A BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP, WHERE WE WORK FOR FREE
May 17, 2017 4:07 PM   Subscribe

Valve is not your friend. It seems increasingly unlikely that Good Guy Valve ever existed. Good Guy Valve is a clever marketing conceit, a machine operating on a massive scale and one that can only do so because it is powered by the one thing Valve would later come to exploit above all: the free labor of adoring users and consumer goodwill that often feels both unearned and bottomless.
posted by Sebmojo (48 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
The drive to be on the bleeding edge of technology powers the PC gaming community. We want nothing more than to run our ridiculously powerful rigs on barely stable beta drivers, with our CPUs overclocked to speeds that are neither advisable nor guaranteed to be safe for our systems.

That is so anachronistic. So 2004. PC gaming hasn't been about overclocking for at least a decade. PC gaming is about Minecraft, DOTA, League of Legends, Counter-Strike, Blizzard games, and other stuff. Most PC gamers have no need of cutting-edge hardware and a solid majority aren't playing games available on Steam.
posted by straight at 4:18 PM on May 17 [15 favorites]


(Actually, I may retract the "solid majority" as I'm not sure how the long tail of other stuff compares with the big non-Steam games in terms of total users.)
posted by straight at 4:21 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]


I agree that there is no Good-Guy Steam, but this article is a bit hyperbolic. The entire gist behind some sections seems to be "Steam makes a lot of profit." I'm all for eating the rich, but using community-generated content isn't inherently more evil than capitalism in general.
posted by tofu_crouton at 4:21 PM on May 17 [19 favorites]


The article does a great job of destroying the straw man it first creates. I'm not sure it has a whole lot to do with reality, tho.

The author seems awfully worked up that Valve is driven by profits. Making a profit is not 'Rent Seeking". Rent-seekers, by definition, take their cut without adding any value and that simply doesn't describe Valve. Valve has created some incredible games and Steam, for all it faults, is better than any most other PC platforms (Games for Windows, anyone?), and unequivocally created the online PC distribution system. Prior to Steam, it was CDs or nothing. And while CDs had their plusses and minuses, I certainly think online is much much better.

One could write a meaningful critque of all of Valve's fault (and there are plenty!). This stupid click-bait-y hit piece ain't that.
posted by Frayed Knot at 4:24 PM on May 17 [33 favorites]


People love shopping on Steam. Some Steam policies are not pre-user.

You know where else people love shopping? Wal-Mart.

Turns out that people love buying stuff more than they care about the fine print.
posted by GuyZero at 4:28 PM on May 17 [6 favorites]


Polygon is really the go-to for this kind of "I designed this to create a flamewar on GAF but didn't think it through and I'm not being paid much" crap.
posted by selfnoise at 4:31 PM on May 17 [14 favorites]


I thought the article was very uneven. I don't find the memes a clever advertising conceit, because Valve did nothing to engender it. They aren't encouraging the pictures and videos. They don't even have the capability because their social media presence is almost non-existent.

They gained goodwill by providing something that had never been their before: an online store with non-onerous DRM and blow out sales. They're a monopoly supported by their users for the same reason we all buy from Amazon. Good pricing and great delivery. And they haven't done half the bullshit other heavy hitters in the tech industry have. They've never delisted an entire company's games as a contact negotiating tactic. Neither have they denied games being on the service for political content.

And the last line:
Maybe it's time for all of us to wake up.

Wake up sheeple, lovely. And wake up to what? EA? Activision? Microsoft? Sony? itch.io might be good for some games, but it's indies only. Granted the author seems to be happy with some large corporations.
posted by zabuni at 4:35 PM on May 17 [9 favorites]


Steam peaked around 12 million people logged in today. League of Legends regularly has 5 million players at a time, but I think those are active players, not just people logged in. Minecraft gets up to about a million concurrent players. I can't find estimates for Wow, Hearthstone, and other Blizzard games, or for World of Tanks which is another big one. So maybe more Steam gamers than non-Steam gamers, but there's definitely a significant percentage of hardcore PC gamers playing stuff that's not on Steam.
posted by straight at 4:40 PM on May 17


My main problem with Steam is not directly their fault, but just that so many games _require_ Steam and have no other alternatives. For tiny devs I can maybe understand, but something like Civ6 requiring Steam is absurd (I actually ordered it on disc, but that turns out to be meaningless because it still requires a Steam account, activation, and connection in order to play).

