Why I’m No Longer Buying Games On Steam [Opinion]

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steam gamesI don’t think anyone understood how important the Steam games service would become when it was released in 2003. The general mood, as I recall it, was skepticism. Valve was a great game developer, but opening a digital game store was an entirely different business with different challenges.

Steam is now approaching 10 years old. Its impact has been undeniable. Millions of gamers enjoy the service’s seamless community services, low prices and excellent selection. I have been one of them – until now. While I will be keeping my current Steam games (of course) I will no longer be buying products there. If a game is released only through Steam, I will not play it. Here’s why.

The Turning Point

steam games

Valve recently released new terms of service that deny users the right to a class action lawsuit. This is, at least in the United States, entirely legal. The only way to resolve a dispute is through binding arbitration with Valve.

That’s a bad thing to do, but it’s also understandable. Every company has moved to exclude class action lawsuits ever since the United States Supreme Court struck down a California law that forbids companies from excluding class action suits in their terms of service.

What really struck me, however, was Valve’s response to those curious about what would happen if they denied the updated terms of service.

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Thank you for contacting Steam Support.

We can permanently deactivate your account for you, remove any stored payment information and clear your Steam games profile.

Disabling your account will not result in a refund, as explained in the Steam Subscriber Agreement.

The games in your account will not be accessible for future use. It is impossible to make your games available once your account has been deactivated and your information deleted or archived. Once we have permanently deactivated the account, we will not be able to reactivate the account upon a future request.

Yep. If you don’t want to accept the new terms of service you have the right to have all the games you purchased deactivated. Forever.

A Problem Of Precedent

steam powered games

This is troublesome not just because of the class-action issue. It’s troublesome because Valve is saying it has the right to changes the terms of service at any time. If the user choses to reject the new terms, Valve will not give the user the chance to continue using games purchased under the earlier terms. Those games will simply vanish, along with the user’s account.

I’m not a legal expert, but as far as I’m aware, there’s no precedent in law that prevents Valve from doing this. You could sue, but there’s no guarantee you’ll win. Companies change their terms of service all the time, in fact, and this is okay as long as users are notified.

I’ve heard fellow gamers speak in horrified whispers about this exact problem, but most assumed it would happen only after Steam was bought out by another company. They haven’t been bought out, but those worst nightmares are coming true.

If Valve thinks it is okay to hold games hostage in order to force users to accept terms of service that deny their right to a class action lawsuit, what else might they do?

We’re In Deep

steam games

In 2010 I wrote an article for The Escapist titled Steam: A Monopoly In The Making, in which I shared my concerns about Steam. I was troubled because Steam had such a large share of the digital distribution market, and that share seemed to be growing. This puts gamers in a position where Steam is sometimes the only choice or, because of the success of Steam sales, the only logical one.

The fact I’ve purchased titles through Steam since I wrote that article is a testament to the service’s strength. In many cases, I had no choice – the games were not available without a Steam account. If I were to leave Steam by disputing their new terms of service I would be giving up access to about 100 games that I have paid for.

Most of us are in deep with Steam, and we’ll only get in deeper as time goes on. This gives Steam additional leverage to use against us when they change the terms of service. The situation reminds me of the Penny Arcade cartoon that made fun of Microsoft’s subscription music service. Yeah, you can leave any time you want. So long as you don’t mind killing all your favorite games.

What Can You Do?

Leaving Steam isn’t really an option, and wouldn’t do anything besides destroy access to some of my favorite titles. I will, however, stop buying games from the service.

What are the alternatives? Well, there’s GOG. Formerly known as Good Old Games, the service changed its title because it no longer restricts itself to old games. They’re 100% DRM free. You need to log in to your account to download, but that’s it.

The Humble Indie Bundle and similar offers provide another solution. They can deck you out with numerous games for one affordable price (which you get to choose). Again, it’s DRM free.

And then there are the rare developers that release games entirely on their own. One example is 2×2 Games, whose recent strategy game Unity Of Command can be purchased directly from the developers.

I’m not saying this will be easy. There are a lot of games that I’ll miss out on because I don’t want to purchase from Steam any longer. But I think that, in the long run, it will be the better choice. I don’t want to have 100 more games tied to my account when Steam inevitably takes some other disruptive action that I don’t agree with.

