Steam: the Savior of PC Gaming?

There is no shortage of people who believe that the PC game market is dying. The debate over whether consoles have killed computer gaming has been going on for too long now and it’s about time we accept the fact that PC gaming is here to stay. That’s not to say that the PC gaming market is prospering, but it is staying alive. In recent years, PC gaming has started to evolve into something that may well flourish once again. This stems from the increasing popularity of digital gaming platforms such as Steam and it may well be that the future of PC gaming is in the cloud.

For those of you who don’t know, Steam is a digital distribution platform developed by Valve to distribute PC video games and media. It allows users to download and back up games directly to their computer through the virtual library associated with the user’s Steam account. In other words, Steam provides cloud storage for computer games purchased through it. Steam also offers community features that give users the functionality of creating groups and events; it also gives users the ability to communicate with others in the community.

The reason for me to go into such detail on Steam is simple: I believe that the future of PC gaming is in the cloud and that Steam is going to lead us into that future. Before you pound me for saying that, take a look at the statistics. Steam has over 1800 games available and over 40 million PC gamers have an active Steam account. The reason behind the success of Steam is that it does the basics right — it provides a user friendly experience and enables users to engage with each other. Additionally, games can be purchased for the same price, if not cheaper, as retail distributers. The only difference is that you don’t get a physical copy of the game; instead, you get a Steam product key, which allows you to download and install the game. Even if you uninstall the game, it will remain in your virtual software library in Steam.

Now, to add fire to the ongoing debate of console gaming vs. PC gaming. Yes, consoles are easily accessible, provide ease of use, and are much cheaper than building a gaming rig. But are these advantages enough to topple what PC gaming brings to the table? Most definitely not. Gaming on a computer has several advantages; not only does it give full control to the gamer, but it also offers better graphics. Not to mention the fact that PC gamers are usually first in line to try out a wide range of new and upcoming games.

While it may be difficult for some to take in, digital distribution of PC games is likely going to be the dominant form of video game distribution in coming years. For many, a physical copy of a game is like a trophy or a collection item that just wouldn’t be the same in a digital capacity. However, technology is forever advancing; as such, it is only a matter of time that physical game discs are replaced by digital media. This really isn’t a bad thing as digitally distributed games provide a more user-friendly experience. For instance, games automatically update through Steam and can be easily backed up. Additionally, your stats never get lost as they are connected to your account and best of all Steam provides a unified gaming experience between console gaming and PC gaming.

From the popularity of gaming platforms like Steam and Origin, it is clear that PC gaming isn’t about to die anytime soon. If anything, gaming on computers is changing in such a way that its future is linked to cloud-based platforms. There is one unique aspect of PC gaming that no console can match, and that is the fact that PC gaming keeps up with technology. While consoles only get updated once every few years, PC gaming is constantly evolving and since computer hardware can be upgraded pretty much every few months, the graphical quality of PC games is unmatched by consoles. What is your take on this issue? Do you think that gaming on a computer is better than console gaming?

CC licensed Flickr photo shared by Robert Couse-Baker