Steam from Afar


By all accounts, the Steam Summer Sale is one the most magical events in the gaming calendar. Each year I experience the bargain hunting through internet friends, eavesdropping on conversations about incredible deals and digital backlogs stretching into the hundreds, as my lack of a gaming PC precludes me from indulging in all but the most basic of titles.

The latest Steam Summer Sale has drawn to a close after ten days of mega value that kept users returning and making multiple purchases over ten days, perpetually terrified that they might miss out on a slice of digitised crack should they leave their computer for more than five minutes. Much like iOS games, it is easy to talk yourself into spending what amounts to pocket change on a handful of titles despite knowing that you'll never find the time to play them.  I shudder to think what would happen if Sony ran a comparable sale on PSN. I'd probably end up needing a second hard drive just so I wouldn't have to miss out on World Championship Snooker 2005 and a voluptuous Amazonian Queen dynamic theme.

Looking through the list of expired deals and imagining that I had a time travelling, high spec PC, I found dozens of games I wouldn't have been able to resist. The simulation dullness of the Operation Flashpoint games has always intrigued me and at £8.74 for the pair I'd have jumped at the chance to yawn my way through hours of thrillingly realistic combat. The Trine games were less than a fiver and a trio of Hitman came in at the cost of a pint of lager, or a small Baileys. Dead Island would’ve been mine for £7, as would have Alan Wake’s American Nightmare for £2.99, and with the Age of Empire 3 Complete Collection at £7.49, I could have returned to the series that once had me shunning PlayStation for PC. I tried to ignore the Witcher 2 at only £11.99 as I bought it on the 360 for £20 last week, though my copy does offer extra value in the form of a leathery map that I'll never look at and something else I've already forgotten.

A Newell for only 37p

There was a bevy of amazing deals in this year’s summer sale, some so outstanding that I could scarcely believe they were real. One friend told me he bought a copy of Half Life 3 for a shilling, though I'm not supposed to tell anyone, while another assured me that he bought Gabe Newell for 37p, which is outstanding value for a fully human being. The lies of imaginary friends aside, it's not difficult to see why Steam has such a stranglehold over digital distribution and why their competitors look to ape their every move.

I have toyed with the idea of buying a gaming rig and getting on Steam but I just can't justify the cost. I struggle to find time for the games and hardware I already own; I'll usually have time for only two or three full games a month and I rarely stray far from my PS3, despite owning every console under the sun. I appreciate the performance advantages of a decent PC but I rarely play the kinds of competitive games where I feel I would notice the difference and I can't remember the last time I was playing something on the PS3 or 360 and found myself wishing it looked better. There also isn’t a PC exclusive game that I'm desperate to play - Final Fantasy XIV could’ve changed that if it weren't so hopelessly wank - and the thought of upgrades and graphic card tinkering does nothing for me.

I realise that my view of PC gaming is antiquated, formed a decade and a half ago when I was playing Age of Empires, Pharaoh and then, a few years later, Final Fantasy XI. Nice controllers, high definition screens and comfortable chairs are no longer the sole preserve of console gaming, or so I'm told, but after twenty years of sitting in front of my TV I think I'd struggle to view my PC as a platform for shooting stand-in Taleban and looting dragons. Maybe one day that’ll change, but for the foreseeable future I think I'll be admiring the Steam sales from afar.

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