A Moment of Weakness

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I’ve been looking with some interest for a while now at The Repopulation’s development. Recently, they made a change to the level of backing required to access the games alpha from $150 to $100, as well as turning the alpha servers on full time and not just for occasional tester weekends. So, for the last couple of days I’ve been dipping in and out of the alpha, but of course, I can’t tell you anything about it at all because of the NDA which is in place. However what I can talk about is that odd feeling that comes over me sometimes when I suddenly become all consumed by the notion that I must have the thing I want, and RIGHT NOW damn it.

In truth I imagine this is partly why so many game offer up some form of paid alpha/beta, apart from the fact that people are demonstrably willing to pay for it, it is clear such offers do appeal to a certain kind of gamer who must have all the things, and I can be one of those sorts at times. I almost paid into the alpha a week ago, and the feeling that comes over me at such times is a little hard to describe, but I get almost sweaty palmed with the anticipation of having something I’ve wanted for so long. I’ve never spent this much on alpha access before, and it felt like a lot of money to speculatively throw at a game that I may not end up liking as much in practice as I did on paper, but in some sense I’m happy enough to support these kind of titles monetarily even if I don’t fall in love with the end product. I’m just pleased to see these kinds of games being made.

But, this overwhelming desire to buy games is a huge weakness of mine. It’s why my Steam library is populated with games I’ve barely touched since purchase. I often say that in some senses I’ve become more obsessed with buying games than actually playing them at this point. Sometimes it’s the more straight forward desire to get a good deal, the notion that I simply must buy this game now because it’s so cheap! It might never be this cheap again! This is patently nonsense, it will usually be cheaper at some point, but the pull of a good deal is a strong one. Other times it’s more like a feeling of desire that comes over me, and I feel as though I can barely resist a purchase. Luckily, I’ve actually reached the point where there are very few titles I know about and am hugely interested in that I don’t already own.

I know I’m not alone in this, and a basic glance at most people’s Steam libraries will tell you that folks tend to buy a lot more games than they play, but I think there’s a curious quirk of psychology at play here, and I’d be interested in whether any of you guys have a similarly overwhelming desire to buy games at times.

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Steamy Releases

Steam has made a change in the last couple of months which may have gone unnoticed, but it’s a change I think is a bad one for a lot of developers. In the past when you booted up the Steam client its store page would list ‘new releases’. This is important for a lot of developers, as it may be the only real chance you have for your game to be seen before it quickly drops down the list, and is lost out of sight for many potential purchasers. If enough purchases of a game do actually occur, it will be featured more prominently on the Steam client, particularly the sliding pictures at the top of the store page, but other than sales, you’re unlikely to get a great deal exposure through the Steam client from then on.

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Recently though, Valve have changed the way that the Store appears upon opening the client with it now displaying the ‘top sellers’. Now, it’s simple enough to click on the new releases tab, but many users will probably not bother to do so. This makes it much more difficult for smaller titles to get the attention and audience which they desperately need, and just further entrenches the success of the games which are already wildly successful.

This probably doesn’t sound like that much of a big deal to some, but I think we’re going to see more and more of these sorts of issues arising with the Steam client and the way it functions. It’s really not very good at displaying many titles unless you actively search for them. Valve have previously stated that they don’t wish to become curators of games, but they are essentially that already so it’s time to stop pretending and try to do so with a little more equality. As long as Steam has such a large stranglehold on the market for digital PC games, it needs to think very carefully about these kind of decisions in order to avoid potential ramifications for the wider industry that they never ever intended.