A friend at work turned me onto the Steam website a couple of months ago, and I’ve been a regular customer ever since. This website, www.Steam.com, is a pay-to-download gaming site where you can pick out a game, then download and play in the same day. With some prices being the same as if you had ordered the boxed retail version, it’s worth it if you don’t want to wait to play. Of course, a site like this always has pros and cons.
Steam has a somewhat limited catalogue of computer games, but most of what they do carry is among the most popular titles in PC gaming right now. They have Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Titan Quest: Gold Edition, Company of Heroes, Bioshock, and many more. They categorize the games according to genre, such as action, adventure, or RPG.
One of my favorite aspects of this site is the wealth of information they provide before you decide whether or not to buy the game. In addition to usually a dozen or more screenshots, they also provide links to the manufacturer’s website. Most importantly, they provide you the Metacritic.com overall Metascore for the game, which I have found to be a very accurate measure of a game’s worth.
When you purchase a game through the Steam service, the software will also download any game updates for you. This is incredibly helpful since many games don’t automatically update themselves. I hate it when I get a new game and then have to go hunt down some giant patch or update that often isn’t found on the manufacturer’s website. Additionally, Steam provides an online forum for you to discuss each game. I’ve used this to solve a couple of minor technical problems I’ve encountered from games I purchased there.
After you buy a game, which can be paid for with a credit card or even PayPal, it will immediately begin downloading. How fast you get the game depends on how big it is and how much bandwidth you have available. At home, I average 350kb/sec download speeds. Most of the games are pretty large in size, so if you are on a slow connection, it may take several hours. For example, I recently bought Company of Heroes and it was over six gigabytes! It took about five hours to download.
Once you’ve bought a game, it is yours forever. If you get tired of it, you can always uninstall the game to free up hard drive space. If you want to play it again later, you can always re-download the game at no additional cost. All you have to do is log into the Steam software and go to the Games section, and it will show you everything you have purchased.
For me, one big downside to using this service is that the games have no resale value. It’s just like getting music or movies off iTunes. Once you get them, you can’t resell or transfer ownership to anyone else. I often sell my old games to get money to buy new ones, but that is not possible with Steam.
For brand new games, such as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, it currently (as of July 6, 2008) sells for $49.99. If you were to go on Amazon.com and buy the game, which would include the box, disc, and instructions, it would cost you the same amount and shipping would be free. However, if you got tired of the game, you could also sell the physical copy you bought from Amazon. With the one you got from Steam, you’d be stuck with it. For that reason, I think it is best not to buy new releases on Steam unless they are heavily discounted, otherwise you’ll be spending a lot of money that you won’t ever be able to recuperate later.
If you’re unsure about trying the Steam service, I suggest you check their website every weekend to see what kind of game they have on sale in the Weekend Deal section. That’s how I bought my first game, Prey, for only $4.99. It is usually $19.99. I figured for less than five bucks, I could not pass it up. They don’t charge sales tax, and of course there are no shipping costs, either.
Like anything involving spending money, you should be a smart shopper when looking for games. It can be an expensive hobby, for sure. I do think most every gamer should be able to find something worthwhile on Steam.
For more information, visit https://www.SteamPowered.com.