Where There’s Smoke…

On December 9, 2009, in Games, by peterb

Here’s the thing, game developers: I don’t want to buy your game if it isn’t on Steam.

I’m exaggerating, of course. When I say “on Steam,” what I really mean is “I don’t want to buy your game if I can’t buy it and immediately download it to my hard drive, on any number of arbitrary desktops and laptops that I own, via a service that keeps track of whether or not I bought the game forever.”

I came to this realization only slowly. Like the rest of the PC gaming world, I was distrustrful of Steam at first. It was subject to network issues. There were the inevitable worries about DRM-style lockouts. But after the complete disaster that was my purchase, last year, of Spore, I’m basically at peace with the idea that I will never buy a PC game that ships on a disc again.(footnote 1)

The irony is that in practice Steam has proven, over the past 6 years, to be way more reliable than any of my CDs. Now, while I’m sure many gamers are more OCD than me, here is the situation:

  • I have lost your goddamned disc (or, even better, one of them).
  • If I haven’t lost your goddamned disc, then the goddamned disc is damaged and can’t be read any more.
  • If the disc can be read, it probably has some DRM scheme which requires me to devote an extra 600 Mb on my hard drive to an image of it, so that I don’t have to put it in the drive.
  • As god as my witness, by all that is sacred and profane, there is absolutely no conceivable constellation of circumstances that will cause me, for whatever reason, to take your goddamn disc on an airplane, which means I will never play your game on a laptop. Ever.

This came to my attention tonight when for some obscure reason I wanted to re-play parts of The Temple of Elemental Evil and, of course, I can only find one goddamned disc of the 2 goddamned disc set. So, no game for me.

Meanwhile, I still remember, like a religious experience, when I installed Steam on a new computer sometime in 2005. I had long since lost my Half-Life disc, and in fact was installing Steam to pick up a completely different game. I logged into my account, and saw, to my utter shock, all of the Half-Life games I had previously bought. Waiting for me. Steam has reminded me of games that I forgot I owned.

Even better than Steam, of course, are DRM-unencumbered direct digital downloads. As long as the game is self-contained, backing it up myself is no big deal. But some game developers don’t like this, so: use Steam (or Impulse, or Good Old Games, or gamersgate, or whatever).

For me, this urge to avoid discs is so strong that I have actually re-bought games that I already own via Steam, just so that I can throw away the goddamned discs. I plan on doing that with Jagged Alliance 2, next, which you can buy direct from the publisher, Strategy First.

Welcome to the 21st century.

Footnote 1: Unless I’m being paid to write a review. I’m not proud.


7 Responses to “Where There’s Smoke…”

  1. peterb says:

    I thought of an even better variant: you still have the goddamned disc, but you have lost the goddamned CD key.

    I love that one.

  2. psu says:

    As has been documented before, Steam let me play HL2 again after my purchase of the game in *2004*… on a different machine, running a completely different operating system.

    It still takes too long to launch. But I can forgive it the small things.

  3. Nelson Minar says:

    I’m with you on this one. Steam copies are less valuable in some ways. You can’t resell them, and you’re subject to Valve providing a reliable service. OTOH the lack of hassle in installation and the way it maintains your old library is really fantastic. Also, you’re giving a big FUCK YOU to Gamestop, always a good feeling.

  4. peterb says:

    I can never resell games because by the time I want to, I’ve already lost the disc.

  5. grs says:

    Here’s one even better. I wanted to try the original Fable. I bought one off NewEgg. Brand new – factory sealed. When I tried to install, it said my CD key was invalid. I’ve come to find that *everyone* buying the old game is having the same problem. I found a warez key that works but WTF?

    I hated Fable & bought Mass Effect off Steam for $9.99. That was the best ten bucks I’ve ever spent.

  6. I’ll send you my copy of ToEE — I’ll never play it again, and you can go nuts. Email will not be published but I assume you see it.

  7. Benoit says:

    Steam has reminded me of games that I forgot I owned.

    Which means you can download them and install them and not play them to your heart’s content.