8 Reasons to Stop Buying Games on Steam

Joe Keeley 11-11-2019

Steam is the largest digital distribution service for PC games. So if you’re a PC gamer it’s likely that you own games on Steam. But is it really the best way to buy games? Here are some reasons to stop buying games on Steam.


1. DRM Means You Don’t Own Anything

Steam is a form of digital rights management (DRM), which is a method to protect against piracy. When you launch a game, Steam launches with it, ensuring you can benefit from platform features like achievements, cloud saves, and trading cards (how to get Steam trading cards What Are Steam Trading Cards and How Do You Get Them? Here's everything you need to know about Steam Trading Cards, including how to get them and what to do with them. Read More ).

The good thing is that the DRM is optional. Developers can disable it and allow their games to launch without Steam running. However, many don’t.

For those that don’t, that game is tied to your Steam account. So, if Steam closes down or your account gets banned, you’ll no longer have access to the games you bought. Which means that, in essence, you are merely renting a license to a game.

2. You Can’t Resell Your Steam Games

GameStop store
Image Credit: JJBers/Flickr

Once you buy a game on Steam, there’s no way to sell it on. While you can get a refund under certain conditions, you can’t list it on any marketplace. The game is tied to your account.


That’s different to a game that you buy physically, for example (providing you don’t have to redeem a key to activate the game.) They can easily be sold on eBay, traded in, or donated to a thrift store.

However, a French court ruled that Steam users do have a right to resell their games. That’s something that hasn’t come in to practice yet as Valve is appealing the decision.

3. Steam Games Rarely Come With Bonus Goodies

Playing the game you buy is of course the main draw, but it’s always nice to receive some extras for free. Sadly, you rarely get any bonus goodies when you buy a game on Steam.

If you buy direct through the developer, or on another storefront like GOG, you often get downloadable treats like art books, soundtracks, wallpapers, and more.


It harks back to the days when you would get physical bonuses with your games, like a cloth map or figurine.

4. Valve Takes a Huge Cut From Developers

empty wallet
Image Credit: Marco Verch/Flickr

Making video games is difficult. Turning a profit on them? That’s even tougher. As standard, Valve takes a 30 percent cut of the revenue of all Steam purchases. That percentage reduces on a sliding scale when certain revenue targets are reached, but most developers will never get to that point.

Some developers don’t think Valve deserve such a large chunk of the pie, but Steam’s ubiquity makes it hard to argue. It’s where many consumers automatically go to buy games, so not having a game listed on Steam is risky.


If you want to support a developer then you should stop buying games on Steam. Instead, your best approach is to buy games directly from developers, if possible. Alternatively, the Epic Store only takes a 12 percent cut Steam vs. Epic Games Store: Which Is Best? In this article, we pit Steam vs. Epic Games Store, taking a look at different aspects of these two stores. Read More , while Humble Bundle lets you choose how much of the purchase price goes to the developer.

5. Steam Isn’t Always the Cheapest Option

Steam store on macOS showing video games on sale

Steam always has sales. There are daily sales and also the big seasonal ones around events like Halloween and Christmas. But even then it’s not necessarily the cheapest place to buy games.

Gaming is an expensive hobby at the best of times, so there’s no point spending more than you need to. Especially when the end product is exactly the same wherever you buy it (things like pre-order bonuses aside.)


Check out our recommendations for the best sites for video game deals The Top 10 Sites for Video Game Deals and Bargains Video games can be expensive, but there are always deals available! Here are the best sites to buy video games at a discount. Read More . Some websites even provide your purchase as a Steam code, meaning there’s literally no difference in the product except the price.

6. You Are Tied Into the Steam Ecosystem

Some people like owning all of their games on Steam and being tied into the Steam ecosystem. Perhaps it’s the collector in them coming out, or it’s just what all of their friends use.

The problem with this comes when you want to buy something outside of Steam.

Let’s say you buy a game through Steam and the developer later releases DLC. You have no choice but to buy that DLC through Steam, even if it’s cheaper elsewhere, because there’s no way to link the two purchases together otherwise.

7. You Don’t Get a Physical Box

PC game box and manual
Image Credit: Sergey Galyonkin/Flickr

Video games used to come in big cardboard boxes, with great artwork perfect for display. That changed with the introduction of CDs and DVDs, but there’s still something satisfying about seeing a shelf lined with your favorite games.

While it’s much quicker to browse and search your collection on Steam, it’s not quite the same. Visitors to your home aren’t going to strike up a conversation about your Steam library like they might if they saw a line of physical game boxes.

There was something special about poring over a game’s manual on your way home from the shop too. That’s an experience lost, although, to be frank, it does cut down on paper and plastic waste.

8. The Steam Store Is Full of Trash

Negatively reviewed games on the Steam store

Steam is home to tens of thousands of games. The number of games on the store has skyrocketed in recent years, in part thanks to Valve’s lack of curation.

