Tag Archives: steam

Steam rises to power

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STEAM: And the future of the video game industry

DIGITAL distribution giant and gaming platform, Steam, has fast become the Google of the gaming world – reaping in an estimated US$468 million (roughly R3.1 billion) in revenues through June 2011, according to mygaming.co.za. This attests to the fact the gaming industry has become one of the fastest growing industries in history.

Using Steam has become compulsory for ardent PC gamers, who are forced to use the platform to buy, install and update several of the latest gaming titles. According to Wikipedia, as of July 2011, Steam had over 30 million active users and offered over 1 300 game titles. It is estimated that Steam has a 70% share of the digital distribution market for video games.

The Steam platform
The Steam gaming platform

The idea of creating a centralised online platform to distribute games and related media online was, in part, a move towards combating software piracy – specifically pirated games. To play a store bought game that is powered through steam requires one to register a Steam account. One then has to be logged into Steam to install the game, update the game, play the game and be offered a host of promotional adverts upon exiting the game.

In bandwidth-stricken countries such as South Africa, one can imagine what a schlep this can be. In my experience, if a newly released game if bought through Steam, it can take up to two days to download and install. Thereafter Steam automatically updates your newly bought game, which can take another day or two. If your bandwidth hasn’t run dry by this point, you then have to log into Steam before you can play your new game for the first time.

The benefits of Steam

One can understand the benefits that gaming platforms such as Steam offer. They have made it extremely difficult for impoverished gamers to play pirated titles; it automatically patches and updates your game collection, and it offers you downloadable content for your favourite titles. It does also offer a lot of specials and promotions, whereby one can easily transfer and convert your money into US dollars and buy games via the web for cheap. In fact, purchasing games through Steam is so simple that it can be dangerously addictive.

This is not to mention that the Steam servers are often running at full capacity whereby one is put on a waiting list to play. I was once informed that my newly installed and updated game would launch in approximately five days. Bearing all this in mind it’s fair to say that Steam is having a negative impact on many game consumers who don’t necessarily want to play multiplayer.

Market research

Anti-piracy aside, Steam most certainly uses its cleverly crafted platform for market research purposes. A Steam user’s page includes some brief personal information, details of any games owned, as well as the number of hours played in each game. Steam admits that it collects and reports anonymous metrics of its usage, stability, and performance and uses this information to justify implementing new features.

However, a lot of this information is collected without notifying the user or offering an opt-out. Some of these metrics are also available publicly, such as what games are being played or statistics of a player’s progress in certain games. Last year, Steam announced that they would begin collecting a list of the user’s installed software as well.

Steam critiques

Steam has been criticised for allowing developers and game publishers to change prices and restrict game availability depending on the locations of users. Despite the reduction in manufacturing, packaging, design and distribution costs, this can cause some games to cost more than their retail prices. Steam has also been heavily criticised by European users for pricing games much higher in Euro-zone countries.

Furthermore, according to the Steam Subscriber Agreement, “Steam’s availability is not guaranteed and Valve is under no legal obligation to release an update disabling the authentication system in the event that Steam becomes permanently unavailable.” – www.gamefaqs.com

Ardent PC gamers can argue for or against the value of Steam. However, with Steam now being in the position of power that it is, has implications for gamers worldwide. In our liberal and democratic age, I suppose the biggest concern is a lack of choice.

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Fallout New Vegas DLC: Honest Hearts and Dead Money

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FALLOUT NEW VEGAS DLC: Honest Hearts and Dead Money

Hopefully by now all the bugs in the first two Fallout New Vegas DLC have been stomped out. If you haven’t yet played Dead Money or Honest Hearts here’s a quick review of each.

Fallout New Vegas Dead Money Review

Dead Money was a little disappointing in my opinion. It almost seems like Bethesda were trying to make a zombie shoot ‘em up expansion for Fallout New Vegas. The scenery is dull and eerie and the bad guys mostly consist of bright-eyed ghosts with multiple sclerosis. They have been cleverly named the “Ghost People.” There is a lot of dialogue if that’s your thing and, in the case of one companion, none at all. There are a few new weapons on offer, which is nice, especially in the melee department.

So if pawning zombie-like creatures with melee combat in close quarters is your thing, Dead Money is for you.

Fallout New Vegas Honest Hearts Review

Honest Hearts, on the other hand, is something of a marvel. Fresh and expansive canyon scenery will have you immersed into a newly crafted section of the Fallout universe named Zion. Honest Hearts also ties in nicely with stories told back in New Vegas. The legendary Burning Man, who shall not be named according to Caesar, is looking for vengeance. You have the choice of either teaming up with the macho mummy or siding with a soft-hearted evangelical soul on missionary work.

The landscape in Honest Hearts is home to three different tribes who live off the land and have much to teach an adventurous courier. Will you team up with the Burning Man and wipe the White Legs off the face of the planet? Or will you help evacuate the Dead Horses before they fall victim to the same fate?

  • Both Fallout New Vegas DLC are available through Steam for $10 (roughly R70).