Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Steam: The Pros and Cons

Nowadays, it's difficult to find a PC gamer who doesn't know what Steam is. With more than 35 million registered users, Valve's gaming platform has quickly become one of the most important and competitive franchises in gaming industry. Best selling games such as Half Life, Team Fortress and Counter Strike certainly helped to make Steam a force to be reckoned with in the console war.

What makes Steam such a success is, in my opinion, the wide array of options it offers. Not only can you chat with your buddies while you endure that tedious spawn time in Team Fortress 2, but you can even use the Workshop to create content for said game. What's that? You have a game which wasn't bought on Steam? (Trust me, those still exist) No problem at all! The Steam interface can be added to almost all games, so you don't have to stop building your house in Minecraft to keep talking to your friends.

Although some may agree that most Steam games overpriced for too long, it's not necessary to spend any kind of money to use it, nor to play some of its games. But if you are of the spending persuasion, do not worry! The store has new offers each day, with discounts that'll make you suddenly love that game you'd never even heard of before. And by the way, even if you own a Mac, Steam is constantly re-releasing Mac versions of some of its games.

But as good as all this sounds, Steam does have some downsides. One of those is bandwidth. Even though most users won't complain about Steam's download speeds, it is true that when a big title comes out (Skyrim, Modern Warfare 3, Portal 2), even those who haven't purchased it seem to suffer the consequences. Long startup or loading times are frequent among users, and reaching steam servers can be a real pain.

Another problem is that you can't play if you lose your connection. This issue, personally, gets on my nerves. We all know that our computers are pretty useless and boring once the internet pops off, and this applies to Steam, too. You are allowed to go into offline mode, but most of the characteristics of games won't be available, and all in all, it's just buggy.

So, if you feel like paying less for most games, while being able to communicate with your friends, give Steam a try! It'll annoy you from time to time, but overall, it's a simple, useful tool for PC gamers. Just be prepared to hit your screen each time your internet goes off!

By Carles Soler