Go into a Gamestop and check out the PC gaming area. It’s probably one freestanding shelf section way in the back of the store facing towards the far wall. The area may have a laughable selection of points cards for various free-to-play games and download services, with a couple of older boxed games that are horribly overpriced, if it has any boxes at all. It’s been that way for a couple of years, and the only thing keeping the PC gaming section from dying out in retail is the audience that still picks up a copy of The Sims or World of Warcraft every now and again.
Thanks to Steam, you may see a revival of the dedicated PC gaming space at retail. Valve has announced that in partnership with Gamestop, Game UK, and EB Games, you’ll soon be able to find a Steam-branded PC gaming section at participating stores. The prepaid cards aren’t going away, but Steam Controllers, the Steam Link, and Steam Machines will soon be stacked on the shelves alongside the off-brand PS4 controllers and expensive fighting game joysticks.
“Steam has helped grow PC gaming into a leading platform for games,” said Bob Puzon, senior vice president of merchandising at GameStop, the exclusive retail partner in the U.S. for Steam Hardware. “With millions of gamers already enjoying the Steam desktop experience, we anticipate a strong demand for the upcoming Steam Hardware products and are looking forward to serving as the exclusive non-digital retail launch partner.”
If you missed the preorder period for Steam hardware, this may be a viable way to get your hands on one of these devices for the holidays.
Valve is disabling the ability to set pricing on mods. According to this official announcement, Valve is turning off the feature they rolled out on Friday that allowed modders to set pricing for their creations in the Steam Workshop. Even though modders have generated significant profit for Valve’s own Team Fortress 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Dota 2, gamers voiced their displeasure at the new revenue sharing system as soon as it was launched. Negatives cited by detractors included copyright concerns, sketchy future support of broken mods, poor quality control, and modders getting too small of a cut.
We understand our own game’s communities pretty well, but stepping into an established, years old modding community in Skyrim was probably not the right place to start iterating. We think this made us miss the mark pretty badly, even though we believe there’s a useful feature somewhere here.
Earlier in the day, Bethesda had posted an explanation of their strategy on paid mods, but their reasoning did little to stem the arguments against the feature.
Valve made a slew of announcements at GDC. First, Steam Link is a small hardware device meant to facilitate Steam game and media streaming to your TV from a local PC. It will be available in November for $49.99. A Steam controller can be added for another $49.99, giving us the price and rough launch period of the elusive Steam-centric gamepad. Valve also announced Source 2 would be free for all content developers to use, but did not give details of royalty or Steam exclusivity requirements. Finally, Valve unveiled Lighthouse, which is their VR room tracking technology meant to work in tandem with the HTC Vive VR headset that was revealed yesterday. More information on all of these items will be coming at GDC and the weeks ahead.
Half-Life 3 was not mentioned.
Steam Controllers, Steam Machines, and now we’re looking at SteamVR. In a small, almost stealthy notice, Valve announced that they will be showing off some of their hardware projects at GDC 2015, including something called SteamVR. While Oculus Rift piffles about with Facebook and the NBA, Valve seems ready to hop into the growing VR space with their own setup. Steam VR is part of a “family of entertainment devices” according to Valve. See? While everyone was watching Sony and Microsoft battle over control of the living room, Valve ran around straight to the den. Like Oculus, Valve is reaching out to the community to start working on stuff to actually use with their hardware.
With the introduction of SteamVR hardware, Valve is actively seeking VR content creators. Are you a developer or publisher interested in experiencing the new SteamVR hardware?
Interested in trying the SteamVR Dev Kit? Space is limited – schedule your demo today!
GDC 2015 starts on March 2nd. Previous glimpses of Valve’s experimental work in VR headsets have been limited.
Stop buying votes with free game keys. That’s the notice Valve has given to developers in their Steam Greenlight program. The initial idea for Greenlight was that developers would submit their projects on the service and people would vote on them. If they got enough votes, Valve would approve the game for regular sale on Steam. Simple, right? Life being what it is, things aren’t that easy in practice. First, a lot of submissions were rip-offs and copies of other games. Second, almost every game is just an early access pitch, which brings additional issues. Finally, developers have found ways to game (pun intended) the system with freebies. It turns out that voters like free stuff.