Unlike when you walk into your local store, where the stock has been carefully chosen, the Steam store plays host to everything. While it’s good that the barrier to entry is low, it means there’s a lot of trash and low-effort games to wade through.

For instance, 4,000 of the games on the store are classed as Early Access, which means development isn’t finished. And there’s no guarantee that these games will ever be properly finished.

Why should it be on the consumer to separate the wheat from the chaff?

The Best PC Game Launchers

Despite all of these reasons to stop buying games on Steam, it definitely still has its place. The problem is, Steam has such a hold on the market that it’s difficult for competitors to enter and shake things up.

If you own lots of games across different platforms and want to organize them, you need a game launcher. To get you started, take a look at our list of the best PC game launchers The 6 Best Game Launchers to Launch and Organize Your PC Games Here are the best ways to launch all of your PC games without hopping between game launchers. Read More .

Related topics: PC Gaming, Steam.

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  1. CS:Bro
    June 14, 2020 at 10:39 am

    If you actually agree with these points you should probably just buy a console and leave the PC community.

  2. Sohanur Rahman
    December 20, 2019 at 9:02 pm

    author of this content is a idiot.

  3. bob
    November 18, 2019 at 4:44 am

    2 only point here
    4 valve takes AN AVERAGE CUT AN INDUSTRY STANDARD!!!!!!!!!!

    6 MOST GAMES WITH DLC ARE RELEASED THROUGH STEAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and guess what THEY GO ON SALE TOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    7 pc physical is dead DEAL WITH IT AND MOVE ON

    8 trash is subjective and THIS IS 100% the state of indie devs 99.9 % trash or stolen ideas and guess what epic store will be worse because indie devs will slowly figure out they can get PAID TO USE THE UNREAL ENGINE AND RELEASE TRASH!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. 14yearsofSteam
    November 16, 2019 at 11:56 am

    The author of this article either knows nothing about how Steam works or has an obvious personal bias against it, or both.

  5. cpgeek
    November 13, 2019 at 4:17 pm

    to your point about steam games not coming with extras: while this may be the case with some games, i've never come across it... for many years now i've been using steam and where there's an electronic version of a soundtrack or art book or something availible I see those availible on steam. they are often preks listed in "digital deluxe" packages, just like the back in the day when the deluxe version had additional stuff like that in the box... it's pretty much the same on steam.

    While other people may feel differently on this, I don't really care about reselling games i've bought... if we want game devs to make epic art to enjoy, the best way to do so is buying a copy of the game at retail (or even on sale)... buying used games, the developer sees zero revenue. I'm happy to pay for games that I enjoy.

    as far as DRM is concerned, most games be they purchased from steam, on a disc, or from a competing digital distribution service have some kind of DRM in them these days... there ARE games that are on steam that don't have DRM (typically older titles that weren't designed with DRM in mind), but they are few and far between. There are always methods that one can use to crack the drm schemes used by many games in order to break the reliance on needing to authenticate to a server, enabling the ability to play offline in many cases. there's nothing illegal about these cracks (assuming you bought the game), although they may violate some games' terms of service and it may cripple your ability to play online... this isn't different from any other distribution method.

    I don't want a physical box... some people who collect are into that kind of thing, and that's totally fine, but i live in a small house and don't have room for all that stuff... hard drives are WAY smaller.

    Yes, the steam store has lots and lots of games that many people find are low value... the easiest way to deal with these games is simply to not spend your money on them. Further, steam has a pretty decent return policy so if something isn't as advertised or you find it's not compatible with your setup or you find the quality of a game you just paid for lacking, you can simply return it. the return window is a very generous 14 days with under 2 hours of play time. I have used this return policy on occasion and I have found the process to be very straight forward.

    I'm not saying that everyone should be forced into using steam, but we should certainly be discussing the merits and pitfalls of using steam and other such services for games distribution to make sure that we as a community understand where they work well and where they fall short. There are HUGE reasons to avoid quite a few other digital download services such as epic games store (owned in part by tencent which is an arm of the chinese government, full of telemetry spyware), origin (ea has so many issues going on with them it's out of the scope of this post), etc. also it's extremely convenient to have one place where all your games are that you can load up on any computer you own have have access to everything including cloud saves where available, not to mention the excellent service integration for playing games with your friends... steam is pretty great and i've been using it since the early betas.

  6. Phil
    November 13, 2019 at 12:08 am

    Okay, Joe.

    Just three whole days before you wrote this article, you wrote another titled "best indie games to buy on steam".


    Now I don't know what happened to you over the course of that 72 hour span, but it must have been absolutely elucidating for you to contradict yourself that badly.

    Considering how flimsy the points to your argument are, someone must have rustled your jimmies pretty bad. If I were you, I'd refrain from writing articles until after my temper tantrum has passed.

  7. Fairplay
    November 12, 2019 at 8:43 pm

    So I wrote a comment like Claude did and said about every point too. But I included links to some sources, is that why my comment ended up in a black hole? I didn't type so much just to see a "nope, you never wrote anything". Sorry, but that is one way to scare away visitors.

