Rent to Never Own

It has been a long time coming, but I have fully surrendered into post-ownership mindset.

The transition is largely semantic. Nobody “owns” a Steam game in their library and never have – just a non-transferable, revocable license… unless you lucked out and live in a sane country that allows resellable digital goods. Nevertheless, a game library was a thing that had value and meaning, you know? It was exciting seeing Steam sales and bargain hunting so you could accumulate stuff.

At least that is what it felt like.

The final, frictionless step was seeing Final Fantasy XV appearing on the Xbox Game Pass. I was already a bit crestfallen seeing how Kingdom Come: Deliverance was on the Epic Store free-game docket, but FF15 just flipped the metaphysical lights off. It’s not that I felt like a chump for spending $12 on the Humble Bundle that included Kingdom Come or, well, however the hell I acquired FF15. It just became increasingly obvious that I don’t need to do anything anymore. Games just happen.

I beat The Outer Worlds on the Game Pass, and I will never play that game again. I also beat Children of Morta, and I will never play that game again either. I just started on Metro: Exodus, and it’s possible I don’t even bother getting through the tutorial. Why force myself to? The game cost nothing other than download time. Compare that to Outward, the first game I purchased in the Epic Store, and how getting my $5.99 refund request denied made me very salty (bought during the Winter sale and first played much later than 14 day limit).

It’s rote to say Netflix obliterated any desire of mine to own physical movie DVDs. And not even really all that accurate – it was Netflix and Hulu and HBO Go and Disney+ that obliterated all desire. Your favorite movie might have fallen off one service, but likely landed on another. Or perhaps the sheer number of choices, which would keep you busier than any free time you had available, simply made the concept of “favorite” meaningless. Who is rewatching movies anyway?

I will, of course, still be purchasing games on occasion. Probably. Final Fantasy 7 Remake isn’t going to just show up Day 1 on PS+ or wherever. Probably. But what I’m getting at is that if my Steam library just up and vanished – which is entirely possible, and unable to be appealed – I don’t know if I would be mad. Or even really notice. The last time I played something on Steam was December 8th. And damn near everything I would play is already on the Game Pass.

Posted on February 13, 2020, in Commentary, Philosophy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Some indie games are exceptions on Steam. Slay the Spire is one, where Steam just downloads the game and runs the installer; there is no actual DRM to it and you could do the same thing yourself and ignore Steam completely. You could even freely distribute it or download it from elsewhere. I would imagine other indies are similar. And of course GOG is no-DRM, you can simply download anything and you have it.

    But like you I don’t really see a whole lot of value in this. If there is a game you play all the time it might be worth it, but for most games it is one and done and a games Netflix is perfectly adequate.


  2. I saw Kingdom on Gamepass, but it wasn’t 100% clear if the Gamepass version includes all DLC. If it does not, I’m not sure I’m jumping on that to play ‘only’ the base game, even for the lower cost. I’d rather buy it on sale via Steam with all DLC, even if that means paying $5 more or whatever it might be.

    Also for me, Gamepass is only a good option for games I know I won’t play more than once. If it’s a game like a Kenshi, Rimworld, Mount and Blade, or Battle Brothers, I’ll pay the higher Steam cost to ‘own’ it vs renting it via Pass.

    Integration to Steam Workshop for mods is also a big bonus for Steam vs Gamepass; I place a large premium on the time saved to click ‘subscribe’ and having a mod work vs the steps needed via Nexus or another 3rd party site.


    • So apparently Game Pass is keeping DLC a separate purchase, which is kinda two levels of stupid. That said, it’s still wildly cheaper than buying base game + DLC anywhere else by default… unless you’re in a Kenshi/Rimworld scenario in which you only play one game for months at a time. Since you may not always know which games will grip you for months/years, it’s an acceptable risk IMO.

      Good point about mods though. The difference between modded and unmodded Starbound is about 150+ hours of content. I found this article from last year saying that mods are slowly becoming a thing, but you’re right on the money when it comes to ease of use in Steam Workshop. I don’t even remember the last time I bothered going to Nexus; it’s either in the Workshop or I don’t bother.


  3. As someone who owns over a thousand vinyl albums, twice that many books (at least), almost a thousand movies on VHS cassette (ffs!), eight thousand (!!) comic books, not to mention hundreds of DVDs and CDs I can only say i wish the digital revolution had happened forty years ago. We’re hoping to move house in the next year or two and the logistics of just dealing with five decades of entertainment accumulation are terrifying.

    And if I added up what all that lot cost me I’d have been able to maintain streaming services for everything for the whole of my life and have enough left over for many, many holidays. Why would anyone want to “own” any of this stuff ever again?

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