Purchasing Steamworks Without Steam: A Cautionary Tale
by Ashe Collins on April 25, 2013

gs500I’m a bargain shopper.  If I can get something cheaper without too much hassle I’m going to go that route.  If I can wait a few months for something for it to drop in price, I will.  There aren’t too many things I have to have or experience right away and I’m not ashamed to admit most of that is mainstream stuff, like I had to see Evil Dead opening weekend instead of renting, picked up Tomb Raider on pre-order instead of waiting, and will be going to see Star Trek opening weekend when it comes out next month, two weeks after I’ve indulged in Iron Man 3.  Lucky for me there’s only one video game I want between then and now, and that’s the Star Trek game. Movie tie-in, good chance of sucking, and while I do like the nuTrek I admit being more of a TOSTrek fan, but I have hope for the game, so I start hunting for deals.

Steam and GameStop are running the same deal for the pre-order DLC.  I flip-flopped on the PS3 version a few times before deciding that while I could play it downstairs, this may be the kind of game I like to take with me on my laptop, plus I can knock $10 off the price going PC, so I started looking into PC deals.  Normally the Steam version would be a no-brainer.  I like Steam, unlike a few people I know, and think they provide a decent service and I’ve partaken in a few of their sales over the years.  But other than the pre-order DLC, there’s no other bonuses on Steam like there were for BioShock Infinite, which included more games, and Tomb Raider that followed that pattern. 

gsaI did find a few places online that were going cheaper.  Star Trek is a Steamworks title so it doesn’t matter where I get it from on PC at this point as it’s going through Steam no matter what anyway.  I looked at a few sites and considered my options.  Amazon I’d be paying full price but I’d be getting $10 in Amazon credit which I know I could use later.  I’d rather have gotten it now.  That’s out.  Green Man Gaming had a 25% off code which would have knocked the same amount off the price, but I’ve never dealt with them before and the game can’t be traded back into them which is part of the idea behind their service, so that’s out.  That leaves me with GameStop which, at the time, was offering $10 off the Digital PC version on their site.  There is no physical PC version, by the way, it’s only digital and it’s $20 off what I’d have paid for a copy on the PS3. 

I waffled for a few days on it but decide to keep my extra trip to the drive-thru and go with GameStop for my Star Trek fix.  I got the game off their site and got shunted over to their downloads site currently called Impulse but slowly being rebranded with GameStop.  The only other game I’d had through Impulse was DemiGod so I had an account, but they needed to link them. Not a big deal until I have to jump through a few password hoops and then re-enter my Power Up Rewards card number again as it’d gone missing.  I put my info in, hit the purchase button and await my e-mail.  My e-mail receipt tells me that to access the Steam game I’d just purchased through them I’ll need to download the GameStop App and check under My Games in the app to get my code. What?

I’m at a loss at this point why they simply couldn’t have e-mailed me a Steam code through channels as they have my e-mail, but I go back to their PC downloads site and grab the app and install it.  It takes a good chunk of time for it to populate my games list which number at two now, DemiGod and Star Trek.  I have the option to click play, uninstall, or more info.  I figure what the hell and click Play.  A web page opens in my browser thanking me for my purchase but informs me that my game will be available for download on the date of release.  This is not a Steam code, this is annoying.  I go back to the App and now there’s a new button with a code listed on it. Eureka! I click on it and realize it looks way too long to be a Steam code but figure screw it, I’ll give it a shot.  There’s a handy copy button attached to the code and I flip over to Steam and plug it in. Invalid code.  Just like I figured, but why not.  I go back to GameStop to find out where my code actually is, all their information sending me back to their damned app and the process I already went through to get a code that doesn’t work.  There’s nothing really on pre-ordering a game through Steam from them.  All their information is for post release and is completely unhelpful.

