Do you think Steam is a "cold and corporate beast and a textbook rent-seeker" exploiting creators and consumers?

Steam/Valve seems to have built that good guy image in many parts of the gaming community. In fact, regularly within the gaming deals here a lot of people defend Steam (even over GOG who provides DRM-free games) and appear to disregard the fact that it is a strictly controlled DRM system with one aim only, namely to generate as much money as possible with as little effort as possible. Doing so Steam exploits creators and developers by increasing the cut they take from sales of games, items, workshop creations etc.

The latest article by Tim Colwill of Polygon neatly summarises Valve's past actions and behaviours:

While I think Polygon is Microsoft owned and one could argue there is a conflict of interest I believe the article is quite unbiased and everything stated in there can easily be verified with a quick internet search so from that perspective it is unbiased a the author does not state anything that is not true or verifiable.

What do you think? Is it time that action is against Steam to ensure a more pro-consumerist and consumer-friendly attitude, maybe by breaking it up or regulating it strictly (as happened to the telecomms sector in the US previously)?
Do you think Steam should be left alone and be allowed to do as they please?
Do you think the good guy image they want to portray and have somehow managed to portray is deserved or rather sneaky and double-faced given that they tried to disguise things they were legally obliged to do as being an action they chose to do on their own (such as providing refunds which they were forced to do by law suits in Europe and other places) and then sold them as being pro-consumer (when before they tried everything the get out of their legal obligations).
Did you know about all the bad things Steam has done? If not, has the article and knowing those things now changed your attitude and approach towards Steam?

In short and in Tim Colwill's words: "Is Steam a 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?"

Poll Options

  • 18
    Steam is great and no matter what they do I love them. Long live Gabe!
  • 3
    I thought Steam was great and pro-consumer - I now changed my mind knowing what they did in the past
  • 96
    I have always known Steam was evil, just like any other DRM-system.
  • 4
    Origin suddenly does not look as evil as I thought they were before - still evil but actually better
  • 27
    GOG and DRM-free platforms are the way forward.
  • 6
    I want the good old times back where I could buy a game and install it from a medium+play it without
  • 9
    I do not care about Steam.
  • 16
    I do not care about gaming.

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  • +1 vote

    Name a platform that has had 0.1% of the impact that Steam has had on IMPROVING the PC Gaming market and I'll agree that Steam is evil. (Battle NET probably comes the closest.)

    • +1 vote

      Battle NET probably comes the closest

      but that only distribute games from 1 dev.. (Blizzard)

      so no.. nothing comes even close.

      If I am a dev and I made a spanking new game. I have 2 choices.

      1. Put it on steam and have 125 million potential buyers with 30% cut

      2. Put it on individual platform which I need to pay for the server, the advertisement, etc etc. with very little potential buyers.

      It is fairly logical on what I should do.

      OP is simply being simple minded and think everything for profit is bad and evil

      • -1 vote

        I am not simple minded. Being profit oriented is perfectly fine and I do not mind that.

        What I do criticise though is if a company pretends to be benevolent and beneficial while at the same really only caring about money and exploitation, essentially being greedy.

        If you just want to maximise profit, that's fine. Just do not pretend to be the good guy.

        And I am not even mentioning something called "corporate responsibility" which seems to have gone completely amiss when it comes to Steam.


          It's very rare for a company that isn't a charity/non-profit organisation to thrive if their primary goal isn't to generate revenue. (The former set are usually fuelled by philanthropy and generosity of the community.)

          It's true they've strayed from the "angels path" in their quest for profits, but they've done nothing short of making the PC a superb gaming platform over the past 15 years.

          What are your thoughts on their involvement with VR?

          What about things like the Steam Controller and Steam Link? (These things yield next to no profit margin.)


          Just do not pretend to be the good guy

          Tell me which freaking company is gonna tell you that they are gonna suck you dry?

          yea no one.

          Also, they are being not being greedy. Devs knew what they are signing up for before they sign up. They set the price and people are happy to pay for it. It costs a lot more to put it on a separate platform, thus the price is justifiable.

          "corporate responsibility"? Like what? Paying taxes? Can you then start with ebay?


    Whenever i read Gabe's quotes in interviews or news articles, I always read them in Cave Johnson's voice. They always reminded me of each other.


