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Do You Really Own Your Steam Games? One Gamer Finds Out: Maybe Not

Posted by: , 14:06 AEDT, Wed February 8, 2012

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Most gamers may love Steam, but wait until your account gets banned, then that love may soon turns to hate

Steam is currently the most popular digital gaming distribution platform, and for good reason. The Steam sales are events worth waiting for, and gamers can take advantage of all the value-added features of the Steam platform, such as the ability to easily take screenshots, in-game web browsing (handy for looking up walkthroughs), and achievements. Steam is so popular that even other digital gaming sales platforms frequently list "Steamworks" (the name for games that are activated on Steam) as a feature, even if Steam is probably their biggest competitor. 

But there is also another side of Steam that gamers are less enthusiastic about, and the darker side is best exemplified by the recent story of Russian gamer gimperial.

Last week, Steam banned gimperial's Steam account for no apparent reason. gimperial's account included no less than 250 games, valued at more than $1,500, but all he could find out from Steam was that he had violated Steam's term of services, and that would be that.

But as most Steam games are tied to a your Steam account, losing access to your account means losing access to your games. Even if you have Steam enabled games downloaded to your hard-drive, you would not be able to play them without having a valid Steam account. Only the DRM-free games, and those that don't use the full features of Steam (ie. they're standalone games or use another gaming platform such as EA's Origin) would continue to work after your Steam account is banned

And as Steam's normal policy is to not divulge the reason for the ban, and with no telephone support, it's a incredibly difficult task to get any sort of answer from the company regarding bans (although to be fair, many of the bans are probably warranted). 

While gimperial's story has an eventual "happy" ending, and he got his account back, but only after intervention from gaming site Rock, Paper Shotgun and from wider media attention. Other gamers may be less lucky.

So for all the great things Steam brings, at the end of the day, it is just another form of DRM. A value-added DRM that is mostly invisible for your average gamer and brings great benefits, but one that could be incredibly damaging if you end up like the unfortunately gimperial.


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