  8. Vigotski
    November 12, 2019 at 5:37 pm

    Nice try, Epic Games.

  9. Kol Tregaskes
    November 12, 2019 at 10:03 am

    I'm happy it doesn't provide physical boxes. I don't need all those boxes take up space I don't really have.

    If you want to avoid the trash then watch YouTubers like Spattercat that play new indie games every day. You'll find the good and bad that way.

  10. Yuri
    November 11, 2019 at 8:59 pm

    Hey, tell the truth for us, you're angry against steam for some reason. All the itens on that list happen with the other launchers, the only difference is the 30% cut, wich happens on other store too, not all is like Epic.

    So, research a little more before say something like that. Steam is equal to all other launchers, its just have a better service and enviroment. And yes, sometimes they not have the better price.

    Whatever, research a little more and rewriter that when you're not angry against the platform.


  11. Claude
    November 11, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    1. True, but this applies to most online stores. If you think about it, even if GOG shuts down their services, if you did not have the game downloaded &/ backed up at the time you are screwed. Physical is the only way to go at with rhetoric, and there's a plethora of Steam games that ~can~ be played locally without Steam (within the commons folder). On the other hand there's plenty of games that are dependent on the Steamworks ecosystem, and it's not only that you couldn't play them without Steam, they just straight up wouldn't work without Steam (mostly stuff without player-managed dedicated servers).

    2. Once again, not tied to Steam exclusively, but the biggest issues concerning this are the lamentable definitions of "licensing". To what extent should you really be allowed to resell a Steam game, if all you have is a license to begin with? Realistically speaking the only thing I would fully agree with is being allowed - not given a platform - but at least being allowed to sell your entire Steam account, as it is the only aspect that directly links a license to an user. I also believed at the release of the French ruling that this is the big misunderstanding that was happening - as Steam does explicitly state in the ToS you are not allowed to sell the account. This has not however been clarified.

    3. Yeah, it does suck, at the end of the day anything digital will remain digital, though there's games out there that take advantage of the DLC system and allow you to buy additional goodies. Very rarely you will see these goodies in the base game, Arma 3 has maps in the base game folder (under the Bonus folder) for example, and music is also accessible, in the end it's up to the developer. As for anything physical, I did not even see manuals for physical games anymore, so expecting collectibles for a base game is a bit much nowdays.

    4. It's an industry standard. Pardon my French, but everyone has been stupidly sucking up the fact that Valve takes a 30% cut as if they are the big baddie, but most other stores other than the Humble Store and EGS, have the same 30% cut. See "Report: Steam's 30% Cut Is Actually the Industry Standard" on Google.

    5. That is not necessarily a reason to stop buying games on Steam. It's a pretty big "what if". Unless you are counting grey market game stores where they end up giving you a key for Steam (or another platform) anyway. This not only can be said about Steam, but virtually every medium. The customer decides whether something is "worth it" or not at the end of the day, even for your groceries, are you going to shop at the other market down the road so you can get 3 tomatoes instead of 2? Maybe, but not everyone will. (Please don't sue me for food analogy.)

    6. Not sure what to say about this one, I've seldom (if never) seen major discrepancies between base game and DLC, on top of that any Ecosystem is exactly why one would want to deliberately be a part of it, such as buying all games from GOG. Or being part of the "retail" ecosystem.

    7. Yeah, physical is always nice. But once again not something that covers Steam exclusively, this actually bleeds over to more DRM-lenient stores such as GOG too. This is a lose-lose scenario if you want the commodity of being digital. At the end of the day a physical game has more work put into it to acquisition and play. There's a discrepancy here on whether or not it's worth it to YOU when you have the 2 options (digital/physical) at the exact price if you want the physical version or not, and even then you gotta weigh in the fact that with digital you could be playing it right away, at any point in time. (Or at least after it downloads)

    8. I don't see this as a problem at all, "Why should it be on the consumer to separate the wheat from the chaff?" why shouldn't it be? Why should someone else (Valve) decide what I would like to play? I've had a share of positive experiences on shovelware. Probably none that could have not been a free Flash game, but at the end of the day games are made to be played, and it's up to you what you want to buy and play. Is there a random mix of obscene random repetitive games on Steam? Yes. Does it prevent me from finding any hidden gems or games everyone well knows about and are a search away? No. If you want to play it safe you could always follow some serious curators, and I never seen true shovelware on "New and Trending". I am assuming anything that isn't shovelware in your definition would automatically classify as the "New and Trending" category, as any decent indie and AAA game that comes out will pop up there, so what's the difference between that and your local store? Not to mention the liability of retail of being unable to filter the games, and there's only so much a store can even stock. What if the brand new game you were looking forward to doesn't even have a physical variant, as such most indie games don't, let alone whether or not it ships in your country (especially outside US)?