We Let Valve Monopolize PC Gaming and Now Steam Sucks

When Steam first launched, everyone hated it.

Looking back, it’s not hard to see why. Steam was notoriously unreliable, buggy, awkward to use, and would often spend a million years patching before letting you into a game. In addition to all of that, it was required to play Valve games like Counter-Strike and Half-Life 2. At the time, the idea of having to load an external program to play a single-player game was unthinkable.

Yet in time, Valve managed to make it work. They fixed up the service, included a number of new features, got large companies and indie devs alike to release their games on steam, and offered numerous sales. For a while, it looked like Steam was going to save PC gaming. It was good for developers, it was good for modders, and it was good for customers. Nobody could imagine a future where Steam wasn’t amazing, and Valve wasn’t the savior of PC gaming.

So why does Steam suck now?

In recent months, I’ve had large amounts of trouble trying to muster any enthusiasm for Valve, Steam, and what they’ve been doing. Every time I look at the Steam front page, I feel a bit depressed at what Steam has become, and how complacent people are about it. With every new project or product Valve announces, I feel a pang of fear in my gut. Nothing Valve is doing fills me with confidence or makes me want to give them my money.

But I suppose we should try to back up a bit, and analyze when things started going wrong.

Steam has always had its weak points. Mostly in the form of its support department, or lack thereof. Valve’s corporate structure largely relies on every employee being able to work on whatever they want. So an artist can work on a bit of code, an intern can sit in on a major meeting, and a programmer could suggest a revision to the script of a game. This system does work pretty well for a small team developing games, like when Valve made Portal 2. But it shows its faults when Valve tries to run a service, like steam.

Nobody likes doing support. Nobody. It’s why you have to pay people a decent salary to get them to do it, or outsource it to places with cheap labor. In a setup like Valve has, where people don’t have to do things they don’t want to, nobody is going to actually work support. So trying to get support from Valve for whatever reason is a lost cause. The one time I tried to get a refund for a broken game, they simply redirected me to the publisher’s site.

But this by itself would be (mostly) excusable if Valve were doing a good job maintaining the rest of Steam. Unfortunately, they are not. And Steam has been slowly sliding down a slope of negligence and disinterest, automating service after service along the way.

The first sign that Steam had problems came when steam began releasing more titles per day. Steam has become a popular service in recent years, but it still rarely released more than a few games a day. However, sometime in 2013 the service began releasing far more titles at a given time, in somewhat irregular bursts. So one day might go by with no released games, while the next day might see more than 10 come out at once. And since the steam front page only displayed the most recent 10 games, this meant that anything released before those 10 games would be shoved off the front page. Sometimes in a matter of minutes, if not seconds.

This became an aggravated problem when valve continued to increase the number of games released, to the point where steam had released more games in March of 2014 than in all of 2013. At this point, Valve changed the steam defaults so the front page defaulted to the top sellers, rather than the new releases list. This was merely a sign of what was to come.

Now, Valve didn’t exactly do this in secret. They were very vocal about their plans to redesign the steam front page, get rid of greenlight, and open up the floodgates so any and all games could be released on steam. They did eventually redesign the front page, as planned. But the redesign was hardly the solution people wanted. The front page redesign was largely focused on suggesting games to users based on similar games they had played or looked at, using community-selected tags to do so. The new releases tab was replaced with “popular new releases” and hidden even further down the page, under the sections for newly updated games, a queue for finding games steam thinks you might like, and steam curators.

Everything was left in the hands of the community and an automated system that used tags to decide what to recommend. Valve was very forward on pushing the curator idea, wherein people could suggest games they like or think people would enjoy. Valve was so insistent people use this service that they put quotes from popular curators on game store pages, regardless of whether you wanted it or not. Valve also changed the front page banner, so it now suggests games for you. It suggests games based on two things: If it thinks you might like it, or if it’s a top seller. It even will suggest things already in your account, or things which you have wishlisted. Thankfully, you can turn this off.

