Seeing as Steam is the premier service for many PC gamers, it should hold up to some serious scrutiny. Few services come even a fraction close to the amount of traffic and use that Steam has. Many gamers, and sometimes myself included, almost refuse to purchase a game unless it will be added to their Steam account.
I know that there have been some bundles I have avoided because they didn’t offer Steam keys, although that doesn’t happen very often. Why? It’s just easy to have all of the games you own on your PC in one easy to use place, rather than go find the DRM-free version downloaded to you PC somewhere in the program files. Steam just gives you the ease of organizing your purchases for you.
One would have a difficult time arguing the importance of Steam. So accepting that, why is Steam full of “bloatware” and misinformation/manipulation?
By “bloatware” I mean obviously terrible showings of games that somehow make it into the Steam catalogue inexplicably. Games that are blatantly not games, just trying to make money, and/or look like no care or attention has been put into them at all.
Let’s look at some of the things that only came out in the last month. Shannon Tweed’s Attack of the Groupies, all these My “Something” games, and others that were questionable but not blatant enough to tell. But, let’s take a look at the last batch of Greenlit games to get a good sense of Steam’s continuing poor decision making when it comes to including games on the platform. These included things like: Bonetown: Mature Edition (yes it is real), The Good Life, and Ampu-Tea.
Keep in mind these are only the games blatant enough to tell and doesn’t include the years worth of absolute garbage that has piled up on Steam. Those games are just a fraction of an example of the mountains of “bloatware” included on Steam. I check the “new releases” tab of Steam fairly regularly, and it is constantly cluttered with these types of games. To be honest, the past month has been a little light!
So what do I mean by misinformation/manipulation? Well, Steam has been increasingly including games that were released years ago (even one released in 1993, which we might as well just leave to internet archaeologists now) but showing them as entirely new games. Sure, recently Steam added information to show you when the game came out like Desert Thunder, which came out in 2003, and Clans, which came out in 1999.
When you look at the page of those games off to the right you will find that there is a release date showing when the game was actually released. But, when you look at the “new releases” tab, it displays the game as something new. For example, when you see the Clans game on the “new releases” tab, it says “Released: Mar 13, 2014.”
That is obviously misleading. Some of you may be saying, well, what’s the big deal as long as Steam shows the original release date on the side? For one reason, albeit the smallest, it messes with consumer expectations. When someone sees a game in the “new releases” tab, that is what they expect to see, a newly released game. Instead, Steam wastes people’s time. That is a significant problem as it has become increasingly difficult to wade through all of the uninteresting games to find something semi-interesting to try. Not only that, it can be easy to miss that little blurb on the side of a Steam page. I know I usually just look right past it.
Of the 100 games you can view in Steam’s “new releases” tab, 24 of the came out before 2013. That is nearly 1/4 of the supposed “new releases” that are at minimum one year old, and most of those far older. I’m not too sure how much I trust their dating either, considering that they have My Pet Hotel and My Pet Hotel 2 supposedly released on the same day. Why would a game and its sequel release on the same day? So of the 100 “new releases,” Steam identified 24 of them as actually not being a new release at all. That’s not including other discrepancies either.
What’s even worse about this flood of older games is that Steam has no quality control to them either. There is no guarantee that they will even work for your computer because your OS may not cooperate with the old software of the game at all. Look at an example from the Clans Steam page. While this is not about compatibility, it shows the lack of attention given to updating games to work as they should on a modern PC:
The original CD audio has been added to the game files. If you want to hear the original soundtrack, you will have to navigate to your Steam directory where the game files for Clans reside. You will find a folder called “Clans music”, and the audio files are in there. Then you will have to burn an audio CD and put into your CD drive.
Really? The game came out 15 years ago, which is plenty of time to just update it enough to where it knows to find the audio files on your computer. There is no quality control on Steam for older releases, unlike something like GoG, which painstakingly makes sure that older games will work on modern PCs.
So not only does Steam flood itself with old games, there is no guarantee they will fully function when you install them. Either you will have to spend a bunch of time looking around the internet on forums so that you can get it to work, or it just won’t work at all. That’s not something I would look forward to in the least. If Steam insists on filling its library full of older games, they should at least take a similar approach to GoG and make sure that the game will work with modern PCs. Steam doesn’t even have to do it themselves, they can just have it be a requirement for any company that wishes to submit a game to Steam. It’s really that simple.
The bloatware and misinformation doesn’t end there unfortunately. Included in the torrent of older games on Steam is the mass porting of iOS and mobile games to PC, which then get put on Steam. To see that, we only need look again at the last batch of Greenlit games. They include mobile ports like 4 Elements II, Micron, and Royal Envoy 2.
The problem with a lot of these is that the quality expectations between a full-fledged PC game and that of a mobile game are miles apart. An even bigger distinction to make is that somehow, the game all of a sudden increases in price, sometimes significantly, from mobile to Steam with no new content added at all.
This happened recently with a game called Tiny Thief. When Tiny Thief first appeared on Steam it was %1700 more than the mobile version. Don’t worry, now it is only $2.99 on iOS and $5.99 on Steam. (At the time of writing this article last week, this was the case. Now, however, Tiny Thief is free on iOS, but still $5.99 on Steam) The markup is only %200 now. Same thing with a game called Cook, Serve, Delicious! It is $4.99 on iOS and $9.99 on Steam, with the exact same content. Those are just two examples of many.
What is probably even the biggest problem with having ported mobile games on Steam is that they are done poorly. Some don’t let you do things that are pretty standard for most PC games like rebind keys and change video settings to have the game optimized personally by you to run how you want it to. Some don’t allow you to change things like resolution, which can severely affect the look of a game on a PC.
I wouldn’t care about mobile games on Steam if they were 1) a quality game 2) ported well and 3) at a consistent price. A well ported, quality mobile game ported to PC should not feel like a mobile game. I shouldn’t have to use the mouse when I could just bind something to a key. That is one of the most infuriating things ever.
It’s also interesting to note that virtually none of the games tell you in their descriptions that it is a mobile port.
All Steam needs to do is create some kind of threshold that all games must meet/surpass. As it is right now, the quality control on Steam seems to be nonexistent. It has become and continues to be cluttered by worthless games many aren’t interested in, or full of games that try to hide the fact they are old/a mobile game. They try to hide what it is you are actually buying. That is not okay.
There are two solutions to this. One, Steam sets up a good curation and quality control system to make sure that only at least decent games make it on Steam. Or, two, they give the process over to consumers. Gabe Newell has talked about this since at least the beginning of last year. Some kind of rating system would solve a lot of problems, but comes with problems of its own of course. It would be far better than what is in place right now though.
Either way, something needs to be done.