Steam - the future of gaming? (Left 4 Dead 2)

With titles such as Left 4 Dead 2, Bioshock and Half Life 2 being released on the PC exclusively on the Steam platform from Valve, it's interesting to take a look at how these delivery systems have evolved over the past few years and how they may evolve in the future.

The advantages of using a download system such as Valve's Steam are very clear: fast delivery of games (usually quicker than going out to buy the game in the shop), immediate availability, quick payment, downloads over multiple computers, automatic patches, etc.

However, the disadvantages of download systems are also clear: you need an internet connection and the prices are not always the best. For example for £26.99 I can either order Left 4 Dead 2 from Amazon and I'll receive in on release date or a couple of days later and I have a physical copy of the CD, or for the same price, I can order it from Steam - here I can download it the second it's released (albeit very slowly as hundreds of thousands of people will be downloading it), I will have no physical copy and I will be wasting my bandwidth. Personally, for the same price I'd rather keep a physical copy and have it in the cloud than having everything online.

In order to gain consumer confidence, Valve needs to seriously consider its strategy. How can they justify selling a download which costs just cents to deliver at the same price as a CD which has to have a cover designed, printed, manufactured and all the data burned onto a CD. It simply makes no sense, also older games are available cheaper from Amazon etc than at Steam - they need to keep on top of their prices.

Also, Valve needs to make sure Steam is reliable - which for me it has always been and it's servers do need to deliver a quicker download speed than it's measly 250KB per second. Will Steam be the future of gaming? Possibly. It's certainly working a lot better than EA's system, all Valve needs to do now is make all it's games and Steam available on other Operating Systems including Mac OS X.


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