What you can’t turn off, however, is the banner’s overflow problem. The front page banner seems to have a hardcoded limit to how many things it can display at once, so if the number of ads exceeds that limit, it will only show a random selection of them. The result being that if you only scroll through the banner once, you will inevitably miss out on a few things. Even with recommended games and top sellers turned off, this still shows up and makes it difficult to know whether you’ve seen everything or not.

The front page wasn’t the only part of steam that got a redesign, however. Valve then went to work adding even more features to steam, many of which nobody asked for. Steam added a music player, which is hidden so far in the options that one wonders why it even exists. They also added a streaming service which would allow people to request to see the game you were playing. You can change the setting so people couldn’t request to see you stream, but it was on by default. Again, a feature nobody asked for.

But this wasn’t the only thing Valve was looking into. Valve was also interested in expanding, and trying to compete with current consoles. How? Through a little thing called the Steam Machine. The Steam Machine, sometimes called the Steambox, is essentially a device which plugs into your TV and plays PC games. The Machine runs a custom OS known as Steam OS, which more and more games are being ported to. In theory, it’s a neat idea. A device which you can easily use to play PC games on a TV, without running a million cords from your PC to your TV. In practice, it falls apart on two major points.

First, the price of the machines are outlandish. The prices range from 460 dollars to 5,000 dollars for higher-end models. For comparison, both the Xbox One and the PS4 retail at about 400 dollars, with the Xbox One frequently being discounted anywhere from 340-350 dollars. Not only are the Steam Machines overpriced for the parts they’re using, but they don’t really present a good argument for why you’d get one instead of a console. So far we have no guarantee that games will run well on the lower-end ones, and anybody who might want to play more powerful games on them is likely just going to build their own PC. In addition, the marketing is all wrong. There seems to be no clear term shared between them, with some calling themselves PCs and others referring to themselves as Micro-towers. It’s unlikely that someone not familiar with PCs already would know which one to pick, leading to them just buying a console instead.

The second failing point comes in the form of the controller. The steam controller, Valve’s long-awaited controller, was originally pitched as a substitute to a mouse and keyboard. For games which did not have built-in controller support, the steam controller would act as a substitute mouse, using haptic touchpads similar to the type you might find on a laptop. While I feel that this would be better solved by making controller support the default for PC games, I can see the logic behind this. The finished product, however, does not fulfill this purpose well at all. The steam controller is not the kind of thing I would want to use instead of a normal controller, nor something I would use for games normally played with a mouse and keyboard. It is a device in limbo, with nothing to make people want to use it. Thankfully, the steam machines can be controlled with a 360 controller, in the off-chance that you would ever want a steam machine.

And now we get to steam as it is right now. The steam front page is a disaster that is cluttered with recommendations, popular games, curators, and just about everything nobody ever asked for. Valve is spending all their time working on a project which is doomed to fail. Every new feature steam adds is either unnecessary or actively unhelpful, like making it so games update at scheduled intervals instead of when a patch is mad available. Steam’s support is still nonexistent, but the problem has become more noticeable with even more broken and/or barely functional games showing up on steam. Trying to get a refund is hardly worth trying. You might as well kiss the money you spent goodbye.

But there are no other options, yeah? Uplay is utter trash and Desura isn’t worth bothering with. There is no alternative.

Except Origin.

See, Origin isn’t great. EA’s DRM service has a bad reputation for a reason, between EA’s scummy policies and horrible restrictions. But recently, it has gotten significantly better. EA has fixed the store up, made their service better, begun offering free games and trials of new games, and generally made it a decent service to use. The service lack a few key things steam has, like gifting and a screenshot button, but they do have a very important feature steam lacks: A refund policy.

So why don’t I just jump ship to Origin, if I’m so sick of Steam? Well, here’s the thing: I can’t. Over the years I’ve spent probably hundreds of dollars on Steam. Others have spent close to thousands. I can’t play the games I’ve bought on steam without using Steam. In fact, I can’t really play most games coming out unless I buy them through Steam. Almost every game, from indie titles to AAA games, gets released on Steam these days. Why wouldn’t they? Steam has such a massive userbase that it’s stupid not to, and so many games come out on steam that people can’t leave without missing out. It’s a vicious cycle which ensure that Valve will always be ahead.