I have not ever bought any games directly from Steam and have no plans to give them money, but I have bought games elsewhere that don't work without Steam, which seems even more weird.
posted by thefoxgod at 4:46 PM on May 17 [4 favorites]


They gained goodwill by providing something that had never been their before: an online store with non-onerous DRM and blow out sales.
I'd say something even more important: at least in my experience, their software client isn't a total piece of shit like EA's Origin or that Uplay trash.

I've used Steam for something like eight years and I've never really had any complaints. Yeah, they are trying to make money, but who cares? The game discovery is great, the DRM has never been a problem for me, save games in the cloud are super nice, and so far everything has just worked.
posted by karlshea at 4:52 PM on May 17 [11 favorites]


Steam is doing a good job of obstructing a Microsoft store, so lesser of two evils and all that.
posted by Pyry at 4:54 PM on May 17 [6 favorites]


Yeah. The article seems to imply that Valve has pulled the wool over our eyes or something, but I've been playing around with PC games for 30 years now and for me Steam is about convenience, mostly. They earned my business by being the first company to make legitimately purchasing PC games easy and fast and cheap enough that it made more sense than pirating them.

As for Origin, Uplay, GfW, and other distribution platforms -- it's not so much that they're terrible (even though most of them objectively are, compared to Steam). It's more about the relatively painless vendor lock-in that happens with Steam. I have hundreds of games on Steam, and I play one or another of them reasonably frequently, so it makes sense to keep Steam installed and running. It sometimes pops up an ad when it starts but other than that it's a pretty quiet and well-behaved guest, I hardly even notice it. But I don't own more than a handful of games on any other platform, so when they want me to install their huge clumsy client, and they suck up a bunch of memory, and want to launch with Windows, and to pop up ads at inopportune times... yeah, no. No thanks. If you had come along first, maybe I'd be invested in your platform, but you didn't and I'm not, so goodbye.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 5:13 PM on May 17 [8 favorites]


I think Steam just snowballed its user base large enough to make it a (if not the) distribution channel of choice. Why would publishers fiddle with their own distribution when something is available in the market that's efficient, widely-used, and is guaranteed to cover their intended audience at the least? Add to that how much internet service has improved since they started, and Steam as an online outlet is that much more convenient to gamers who want their fix and don't want to think about ancillary concerns to playing their games.
posted by FarOutFreak at 5:14 PM on May 17


There's absolutely a value in not having to worry about maintaining discs, keys, and all that bullshit across computers. I just log in and download things if I want them. That's worth most of the inconvenience steam has created.
posted by Ferreous at 5:20 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]


Eh, I have basically every major digital storefront installed now and it really doesn't matter that much. Origin is totally fine at this point. Uplay is still janky but at least services to play Ubisoft's games. Itch.io is fine. GOG is fine. You can tell all of them not to run when starting up, but even then if you have enough RAM to run modern games the amount of memory they take to run really doesn't matter. In terms of single player games, I just buy wherever its cheapest, play the game, then uninstall when done.

The only one that is still best avoided is the Windows Store, which I've had nothing but trouble with.

On another note, I never understood the physical media thing, but then I don't tend to replay games again and again or attach some kind of archival significance to them. Either way, that ship has sailed. Only an tiny fraction of PC games are available at retail now, and most just contain a steam key anyway.
posted by selfnoise at 5:24 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]


> I don't tend to replay games again and again or attach some kind of archival significance to them.

And here's me excited to install Fallout 3 again (not to criticize, I must say).

The point is, with Steam, it works fine. It's fully patched, has all the DLC and is turned to run on Win10. And it works ok. That alone, not having to dick around with patching and tweaking, is a huge plus. I can just download and play, even quite old games. Heck they even have the original Fallout ready to go. That's well worth whatever I paid for it a couple of years ago, $10 or whatever.
posted by bonehead at 5:28 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]


I think the article is a little bit hyperbolic, and maybe a little bit clickbaity, but you are all falling into the very thing that the article calls out in the beginning: an attitude of "it works better than anything, so I don't care as long as I can play my games." The issues he surfaces about exploitation are mostly about content creators on Steam, who provide a massive amount of the company's value, and routinely get fucked over in their labor contracts. Your ability to play a game without using a CD isn't really what the article is talking about.
posted by codacorolla at 5:34 PM on May 17 [12 favorites]


Making a profit is not 'Rent Seeking". Rent-seekers, by definition, take their cut without adding any value and that simply doesn't describe Valve.

