Let's not beat around the bush here: Steam is great. It's a fantastic platform full of great features. Though I'm primarily a PC gamer, I do occasionally like to play on consoles as well. When I do though, I find a myriad of annoyances in comparison. Whenever I go over to my PlayStation 3, I find that, aside from the ridiculous level of difficulty presented in simply trying to navigate the store and find my own games, my biggest complaint is just how bare-bones it all feels. Though its features aren't always perfect, Steam is at least making an effort to move forward and make their platform better, which is a lot more than I can say about my five or six years owning a PS3. As a disclaimer, let me mention now that I've never owned a Microsoft console, so most of the comparisons I make here are from PlayStation 3.
1: Trading Cards, Badges, and the Community Market
After achievements were introduced, everyone followed suit. So why hasn't this caught on? Personally, I feel that trading cards and badges are a lot more fun to collect than achievements most of the time, since you can't make any money off of them. For the uninitiated, trading cards on Steam are doled out randomly as you play games, with the additional chance of getting a booster pack every week. The best part about this is, if you don't care about them, you can only really benefit from having them. Don't want trading cards? Sell them on the market. You won't get huge piles of cash from it, but considering the vast amount of titles you can buy on Steam for just a couple of dollars, selling a digital trading card for ten cents doesn't seem so bad.
Of course, if you trade or buy more trading cards, you can unlock badges, which grants you Steam profile backgrounds, emoticons for chat, and showcases, which allow you to customise your profile page on Steam by showing off your favourite games, rarest achievements, or just your favourite mod for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Of course, the things you get for competing sets can just be bought on the Community Market. Want a nifty new background? It'll probably cost you about four to ten cents, and most of that goes to another player, not Valve. It's a nice little feature to be sure, whether you in it because you're a completionist who likes to collect everything, or just a regular gamer who wants a little extra cash to put towards getting that game that's been marked down to two bucks.
2: Using Your Own Avatars and Skins
Want a new avatar on PSN? That'll set you back fifty cents. Want a new avatar on Steam? Upload it! It's just that simple. It seems like a really cheap cash grab on the part of Sony and Microsoft to charge for tiny images that I want next to my username, when almost every other online service ever just lets me upload whatever I want. When you have to charge money for such a simple, no one wins. Sure, you do pay money to customise your 3D avatar on 360 and Xbone, but that's a little bit cooler than a flat image, I suppose. Of course, Sony does this with Home, but that sucks.
Meanwhile, if I want to change up the look of my PS3's menus, I need to buy a theme for about two bucks. On Steam, it's completely free. You just download and go. If you want a background on Steam, you can unlock those as you play if you're patient enough, or just buy them for a few cents. Of course, I realise there is a method for downloading free static themes for your PS3 online, but that requires you to use the PS3's web browser, so fuck that.
3: User Tags and Reviews
Too often, I've wondered as I browse through the labyrinthine annals of the PlayStation Store: is this game just a steaming pile of shit? From there, I either leave the store or head to the Internet to find some helpful reviews. On Steam, this isn't an issue. Any user who owns a game can review it, and those reviews end up on the bottom of the page for possible consumers to read. The negative aspect of this is that you'll get a few joke reviews, but it's still better than nothing. Being able to scroll down and find a quick community consensus is a neat feature, why don't more platforms take advantage of this?
Then you have user tags. Again, this is another system prone to abuse, and that abuse goes both ways. As funny as it is to see *Call of Duty: Advanced Wafare* in the "Kawaii" and "Point & Click* categories, it's really annoying to see a first-person shooter when all I want is to play a kawaii point and click game. That being said, it can be very useful, and I'd say the positives outweigh the stupidity of some users. Being able to look at a glance and see tags like "GFWL" and "Uplay", or just "Roguelike" and "MOBA" can serve as a very useful indicator as to what to expect when buying the game. Again, not perfect, but much better than the nothing you get on console.
4: A Store You Can Actually Navigate
Maybe the Xbox Live Marketplace is better, but from personal experience, I can attest that going to the PlayStation Store is a joke. If I want to search for a game, I need to enter one letter at a time using this really weird series of columns, even though the PS3 has a keyboard feature. This makes finding games that I want a very difficult thing to do. For example, I was recently looking for Shin Megami Tensei
title. When I typed "Shin " (You can't type any more than that), I was given all of the Persona
games, a couple of Shin Megami Tensei
Games, and Shin Chan
. However, one of the Persona
games didn't show up, because it was listed as Persona 2
, whereas the other games were listed as "Shin Megami Tensei: Persona
Look at that. What is that even? On Steam, I can type in the word "Resident", and in about a second, I'm given a quick list of several Resident Evil
games, and their respective costs. Is it really so hard to include a search bar?
5: A More Easily Accessible Library
As a PC gamer, this is my biggest grievance against the PS3. Where the hell are my games? My PS3 doesn't have enough room to hold my entire library, and because I can't seem to swap out the hard drive, it never will. The problem here isn't memory, though. The problem is accessibility. I can't find my games. If I want to re-download games on the PlayStation Store, I have to go through a list of everything
I've downloaded there, or search for it which, as the above image indicates, is a pain in the ass.
Now look at that. All of your games are listed in one place. One click brings me to all of my games, downloaded or not. Compared to the alternative I get on console, which just dumps whatever I have downloaded into one column, this is absolute perfection. Hell, I can even add non-Steam games! Even if it's not on Steam, it's still on Steam.
6: Tracking Time Spent on a Game
So everyone can see how much of your life you've wasted.