So with the premise of online gaming comes with more advantages than just connectivity with one’s fellow gamers, other aspects like the easier access to information and updates as once upon a time when a console had a software/firmware issue one had to wait until the next batch of that specific product was released with the fixed done to that new batch before that issue was attended to (of course we PC users were never really affected by such things but just giving an example) but now in several instances a patch or an update of some sort can be sent out via the internet to deal with the issue. This is just one of several advantages, but if there was anything that utilizes the best of online resources to facilitate gamers it would be “Steam”.
What is Steam?
Steam is a gaming client which has pooled basically everything software based that an online gamer would need into one area, the ability to purchase games online, get the latest gaming news, its own gaming social network & communication functions and storage of all games purchased through Steam on their online database it is basically a hub of gaming activity.
Steam seems to have a contract or an agreement of some sort with several gaming companies that allows users to purchase these games directly through the Steam’s client. Additionally they have the permission to also at times offer ridiculously low sales on these said games as there is usually a sale every week and then what I can only describe as down right borderline insane sales usually on public holidays. Steam also makes this purchasing process relatively easy by allowing users to save their credit card information thus not having to go to a third party location (usually the Steam website) every time one wants to make a purchase. You are given an option to print a receipt of your purchase if you want to (even though a notification is emailed to you with your purchase information). Another option is one is able to also purchase a game as a “gift” and send it to a friend (another Steam user of course) which I think is a nice little feature.
Steam is also tapped into the latest gaming news so instead of going to your favorite gaming sites to get the breaking gaming news you can just go to the “news” section and one can usually read up on things like new expansions, updates, bug fix etc… this is for quick information though and if you want detailed information such as detailed reviews and previews you will still have to head over to your usual dedicated game review and news site like Gamespot or IGN.
The social network aspect works similar also when you go to the “community” section of the client you will see information/updates about persons on your friends list which may be people you know or just individuals who enjoyed gaming with you added you. Of course this is optional and you decide whether or not to have that person on your list. It gives you information about the games they have been playing such as in how much hours, which titles, achievements (a Steam feature) etc. It also updates you about groups that you may be apart of as in Steam you can create, invite and or join groups very similar to the group feature of Facebook. Separate from that you have an in-game messenger feature which facilitates communication by messages or voice chat and also lets you know which games your friends are currently playing, and depending on the titles they are playing, games like Modern Warfare 2 they have the option to join the game that is currently in session that your friend is apart of if there is available room to do so.
Online Game Library
I think one of the most convenient feature of Steam even though some may debate this is that they store all your games or more accurately all games purchase through Steam (seeing that one has the ability to launch games that were not purchased through Steam with the Steam Client, its a good way to always be in contact with your Steam contacts even when not running a Steam purchased title) on an online database so if you ever scratched, misplaced, loaned out and didn’t get back etc… any of your gaming CD/DVDs and were depressed that now you are going to have to purchase them over or you end up directing funds to getting it back when you could have used it to acquire some other gaming apparel fear not because Steam has your back. The only real downfall to this is that games are getting so large that if one has a slow Internet connection downloading the games can be a task but what I think is a good practice is that as soon as you download your game just use the “backup” option inside of Steam to back up your game and then burn it to a DvD and use it solely when recovering your games. This should dramatically reduce the recovery time of your games and or reducing the chances of that CD/DVD getting damaged in anyway.
CD Key storage
Another useful feature is the ability of Steam to store your CD Keys. As software companies become more and more strict about protecting their intellectual property they try to find methods to help stop theft. One of those methods is the need to have a CD Key to install or access a game online which are usually long and not particularly practical to memorize. Steam saves all that information for you that you can have access to them when you need them.
To learn bout about Steam as well as to download the Steam client visit store.steampowered.com.
There are also other similar products to Steam such as “Impulse” & “Direct2Drive” I have never used them but I have read about them. In my opinion Steam blows them out of the water with closet real competitor being “Direct2Drive” here are the links to each feel free to check them out yourself.
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