Valve earns rents by controlling the marketplace in many games (via the Steam platform). I agree that Steam is a pretty good platform, as far as these things go, but it's also hard to deny that a Steam-like marketplace is a natural monopoly (or quasi-monopoly, whatever). This is because of network effects: once a user has bought a couple games on Steam, all other Steam games are much more attractive. Competitors have to overcome strong convenience barriers to sell games outside of Steam. Non-Valve merchants that sell downloadable PC games generally sell Steam keys.

This illustrates the point nicely:

But I don't own more than a handful of games on any other platform, so when they want me to install their huge clumsy client, and they suck up a bunch of memory, and want to launch with Windows, and to pop up ads at inopportune times... yeah, no. No thanks. If you had come along first, maybe I'd be invested in your platform, but you didn't and I'm not, so goodbye.

All of these effects conspire to put money in Valve's pockets, above and beyond the value of particular products they sell. The holders of monopolies earn rents. If someone else held the monopoly, someone else would earn the rents, but Valve got biggest first and now it would be very hard to push them off the hill.

It doesn't follow immediately that the holders of monopolies are evil, or that they don't somehow deserve the rents. Natural monopolies are called "natural" because they come out of the basic economics of production. There are real efficiencies to having a single firm control the market, and these efficiencies probably benefit consumers. For example, it would be wasteful to have to duplicate your friends list on a bunch of different platforms.

But there are also costs to organizing markets this way. For example, Valve wields considerable power in determining what games can be sold. And Valve might block innovation. There might be a better way to make a video game marketplace, but any competing firm that tried to roll it out would be fighting from way behind.

Overall, we shouldn't mistake Valve's profits as an index of merit. They come largely from the fact that Steam is a monopoly, and Steam is a monopoly mostly because it got there first.
posted by grobstein at 5:39 PM on May 17 [13 favorites]


My biggest problem with Valve is it seems they have no interest in any kind of curation, even though they could easily pay a team to do so. Instead they keep trying different versions of crowdsourcing, and when that crowd is gamers, well...
posted by kmz at 5:48 PM on May 17 [3 favorites]


A lot of that reads like he's just shitting on Valve for running a business.

It's weird that he didn't even get into the gambling stuff which is where Valve's behavior was incredibly sleazy and borderline criminal.
posted by empath at 5:56 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]


As recently as 6 years ago I probably would have considered myself an affirmative fan of Valve. Steam had most of what I wanted to play and just worked in ways that previous game content delivery systems (whether CDs or warez or random websites with free games) didn't, they had frequent sales (sometimes with fun mini-games attached), and also made great games themselves. In 2017, I don't hate Steam or Valve, but I'm very meh about both. Steam has an absolute ton of pointless bullshit going on, and features I used to like or thought would be fun when proposed turned out to be half-assedly implemented or fucked around with for various reasons (some good, some bad). Does Greenlight even exist anymore? I don't know, because it was a stupid mess that I stopped caring about years ago. Why does it want me to use a Discovery Queue? I used to day-trade the trading cards as a silly distraction, but I'm honestly not sure why they even have them anymore because of how dumb the Market system is now. And Valve hasn't released a game I care about in those 6 years, and sure doesn't seem likely to at any point in the future. They've spent the better part of a decade making things worse, more complicated, and avoiding everything that made me like them in the first place.