    Steam are somewhat Evil but i have 271 games on steam… sooo nothing i can do now.. plus they allow my sister to play my games from another house if she goes to offline mode, which is perfect for her Stardew valley and skyrim, so steam seems fine

  • +2 votes

    Poll is biased. Where's my options "steam is the best option compared to others."


      Could you please to elaborate on why that is considering the features, why, under what circumstances (voluntary or forced by law/regulation) and how they were introduced/abolished etc. And saying EA is an evil company and hence Origin is bad does not count without further elaboration on why EA is evil (I am looking forward to this as all EA wants to do is what Steam does, namely maximise their profits - in fact that is what Microsoft tried to do with the restriction in resale of games in relation to XBox One and yet the outcry there was enormous - I wonder why)


        I can, but are you going to ignore my post with a "I appreciate your opinion, have a good day," like everyone else who raised good points about your bias and biased article? It sounds to me that you don't want a conversation mate.

        The answer is simple. Steam has good service that covers people of all demographic, economic background and geographic limitations. That is all there is to it. No need to bring the political fallacies; it had did nothing but benefit both the consumer and the developers, regardless of how you like to spin the details. Otherwise, we would've universally opted for GOG if that's what we, and the developers, truly want. It takes a big cut? Tell me how many distributors, of any industry, you know that doesn't take a big cut.


          That depends on where you look at it. European distributors do not have such high profit margins - if you achieved even 20% they would build golden statues of you in front of every branch.
          You have to also keep in mind what is involved. Steam's costs are super low compared to distributors of real goods and yet those distributors often do not have such a high profit margin. However, you are right when it comes to virtual monopolist - in that case in very industry the profit margins are ludicrous.
          And that confirms what I said - without regulation there is little or no competition and without competition a company can maximise their profits/rent which in turn is not good for the consumer (which is the perspective I am considering it from a I am a consumer).

          The geographic limitations Steam enmploys are not a pro but a con. It is through the geographic limitations that Australia gets censored games and has to pay higher prices than other countries. To me that is not a good thing or do you really want to tell me that a developer has higher costs making a dumbed down censored version for Australia or equally that Steam has higher costs distributing a game to Australia? In fact, many games are cheaper even in countries that have up to 19% GST included in the price - and yet they are still cheaper by 20-50%.

          Again, a company maximising its profits is not evil or bad per se. But pretending to be a goody and being pro-consumer and doing things for the community is when in fact this is just a veil to hide the profit maximisation.
          That really is all I criticise.
          If Steam came out and said "Hey, we are doing this to maximise our profits and we are not doing this for the consumer" I would say nothing.
          But disclosing only half the fact (example: Steam has paid $57 million to workshop content creators - look how great and benevolent we are - neglecting to say that Steam that has not created any content pocketed more than $170 from those creators' hard work) is just wrong, immoral, and shady in my opinion.

          And mate: I am not trying to brush people off but unlike others on this site I do have a job and also volunteer quite a lot so unfortunately cannot engage at great length with everybody even if I want to. So I apologise if you think I am being abrupt and not willing to engage. I am but for the reasons above and of course family commitments my time is limited like everybody else's I assume.


          @Lysander: Apologies, you are alot more serious about this, so I shall do the same. First, let me start with the important thing: I ain't gonna deny that they have deteriorated in their "pro-consumer" stance over the years, but aside from GOG, there is no "good guys" in this scenario. Besides, I haven't even heard them market as such for over 5 years. Heck, do they even do marketing nowadays now that they seriously stopped giving a shit like EA did? I didn't even see Gabe talk about anything major for years.

          For the other fluff:

          Indeed, the cost of steam, or any virtual distribution is low. It's been my number 1 complaint about them, that they have done very little over the years to change their platform, yet somehow, they're still much more convenient than GOG or any related competition. You need to get off the grid for a while? Goodbye Origin. Need a good selection? Goodbye, GOG. Need great social service? Goodbye, Windows. Wanna get mods? Goodbye, Uplay. It doesn't matter that these guys can do better in some things, they're just simply not that one stop shop the way steam is.

