Buying games is messy business. You have to find a decent store, avoid the bad employees, and then dodge and parry as you're assaulted by barbed ripostes of “trade-in!” and “pre-order!” Or, you know, you could always just use Steam. GamersGate CEO Theo Bergquist, however, thinks Valve's reign as beloved Emperor of Sales is nearly at an end.
We realize we're preaching to the choir here, but PC gaming is alive and well, folks. Nay, PC gaming is thriving and well. Sure, your local GameStop/Babbages likely reduced the PC game section to a sad looking rack situated between walls of console titles, but while brick and mortar store shelves are getting smaller, virtual shelves keep growing. No one knows this better than Valve, who's Steam platform raked in nearly $1 billion ($970 million) in revenue in 2010, according to Forcasting and Analyzing Digital Entertainment (FADE).
Families eagerly gathering in celebration. Kids tossing and turning in their beds as sheer excitement overwhelms their very beings. Groups of people going door-to-door, merrily singing out of sheer joy. So, why all the build up? What could possibly inspire such fervent glee? That's right: the Steam Holiday Sale.
Ok, there might be some other stuff involved too, but how can you not feel the need to erect some form of decorative tree at the prospect of Battlefield Bad Company 2 for $6.79 or Super Meat Boy for $3.75? Oh, and let's not forget Fallout 3 and all its expansions for the irksomely non-round (but still great!) price of $20.09. Also irresistibly tempting: every Oddworld game for a total of $12.49.
And those are only today's deals. As with all things involving Valve and penny-pinching, the Holiday Sale's a multi-day affair, so you might want to make a detour to your PC on your way to see what's under the tree. And even if you miss a day, there's a mountain of obscenely buyable bundles that'll be around for the duration. How does every Valve game ever for $49.99 sound to you? What about eight of the best indie titles out there for only $19.99?
So yeah, Valve may not be the reason for the season, but you won't see us complaining. Also, an incredibly rare celestial event's technically occurring on the same day as the beginning of Valve's sales extravaganza. Kind of like how the Holiday Sale's eclipsing everything else. Ok, we'll stop.
If Valve's proven anything over the years, it's that it knows two things: games and sales. Going by that (incredibly flimsy) logic, then, The Great Steam Treasure Hunt is the culmination of everything Valve's ever created. Think we're full of crap? Well, fine then, leave. We'll just keep all these great deals and priceless prizes for ourselves. Oh, back so soon? Yeah, that's what we thought.
So here's how it works: The Steam Treasure Hunt tasks you with completing any of ten in-game objectives leading up to December 20, when three winners will be given a golden ticket to crazy Newell's videogame factory. Translation: 100 free games of your choosing. On top of that, Valve's selecting 20 contestants every two days and granting them the top five games in their wishlist.
Let's face it, though: this sort of thing is just a step or two below the lottery. Why even try? Well, for you, Debbie, and the rest of the Downer family, there's still a reason to briefly shoo that stormcloud away from your head. Whenever a game has an objective attached to it (for instance, right now you need to become a Desert Fox in RUSE, among other things), it's put on sale. Currently, RUSE is going for $33.49, Poker Night at the Inventory's at $2.99, and Chime's at $1.25.
So then, there's something for everyone. Unfortunately, it's now only a matter of time until Valve makes shopping as fun as playing Half-Life, Portal, or Team Fortress, at which point we'll all go end up living on the streets. For now, though, hooray!
It's that time again. No, not that time! And definitely not that time. It is, however, about the only time that the phrase “that time” has a positive connotation. Yep, as per tradition, Valve's slashing prices right and left in order to celebrate that weird, barely advertised void between Halloween and Christmas. Correct us if we're wrong, but it also involves the eating of an iconic American bird, doesn't it? The bald eagle?
Anyway, Steam's taken to carving up the prices of multiple games until they're damn near unrecognizable, and will continue to do so until November 30. Currently, featured titles include Borderlands for $9.99, the Deus Ex collection for $4.95, Alpha Protocol for $7.50, Sam and Max: The Devil's Playhouse for $10.50, and more. As usual, though, each day will bring with it an avalanche of dastardly new temptations that'll slowly whittle away at your wallet until you wake up to find that your house and/or kidney has been repossessed.
Even if you've resolved to not spend a single cent this time around, however, there's still something in this year's sale for you. Yes, that does in fact mean what you think it means: free stuff. Valve's added a wishlist feature, you see, and each day 30 people will receive whichever games are in their top five.
So there you have it. Cheap stuff. Free stuff. You know what to do.
After boldly proclaiming its intention to “lead the way” in PC gaming, Microsoft's cast its latest shiny thing into our waters in yet another attempt to lure us back. Unfortunately, the bait – a redesigned Games For Windows Marketplace – only serves to disguise a jagged hook that's just as painful as it's always been.
The store's certainly functional; don't get us wrong. But it's still lightyears behind Steam and similar competitors, which is just about as far from “off to a good start” as you can get. Foremost, the selection of games and add-on content is only a small sliver of what Steam and co. are peddling, and system requirements, game descriptions, etc are practically incomplete – mere skeletons compared to the meaty wealth of info provided by other services. On the upside, the service is very upfront when it comes to warning you about DRM and things of the like, but it still omits too many other useful details.
Steam's excellently pervasive community integration is also completely absent (signing in with your Gamertag lets you buy things -- and that's it), as are reccomendations, indie titles, and demos. Yes, demos! Currently there's an option to search for them, but it only serves to slam you face-first into the brick wall that is a “no results” screen.