I wouldn't say I'm anti-Valve now. I keep buying games on Steam and groan every time I have to use Uplay. I even have some Mass Effect game sitting on a shelf unplayed because it wanted me to install Origins and I refused to. I'm locked into the Steam ecosystem and don't see that changing anytime soon. But I'm not happy about it like I used to be. I pay way less attention to Steam than I used to, and I'm way more willing that I was to try other stuff. It used to be plausible to think of Valve as a kind of cool company that did cool stuff, and now it's just a slightly more polished version of EA, and that's all a shame.
posted by Copronymus at 5:59 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]


You know, back in the day when I was buying pre-avatar Ultima and gold box SSI games, the small shops and department stores I purchased at used to get way more than 30% of the wholesale price. On that front Steam is no different than the 90's Best Buy or the 80's mom & pop, or the 70's Service Merchandise. A company pays a storefront to sell their game. I mean, for $24.99 I no longer get a cloth map and a aluminum coin to commemorate this purchase. I no longer get 3D glasses and a whole host of pictures... Those things do exist - now mostly from premium games - for $99+ season pass subscription offers... but yeah - those days are largely gone of shaking the box and figuring out which game had the neatest stuff inside.

But, also gone are the 24-5 1/4s or 12-3 1/2 floppies necessary to install and play those games. I don't have to spin two wheels every time I start a game to find the word SWORD along the path dethek after aligning three specific symbols. I don't need to remember that Day 16 of of D-Day was referred to as BLUECOAT. Yeah - I played a game enough that that is permanently squirreled away in my mind instead of what my 9th Grade History Teacher's name was...

And from the indie developer perspective? Yeah... publicity costs and 30% is a shit deal. Your don't have box art to really attract a new customer... gaming magazines are basically gone in terms of being able to take out a one page advertisement in a PC game mag for a game made out of someone's garage (I'm talking about you Magic Candle)! In this case, yeah steam is heavy handed and upfront with how much you'll have to give up in order to get a front page placement to scrap top line for a user base and the possibility of a Mostly Positive review (or ruination from Mixed or below).

I dunno. Its why I don't make games for a living. I did the math. The cost to payout ratio - even in the 70s and 80s was too high for it to be good and it has only gotten worse. Have you even seen pictures of the the folks in the 80s that were making games? They weren't trust fund kiddies living off of mommy and daddy's dime with 24 machines slaved together, with 24 active paid for WoW accounts so they could both gold farm and raid with 24 shaman at the same time...

And on Steam being big brother? WTF people. The only reason that the phone companies back in the 90s weren't as 'big brother' as steam was laying the foundation for it to be was the prior 50 years they didn't care when they dropped a call for you anyway - they were the phone company - they didn't have to care. It wasn't until - like Steam... they started reselling your identity that they gave a consideration into quality service.

I guess - at the end of the day - its the same shit. Yes... you basically can't distribute on anything else successfully besides steam and make a car payment... Yes, that speaks to the convenience of steam and the rise of the barrier to entry for success... but meh... This is where folks need to recognize that every industry is shit in this light... these guys are just really good at distribution...

Don't you worry though - sooner or later Amazon will give them a run for their money and squeeze down the pricing in yet another industry so that no small publisher can survive.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:00 PM on May 17 [4 favorites]


They don't have the same quantity of games but GOG.com is still DRM-free.
posted by Doleful Creature at 6:04 PM on May 17 [5 favorites]


If you were to ask the average PC gamer, they’d swear up and down that there’s no way they’d ever give their money to such a corporation. They’d not only be caught dead before helping a company like that come to power, they might even join the resistance to stop them.
I really have to wonder if the author knows any PC gamers IRL.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:12 PM on May 17 [8 favorites]


At the risk of being simplistic about the thing, I think this article pretty much sucks.
"We were used to buying our PC games in stores, and we had recourse if they didn’t work. We could go talk to someone. Steam never provided that luxury, and it still doesn’t."
I worked in retail back in what I'm assuming is the time period the author is talking about (late 90s-early 00s). Sure you could go talk to someone if your game didn't work and that person would tell you that you were shit out of luck. No returns on opened software.

In contrast, two months ago I bought Just Cause 3 on Steam and it repeatedly hard crashed after the opening sequence. I filed a refund request and got credited within 24 hours.

And on Steam sales:
But in the world of Good Guy Valve we give that marketing away, for free, to a billion-dollar corporation every year (sometimes twice a year, if he asks nicely), doing our bit to help that corporation make more money during a sale event.

This is the terrifying power of Good Guy Valve. By positioning himself as the scrappy underdog who is “part of the community, rather than benevolently standing above it”, he allows us to feel good about ourselves for helping out, allows us to trick ourselves into a shared fiction of thinking we’re joining forces (as equals) in an important fight.

