Newest Review: ... have to be online to continue to play games. Steam has an offline mode that, if activated, supposedly allows you to continue to play games... more
Why Steam and other online methods of distribution have a downside.
Computer and Video Games in general
Member Name: Hannard
Computer and Video Games in general
Advantages: Steam does work, and you can get games on the first day of release.
Disadvantages: It takes the power away from the gamer - also get a game before the day of release, you're stuck.
This is written as a response to the recent post about how great Steam is. Because while I do use Steam, I do have some concerns regards it and other online distribution methods.
1) You don't own your games.
Steam, the Playstation Network, X-Box Live Marketplace and so forth actually state that you don't own the games, and that what you're buying - when you accept the licence agreement - is a licence to play the games. Some agreements even state that the company isn't obliged to continue to make them available. Now, this is a grey area legally - and it might fall foul of the UK's unfair contract law - but it's taking a lot of the power away from the consumer.
2) If the system is down or your internet's down, you can't play your games.
This varies between services, but you quite often have to be online to continue to play games. Steam has an offline mode that, if activated, supposedly allows you to continue to play games without having to connect to verify you own them. Yet I've found Steam's offline mode to be twitchy at best. And Playstation 3 owners found that they couldn't play Final Fight or Bionic Command 2 while PSN was down because these titles required online activation.
3) You can't sell the games.
The second hand market has often been a source of annoyance for the games industry, since when someone buys a second hand game, the publisher doesn't get a cut. Steam et al stop you selling your games - which means if you've bought a game you don't like, or if you've finished one, you can't get any money back off it. I've got about five games on Steam which I've finished and have no intention of going back to. Yet there they sit, pretty much useless to me.
4) The games can be taken away from you.
Given that the power is in the hands of the online distributor, it's entirely possible for a company to remove your ability to play a game. Imagine the following scenario - Johnny Software Company puts out a new version of their Super Football title each year. But they decide it's not selling well enough, and so when Super Football 2012 comes out, they revoke the rights of owners of Super Football 2011 to play that game. Think I'm being paranoid? Maybe a little, but it's not entirely implausible - Kindle owners who downloaded George Orwell's 1984 found that Amazon had remotely taken the title off their Kindles, without their permission.
5) Steam by stealth.
There are games landing on store shelves that require Steam - meaning even if you've physically bought the product, you still need to activated and all of the above catches apply. Take Silent Hill Homecoming - there's no warning of any kind on the box and yet when you buy it, you find that you have to activate it on Steam. Fallout New Vegas also requires Steam - although this is mentioned on the box. These aren't Valve's own titles either, these are third party titles. And speaking of New Vegas, I actually had New Vegas delivered to me on a Wednesday - as is often the case when you order something from an online retailer. Yet when the disc arrived, I couldn't play it as it refused to activate on Steam until the official release date. Yes, this was a product that I'd paid for, and couldn't play for two days.
That's not to say Steam is rubbish - it's not. But I find it a bit worrying that it's taking away the rights of gamers to own and play what they purchased.
Summary: Steam seems like a good system on the surface, but it takes away gamers rights.