Social media takes place in your Web browser, right? You post a Facebook pic. You vote up your friends’ stories. You tweet your day’s events.
Do you ever get the urge to leave the memes, shouts, and retweets in your browser and join a PC Online Game?
For anyone not familiar with action PC games, Valve is the company famous for creating the extremely popular first person action series game called Half Life.
The first time I arranged a multiplayer PC online game, it was via telephone. Later, game server browsers arrived with built in buddy systems. The Kali.net game browser software is the one I remember best (I see that the site is still live–the domain may be worth more than the product now). You downloaded a software client and browsed hundreds of multiplayer PC games from Doom series FPS to Falcon 4 type flight sims. Playstation and XBox were just a twinkle in some entertainment executive’s eye back then. Soon, every multiplayer PC online game had its own server list from which you could browse and join others playing the game you just bought. For me, instant messaging became the preferred game arranging communications device among friends. Funny, I no longer own a land line phone.
In the nascent days of multiplayer gaming, if you wanted to update to the latest version of a game, you downloaded the latest “patch” from a FTP site. Get a new PC? You needed to break out the discs and reinstall. Want to buy a new game? You visited your local electronic entertainment store.
Today, how does someone who has suddenly fallen in love with a new PC game meet, play and maintain a relationship with others who are engaged in the same game?
Steam accomplishes the following:
- Portable account – one account
- Game Launcher – a bunch of current games, many genres
- Software client updater – it’s automatic
- Product ratings
- Ecommerce – you can see what new games your friends are playing and buy it
- Social networking – profiles, add friends, join groups, stats
- Advertising engine
Who says social media can’t be monetized? I’ll just say that Steam does all of the above very well. It’s the quintessential one-stop gaming platform that allows users to have fun and companies to reap revenue. The convenience of being able to instantly download and play a game that you see your friends playing is very attractive.
What Could Go Wrong?
“Where did you get that game? I didn’t see you buy it?” — Wife to gamer husband
“I downloaded it on Steam.” — Husband to disgruntled wife
The ecommerce side of Steam does actually feel a bit like a Web browser. True game addicts can get what they need when they need it. But, the convenience of buying and downloading a new game for immediate play has its downside. Steam’s Achilles heel? The refund policy. The subscriber agreement states:
All steam fees are payable in advance and are not refundable in whole or in part.
I had a chance to test first-hand the we break it, you bought it policy. I purchased Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X for $49 and had problems getting it to work. I finally got it off the ground in single player mode, but never was able to join multiplayer.
Ubisoft, the title’s publisher, admitted to me:
This issue is currently under investigation by the development team, and is expected to be corrected in the next patch.
I just wanted it to work. When it didn’t, I asked Steam for a refund and was told:
As with most software products, we will not offer refunds or exchanges for purchases made online as outlined in the software license – please review Section 4 of the Steam Subscriber Agreement for more information.
Steam cancelled my account after I disputed the charge for H.A.W.X on my credit card. That means that all games I had purchased through Steam would no longer work until such time as I would drop the dispute and pay Steam for the H.A.W.X. game that didn’t work.
So what was I to do? Pay the Steam tax and get my account with all my games back? Nope. Instead, I disputed credit card charges for all recently purchased games attached to my account since all are now unplayable due to my Steam ID being revoked. Steam’s attempt to force me to keep software that admitedly didn’t work means multiple charge backs for all the other games I purchased via Steam. Dumb I say. Dumb on my part for not buying the good old boxed version. Dumb on Steam’s part for enforcing a revenue-losing policy.
The cardholder will need to close the dispute and have the funds returned to Steam. If the cardholder is unable or unwilling to drop the dispute and let the credit card company know that the purchase is valid; and in turn have the funds returned to Steam then we will not be able to reactivate the account.
All games on your account are locked to the account and can not be transferred to a different account.
I’ve added a nofollow attribute to the Steam link to punish them for this cruel act :)
Even though games can be purchased easily, the ecommerce side of the Steam engine remains suckily broken. The refund policies need revamping. Processes for dealing with returns for defective products need to exist. Yeah, yeah, I know a patch will fix it one day, but still.
Steam Screen Shots
Steam’s info and rating of the game HAWX by Tom Clancy.
Intalling a game after purchase is insanely easy. Who needs that pretty box?
Look at the profile of my nemesis, Clapper with that smug look on his face that says “frag me!”
Chat messages are seen during games and when idle.
See if your friends are currently in a game and join up.
The Blotter is the “what are you doing now” of Steam. Or perhaps better said, “Who are you fragging now?”
On Steam, you can join groups. Great if you’re a member of a clan or have a favorite mod.
Thankfully, there isn’t a mechanism for doing memes on Steam yet :)