          Your concern on the Australian censorship limitation is on the government. Also, price of games on Steam isn't based on just that. It's also based on purchasing power. Indeed, this may be, as you say, a greedy move, but trust me, pre-steam days for pc games sales are RIDICULOUS outside of first world country. This actually solved alot of that issues due to alot of cost scaling being appropriate to the people who can afford it. Steam was the first, and only platform to do this for many years, making PC gaming one of the best option in developing nations (without damaging developers). Heck, it even dramatically helped solved the rampant piracy issue in PC games in developed nations. Prior to steam and steam discounts, PC ports were an afterthought (still are, but not as bad).



          Thank you for your reply.
          I agree that they have the best selection but the question is why?
          Because they bundled a great game to their service and used that to grow to a size that now developers only have a choice in theory of whether or not to go with Steam. That is a problem.
          When Microsoft tried to do that with their Browser the regulator in Europe told them that was illegal due to being a dominant player, a de facto monopolist in that area.
          In Europe, for a long time, Microsoft was forced to offer all other browsers during the installation of Windows so the user could choose. Bundling IE with Windows was prohibited. Yes, that is right: Microsoft had to offer users the choice to install Firefox or Opera during Windows installation. That only happened in Europe because only there Microsoft was forced to do that. They did not do that voluntarily. That is a good example that one cannot rely on companies like that to do the right thing but that instead force is needed.
          Now, imagine all games were available on all platforms and then the deciding factor was customer service and features, how different would it look? How dominant would Steam then be? Trust me, things would be very different. Steam can only act in this way because of their dominance. That dominance cannot be broken without regulation. Once it is done and you have 4 or more medium to big players offering big game libraries, then competition is there and Steam will become more humble and consumer friendly.

          Steam still employs language pretending to implement changes for the consumer when in fact they do so only for their own benefit. Yes, they are not as loud as before or put Gabe into the limelight but their written communications and releases still seem to employ the same language as before.

          Price scaling is not right in my opinion. I would wholly disagree with the notion that countries such as the US, the UK, or Germany are poorer than Australia and that hence the prices there must be cheaper. In fact, I happen to know that due to lower price in say Germany, what people have left in their pocket after taxes etc. has much higher purchasing power than people in Australia have (accommodation costs alone are hugely different.). So rip off prices in Australia are not justifiable with the argument you employed. The only reason it happens is because Steam can do it due to being so dominant and people not having a choice. Sure, you can say you do not need to buy games but that is not really an argument as otherwise that could be put forward in many areas where people would not accept it either.

          As for piracy, I happen to work in the legal field, with one of my specialisations being IP law, and from a lot of research in that area I can tell you that there is a lot of piracy still going on. Maybe the justification spectrum has changed but it still happens a lot. One site I monitor has an enormous amount of people from exactly those poorer countries that pirate and download the newest Steam games as standalone games. Why? Because $0 is still less than $5, especially when the cost of the internet is $0 (as it exists anyway for other reasons).
          Also, another reason for using pirated games is the fact that Steam is simply not needed and/or no internet connection is required on startup/for playing.
          And even though I am really on the opposite legal site of those pirates I have the greatest sympathy for that particular reason (not for the first one though).

          When I was young I had a C64 which in fact I still have. No Steam and no internet existed. And yet we traded so many games. To this day I have about 250 floppy disks with thousands of games on it. No Steam was needed. No controlling "overlord" was needed. People bought games, played them, traded them, and yes of course copied them too.
          This shows that a thriving gaming scene can exist even without something like Steam. And it was more social than Steam can ever be as you met your friends in real life and had real life interactions.
          Sure, you can buy thousands of games these days but that only devalues games. What's the point of having 1000s of games when you only really ever play 100 of them? When you paid $60 for a game you would think carefully which one to buy and you would play this game a long, long time.
          In my opinion that is better.
          If you are interested in the devaluing games debate, there is plenty of material online in relation to putting games in bundles, starting with Humble Bundle beginnings.

          I wish you a pleasant night.



          There's 2 issues here.

          1) when you were young, pc gaming doesn't exist in the same level as console. It didn't graphics capability. When graphic cards did came around, pc gaming was plagued with dreadful ports with poor optimisation and bad controls. Do you remember the xbox-ps2 era? Pc master race movement started then, when we have the technology to run anything, but not enough games for us to run. The main reason was that we generated less than 1/3 of the sales. That effect lasted for years, and only recently, thanks to Steam, did the streak of console only games became a minority. Just because skidrow is still around, doesn't mean that piracy hasn't lessened. In India and China, those days were when you'll be lucky to even find a genuine copy of a game, and if you did, locals can't afford it. Now, there's an healthy discussion on their forum boards on discounts and what's on special.

