Steam Gifting and Trading Are Now Region-Locked

Subject: General Tech | December 21, 2014 - 04:58 PM |
Tagged: valve, steam

Especially with digital distribution, some regions of the world receive different pricing for the same content based on what their target market is capable of paying for it. On Steam, most regions are just about equivalent to their exchange rate with the US dollar. There are a few, most notably Russia, that receive steep price cuts (because the increase in expected customers outweighs the decrease per unit).

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Valve's engineers say...

This leads some thrifty people to purchase keys that were intended for other, lower-cost regions. Recently, Valve has adjusted the Steam back-end to block gifting from certain, reduced-price regions to other regions. It does not affect existing purchases, only new ones. This also might not be their final decision, as Valve claims that they are still “assessing the market”, according to PC Gamer. This currently applies to: Russia, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, and Singapore.

I am quite... conflicted on this decision.

On the one hand, I believe that moving a game from one region to another should be acceptable. Unless Steam requires that users (or gift givers of unactivated keys) declare that the license is intended for members of a given region, which could be fraud to lie about, then I cannot see any reasonable way to prevent this. On the other hand, I find Valve's method to be fair and targeted, even though it is relying upon DRM to restrict user access.

What do you think? Tell us in the comments! (Registration is not required)

Source: PC Gamer

Steam Broadcasting Introduced to Steam Client (Beta)

Subject: General Tech | December 2, 2014 - 07:18 PM |
Tagged: steam, steam broadcasting, twitch

Before we begin, note that this only available for the Steam Client on Windows 7 and 8.x for now, but Valve intends to bring it to Linux and OSX (and Vista for some reason). You must also opt-in to receiving Beta releases of the Steam Client. Beyond the currently limited support in hosting a stream, watching a stream is only possible with one of three web browsers: Google Chrome, Apple Safari, and the one in Valve's Steam Client.

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Obviously, the pre-launch browser support is quite disappointing. Clearly Valve limited support of their web app to their rendering engine of choice, WebKit and its fork, Blink, and that is a step up from doing it in Flash. It is probably most disappointing for Opera, who switched to WebKit (and later Blink) from their proprietary “Presto” engine. Of course, relying on a collaboration with Google for standards support can only help so much, and it apparently did not help enough.

As for the service itself, Valve is focusing on user choice with their offering. While public streams will be allowed, you are allowed other privacy options – public is not even the default. Your stream can also be set to: only allow invited friends, allow all friends, or allow friends to request viewing permissions. By default, it is set to the last (fourth) option.

Now on to the speculation...

Why would Valve being doing this? Of course, Amazon believes it is a billion dollar business, so it is not insane for Valve to throw their hat in the ring, and hats is something they have plenty of, but I believe it might be bigger than this. This announcement follows the beta release of In-Home Streaming, back in May. Especially with the privacy options, I could see this following Sony, and its PS4 Share Play feature. Share Play allows people on your friends list to override your controller, or an extra controller if you want to play local multiplayer over the internet. These are all products using the same building blocks.

Steam Broadcasting (Beta) is available now through the Beta Steam Client release channel.

Source: Valve

EVGA PrecisionX 16 Now Available

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 26, 2014 - 02:03 AM |
Tagged: steam, precisionx 16, precisionx, overclocking, nvidia, evga

If you were looking to download EVGA Precision X recently, you were likely disappointed. For a few months now, the software was unavailable because of a disagreement between the add-in board (AIB) partner and Guru3D (and the RivaTuner community). EVGA maintains that it was a completely original work, and references to RivaTuner are a documentation error. As a result, they pulled the tool just a few days after launching X 15.

... and they have recently relaunched with PrecisionX 16.

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This new version, besides probably cleaning up all of the existing issues mentioned above, adds support for the new GeForce GTX 900-series cards, a new interface, an "OSD" for inside applications, and Steam Achievements (??). You can get a permanent badge on your Steam account for breaking 1200 MHz on your GPU, taking a screenshot, or restoring settings to default. I expect that latter badge is one of shame, like the Purple Heart from Battlefield, that is not actually a bad thing and says nothing less of your overclocking skills by pressing it. Seriously, save yourself some headache and just press default if things just do not seem right.

PrecisionX 16 is free, available now, and doesn't require an EVGA card (just a site sign-up).

Source: EVGA

Steam Adds App Types: Film, TV, Video, Plugin, and Music

Subject: General Tech | September 3, 2014 - 01:50 AM |
Tagged: steam os, steam, htpc

In a recent Steam Beta update, Valve added a few new entries to its EAppType structure. Previously, the options were invalid, game, application, tool, demo, media, DLC, guide, driver, config, shortcut, and "depotonly". The recent update adds five new ones: film, TV series, video, plugin, and music.