gs01So I hit up Google.  I find a few forums complaining about issues getting their Steam codes through GameStop that are, admittedly, a few years old at this point, but some for Borderlands 2 that seemed to go unresolved.  Buried back in a Steam thread however, from what seems to be a few years back, is a post from when GameStop first started offering Steam through their site.  I’ll have to wait until the game is actually released to get my Steam code.  So what the hell is the code in the GameStop App then? It’s an internal code for GameStop use and absolutely worthless to me otherwise.  I’m still scratching my head over this though.  There’s nothing out there for customers looking to find out about activating their Steam game if they pre-order, another account through several forum posts about the store employees having no idea how to process a digital order and get a customer a code, and any way you slice it, you have to download their pointless app (if you’re buying Star Trek or any Steamworks game it is) which you’ll never have to use it to load up your Steam game anyway. 

I’m at a loss.  So not only do I have to wait until the game’s actually out to get my code, but this also means that I can’t pre-load the game and start playing on release like I did with Tomb Raider, Borderlands 2 and Aliens: Colonial Marines.  I can live with that I suppose, but I’m still really trying to wrap my head around all the hoops I had to go through just to find out where I’m going to be getting my code for a game I’d purchased from one store and then it’s not even through that store’s website where I find the information I needed.

gs02Luckily today I get home, Steam has put the game up as available and I can get into the GameStop to get my code. The “game” listed in their app updated and their code changed to a Steam code by magic, or something. Plopped the code into Steam and started downloading. A little over an hour and 4.8 gigs later, I’m double-checking and doing the final install. I’d pre-ordered so I’m guessing I get the DLC pack just like it’s advertised, right? I have no idea. At this point I’m not sure I care. I haven’t gotten far enough in to play with custom outfits and I’m just enjoying actually playing the game after jumping through a ton of hoops to get here because they can’t be bothered to provide good answers in a place easily accessible to the people they want money from.

The digital revolution is ongoing and clearly the brick and mortar stores are more than lagging behind.  If you’re going to include digital versions of games to pre-order or purchase, make it as easy to get as the service we’re eventually going to be using it through.  While I’m singling out GameStop here, I’m sure that most of the other stores that handle digital have some archaic way of getting you a Steam code as well which make just as much sense as this, which isn’t much.  I can live with getting a code I can’t put in or activate or even receive until release day.  But tell us that in your documentation.  I shouldn’t have to find this out through forum posts on other websites that date back a number of years.  On top of that, if I’m not using your proprietary app to play the game then having me jump through the hoops of installing it just to get me the code is an extra pointless step I don’t need. 

Make it easier on the customer, not harder.  As it is I’m having second thoughts on getting Steamworks games outside of Steam especially if I can’t have all the bells and whistles of launch day.  Their customer service, by not having to use it, and ease of use is actually worth that extra $10 to me.  I put in my card info, click buy, and the game even starts downloading for me there.  I was expecting a little leg work outside of Steam, but this is intrusive and annoying.  Almost as annoying as getting yet another pre-order offer shoved in my face in the store from an employee not taking the hint.  There’s a reason I do most of my shopping for games online or at stores I can duck in and out of quickly where the games are new and sealed or digital and quick.  We live in an instant gratification world and I want my instant gratification and digital titles can provide that, just not through every retailer apparently. In the future I’ll think extra hard on that and I hope you do too.



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Ashe Collins

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  • HuBBs

    sigh… yet another game I’ll have to import from the uk. At least it’s $41 after currency conversion.

  • http://www.diehardgamefan.com Ashe

    Like having the box copy then I take it?

  • http://www.diehardgamefan.com Ashe

    Looking to have a box version I take it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexanderlucard Alexander Lucard

    I just avoid Steam altogether.

  • http://www.diehardgamefan.com Ashe

    If it was as barebones as Origin and the GameStop app currently are, I would, but I like some of the other features they have with it.

  • http://diehardgamefan.com/ Crystal Steltenpohl

    I love Steam. And I don’t think Steam was the issue here, lol.

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