Valve, through Steam, has a monopoly on PC gaming. No matter what they do, no matter what terrible decisions they make, no matter how terribly they treat people, PC gamers will still use Steam. Whether they want to or not, anybody who wishes to play games on PC will have to use Steam. Any dev hoping to release a game on PC will have to do so through steam, outside of the few devs big enough to not need to do so. Nobody can compete with Valve, and nobody can even put a dent in their userbase.

Despite all this, despite how many horrible decisions Valve has made and how terrible Steam has become lately, people will still rush to Valve’s defense. People are still clamoring to declare Gabe Newell the savior of PC gaming. Valve has the PC gaming industry in its pocket, and PC gamers will take every available chance to defend their new overlords from any criticism or critique.

Valve isn’t saving PC gaming. They’re ruining it.

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39 thoughts on “We Let Valve Monopolize PC Gaming and Now Steam Sucks

  1. Steam is so mismanaged; it is so unreliable my children and grandchildren have given up on just trying to get it to start! They have overlooked their reliability, can’t fix anything with their inept support system and just proceed on as if nothing is seriously wrong. Two freaking years of start up problems? Why would anyone with any sense invest in their upcoming hardware if two children can’t play together? How disillusioned are the game writers when access to their creations is stymied by access? Worst of all, you can’t talk or chat with anyone in support to immediately fix issues! Support doesn’t work without instant communication: the waiting just gets longer and longer, the temptation to switch to Origin, or any thing that works on the Internet, gets stronger and stronger, and since they don’t care to let you know when changes that effect their usability occur, it is a bad warning sign someone has risen well beyond their level of incompetence. I feel better now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Steam is very managed, if you are too young and/or don’t know what you’re doing than yes it will be hard to use, but update Steam and learn how to click two things and it is so easy it’s stupid, if they can’t play two games together that allow friends to join up than they are too young or incompetent to be on steam, you add your friend by searching for them, then in the game hit add player and there is a button next to every friend (owns the game or not) the says INVITE and it send them an invite and you click accept, it’s simple, children that do not understand this concept are too young to be on Steam; and email customer support, it’s super simple and fast. If Steam was mismanaged than it wouldn’t be as big as it is today, nor would it have over 12.74 million people signed up, using it.

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      • You are correct, today. Tomorrow … Maybe! Unreliable is the big tattoo Steam wears across its forehead. Until Steam is held accountable by reimbursing members for time lost, anyone who invests in pay to play wonders like Planetside, loses out on their investment. It is a monopoly without recourse. Kindly refrain your insulting comments on the intelligence of my children and grand children as your argument is the illogical one.

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      • Steam is very managed in the sense that it exists solely for the purpose of finding ways to separate gamers from their money. It does not exist for the consumer, child or not. There is so much concern about losing money to piracy that nobody has time for business rule #1 (i.e., the customer is always right). That’s an unfortunate fact. Steam is a tumor that pc gamers now seemed destined to live with.

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    • Actually those 12 million people are brain dead thanks to our school systems. Yes there is that many brain dead people who will submit to the One World RFID system when it appears.

      Then you will HAVE to be chipped to play.

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  2. I ditched steam I’m the early stages circa hl 2 ep 2.

    I have so many games for various platforms, and dog gone it, I like having a medium to hold in my hands.

    Don’t support the tyrants. Say no to Sony and steam, and you will be much happier.

    What it all comes down to, is not having a free enterprising model, and that’s a crying shame in our beautiful land America.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The OGA specifically identified League of Legends and World of Tanks as two major reasons why there
    should continue to be strong growth in the PC realm for the long-term.
    The cost of the two systems also amplifies the differences between the two; while gaming PCs can be extended over
    a wide range from low, mid and high range segments, enthusiast PCs are
    always high-end in definition and are quite expensive. com to redress customer issues.

    Like

  4. Pingback: Goodbye, Steam | Skirt Defense Force

  5. Do you delete any varying opinions from your comments or did nobody defend Steam? I think Steam is great still. I’ve never had an issue, everything works great, and they are looking to add more features to support customers. They added returns not too long ago and they will continue adding cool features. Origin is absolute trash owned by stockholders. At least valve can make its own decisions. If Valve becomes a publically traded company, that’s when its time to worry.

