If you’re looking to turn your growing affection for gaming into something more serious than, say, web-based games on Facebook, you’ve probably noticed that it can be a pretty expensive hobby. Most new releases will set you back upwards of $60, and then there’s the matter of braving your local electronics or game retailer in order to find something you’ll like. Fortunately, in this era of on-demand movies and MP3 downloads, game sales have gone totally digital, too.
Steam: The iTunes of games
You’re probably familiar with big names from the movie and music download business, such as iTunes or Amazon. There are other choices, but those two have worked hard to offer better selections and ease of use than the rest. In the world of games, that distinction goes to Steam.
An online retailer of PC and Mac games, Steam was started in 2003 by game developer Valve Software. Initially designed as a way to download Valve’s games and play them with others online, it’s grown into a premiere outlet for pretty much every major game company to sell their titles directly to gamers.
Using the Steam website is easy. The newest and biggest titles are listed right when you log on. It lets you browse games by genre, download demos of some titles, and watch videos that give you a better idea of what to expect before you buy. Steam also has a helpful feature that recommends new games for you based on what you’ve purchased or what your friends are playing.
Stellar sales galore
Beyond having a great selection and being easy to navigate, Steam has made a name for itself by offering frequent sales across its library of titles. The site boasts daily sales, including some that are voted on by its community of users.
Markdowns often dip at least 25% but can plunge up to 75% or more. The longer a game’s been out, the greater the chances it will see a significant discount. Sometimes Steam can even surprise you with a huge price drop on a brand new release. That’s why checking the site regularly or following Steam (@Steam_Games) on Twitter is a good idea.
More than just buying games
You can buy games from the Steam website, but the service and benefits don’t stop there. Steam’s also an application for your PC or Mac that, like iTunes, serves as a hub for all of your games. It simplifies the process of downloading them, meaning that you won’t have to deal with copying files or applying updates to your games later. You simply purchase a game, and when it’s done downloading, you click Play to start.
Steam is also a community. You can add people to your friends list and see when they’re online, then send them messages or even jump into games together. Steam features achievements similar to those on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 and keeps track of how many hours you’ve spent playing each game (in case you ever wonder how much of your life your hobby is eating up).
Many games on Steam also harness the cloud to save your game progress and settings. You can log on to the service from a friend’s computer (or at work when the boss isn’t watching!) and not only start right where you left off but also find your mouse and keyboard set up just the way you like, too.
As we mentioned earlier, Steam will start recommending games for you once you’ve bought a couple. Get started building your collection of discounted titles by visiting the website or loading the Steam application and clicking the Top Sellers link. Then drop us a comment below and let us know what you picked up!
Randy Nelson writes for Tecca. Randy has spent most of his waking life since the age of five playing video games, and the last 14 years writing about them professionally. In the rare moment he’s not playing or writing about games, he can be found checking out the latest iOS apps, streaming inappropriate amounts of TV and movies, and obsessing over his home theater settings. Randy has written for IGN, Next Generation, Official Dreamcast Magazine, PSM, and Joystiq. He also loves cats. Tecca is a next-generation personal electronics information and shopping service. We bring together the web’s leading content, commerce, and community features to provide comprehensive solutions for consumers’ ever-growing technology needs. Think of us as that tech savvy friend who helps you when you have questions about what to buy, what to pay, how to make the most of you already have, and when it’s time to upgrade. Get to know us on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.