PC gaming is known for its decentralization. Xboxes have Xbox Live, PlayStations have PSN, and the Wii has… something. No one really knows. Kidding aside, there are quite a large number of PC gamers who do not use any sort of official online gaming service. For quite a long time, that was just how things went. If you wanted to play games against friends, it meant using unfriendly services like GameSpy and setting up your own Ventrilo server. PC gaming used to be a whole lot more disorganized.
Enter Valve. Any good PC gamer knows Valve, the creators of Steam. Steam is a centralized PC gaming service, sort of like the Xbox Live of computer games. Speaking as someone who primarily plays games on the computer, Steam is fantastic. They offer a huge library of games that download at ludicrously fast speeds. Steam is so convenient it’s actually easier than piracy. Plus, everything on Steam is legal and rewards the developer for their hard work.
I use Steam quite often. Whether it’s for a quick match of Team Fortress 2 or a prolonged session of destruction in Grand Theft Auto IV, Steam is always there. It’s just that helpful. So, when the Steam app came out, we at TechNorms knew we had to get a look at it. Does the app live up to the high standards of quality Valve is known for? We found out below.
Gaming With Friends
One of the most popular functions of Steam is its friends functionality. Make an account and you can add other users to a list of friends. A well-cultivated friends list is a great source of co-op partners or competitors. I enjoy working with one of my friends in Team Fortress 2 as a Medic-Heavy duo.
The Steam mobile app lets you do just about everything with your friends that you can do on a real PC. After signing in, you can view the friends list and see what people are playing. If they’re online, you can chat with them right here within the app.
The chat function is especially nice. It functions just like texting and feels a lot more natural than using small dialog boxes on the PC. During testing I found that chat worked just fine and was really preferable to typing. Plus, you can do it without a PC.
The app also gives room for viewing friends’ profiles. On a user’s profile is listed interesting stuff like what that person is currently playing, their purchased library, screenshots and videos (coming soon) they’ve taken, that sort of thing. It’s very cool.
Buying Something New
Steam is a store, lest we forget. It exists primarily to sell you games. Usually buying a new game means turning on a PC and starting up the Steam desktop client. Valve is up to their usual tricks, though, and has made buying games even easier. Now you can do it right from the mobile app.
The Steam app lists every single game available in their catalog. The system of displaying titles available for purchase isn’t as good as the desktop version (no divisions by genre), but you can find any title by searching for it.
Besides the genre categories, everything that is associated with Steam on desktop is there for the mobile app. Popular games, recent releases, and daily deals are all there for your convenient purchase. If an unfamiliar game appears, the app includes a description and screenshots from the game. Basically, the Steam app gives you all the tools necessary to make an informed purchase.
To test the service and see if it really works, I purchased one of the games on sale. The app handled my purchase without a hitch. It added the game (Flotilla) to my cart. At checkout Steam for Android downloaded my saved financial data and coordinated flawlessly with PayPal. The payment went through and the purchase worked.
Obviously, you can’t download a PC game to your phone. That’s just not physically possible (or a good idea). The Steam mobile app only goes so far. Purchased games are added to your cloud-stored library, but you still have to download them on an actual PC.
Breaking the News
This is an unexpected addition, but very much appreciated. The Steam app comes with a free lifetime subscription to popular PC gaming news sources like Kotaku, PC Gamer, and Rock Paper Shotgun. The articles aren’t exclusively about PC gaming (at least in Kotaku). They’re still interesting if you follow the game industry.
I really liked the news sources. Sure, you could get all the same information from any decent RSS reader. It’s still a nice inclusion even if the user interface isn’t great. That’s an unrelated point, some Android users are peeved that the UI looks designed for iOS.
The Steam mobile app is so Valve-ian that it’s almost a cliché. The app is another well-designed product that focuses on customer service and convenience. Steam by itself is pretty awesome. Bringing it to another platform, even in a slightly limited form, is definitely a win.
The best thing that can be said about the Steam app is that it’s everything you can do on the desktop version. Without actually playing PC games on your phone, of course. For Steam fans or anyone who lives by PC gaming, this is absolutely a must-have app.
The only real caveat is that non-Steam users won’t get anything out of it. That and loading. There is a whole lot of loading in this app. Besides those minor quibbles, this app is a great way to get a dose of Steam on the go.