What? I have never once felt a) that Valve is a "scrappy underdog", b) self-promoted a Steam sale event for some reason or c) felt that my buying entertainment was somehow a struggle against . . . something? The author is unclear about what we are rebelling against by waving the Steam flag, which again I'm not actually doing.

My main take-away from this piece is its presumptive tone and suggestion of a monolithic "gamer culture" that I'm pretty sure doesn't exist. True, there are inside baseball definitions for "hardcore" and "casual" and etc., but ultimately I feel like the gaming community is so pluralistic that it's border-line insulting for the author to speak with the royal we for all gamers.
posted by mmcg at 6:13 PM on May 17 [12 favorites]


At the risk of being simplistic about the thing, I think this article pretty much sucks.

You're not being simplistic: this article pretty much sucks.

The vast majority of the complaints center around the same things people always complain about in regards to Steam. They aren't presented in a particularly novel or eloquent way, and no real new insight is provided.

Literally the only new argument to me is this whole thing centering around user-created marketing content, and here's the thing: I have been using Steam since basically it started, I have hundreds of games on Steam, and I have never once even seen (let alone participated) in this. If this is a thing, I suspect it's a thing that is true only in a small slice of Steam usage, and it's pretty clearly 100% optional to even partake in given how it's total news to someone with as much engagement as the platform as me.

The "wake up sheeple" ending is just the cherry atop this shit sundae.
posted by tocts at 6:29 PM on May 17 [5 favorites]


In contrast, two months ago I bought Just Cause 3 on Steam and it repeatedly hard crashed after the opening sequence. I filed a refund request and got credited within 24 hours.

Yeah, I bought a game called KnightShift months before the refund policy. I have NEVER played it.

EVER.

(It shows as being played as I can't get past the loading screen.)

Yet it still resides in my library and I am STILL out the money, because Steam CS pretty much nixed me right off the bat.
posted by Samizdata at 7:11 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]


Either way, that ship has sailed. Only an tiny fraction of PC games are available at retail now, and most just contain a steam key anyway.

Yeah, this is the sad part. You're basically forced into a digital market where you can't easily give away / lend / etc games.

I do more console gaming than PC gaming, and on console I can just give my disc to someone and they play it. Even if the game requires patches, the license is tied to the disc not to my account, which is far better IMO.

Of course, others prefer the digital/account model, which is fine --- I'm just sad that on PC it's basically the only model left. At least console has not gone that way yet (I have never bought a digital game on any console, on PC I've done it reluctantly sometimes).
posted by thefoxgod at 7:14 PM on May 17 [4 favorites]


I just want to throw a datapoint out there about how apparently PC gaming is now exclusively a client/server thing.

I have nothing against steam per say, but I run a linux machine and I like artificial constraints on the amount of games available to me, and so I play exclusively DRM free games. Between humble bundle (new indie bundle just came out!) and gog, I am not for want of exciting games to play, and I've never installed any game client.
posted by Alex404 at 7:26 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]


That's a good point, thefoxgod. The worst thing about Steam is that it's so efficient it pretty much killed the physical market. Or piracy and Steam together killed the physical market, I don't really know.

Anyway, we should own our own data, including the games we buy. We shouldn't depend heavily upon the servers of a distant corporation to keep our personal data safe and usable. But damn Steam is efficient. It works so well to make gaming a casual affair. I probably wouldn't game at all if it wasn't for Steam, but they've got me hooked.
posted by Kevin Street at 7:27 PM on May 17


Hmm, I guess I just don't find any real advantage to that over buying a disc (which will just be delivered the next day or two anyway, and usually I'm anticipating games in advance not randomly buying them the moment I want to play). Having to maintain an additional account + service is overhead, not efficiency.

But thats me, and I am obviously in a minority there. The physical market seems to do OK on console, but thats largely due to a more controlled environment (less piracy) I suppose.
posted by thefoxgod at 7:35 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]


idk, the transmisogyny was new to me and that's enough for me to no longer support Valve
posted by ShawnStruck at 7:36 PM on May 17 [3 favorites]


PLEASE INSERT DISC 7 IN DRIVE A:

Used to be the only way. Buying games online is like turning on the tap at home when you used to take the bucket down to the well.

