffin, at 24 December, 2010 12:18  

There is a PS Store icon in three columns (video, games, and network) on the PS3 menu.

And there is a ticker in the upper right corner that you can't turn off* that advertises what's new on the store every time you boot up.

Also, there is a "What's New" icon that scrolls through a mix of recently played games and promoted items on the PS Store.

Finally, when you are shopping on the store, it always provides a list of "you might also enjoy" items on the far right.

They've definitely commercialized it far beyond the primitive HTML-driven store that the system launched with.

* I believe the ticker items are served up from a particular address that you can block on your router, if you want. At least, it used to work that way, IIRC.

By Blogger jvm, at 24 December, 2010 13:33  

"I'm also a little concerned about the shift in my gaming dollars away from the local Play N Trade, which has used games from the 2600 [sic] on up, to Steam, which ain't hurting, I don't think."

The difference in paying Steam vs. paying your Play n Trade, is that with Steam your money goes back to developers to make more games. With used games, no money goes back to developers.

By Blogger John, at 31 December, 2010 14:12  

@John --

Good point. That makes me feel a little better. But, at the same time, I think this blog (and certainly I, myself) lean away from DRM. I'm not worried about Wal-Mart or GameStop, but I would like to continue supporting shops that both allow me to buy new games at a good price and continue to provide the community with a good used outlet.

It's a consumer privileges issue, I suppose. I do like cutting out the middleman, but I don't like seeing it happen at the expense of first-sale doctrine. For that, local middlemen are [relative] Good Things in my book.

You can obviously arg that Steam gives me a discount for leaving first-sale at the door, etc.
And, sure enough, I still bought AC2 even though it said I needed a permanent Internet connection, which I assume wasn't simply so that AC2 could check the weather. (That is, if UbiSoft disappears, I'm suspicious AC2 might disappear for me as well.)

Perhaps I should be more worried about developers than used game shops? Right now, I'm not. Piracy is wrong. Used games aren't. /shrug

By Blogger ruffin, at 31 December, 2010 14:45  

From Jimmy Wales (seemed related):
According to Wales — who was quick to stress he was speaking in a purely personal capacity — set-ups such as the iTunes App Store can act as a “chokepoint that is very dangerous.” He said such it was time to ask if the model was “a threat to a diverse and open ecosystem” and made the argument that “we own [a] device, and we should control it.”

I do find myself wondering why I, in some sense, implicitly favor publishers, though. That is, authors used to not have any copyright, and were often lucky to have someone use their words as an excuse to sell paper. Steam seems to mean you can very nearly pay for just the words (alternately, everyone has their own printing press inside their PC). Why don't I like that more? And Steam has a much more vested interest, I assume, in its content than Apple.

Compare iTunes music store to Amazon, though, where Amazon forces you to let them slash your price every so often if they deem it beneficial. I wonder how much of that Steam does during these sales...

By Blogger ruffin, at 14 January, 2011 15:44  

rofl I had more or less the same experience... I bought for me and 4 other friends Aion... which ended up not playing..which meant I ended up losing the money.

but hey I learned from that...I hope!

By Blogger Kami, at 21 May, 2011 16:27  

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