• What is Steam?
  • Why should I buy the game on Steam instead from normal retailer?
  • Can a game bought via Steam played independently?
  • 4
    Related, related, related. Gaming, there's a StackExchange for that.
    – badp
    Commented Nov 24, 2010 at 10:39
  • 1
    Among other things, it your comment shows how many dupes of the same thing are in Gaming SE :) Commented Nov 24, 2010 at 11:08

1 Answer 1


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 ;)

  • 1
    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).
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Nov 24, 2010 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
    Commented Nov 24, 2010 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. Commented Nov 24, 2010 at 13:56
  • Just wanted to inform anyone interested that, the games can be played offline without logging into steam! The progress is saved locally and it will by synced with the server the next time you are logged on. Automatic updates do happen though and as far as I know we cannot opt out of it. Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 16:19
  • This was written in 2010 by me, and today, in June 2017, the Mac Steam client is very buggy. A lot of people have to restart their computers when they try to play videos full screen (from games) and the whole web-view-wrapper kind of thing is a pain and more often than not requires close/reopen or reloads. Adding friends is a horrible experience and very confusing (nothing like Battle.net’s simplicity). The “family-sharing” thing is a demonstration of how not to implement a feature. That being said, until there’s a good competitor, Steam is “the place” for now. I use it. I hate it & I love it. Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 17:49

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