Speaking of disc 7, you don't have to go back to he 90s for that. Grand Theft Auto V came on seven dvds. I bought a hard copy because I didn't want to download it on my 3g connection, which is metered. And you get a fold out map of Los Santos. I had to buy a USB drive to install it because my internal BD-ROM seemed to have died of neglect. Used once to install drivers and left to gather dust. It took a couple hours over USB.

After all that, you have to create a Rockstar Social Club account and login because the game is always online, even for single player. I have no interest in MP because, well, it's GTA. I don't want to meet that audience. The client kept downloading mandatory updates over my metered connection, costing me real $$$, despite the fact the game worked fine yesterday. I tried to cancel an update to conserve my data allowance and it demanded a complete reinstall.

I haven't played it since. Such a great game ruined by completely shit online software. No offline mode! Why?

As for Steam, it's a net positive. Or the 'I was sad I had no shoes until I met someone with no feet' scenario. Quit complaining in other words.
posted by adept256 at 7:38 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]


Some more grist for the mill: posted by mmcg at 7:55 PM on May 17 [4 favorites]


Wait. Steam's Fallout 3 works with Windows 10 now?

I gave up six months ago. (Launch, crash, launch, crash.)
posted by rokusan at 8:22 PM on May 17


I drifted to the margins of the gaming around the time Steam was getting big so I'm maybe a bit skewed, but I've never known anyone to have a "squee!" style relationship with Valve he's describing. It's convenient, GOG is more convenient with less new content, Origin is less convenient than GOG with way less content than either.

Does Steam enforce exclusivity with indie games that publish there? That would be "yes, that's abusing monopoly power" then. Otherwise, I remember the retail days when an indie game that wanted to sell itself for $5 had basically zero options as it wasn't worth the shelf space; I see way more small games when I buy a AAA title on Steam than I was ever exposed to before.

The issues he surfaces about exploitation are mostly about content creators on Steam, who provide a massive amount of the company's value, and routinely get fucked over in their labor contracts. Your ability to play a game without using a CD isn't really what the article is talking about.

I don't think that's his main point so much as the only point that makes a lick of sense. He seems equally upset by the 30% markup on normal purchases, criticism of Origin, return policy, or that people get excited about the steep discounts on their big sales events and talk about them online and spends more time on it.

I'm not connected enough with creative work and don't use Steam Workshop enough to really know what's going on here. But the reasons creative work gets done on spec go way beyond Steam. And I do doubt that this stuff is a "massive amount" of the value though, relative to cut for selling Civ VI or something.
posted by mark k at 9:22 PM on May 17


That $57 million for Steam Workshop creators is just for Valve games-- TF2, CS:GO, Dota 2. (They tried it with Skyrim and there was such a furor that they shut it down in a week.)

So far as I understand (see here), creators submit items to the Workshop, and Valve may accept them for inclusion in the game. They may modify the files to work in the game, and they do playtesting. Simply assuming that their take is dirty exploitation strikes me as naïve, like assuming that publishers don't actually contribute anything and the author should get the whole cost of a book.

(I kind of don't like the monetization of Valve games, but I've fallen for a few things myself, mostly Mann Vs Machine tickets. That whole stupid trading card thing netted me some small change, which evens things out a little...)
posted by zompist at 11:17 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]


"Our job is to maximize productivity of users in creating digital goods and services. The markets will determine what the marginal value add of each of those activities are [...] And within a game I’ll be able to create goods and services that I’ll be able to exchange with other people in other games. Some of things ill be able to do is go “Hey, I got this hat”, and somebody else will get to say “I actually designed that hat” and that the person who designed that hat is gonna be a higher value person than the person who simply traded or acquired this asset in some other form. So you’re gonna have a bunch of different ways that people are gonna be creating things." - Gabe Newell as quoted here, emphasis mine.