“We understand that running contests and giving away copies of your game can be seen as a form of marketing. But for the purposes of Greenlight, we don’t think that giving away copies of your game in exchange for votes accurately reflects genuine customer interest.”
Let’s have some clean voting! Get on Steam the old-fashioned way – with false advertising, over-promising features, and flat-out lies.
Yesterday, Valve rolled out the Steam Holiday Auction event. The complicated game involved turning Steam trading cards, emoticons, and wallpapers into gems, which could then be used as virtual currency to bid on games every 45 minutes. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for people to figure out that gems could also be indirectly resold for monetary value by turning them back into trading card booster packs at rates above the true cost of the gems. Faster than you can say “housing bubble” the gem market crashed and games were being purchased at well below their normal price. Additionally, Valve discovered that an exploit was being used to duplicate gems thereby undercutting the market.
Sorry, but there have been some issues with Gems and the Steam Holiday Auction has been temporarily closed. The elves are working frantically to get the issues sorted out, and the auction will start again as soon as they’re done.
What happens now is anyone’s guess. The original event was supposed to last until December 18th. Although gems are still in people’s inventories, there’s nothing to bid on. Isn’t it exciting to take part in economic experiments?
Steam has begun the beta of Steam Broadcasting. The new feature allows players to stream video of anything they start using Steam, and it allows friends to request a stream whenever their buddies are playing. It’s not quite at the professional level of functionality, and the official FAQ has some interesting caveats, but eager testers have already started broadcasting their gameplay.
Crucially, there doesn’t seem to be a way to monetize the experience yet, so Twitch can breathe easy for now. They won’t be losing any heavy-hitters without a way to make money. Perhaps Valve can offer cosmetic hats for broadcasters, or maybe they’ll roll out their own version of Patreon or Kickstarter and get the lock on all of gaming’s cash?
Steam’s Early Access program is a success! If you’re a developer. You get to collect money while you work on a game’s development, and you benefit from willing tester feedback. It’s enough of win-win that big publishers like EA and Ubisoft have taken notice. Why not get paid while developing a game if people are willing to open their wallets? If you’re a consumer that wants a finished game, Steam’s Early Access program is less of a positive. According to Patrick Walker, EEDAR Head of Insights and Analytics, only 25% of titles launched on Steam Early Access have actually graduated to full releases. Gamers are, on average, paying $1 more for Early Access games than the full release version. Additionally, Walker points out that unlike other industry pre-pay programs, Steam Early Access has a large caveat.
A notable difference between [Kickstarter and Season Passes] and Steam’s Early Access program is the lack of a firm release window; on Early Access, a game could theoretically stay in development and be sold to consumers indefinitely, whereas a Season Pass is rolled out within a specific time frame and all Kickstarter projects are presented with an estimated “delivery date”.
358 games have launched on Steam’s Early Access since the program began in March 2013 and the rate is rising. Thanks for buying DayZ and Rust!
Paranautical Activity, the blocky shooter from Code Avarice came out of early access and launched yesterday. Normally, this would be cause for an indie developer to celebrate, but in co-creator Mike Maulbeck’s case, it’s not because his game is no longer being sold on Steam. Valve removed the game and “ceased relations” with the developer when Maulbeck sent a disturbing tweet (that has since been deleted) regarding a glitch in the launch.
“I am going to kill gabe newell. He is going to die.”
It’s not the first time Paranautical Activity has had issues with Steam. Last year, the game was initially denied approval for listing in the store despite attaining sufficient Greenlight votes because of an existing agreement with Adult Swim. That issue was worked out, but Maulbeck has since been critical of what he calls Valve’s “monopoly” on PC gaming. Paranautical Activity is still available on Humble Bundle and Desura. Maulbeck lamented that his game sold only twelve copies outside of Steam yesterday. Meanwhile, Code Avarice’s other half, Travis Pfenning, calls the situation a “nightmare”.
Update: Mike Maulbeck is leaving Code Avarice and selling his half of the studio to Travis Pfenning.
