Courtesy Valve
It’s judging you.

Valve is an insidious bunch.

Not in the vein of a Bain Capital, Blackwater, or Monsato, mind you. I don’t believe they’re deliberately attempting to ruin lives through cold, impersonal profiteering. It’s undeniable, though, that events like the Summer Steam Sale, which just ended this past Sunday, are affairs during which the software developer and distributor basically prints money. They also make it very difficult for other companies to start or maintain digital distribution services.

Case in point: on the last day of the Steam Sale I saw Galactic Civilizations II was deeply discounted. Being a fan of 4X games, especially those set in space, I momentarily lamented the state in which the sale had left me (which I’ll get to in a moment). But then I remembered I bought GC2 some time ago from the publisher, Stardock. Curious, I looked into how to redownload the game and its goodies, hoping I could activate it on Steam. Sadly, not only was that not an option, but I also was forced to download and use a GameStop application to get the games.

Now, GameStop in general turns my stomach. The fact is, though, that their little app is functionally no better or worse than Steam, or EA’s Origin. However, Steam has already tied itself into so many games and collected so much revenue that it’s difficult to stop. Gabe and the folks at the Valve office may be making money hand over fist, but at least their company is one I feel more comfortable dealing with and support than the likes of EA or GameStop.

I can’t deny, though, the diabolical nature of Steam’s deepest discounts. This highly-recommended game is $10 one day, this lost gem is $5 the next, and so on. Those charges, while small in and of themselves, do tend to add up. Especially if the event is a week long, or longer, you may find yourself destitute by the end of it, and downloading more games than you could hope to play within a reasonable amount of time. I haven’t finished the first Witcher, for example, and now Witcher 2 is waiting to be played immediately after, provided I can find the time around sessions of Binding of Issac, The Walking Dead, and Batman Arkham City to name just a few.

The thought has crossed my mind that I could play a lot of these games marathon-style for the next Extra Life event, coming up in October, but my original plan for that was to do a Wing Commander marathon instead. More details later. The bottom line is, for all of their good business practices, decent public relations, and excellent game design, in the aftermath of this latest sale I can’t help but think there’s something to the notion that Valve may be secretly evil.