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    • You might be surprised to learn that I have yet to delete any comments from any of my articles. As for Steam, it’s cool that you like it and I’m glad that you’ve never had any issues, but I’ve had many issues with steam (including glitches in their client) that have resulted in me deciding to quit using it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It seems like every so often my account gets blocked even if I use the right password such as today and verification codes don’t get thru where other times they go thru. It’s hit and miss and seems to be a hotmail problem.

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  6. Didn’t have problems until I had both computers fixed, then had Steam update problems on both. Finally went to their website and got a sucessful download on one computer but now the recovery code they sent over my cell phone doesn’t work and they’ve locked me out, even after using my legitimately purchased Skyrim disc which forces you to use the Steam system. And the Catch 22 is you can’t get support w/o a support id and password, and you can’t get those w/o getting the recovery code to work. You owe me, Steam!

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  7. steam sucks never will I buy another game that requires steam my 9 yearold has been in tears so manytimes because he has forgot his user name or password I want to buy games that I own not some billion dollar a year corperation that has no support and doesn’t give a stuff about its clients so steam stick it where the sun don’t sine wankers

    Liked by 1 person

  8. ever since recently, I had problems with trading. Mainly because steam for some reason hates their own consumers, and added trade hold. At first, it was only like 3 days, but now people that complete trade hold must wait 15 FREAKING DAYS to complete a trade. Until steam removes the trade hold, I will not buy from them again.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Not sure if this comment will get pulled since this is a WP blog. Steam is a monopoly plain and simple and needs to be busted up like AT&T of the 1970s. Steam is what AT&T were in the 70s for the PC market what’s left of it.

    All the other companies have dumbed down to either hack n slash only or smart phone Candy Crush games where it’s all pretty much the same thing over and over again reskinned.

    This is corporatism which is a type of tyranny using the federal government as leverage to shut out the little guys. We don’t have true capitalism not for a long time but most people have nothing to compare it too since they never lived when there was a huge working class.

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  10. Whenever liberals are in charge like they are now state tyranny gets more and more out of control and they then blame the *other people* but themselves.

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  11. I got vac banned from mw3 for a so called cheat infraction and I’ve never used a mod or hack in my life. The worst part is I can’t even argue with steam because of their zero tolerance bs policy

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  12. Steam was good when it was choosy about what games it let in. Now, it’s a hodge-podge of junk. I feel like I’m sifting through the Best Buy bargain bin circa 2000. There may be a gem or two in there that I want to buy, but the process of sifting through all the muck is an insult and a waste of my time to the point that I give up. Thus everyone loses (I lose, b/c I don’t find the games I want and developers that have games I want lose, because I can’t get to their games easily).

    Steam has let this happen by letting a flood of garbage games show up (free-to-play, visual novels, game-maker games, unity asset dumps, … junk that is just puppy-milled trying to cash in on gamers).

    And, they don’t let users create content-filtering profiles… eg: I’d like to filter out free to play, visual novels, early access, greenlight… but, nope. Steam doesn’t allow you, because developes don’t want to miss the chance that maybe THEIR (whatever game type you don’t like) happens to be the golden unicorn of them all that magically makes you suddenly want to buy their game. No. It doesn’t. I don’t like visual novels. Stop showing them to me.

    Steam also doesn’t take “not interested” in account to filter suggestions better. When I click “not interested” on enough youtube videos about “kittens” eventually youtube stops showing me videos about kittens. But, if I click “not interested” on a lot of visual novels… Steam still shows me new visual novel games. WHY? I’m giving you marketable feedback that could be used to tailor what you show me? USE IT!

    So, basically Valve has let Steam become a dump, because they want to cater to puppy-milling developers that will give them a small cut of the “quantity over quality” games dumpe on steam, and NOT listening to customers that want ways to filter the garbage they don’t want in hopes of making it better to find what they do.

    But, there-in lies the problem

    Modern business models have customers thinking they’re still… well, customers. But, they’re not. Companies view customers as “consumers”. You are not the real customer anymore. Other companies are the customers. You are merely a consumer of things.

