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  • What is Steam?
  • Why should I buy the game on Steam instead from normal retailer?
  • Can a game bought via Steam played independently?
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Related, related, related. Gaming, there's a StackExchange for that. –  badp Nov 24 '10 at 10:39
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Among other things, it your comment shows how many dupes of the same thing are in Gaming SE :) –  Martín Marconcini Nov 24 '10 at 11:08

2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

What is Steam?

According to them, they are The Ultimate Online Game Platform. What this actually means is that they are a portal for you to buy, play and update games. With certain benefits. But “steam” is just that. They sell games (more on this later), they offer you a community where you can have Friends, Chat with them, unlock achievements, etc. If you’re a user of an iPhone/Pod/Pad that has GameCenter in it, think of Steam as a pseudo GameCenter.

Why Steam and not normal retailer?

The advantages of Steam are a few, and I couldn’t list them all because some things may not be better for everybody, but let’s just say that the strength of the platform and what makes it different from buying a boxed game could be summarized in a few bullets (in no particular order):

  • Very easy to buy a game (and discover new ones)
  • Instant buy, start downloading, no delivery costs.
  • Automatic updates without having to worry
  • If you buy a game on your Macintosh and one day decide to play it on your Windows computer, provided that the game is supported in that Platform, you can continue your game there, as if nothing has happened. You re-download the game in your Windows machine and voilá.
  • Friends, Achivements, Progress… Steam as a platform sports game achievements that you unlock by playing.
  • Discounts, sometimes you will get “cheaper” versions of the games or promos that you can take advantage of.
  • More, I’m sure there are other advantages but think of an AppStore for games with a plus.

Can games be played independently?

Yes and no. I don’t believe you can copy that game over another machine (tho you could probably install steam on that machine and copy the game… I haven’t tried this). But you can play offline if you don’t have Internet.

Bonus: Is it worth?

If you have a Mac and like gaming, it’s definitely a big plus, as a lot of games get ported and put into the Steam network. If you’re in Windows, I believe the ease of use and “point and click” nature of the service make it worth. And also the fact that you don’t have to pay to use it. Did I mention it’s a free service? ;)

But Does it have Cons?

Some invaluable readers pointed out a few cons, which I will update (and I encourage everybody to contribute):

  • When you start it, it automatically updates, giving you the sensation that the client is hang. Also if your network speed is not optimal, this process can demand a lot of time.
  • If your network connection is not good, downloading three gigabytes of game might not be the best idea, given that you usually can’t start playing until almost most (if not all) the content is downloaded.
  • In order to play offline, you have to log in, and tell steam “I’m going offline”, which kind of voids the possibility of an unexpected loss of connectivity or forgetting to do it before disconnecting for example.
  • I didn’t mention this, but it’s important to note that not all the Windows games are available on Steam and not all work on OS X. Although decent amount (and growing) catalog is available, not every title is there.

UPDATE: There’s a dedicating gaming community in Stack Exchange for that. Don’t hesitate asking gaming questions there too, those guys may seem like gamers, but they aren’t playing at all ;)

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There are a few cons as well. To play offline you need to tell Steam when you are online that you want to go offline - so if the internet goes down you have an issue. Aslo if the steam server goes down (not likely). –  Mark Nov 24 '10 at 13:41
    
The most annoying issue with steam is that it automatically update itself on launch: Big updates on a small network can mean a looooong wait before you can play. –  eric Nov 24 '10 at 13:52
    
@eric Agreed, sometimes you start it and it seems to be hang… but that is not extremely annoying, given that it doesn’t update that often. –  Martín Marconcini Nov 24 '10 at 13:56

If you want to know what steam is, watch this video, it will guide you among screens and features so will will get the feeling of what this platform can do.

http://youtu.be/D3yFzoxdNIA

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Answers on Ask Different need to be more than just a link. It's okay to include a link, but please summarize or excerpt it in the answer. The idea is to make the answer stand alone. –  patrix Aug 13 at 16:05

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