The Steam Music Player has come out of beta and launched for everyone. The feature adds a music player to the Steam standalone client that can play MP3 files on your PC. The new system also collects all those video game soundtracks you’ve gotten for purchasing games on Steam and puts them into one easy to use library. The player works with the in-game Steam overlay, so you can listen to your music while playing games. Beethoven with Team Fortress 2? Sure! The Clash with Dota 2? Go for it! Iggy Izalea with Portal 2? Well, there’s no accounting for taste.
Valve has even helpfully created a list of games with soundtrack offerings to get gamers started on their collections.
If you’ve fired up Steam sometime in the past couple of days you may have noticed that the storefront looks a bit different. It’s also blue. Change is hard for some people and they’ve expressed their displeasure, while other users have praised the new features such as the curator system, store filters, and the color scheme. In all the back and forth, it’s sometimes hard to remember that these big changes to Steam have an impact on the other side as well. Game developers and publishers are subject to the fallout from the system overhauls.
In the case of Insugency, the hardcore military shooter from New World Interactive, the Steam changes have been immediately felt. Andrew Spearin, the creative director at New World, wrote about the effects the studio has seen in only a day. Views of the store page have multiplied, user wishlist additions have jumped, and most importantly, sales have increased. Spearin places particular emphasis on the impact the curator system has.
“This Curators list also represents high priority targets to become a cornerstone of our marketing efforts. We now need those top Curator recommendations. They represent a potential new audience to reach that is already a few clicks away from purchase.”
Insurgency is available on Steam.
Valve has quietly updated the FAQ for Steam Early Access to better warn customers that the work-in-progress games may never actually “ship” to the buyer’s satisfaction. In the updated FAQ, Valve cautions that the purchase does not guarantee a finished game.
“You should be aware that some teams will be unable to ‘finish’ their game. So you should only buy an Early Access game if you are excited about playing it in its current state.”
Valve’s Doug Lombardi told VentureBeat that the updated FAQ was intended to set customer expectations.
Valve rolled out Steam Tags yesterday and puckish users have already found delightful ways to screw with the system. The new Steam feature allows users to add tags to software listings in the store. Tags like “action” or “driving” will help sort games by genre and popular tags will become browsable entries in the storefront. Of course, gamers are playing with the democratic feature. Like stuffing virtual ballot boxes full of nominations for Ke$ha’s Timber as best song, tagging games has become its own kind of fun. For example, Gone Home currently has tags for “not a game” and “walking simulator” while infamously difficult Dark Souls has a “casual” tag.
One can only hope that Valve will add unlockable badges for ironic tagging.
Valve has announced Steam Reviews. Steam Reviews are different from the current system of your friends recommending a game because everyone can see them. Users can rate reviews up to increase their prominence on a product’s store page. While these reviews do not contribute to an aggregate score now, Valve does plan to implement some kind of overall scoring process.
Q. Do these written reviews create an overall score or rating for a product?
A. Not yet, but we are looking to add that during the beta. Many products on Steam change significantly over time as the game or software is updated and new content is added. In order to form a score that accurately reflects the current state of a product, we first need to gather and evaluate the data from reviews.
Developers will have the opportunity to flag reviews as offensive, in which case they will show up in a “collapsed” form until a Steam moderator can look into the complaint. Wait until developer payouts from publishers depend on their Steam reviews!
Valve has anounced SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system that will allow gamers to stream their games to their televisions and other devices. Beyond being just a cloud gaming service, Valve is positioning the software as an all-inclusive entertainment solution. The system boasts features for the living room, including in-home streaming, media services, sharing, and other family options. In typical Valve fashion, the system will be open for users to share and modify.
Steam is not a one-way content broadcast channel, it’s a collaborative many-to-many entertainment platform, in which each participant is a multiplier of the experience for everyone else. With SteamOS, “openness” means that the hardware industry can iterate in the living room at a much faster pace than they’ve been able to. Content creators can connect directly to their customers. Users can alter or replace any part of the software or hardware they want. Gamers are empowered to join in the creation of the games they love. SteamOS will continue to evolve, but will remain an environment designed to foster these kinds of innovation.
The free operating system will be available “soon” according to Valve.