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Is Steam Free or Paid? The Ultimate Guide to Using Steam

The Short Answer: Steam is Free to Use, but You Must Purchase Individual Games

To directly answer the question – Steam is a 100% free service. There are no fees or subscriptions required to create an account, download the client, and access community features. The only payments are for individual game purchases.

Now let‘s dive into the details…

What Exactly is Steam?

For gamers like us, Steam is an essential platform and community. But for those still unfamiliar, Steam is a digital distribution platform developed by Valve Corporation in 2003. It provides a way for users to buy, play, update, and interact with thousands of different PC games all in one place.

Some key features Steam offers us gamers:

  • The Steam Store – An online marketplace to purchase and download games.
  • Automated patches and updates for games.
  • Profile customization and the ability to connect with friends.
  • Achievements and stats tracking.
  • Steam Community forums and discussions.
  • In-Home Streaming to play games remotely.

Think of it like a centralized hub for PC gaming. Once you download the free Steam client, you gain access to this vast universe of gaming content and features.

How Many Games Does Steam Have in 2022?

One reason Steam is so popular among gamers is the sheer number of game titles available. As of writing this in 2022, Steam offers:

  • Over 50,000 games across every genre imaginable.
  • Roughly 30-40 new games added daily.
  • Support for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Steam Deck.
  • Availability in over 240 countries and 40 different languages.

These stats illustrate the breadth of Steam‘s game catalog. And they are constantly growing by adding both indie hits and big-budget AAA titles.

As a passionate gamer myself, I‘m always stunned by the variety of games available spanning RPGs, action, strategy, horror, simulations, retro classics, VR titles, and much more. Steam makes it easy to discover new favorites.

The Benefits of Steam‘s Free Platform

Let‘s go over the main benefits we get simply by signing up for a free Steam account:

  • Finding Deals – Steam is renowned for its seasonal sales and weekly deals offering 50-90% discounts on tons of great games.
  • Tracking Progress – See your achievements, playtime stats, badges, and other metrics for all your games in one place.
  • Automatic Updates – Games update themselves without any effort on your part so they stay optimized and bug-free.
  • Cloud Saves – Pick up right where you left off even when switching between multiple PCs.
  • Friends & Community – See what friends are playing, chat with them, share content, and join community discussions.

As you can see, Steam provides awesome functionality that takes PC gaming to the next level. And the platform itself is 100% free…the only requirement is buying games.

Does Steam Offer Any Free Games?

While Steam is best known for its paid games, there are a ton of free game options too across every genre imaginable:

  • True Free-to-Play – Full versions of popular games like Destiny 2, Warframe, and DOTA 2.
  • Free Weekends – Time-limited access to paid games to try before you buy.
  • Indie Demos – Try before you buy with free demos and prologues.
  • To Play – Completely free indie games often funded by developers.
  • Classic F2P Titles – Timeless games like Alien Swarm and Double Action.

I especially recommend sorting Steam by the "Free-to-Play" tag and filtering reviews by "Most Helpful" to quickly find the best free gaming gems. There are hundreds of hours of enjoyment waiting!

How Much Does the Average Steam Game Cost?

Paid game prices on Steam can vary wildly depending on age, popularity, genre, and whether they are on sale. Here are some pointers:

  • Average cost for most games is $9.99 – $29.99 USD.
  • Indie and older AAA games tend to be on the lower end around $10-$20.
  • Major new releases are usually $49.99 – $59.99 depending on the publisher.
  • Some outlier indie games can be as low as $1.99.
  • During sales, games may be discounted up to 90% off or more!

My advice is to use the Wishlist feature to get notified when games you want go on sale. The summer and winter Steam sales offer the best deals of the year.

I also highly recommend signing up for IsThereAnyDeal.com to automatically import your Wishlist and get alerts on price drops for Steam games across the web. This helps you find the absolute lowest prices.

How Do Steam Game Purchases and Refunds Work?

Buying games on Steam is a quick and convenient process:

  1. Browse for games via the Steam Store.
  2. Add games to your Wishlist so you get notified on sales.
  3. When ready to buy, click "Add to Cart".
  4. Select your payment method – credit card, Steam Wallet, PayPal, etc.
  5. Complete checkout, and your game will start downloading instantly.
  6. Play and access your games anytime by launching Steam!

If needed, Steam offers refunds on game purchases:

  • Refunds are available within 14 days of purchase.
  • You must have less than 2 hours of playtime across all sessions.
  • Downloadable content returns are more restricted.

This refund policy allows you to try out games risk-free before committing. However, use it ethically so you don‘t abuse the system.

Steam Account Security Tips

Since Steam holds access to potentially hundreds of dollars worth of games, it‘s critical to keep your account secure:

  • Always use a strong unique password only for Steam.
  • Enable Two-Factor Authentication using the Steam Mobile App.
  • Don‘t click suspicious links – get emails directly from store.steampowered.com.
  • Ignore scam messages from fake Steam admins or friends.
  • Check https://help.steampowered.com if you suspect issues.

Additionally, I recommend reviewing your Steam account recovery options in Settings in case you ever get locked out or your password is lost. This adds protection.

Steam‘s Revenue Share and Pricing Model

You might be wondering – how does Steam make money when the platform itself is free? Their revenue comes from taking a commission on game sales made through Steam.

Here is a breakdown of how it works:

  • Steam takes 30% of the base price from each game sold.
  • The game developer/publisher receives the remaining 70%.
  • For big hits grossing over $50M, Steam lowers their cut to 20%.

This model allows Steam to earn substantial revenue while also providing developers with a 70% share. It aims to keep developers invested in selling through Steam.

However, developers can also generate Steam keys and sell them on other sites to avoid the 30% commission. This is why you may see Steam games cheaper on other stores.

Overall, I believe Steam strikes the right balance – they provide immense value to gamers and developers, justifying their share of sales.

The Risk of Losing Access to Steam Purchases

While extremely rare, there is a possibility of losing access to Steam games you previously purchased. This can happen for reasons like:

  • The developer loses rights to the intellectual property.
  • Legal disputes arise forcing the removal of a game.
  • The developer ceases support and distribution for a title.
  • Multiplayer servers are taken offline by the publisher.

If this unlikely scenario occurs, you may qualify for a refund on recently purchased games. However, legacy titles you‘ve owned for a while likely won‘t get refunded.

My advice is to redeem Steam keys for purchases whenever possible. This gives you ownership as a backup. And enjoy your gaming library while you have access!

Closing Thoughts on Steam

I hope this guide has given you a comprehensive overview demonstrating the value Steam provides us gamers. The service is completely free and packs a ton of useful functionality.

Yes – you need to buy games separately. But Steam enables us to track achievements, connect with friends, unlock trading cards, join group chats, and stay up-to-date on the latest releases. All for the low cost of free!

While no service is perfect, Valve has built an amazing platform over 19+ years that remains unmatched in the PC gaming space. I encourage every gamer to sign up for Steam and explore the vast universe of gaming possibilities now available to you.

Happy gaming my friend!