The frontpage, meanwhile, is as about as barebones as they come, displaying a few select games, a daily deal, and a weekly deal. It's not awful by any means, but – as with the rest of the service – there's really not much to it right now. And there's definitely not anything that makes it stand out from the rest of the crowd.
You're also forced to deal with a bunch of malarky about signing in at Xbox.com to read and agree to the new Terms of Service – an extra intial step that seems totally unnecessary and sloppily implemented. If Microsoft's trying to convince us that the PC's no longer playing second fiddle to the Xbox, this is a pretty crummy way to do it.
Overall, there's simply no reason to choose the new GFW Marketplace over Steam, Direct 2 Drive, Impulse, and other such established storefronts. Anything GFW does, they still do better. Microsoft's service is still trailing behind like it always has, and if this is Microsoft's idea of whipping it into shape, then that incredibly depressing status quo won't be changing any time soon.
It seems like so long ago that we were skeptical Steam could get us to stop bitching about DRM and provide a viable distribution system that both publishers and game players could live with. Well, we're not finished groaning about DRM, but there's no denying Steam does what it's supposed to, and does it well. Perhaps too well.
According to U.K.'s weekly gaming rag MCV, some retailers are threatening to ban games that integrate the Steam service on fears that Steam has a monopoly on the download market.
"If we have a digital service, then I don't want to start selling a rival in-store," said the head of one of U.K.'s biggest gamers retailers. "Publishers are creating a monster -- we are telling suppliers to stop using Steam in their games."
A purportedly big-name digital service provider backed up those remarks, saying "At the moment the big digital distributors need to stock games with Steam. But the power resides with brick and mortar retailers, they can refuse to stock these titles. Publishers are hesitant, but retail must put pressure on them."
Should retailers be concerned that selling games with Steam baked in only pushes users towards buying games through Valve online, or is this just another 'wambulance' call?
One step forward, two steps back. Just when you thought Microsoft's consistently behind-the-times (or “draconian,” because we think that's a neat word) online service had lost one of its main footholds and fallen into the abyss of your bad memories, Dawn of War and Company of Heroes publisher THQ has decided to forgive and forget.
“It's been easier for development [moving to Steamworks], so far, but Microsoft is really talking to me a lot about getting back on Games for Windows Live,” THQ core games boss Danny Bilson told Shacknews. “I like both platforms and I really, really, really like Microsoft as a partner. They're fantastic partners. I want to respect them.”
“There are a lot of discussions going on about that now because it's a sensitive issue. But from a development point of view, it has been easier on Steamworks. That has nothing to do with Steam as a distribution platform, as you know. The developers really like it, but again, I have incredible respect for Microsoft and they're really fantastic partners. And so, there's a lot of ongoing discussion about that.”
On the upside, Bilson also threw his company's considerable weight behind the PC, saying that “you're going to see every single title from [the Core group at THQ] that makes sense, on PC. I mean, almost every one.”
Meanwhile, in GFWL's little slice of the gaming world – which we have to imagine is located under a rock, unburdened by silly inconveniences like recent developments or timely feedback – they're just now getting around to lauching a dedicated online marketplace. Granted, it's lacking a number of Steam's features, but hey, at least they're finally getting rid of those silly Microsoft Points. Which is all a very roundabout way of saying: Danny, we love you, so please don't make us hit you.
When you can boast that your product is the size of two-and-a-half World of Warcrafts, it’s pretty much a guarantee that any numbers you put out will make all the other numbers feel so small and inadequate that only the purchase of a big car or remarriage to a disproportionately young spouse will make up for it. So, with that said, grab a cushion, because your jaw is about to make a crater in your floor.
In the past year alone, Valve’s ubiquitous download service has seen a 178 percent growth spurt in its userbase, bringing its total tally up to more than 30 million. Sales, meanwhile, have jumped up a whopping 200 percent, which probably means Valve can afford to add an aircraft runway to its complementary employee party yacht package. The publisher’s also beaming with pride over its infrastructure, which now runs at 400Gps. According to Valve, that’s enough to “ship a digitized version of the Oxford English Dictionary 92.6 times per second.”
Yeah, uh, your jaw crater? It’s getting a little drool-filled. You might want to clean that up.
"Steam is on track to record the biggest year in its six year history," said Valve president Gabe Newell. "The year has marked major development advances to the platform with the introduction of support for Mac titles, the Steam Wallet and in-game item buying support, and more. We believe the growth in accounts, sales, and player numbers is completely tied to this work and we plan to continue to develop the platform to offer more marketing, sales, and design tools for developers and publishers of games and digital entertainment."
Remember back when Steam first launched, and everyone thought it was gonna be a total flop? Well, consider this Valve’s official response: “Hahahahahaha [sounds of giddy skipping in the direction of a bank].”
Valve kept it short and to the point when addressing a rumor that Steam is getting ready to dabble in used game trade-ins. We'll get to Valve's succinct statement in just a minute, but let's first take a look at the rumor that's been going around.
"Steam gives gamers enough other stuff so that they don't resent the fact they can't trade in their games," Michael Pacter, an analyst with Wedbush Morgan, explained in a recent interview with NowGamer. "And you know, name all the Steam games that you've purchased that you've traded back in to somebody else for credit. Steam's about to let you do that supposedly, you know like trade and exchange, but they're going to take a fee from it."
Game publishers haven't exactly kept it a secret that they vehemently oppose the used game business, and we have a hard time envisioning Valve going this route. So does Valve, as it turns out.
"Untrue. We've never met with Mr. Pachter," Valve's Doug Lombardi told BluesNews.