          2) true, we're higher than US and stuff, but that's a problem of the market, not Steam. Go into your local store, and you'll see that games are still sold at astronomical price. This has always been the case, because of our high cost of living, shop rental price and tax. Steam is just scaling their price according to these guys, because it's appropriate pricing, and least confrontation with local markets. And that's only recently. Previously, Steam were priced 20 bucks lower, and the local market just adjusted to it.

          I don't see how you can say that paying 65 dollar flat is good. When I was young, I couldn't afford to play anything but Contra and donkey Kong. Price of games, even if they were crap, was high and slow to drop. It was thanks to Steam that forced the local scenes and Console provider's hands to seriously work out their pricing. So you should thank Steam that we are only 20 bucks difference to the US, and virtually the same after a year. No, seriously, it was thanks to Steam I could afford games when I was still in highschool. 80 bucks release price is always better than 100 bucks, and 10 for an oldish game is better than 40 for an preown that got enough scratch that the last segment won't run. Valve had done Australia years of service by breaking our disgustingly over priced market, and you're ignoring it and spinning the details to be evil (lol flat price games are good. Bluray games came out at 120 bucks each.)

          Look, I understand that steam is strong and have little competition, but that isn't Valve's fault alone. The other services put too little effort in understanding what the gamers want, and as a result, didn't create a service appropriate for them. GOG had more games, I will transfer any day, not because of DRM free (this argument is for another day), but because their general service in every other area is better. No need for government intervention; the market can adjust like our local scene for steam, and soon, steam for Amazon prime.

          I have no love for steam. But I sure love competition, just like you. Steam was the first to come. There will be more.


    Steam is a digital outlet that sells games of all sorts, look at them from a business plint of view and the only way a business is viable or sustainable is to keep customers in and also expand steam to a hardware branch also.

    Prior to steam the anti piracy was so weak that anyone could burn a cd copy the cd key and away you go, it was like pirating movies but on a whicked scale that could not have been controled unless there was some way to authenticate the game via an online data base and HL2 was the introduction of the new world order.

    The steam concept and introduction was a first of it kind were you as a customer can purchase the digital media and install it on any computer any time and this was done by off site servers, and was well accepted and the transition was seamless.

    There are now more companies that do this now so it isnt an entirely new system although as stated some are drm free and some are not and slightly different but the concept remains.

    There is a lot to be desired but i cant really complain too much.

    Do i love steam? Not really, do i support them? I have an account with them from the birth of steam and have purchased a lot of games through them. Is this the end of hard copy games? I think not, with the introduction of consoles it will always be a moving border but one that will always be there….. although you have the same concept of purchasing media through Playstation store or xbox live….. its not only steam.


    I don't really care about DRM, if a dev wants to use DRM, power to them! Yes there are more moral companies out there but Steam provides what I want, a platform I can connect with people on. It's like facebook for gamers, once we're connected we usually use voice chat and etc but without Steam those initial connections aren't made.

    Also I love not having to manage a games library and not having to worry about scratched/broken/lost discs or go out and browse ridiculous prices at EB.

  • +1 vote

    Poll options are a bit skewered against Valve… Also the Polygon article is trash and Tim Colwill is a hack that hates gaming and gamers.


      The facts are true though and that is what I care about.


    While I think Polygon is Microsoft owned

    They're not. They received some funding from MS to make some documentary and probably run some MS adverts, but they are owned by the Company that own the Verge and a big list of other media sites.


      OK. Thanks for clarifying that.


    I don't mind Steam. I just remember that Gaben is not my friend, he just wants my money. I'm fine with that, Valve is a corporation, not the good guys looking out for gaming.

    I mean, it took Steam a long while until they were forced to introduce refunds.

    Plus, there are a ton of sites out there that give you steam keys with better deals, and you could buy it from the dev themselves if you don't want to give Steam a cut.


    Yes whilst Steam has improved the gaming experience and delivery mechanism, they're evil. Just look at the way they monetise CS:Source. It's like gambling…


    I'm just a casual gamer and don't mind steam. I like knowing that I can download my games whenever I want to.