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These additions could mean that Steam is intending to distribute film, TV, video, plugins, and music; alternatively, it could just allow users to integrate existing catalogs into the same interface. Of course, this is coming from someone with just about zero knowledge of Steam's internal structure. Someone who is more familiar with Steam might be able to say that I am stupid and this specific enum structure is only used the interface with the catalog or the store. I do not know.

What I am confident in saying is that Valve is serious about making Steam a full home theater PC platform. At LinuxCon, prior to the announcement of SteamOS, Gabe Newell discussed the family ownership (and sharing) of music and movie libraries right alongside his discussion of video games. Whether they want to deal with media company relations is a different story, however.

But let's not get too caught up in media for a second. What is a "plugin"?

This entry was what really caught my eye. Could Valve be designing a plugin architecture for the Steam client? Its built in web browser (or third-party browsers if Valve allows)? Or could it be a method of delivering user content for other apps on their system (similar to how DLC has its own type). If it is a Steam Client or SteamOS plugin, what would that even entail? I am definitely curious.

DFC Intelligence: 92% of PC Gaming Is Digital Distribution

Subject: General Tech | August 20, 2014 - 08:33 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, reverse-consolitis, steam, GOG, free to play, dlc

So PC gamers rarely go to the store to buy a disk anymore. According to DFC Intelligence, via PCR-Online, 92% of sales for the PC gaming platform were online. This number seems to be based on revenue, rather than units sold. It includes both full games purchased from Steam, GoG, and other distribution services. It, also, probably includes free-to-play revenue, DLC, and so forth.

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Of course, this also suggests that retail sales of PC games has quite a bit of money floating around still. While sources lump several categories together, we could still be talking about a hundreds-of-millions or low-billions order of magnitude (USD). Of course, these are personal, mental math estimates. A grain of salt is required and, in this case, probably good for your (mental) health.

Watch your cholesterol, though.

Again, this is one of the advantages of open architectures. Companies and organizations are allowed, because no-one can tell them otherwise, to try new things. Sometimes, they end up being gold mines that lead to industry revolution, whether we consider the specific positive or negative. However long it takes, it wins. It eventually finds a way, and then the blob tumbles along.

Source: PCR

Steam Deals: Splinter Cell Blacklist Is ~$10, Thief Is ~$15

Subject: General Tech | June 15, 2014 - 02:19 AM |
Tagged: thief, steam sale, steam, splinter cell blacklist

Update: Uh, apparently GOG's DRM-Free Summer Sale (note: everything on GOG is DRM-Free) has not yet ended. Those deals are definitely worth your time to check out.

While I missed writing about GOG's Summer Sale (okay, at the time of this publishing, theres a few hours left), I can at least alert our readers about these two deals. Splinter Cell: Blacklist, released late last summer, is almost two-thirds off at $10.19 USD (normally $29.99). Also on sale is Thief, released in late February, for about half price at $14.99 USD (normally $29.99). If you purchased these games and wanted a little more content to them, each title's downloadable content is on sale for an equivalent markdown.

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Image Credit: Klow from CombineOverwiki

While not as unforgiving as Splinter Cell: Conviction, a UPLAY account is required to activate Blacklist. You do not, however, need to be continuously logged in to it in order to play its single player mode. I believe that Thief, on the other hand, just uses Steam for its DRM.

Source: Steam

E3 2014: SteamBoy Project Is Not a Valve Product

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | June 15, 2014 - 01:51 AM |
Tagged: x86, SteamOS, Steam Machine, Steam Controller, steam, mobile, handheld, E3 14, E3

To be doubly clear, if the title was not explicit enough, this announcement is not made by Valve. This company is called, "SteamBoy Machine team". If not a hoax, this is one of the many Steam Machines which are expected to come out of the SteamOS initiative. Rather than taking the platform to a desktop or home theater PC (HTPC) form-factor, this company wants to target the handheld PC gaming market.

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Image Credit: SteamBoy Machine team via The Escapist

If it comes out, that is a clever use of SteamOS. I can see Big Picture Mode being just as useful on a small screen as it is on a TV, especially with its large font and controller navigation. The teasers suggest that it will use the haptic feedback-based touchpads which Valve are expected to base the Steam Controller on. It will also include a 5-inch touchscreen.

The Escapist got into contact with the team and received a few more specs:

  • Quad-Core CPU (x86)
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32GB built-in storage

Even if this company does not make good on their expectations, companies will now be considering portable SteamOS devices. This is the sort of outside-the-box thinking that Valve was pushing for when they wanted to create an open platform. Each party will struggle to win in their personal goals, yet they can also rely on the crowd (other companies or individuals) to keep up in areas where they do not want an edge.