I don't know how their revenue from facilitating hat creation compares to their cut from selling Civ VI. They're probably not too sure themselves. A wild guess would be "it's way, way lower." But it seems clear from Newell's comments, and just staying vaguely aware of Valve and Steam over the years, that it's the former into which they've decided to put most of their recent work. Users are creating value, even if it's not yet easily measured, but Valve is where that value all ends up, save for some warm fuzzies about potentially emerging as a respected intangible haberdasher (the kind of thing that would, hey, weird, probably make you more likely to spend more of your time on Steam). The people actually making bank off of that stuff is vanishingly small. It's the kind of "sharing economy" bullshit that tends to get a more critical treatment around here; the fact that people are piling on the article kind of makes its points feel even more valid, regardless of the arch tone.

using community-generated content isn't inherently more evil than capitalism in general.

Setting the bar a bit low there, maybe :) Anyway, there isn't really anyone you can petition to stop "capitalism in general." It's OK to single out individual giant corporations just for being giant corporations.
posted by Mike Smith at 11:31 PM on May 17 [3 favorites]


Shawnstruck: could you link or quote the transmisogyny part? I've read the article, searched here & there for any mention of "trans" and either it's not there or I'm missing it somehow.
posted by pharm at 12:21 AM on May 18


Oh wait. *Now* I find it. Why didn’t that show up on my search on my phone?
posted by pharm at 12:47 AM on May 18


And then there's the other issue. People like me that have several hundred games on Steam, all purchased before I was made aware of any real bad behavior (i.e. the transmisogyny, as opposed to the rest of the whininess the article made clear). They've got my licenses and there's nothing I can do about it now.
posted by Samizdata at 1:42 AM on May 18


Context matters. Steam's got enough market power that they could be far, far worse.
posted by whuppy at 6:10 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]


Does Steam enforce exclusivity with indie games that publish there?

Quite the opposite. If you're an indie dev with a game on Steam, you can undercut Valve by selling your game at a discount directly from your website or on a competing service like GOG or Humble Bundle and Valve will still give you Steam keys to hand out to those customers you've sold your game to without giving Valve a cut.
posted by straight at 6:48 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]


Steam's Fallout 3 works with Windows 10 now?

I was playing it last night for a couple of hours without problems. You have to install a thing from MS (which Steam directs you to after it installs the game), but that's like two clicks and you're done. But otherwise, pretty flawless so far.
posted by bonehead at 6:57 AM on May 18


Should point out, I'm using the GotY edition.
posted by bonehead at 6:58 AM on May 18


As far as the user experience goes, Steam is fine. Sales have sold me a lot of games I'd have never purchased at full price, but I don't play low priced indie games. If I did, I might have a different outlook on the whole thing.

That said, GOG is better in a lot of ways, but I only buy old games from them that I otherwise wouldn't be able to play at all because the retail release won't run on modern computers at all. Steam's DRM gets out of the way enough that I've never had a problem with it, so GOG's DRM-free advantage is more notional than real for me.
posted by wierdo at 7:08 AM on May 18


You're basically forced into a digital market where you can't easily give away / lend / etc games.

Not so much give away, but the Shared Library thing in Steam is pretty great. I set it up on my friend's kid's computer, and bam! Instant 300 more titles available for him to play. As much as I love GOG, AFAIK they don't have anything like that (yet?)
posted by xedrik at 7:23 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]


GOG doesn't have a shared library system because GOG games don't have DRM; your ability to share is "download game and give your friend a dropbox link." (Which is technically infringement, and they're counting on people feeling guilty enough to avoid doing that often enough to impact their sales. But it's not like they don't know it's possible, and setting up a "share system" that was somehow less playable than that, would be pointless.)

I use the Steam platform and play a ridiculous number of games in genres that gaming articles never mention - hidden object, point-and-click adventure, puzzles, and occasionally really weird stuff that's hard to classify, other than "srsly nothing like action RPGs or FPS games."

(I have vague thoughts of setting up a gaming review blog to squee or rant about games that none of the gaming industry sites will touch, except when the really good ones win some indie award and are then forgotten two weeks later.)

I don't use GOG - I tried it, but installing the games themselves on another drive made it choke, and when I contacted customer service, their solution was "plz install them on your main hard drive." No, the point was to keep the image-and-vid-heavy content elsewhere; if the interface doesn't allow that, I can just navigate to the correct folder and open it from there. (Only, I don't, because Steam keeps having these nice sales where the tiny indie weird games I like are 85% off, and oh, all the games show up on one list on the platform.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:44 PM on May 18


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