    Valve is just a feeding trough owned by steam that other companies (who are Valve’s real customers) pay to toss slop into. That slop may or may not be eaten by consumers. Valve gets paid via consumption, and it’s easier to just let other companies toss more and more slop into the trough then it is to make a 5-star fine dining experience for the consumer.

    And, Valve also knows they have you by the short-n-curlies. If Steam is no longer profitable, they’ll just roll up shop, and tons of consumers will lose millions of dollars worth of software they purchased. So, people keep milling around on steam watching it go down the drain, but can’t really leave due to the investment they made.

    Valve could fix this if they treated consumers like customers again, and actually took pride in the slop that other companies tossed into the stupid trough. But, they don’t. They want to keep treating consumers like mindless pigs, and keep catering to companies tossing slop in the trough.. until the pigs finally get sick of the slop and go some place else.

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  13. Valve is easily one of the worst companies in the world. Look carefully and you’ll see that they really are just a group of terribly immature mentally stunted techies who happened to get lucky with some product releases and now Steam keeps all the kiddies hooked into Valve’s pipeline. Everyone should remember, Valve hasn’t built hardly any games. All their popular multiplayer games were MODS built by other people who Valve brought on board.

    The only thing that matters is the gaming experience. And every single experience related to Valve and Steam SUCKS. CSGO is a cheat infested wreck full of immature brain damaged males. Valve attracted scores of little kids to TF2, then decided to try and turn it into a structured comp game by removing Quick Play and adding useless bullshit like XP, LOL. Dota 2 is an absolute mess which is why the only people who play it are young males with mental disorders (including all those “PROS”). L4D2 is full of idiots. I have almost 1000 people blocked in Steam. That’s a quality gaming environment, according to Valve.

    Don’t bother trying to use the Steam forums as nearly every post is either in a foreign language or written by some kid with poor grammar because their parents let them gamble their lives away on CSGO instead of reading books (thank, Gabe!).

    Of course, criticize Valve or the kiddies who support them and you’ll be censored in some way, in game or out of game. Don’t bother telling drunk depressed losers in Dota 2 to leave the game, Valve gave them a nice little report tool so they can punish you for speaking the truth (thanks, Gabe!),

    TF2 was released almost TEN YEARS ago and Valve is still screwing with it instead of using their brain to build a new better game. Imagine a game coming out in 1999 and the developer just sitting around adding hats until 2009 because of all the addicted little shit bags willing to spend money on it.

    Valve also refuses to get tough with cheaters. That alone makes me laugh. CSGO and TF2 are full of cheaters and yet people still play. That shows how stupid the player base is. Fucking pathetic losers with empty lives, nothing but video games.

    The VIVE community is full of the most blinded Valve zombies ever. Fucking idiots blabbing how great a shitty heavy expensive low resolution “VR” device is so they can play pool (of which they admit they’ve never played a real game of pool. LOL!).

    Is this what gaming has become? The escape for a new generation of inept poorly raised MORONS, most of whom are males? The internet, a watering hole for people with mental disorders?

    If so, I say bring on the next holocaust, because this shit is PATHETIC.

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    • Don’t worry. When (not if) Hillary gets elected we will have it happen and alt news including talk hosts will all be shut down unless they are ultra liberal and PC (politically correct) about world issues.

      Hopefully people fight back and not just shrug their shoulders and say “Ohhhh Pokemon Go!” while heading to the nearest FEMA camp and while waiting their death sentence they argue which console is better.

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  14. Steam absolutely sucks, they’re more crooked than Hillary Clinton. I have bought 3 games from them and absolutely none of them works all the way through. Most break about 1/2 way through.

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  15. Since 2012 and onwards EVERYTHING has sucked actually. Since the government shut down nothing has ever been the same. I don’t believe the government actually came fully back up and is only in limited operations just to run the bare necessities of the country.

    Steam now ONLY wants Gmail or the Agenda 21 Email 4 U.

    These companies are too large and we really need to reestablish the Sherman Anti Trust acts to bust these companies up from owning too many things.

