One of the keys to Valve’s success as the operator of Steam is simply that it was there first. Valve’s digital download service was one of the first, and certainly the most consistent and high-quality of the early- to mid-2000s.
Since then, Steam has grown exponentially both in user base and software catalog, and in recent years the service has suffered from some difficult growing pains. In the last 12-to-18 months in particular, many of Steam’s most hardcore users have grown frustrated with the flood of poorly designed, unfinished games and “cash grabs” being shoveled onto the service.
Last week, Valve finally “addressed” this problem by meeting with Jim Sterling and John “TotalBiscuit” Bain, two of the service’s most vocal critics. The two emerged from the trip to Valve with details of a new plan to help stem the tide of trash on the service. In the new program, Steam users will be able to volunteer to become “Steam Explorers,” granting them the ability to test out games and flag them if they’re inappropriate, unfinished or otherwise don’t belong on Steam.
This brings us to the video above, where host Hamish Black (via his YouTube channel, Writing on Games) suggests that the idea of Steam Explorers won’t fix the problem with Steam. In fact, according to his theory, the biggest issue with Steam isn’t that it gets a bunch of trash; it’s that, as gamers, we’ve given over too much control to Steam as a platform in an effort to consolidate all of our games onto one platform.
Across this 15-minute video, Black lays out his case for why consumers should consider expanding to multiple digital platforms for their game purchases and why he’s skeptical of pro-consumer advocates in general.
With so many gamers having invested so much time and money into the Steam platform, this is a topic people are bound to get passionate about. However, Black provides a take we haven’t seen echoed much elsewhere — one that centers less on what would make Steam healthier and more on what would be healthier for the game industry as a whole.