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Steam started out as an annoying program that came with Half-Life 2, but it’s grown into the PC game store of choice for most PC gamers. Although some people aren’t fans and prefer alternative stores, it’s a powerful platform that offers a lot of features. Even if you’re a Steam fan, there’s likely a lot you don’t know about Steam.
From a market where you can sell in-game items for credit towards new Steam games to integrated walkthroughs and easy mod installation, Steam is constantly gaining new features. We’ll be seeing a Linux-based “Steam Box” challenging the consoles in the living room this year, too.
Steam Has Different Prices In Different Regions
Steam allows publishers to set different prices for different reason. For example, the URL http://store.steampowered.com/?cc=au will take you to the Australian Steam store, while http://store.steampowered.com/?cc=us will take you to the US Steam store. You’ll see different prices for many games on each.
For example, Dishonored costs $60 USD in the US and $80 USD in Australia. (You can also use other country codes, such as eu for Europe and uk for the UK.)
If you have a friend in another region of the world, you can have them purchase the game in their region and gift it to you to save money on some games. Some games use Steamworks, which mean that they’ll activate on Steam no matter where you purchase them from. You can buy Steamworks games at other stores, where they may be cheaper, and activate them on Steam.
You can also try to get around this restriction by using a VPN to make Steam think you’re in another region of the world. However, we don’t recommend this – this is against Steam’s policies and you may run into trouble with Steam if you do this.
You Can Sell Items For Steam Wallet Credit
The Steam Community Market is currently in beta and only supports a limited number of games – Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2, to be specific. The Market allows you to buy and sell in-game items for Steam Wallet credit. If you get a crate in Team Fortress 2, you can sell it for a few cents and put that money towards a new game on Steam – or purchase other items from the Market.
It’s sort of like Diablo 3’s real money auction house, only that you can’t actually get money back out of it – but you can use the money you earn to buy more games and DLC on Steam.
Steam’s Overlay Is Powerful
When playing any game on Steam, you can press Shift + Tab to open the in-game overlay (unless you’ve disabled the overlay). The overlay allows you to chat using Steam chat and access other useful features. You can also click the Web Browser link at the bottom of the Steam overlay to open a browser and access the web without leaving a game.
This can be convenient if you’re stuck in a game and want to access a walkthrough without the hassle of alt+tabbing. Steam also offers integrated game guides, so you can access walkthroughs and guides while playing games, right from the overlay.
Steam Offers Multiple Download Servers
Steam has multiple download servers located in different regions of the world. Steam tries to automatically select the best server for your location, but servers may become overloaded and slow – especially on the release date of a popular game.
Your Steam Folder Is Easily Moveable
Most programs on Windows need to be reinstalled whenever you move to a new computer. Not Steam – you can copy your Steam folder and take it with you, whether you’re moving to a new computer, reinstalling Windows, or just creating a backup.
Steam Sells Software, Too
Steam rose to prominence as a game store, but it’s recently started selling software too. Software available on Steam currently includes game-related applications like RPG Maker, GameMaker, and the 3DMark benchmarking suite. However, there are also applications for budgeting, movie editing, and managing photos.
With time, Steam could even become an app store for desktop Windows, Mac, and Linux software. The Windows Store included in Windows 8 doesn’t allow easy purchasing and installation of desktop apps.
Steam Hardware Survey Tells You What Gamers Use
Steam runs a hardware survey that tells you what operating system and hardware its users have. Game developers can use this to make sure their games will run on the hardware being used by gamers, but it’s an interesting snapshot of what Steam’s users use.
For example, about 7% of Steam users were using Windows 8 as of December 2012, while about 1% were using Steam for Linux.
The Steam Workshop Makes Installing Mods Easy
User-created mods have always been one of the best things about PC gaming. Unlike on consoles, people can create mods for PC games and distribute them online. However, installing mods can often be a headache, involving unzipping archives, reading README files, and extracting them to game folders buried deep on your hard drive.
For games where the developers have added Steam Workshop integration – including Portal 2, Left 4 Dead 2, and Skyrim – you can easily browse and install mods with just a few clicks.
Do you know any other lesser-known Steam features that we didn’t cover here? Leave a comment and share your knowledge!