    That’s how AT&T got busted up as we had people who had brains back in the 1970s.

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  16. The other answer is someone needs to make a Retro Gaming PC that is non configurgable that can run anything from DOS games to Win 9X titles like Sim City 3.etc games that were finicky.

    The computer needs to be 32 bit motherboard with the PCI slots (that are NOT broken) 🙂 and you can actually add necessary graphics/sounds card.

    It will just be for gaming and then people won’t have to hunt for old broken 32 bit computers as that’s what it’s boiled down to.

    Most computers have a life span of 5-8 years depending on how well you treat it and take care of it and 32 bit machines that can run old software are pretty much at their dying stage if not dead already and only old business machines are still around that are dogs.

    People can have their Windows 7 computers for their steam crap and the Retro PC for old stuff.

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  17. Steam or Valve are crap. They vac ban’s people with no reason, they believe in a VAC(um) system that doesn’t work, pro players suffer that in game and doesn’t care. Were is the support? The people spend a lot of money, no one cares. For them everyone is a cheater. The fun for playing doesn’t exist for them. We have to buy a computer ONLY with steam software, if you install ms office or adobe software you going to be VAC Baned. The privacy doesn’t exist, they entre in your computers and if you have software that is no steam, you are banned.
    They just want money, and the people do not notice it.
    The cheater software posted in internet is created by steam/valve people! Open your eyes this is a business. If you want to cheat without be caught you have to pay. And who nows to go around the system? People of Steam/valve.
    Every days there are youtubers livestreaming games cheating. Steam doesn’t know? Uau it’s a dramatic information… There are everywere there are cheaters too.
    F***k this… I’m out.

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  18. I had steam since the beginning but I uninstalled forever last year. Valve is a wretched company. They trick, deceive, and exploit their customers, the majority of which are mentally unstable young men. They use draconian punishment to attempt to control the social environment (aka, maximize profits). Look at how they wrecked Dota2. Skins, quests, alternative game modes? Meanwhile, cheats and exploits go unpatched. Now the game is full of idiots who stick around for the disgusting social scene. I bet all the wives of the programmers at Valve wouldn’t want their kids around the majoriy of Dota2 players (most of whom are outside the USA). They ruined TF2. CSGO is an ancient pile of shit but they keep milking it because of all the mentally ill idiots who keep buying skins. They spit in the face of business law in countries they sell to.

    They don’t build their own games (because they are too stupid). Instead, they just try and manuever their way into taking a cut from others.

    The thing that warms my heart the most is that Valve tried to buy Minecraft, and Notch refused to sell it to them. Hahahaha. Hey Valve, if all your PhD assholes are so smart, why couldn’t they figure out that the next big game was a 50mb low graphic block building game?

    Valve is cancer, just like Google, Youtube, Facebook. Terrible companies helmed by terrible human beings running amok due to poor government regulation. The sooner Gabe Newell dies of a heart attack, the better. Nazi piece of shit. Dude should get his mansion burned down because the only thing this asshole does is take advantage of disturbed young males.

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  19. Let’s take a trip back in time shall we? (rewinds the clock to before Windows Vista came out) What made helped made this all happen was the switch over to 64 bit motherboards. Motherboards in the 16 and 32 bit era despite different looks they all have been pretty much the same. 64 bit computers actually came out in 2005 contrary to popular belief.

    When you walk into Circuit City or Best Buy you would see huge stickers that would say 64 BIT or 32 BIT so people would know the machine they were buying and they knew it was not the OS that was 64 or 32 but the actual parts inside the tower.

    Why did this kill gaming? Because nothing would work right or connect to the right spots. Windows Vista especially was a disaster for this. Win 7 sort of fixed the problems and is actually the TRUE VISTA but there was still a lot of funky software titles that would JUST NOT go no matter what you did and they cannot be emulated to this day especially early 2000’s titles.

    A lot of new computer users gave up and went to smartphones or consoles dumbing themselves further in their closed eco system but didn’t want to go thru crap of trying to get something to work.

    At least on a console you know it’s going to work and not go thru 100 different settings or try to type in “Why doesn’t XXX work on Win 7 8 or 10!”

    Like

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