Steam is the dominant platform for digital distribution on the PC, with 5.7 million users logged in right now (3PM on a Monday). I was first introduced to the service back in 2005, shortly after Half Life 2 was released. To play the game, Steam also needed to be installed on the system. Now, 9 years later, I’ve played over 2000 hours of games on Steam, with a library worth around £2800 according to the Steam Calculator. So why have I invested so much time and money, and why do millions of others do the same?
One of the main things Steam gets right is presentation. The first thing you see upon installing Steam is the Store, and you’re greeted with a lot of information. The new titles that have been released or are now available to pre-order are visible right at the top, beneath this you have things such as newly updated, a list of the top selling games on Steam, and what deals are being ran today. When you click on a game to find out more about it, you’re shown exactly what a user who is interested in a game wants to see. Trailers, in-game screen shots, information about the game, and user reviews. Having access to all of this with just one click is incredibly valuable for a potential buyer, and could potentially sway them to buy something they weren’t sure about previously.
Free things are great. You can sample something, and then if you don’t like it, then it’s fine as you didn’t pay anything. Two of the most popular games on the PC, DotA 2 and Team Fortress 2 , are completely free to play and more importantly, are both only available on Steam. Granted, Valve still makes money off these in the form of micro transactions, but you don’t have to buy anything to enjoy both of these games to their fullest. Not like some games *cough* Dungeon Keeper on Android *cough*. The freebies don’t stop there though. Nearly every weekend, a game is offered up for free play to everyone, giving users the ability to play the full game without restrictions. Then, if they like it, it’s also put up a significantly reduced price for them to buy. But wait, there’s more! Sometimes they even go as far as to offer whole games for straight up nothing for a day or two. For example, last week Sniper Elite V2 was available for users to download and keep for nothing.
Now, if you’re like me, you don’t always like spending full price on a game that’s just come out, even more so if you’re unsure how good the game is going to be. While it would be great to get it for free, the next best thing to free is dirt cheap, and Valve loves a good sale. They run two large sales across the year, one in the summer, when there is usually a lull of new games coming out, and then the winter sale across Christmas and New Year. They also run sales on a daily and weekly basis, so there’s always something going cheap on Steam. So if you keep your eye out on places like /r/gamedeals, the Steam front page or just wait for the sales, chances are you can get the game at a severely reduced price.
One area which Valve has pushed and allowed is the idea of modifying and creating fresh new content for games. The Steam Workshop, introduced in 2012, was originally used to allow users to create show Team Fortress 2 items that they had made for the game. Then it was expanded to allow Skyrim mods, and the rest is history. Now, with over 100 games on the Steam store with support, new content for games like TF2 and DotA 2 is being created by talent across the world, as well as free content for games such as Left 4 Dead 2 and Civilisation V. All of the add-ons submitted to the workshop are available to view by every user, letting people vote on what is worth installing and what’s worth avoiding. This concept of having the modifications easily viewable and also easy to install, is a great addition to an already great service.
So you can see why I have invested so much time and money into Steam. It gives users what they want out of a service; Easy to access information about games, sales, and fresh new content. If you aren’t a Steam user, all the information I have provided should be enough to make you part with your hard earned money and provide hours of entertainment!