What do you think of Steam games?  Will you be walking away from Steam?  Or are you sticking with them?  Tell us your opinion in the comments below.

Image Credit: Jason Jones, Keith Burtis, Penny Arcade

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Comments (184)
  • momojoe

    Yeah, this happens only on the side of the final consumers who have no financial backup to contest draconian laws and have to subject themselves to this type of shit pushed down their throats by crappy, low level scumbag, non moral, abusive companies that do that all the time.

    Now, check on the corporate side: do you ever see any company anything similar ? -No. It’s only when the customer base is so wide and fragmented that they can “afford” to no care and say “meh.. screw those..”

  • Erik

    Steam just crashed on me, and steam suggested I re download it again, and I lost all my previously downloaded games, and what do they care?

    I spent good money for games online only to be unplayable, and the only usable game such as Half Life 2 was the downloadable versions that you buy directly from STEAM!

    It’s about money, money, money, and control of nearly all online games. Steam is about it’s own interest not about the customers, or users. Money, and control!

  • Jeremy P. Harford

    I know this article is a couple of years old, but it is still relevant.

    1. Steam uses a management-free management structure, and lots of volunteer moderators. The result is that if you use forums for games you purchase on Steam to seek support, you will be belittled, insulted, harassed, stalked across other forums and in your reviews, and the moderation team will help that happen.

    2. It is not possible to transfer your game licenses off of Steam. As a result, should you lose access to your account or even just wish to cease being their customer, you can’t. You’re handcuffed to them, and there is nothing you can do about it.

    3. Valve’s upper management has absolutely no concerns regarding the user experience or complaints. I actually have come to believe that Valve stopped making games because they prefer to psychologically torment the users who are foolish enough to use their “communities”.

    4. Steam’s support is almost nonexistent. I have read of people who had their accounts hacked and were required to provide a CD key from a physical sale made almost two decades ago for assistance.

    5. It is possible to spend thousands of dollars on Steam and get banned, thus simply losing your money and your game licenses forever, with no recourse whatsoever. That amounts to theft, and they get away with it.

    Steam has become an experiment in draconian commerce. It’s too big, and there are too few alternatives. But the worst thing about it is that using Steam can actually ruin your experience of the games themselves, and Valve cares not one little bit about that. Developers and publishers face the consequences for their incompetence.

    I believe that Valve changed their license agreement so they could abuse their users with impunity. I believe that they think themselves untouchable, and do not in the least fear that their users will go elsewhere. I believe that because so many people have thousands of dollars worth of titled built up on their accounts, Valve thinks that will keep them from leaving. And I believe their sales are the hook to build that perception.

    Look at your Steam library. How many of those games do you actually play? How many have you completed? How many have sat there collecting digital dust for years? Do you really need Steam?

  • Brian Blair

    This is the very same reason I never buy from steam either! The only reason I own two games from steam, Is because I got them for free with a video card I bought. There should be nothing legal about screwing someone over and then claiming they can’t take action simply because they made them sign something. Laws in America are becoming so fascist! And most of these laws are invalid and illegal! And yet they are still sometimes illegally enforced! It really amazes me that people are so socially engineered that they ignore serious matters such as this! And continue to support these corporations! And they are pretty much just anti-consumer! And anti-free market. And yet people still give them money! How are people so stupid not to realize that these are scumbag companies! If a judge and court had any integrity they would find a dirty agreement like that invalid anyway. And allow the suit. Because regardless you can still sue them no matter if you sign something like that or not! Just the same as you can indict a ham sandwich.

  • meshak bethal

    I am unhappy at the fact that Steam forces me to use a credit card to buy games. I want to buy GMOD – I can’t. I’m not willing to make my friend on steam pay because he doesn’t have enough money! It is unacceptable to make gamers pay credit card only. Why not let us send money! How does Valve have the right to not add any other payment methods other than credit and debit cards?

    • nsignific

      You can pay with Paypal, and paypal has means to top up money without a credit card. So maybe do some research before you complain.

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For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
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