Last night as I prepared to join the Red Team (or Blue Team, I really don’t have a preference) and wage war in a friendly game of Team Fortress 2, I experienced the “Steam was unable to sync your files for <insert whatever Steam game you’re trying to play here> error.

I exited Steam and restarted thinking maybe an update came out or the program hung. It restarted normally and so I tried again with no joy. I did notice there was an option to play, so naturally, I ignored the error and loaded the game.

It was quite obvious the situation was NOT an isolated incident as all my favorite servers were empty or nearly empty. As Captain Jack Sparrow would say, “I was all by my onesies, savvy.” I did find one particular server that had around 20 people playing so I joined the fray and was immediately treated to Vanilla TF2 – none of the add-on or bonus material was available. I always hate playing when this happens because people drop in and out, you’re not quite sure if the stats and achievements are tracking and then you have everyone asking about the Steam outage. The conversation goes something like this…

(Language substitutions included to make this an ESRB rated “E” for everyone friendly post)

Player 1: Is anyone else having problems with Steam?
Player 2: Yes.
Player 3: Yeah.
Player 4: I am.
Player 5: Me too.
Player 6: WTF moron…of course everyone is having problems. Steam is down.
Player 7: Yeah noob. Sheesh. Don’t ask such freakin dumb questions.
Player 1: Gosh. I was only asking.
Player 4: Yeah, chill out, he was only asking.
Player 6: Ah. How sweet. You holding his hand. Why don’t you both STFU.
Player 2: Dude, quit being a ***.
Player 3: Steam sucks.
Player 6: You suck.
Player 4: Your mom sucks.
Player 7: LOL.
Player 8: Hi guys. Is anyone else having problems with Steam?

(Lather, Rinse, Repeat)

It can be somewhat entertaining for a few minutes…but after that I exited and tried to go to the Steam page to see if this was planned maintenance or an unscheduled outage. I’m assuming that since I couldn’t connect to the Steam page to check, then it was an unplanned outage.

No problem…let me try and play some Modern Warfare 2. Oh wait. That’s a Steam game isn’t it? Well let me try anyway.

Yeah…that didn’t work out either. Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer wouldn’t even load. Apparently if you can’t connect to Steam, it just doesn’t load. It tells you that you need to be connected to Steam. Well duh. At least TF2 let me play, even if it was in a slightly dysfunctional and reduced state.

Okay…so I’m just thinking…

It’s pretty obvious there is a trend toward digital distribution and cloud computing in a gaming environment and it’s only a matter of time before this ultimately results in the demise of the hardcopy format (CD/DVD, box and manual) and the brick and mortar stores that sell them.


If that’s the case, and all of our games have to synchronize with an external server located who knows where, then we are pretty much facing a zombie invasion without a shotgun, because really, what will the consumer be able to do in protest when there is an outage? Hire a lawyer and sue Steam because on February 4, 2010 from 2100 to 2330 you couldn’t play video games. I suppose there are some folks who would try.

I’m all for digital distribution and cloud computing but I’m not all for having my game tied to a company’s equipment and my game time at the mercy of their availability.