Are Valve and Steam Helping PC Gaming or Hurting It? – ExtremeTech

When Valve launched Half Life 2 back in 2004, it didn’t just ship the sequel to one of the greatest first-person shooters ever made. Bundled along, as a mandatory component of the experience, was a service called Steam. Gamers, including those who bought boxed copies of the title in their local computer stores or GameStop (back when GameStop had a PC section) had to sign up for a Steam account and register the game online. The nascent Steam servers promptly buckled under the load, and the reaction from PC gamers was harsh, to say the least. Gamers hated Steam when it debuted, which makes it all the stranger that the service has gone from a loathed component required for a specific title to the primary means of delivery for nearly every PC game.

Over at Polygon, Tim Colwill has written a lengthy article on how “Good Guy Valve’s” reputation is both unearned and, in some cases, directly contrary to its own actions. He writes: “Perhaps Good Guy Valve did exist, at one time. But beneath the glassy smile of Good Guy Valve today lurks an altogether more cold and corporate beast, a textbook rent-seeker that is profiting from both hostile practices and a bizarrely customer-supported near monopoly on PC game sales.”

Colwill goes on to detail some of the nastier items in Valve’s metaphorical closet. Valve fought tooth and nail to avoid its legal requirement to offer European Union customers refunds, including going so far as to require customers to waive their right to a refund as a condition for buying software. It went to court in Australia to attempt to avoid consumer protection laws there as well and argued that any statements about its own profitability could damage negotiations with publishers, as well as its reputation

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