Philosophy aside, the company is targeting 2015 with a "Standard Edition" supporting WiFi and 3G. It would make sense to have a WiFi-only model, but who knows.

Source: Escapist

The Top 20 PC Games of April, According to Raptr

Subject: General Tech | May 26, 2014 - 04:27 AM |
Tagged: steam, raptr, origin, blizzard

Raptr is a service for PC gamers to adjust graphics settings, earn loyalty rewards, and "powers" AMD's Gaming Evolved app, which adds driver updating and Twitch streaming to the previous list of features. It has a sizable user base, tens of millions internationally, which allows them to rank PC games by popularity. While it is not a perfect sample space, it tracks both Steam and non-Steam games. The leaders might make you say, "LoL, WoW!"

I am fully comfortable with myself after that pun.

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As you can probably guess, League of Legends is the most popular PC title, with 14.5% market share (with respect to time). WoW and Diablo III are almost a tie for second-and-third at 8.56% and 8.53%, respectively. DOTA II is next at 5.81% and The Elder Scrolls Online is fifth, with 3.78% of all game time.

Surprisingly, the tail is pretty long after that. In fact, the entire Top 20 takes up just 63% of play time, with the 21st place and lower, by definition, having less than a 0.73% share. This is a slow decline, leaving room for theoretically fifty games with Skyrim-level popularity. Several games just below the list are probably very close to one another.

I should also note that, since this is based on time, it probably skews toward long and intensive titles. This probably explains Diablo III, MMOs, and Minecraft as those games are played for hours if they are played at all. This really puts Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and, to a lesser extent, Battlefield 4 into perspective, with their series of short rounds.

Off the list since March is Titanfall, Rust, and Path of Exile. The first two are fairly surprising. Titanfall just launched and, it would seem, has not kept its players gaming habitually. Rust, on the other hand, is surprising because it is popular and, to my understanding, typically involves long play sessions.

At the very least, it puts context around Steam vs. Battle.net vs. Wargaming.net vs. Origin.

Source: Raptr

Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad Is, Today, Free Forever

Subject: General Tech | April 23, 2014 - 04:16 PM |
Tagged: steam, Red Orchestra 2

Yes, the title makes sense... with some explanation. Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad is free forever, if you add it to your Steam account at some point today. Once it is in your account, it is yours. The price will return to a non-zero value at 10AM tomorrow, April 24th, 2014 (I assume PDT). Of course, you should just launch Steam and add it to your account as soon as possible. The button suggests that you need to install it to your computer immediately, but you don't; it will just add it to your library.

This does not include Rising Storm, except the "rifle-only" access that has been available for Hereos of Stalingrad customers. To get the rest of Rising Storm, it will need to be purchased and, go figure, it is scheduled for a "free weekend" and a discount, this weekend. Clearly, Tripwire is hoping to increase sales of Rising Storm through the sum of these promotions.

To summarize the entire promotion:

  • Hereos of Stalingrad can be added to your Steam account (if claimed before 10AM).
  • With this, you can access "rifle-only" content for Rising Storm.
  • This weekend, the full version of Rising Storm will be free until the end of the weekend.
  • During that free weekend, Rising Storm will be discounted.

Honestly, there is little reason to not just add it to your Steam library as soon as you get a chance. From there, you can sit on it if you do not have time for it. It is such a small commitment.

Ars Technica Estimates Steam Sales and Hours Played

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | April 16, 2014 - 01:56 AM |
Tagged: valve, steam

Valve does not release sales or hours played figures for any game on Steam and it is rare to find a publisher who will volunteer that information. That said, Steam user profiles list that information on a per-account basis. If someone, say Ars Technica, had access to sufficient server capacity, say an Amazon Web Services instance, and a reasonable understanding of statistics, then they could estimate.

Oh look, Ars Technica estimated by extrapolating from over 250,000 random accounts.

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If interested, I would definitely look through the original editorial for all of its many findings. Here, if you let me (and you can't stop me even if you don't), I would like to add my own analysis on a specific topic. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on the PC, according to VGChartz, sold 3.42 million copies on at retail, worldwide. The thing is, Steamworks was required for every copy sold at retail or online. According to Ars Technica's estimates, 5.94 million copies were registered with Steam.

5.94 minus 3.42 is 2.52 million copies sold digitally. Almost a third of PC sales were made through Steam and other digital distribution platforms. Also, this means that the PC was the game's second-best selling platform, ahead of the PS3 (5.43m) and behind the Xbox 360 (7.92m), minus any digital sales on those platforms if they exist, of course. Despite its engine being programmed in DirectX 9, it is still a fairly high-end game. That is a fairly healthy install base for decent gaming PCs.

Did you discover anything else on your own? Be sure to discuss it in our comments!

Source: Ars Technica