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Recently, while explaining exactly what Steam is and what its benefits are, someone asked me: "But what happens if Steam went bankrupt all of a sudden and you couldn't access the platform anymore?".

Which got me thinking what would happen in that case. Do you lose ownership of all your games? Or is there currently already a way to claim games you bought on Steam somewhere else?

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closed as off-topic by TZHX, kalina, Kappei, Billy Mailman, Frank Mar 7 at 13:38

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It's highly unlikely that Steam will be going anywhere for a while yet, but in the case that it does happened I'd hope they would provide a patch to let you download your games and run everything offline. –  tombull89 Mar 7 at 10:02
    
That's one solution, though it might be problematic in case one has an excessive number of games and needs to download and persist all of them in a limited time scope. –  acalypso Mar 7 at 10:03
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This question appears to be off-topic because it is about guessing what would happen in a hypothetical scenario and speculation on the future. –  TZHX Mar 7 at 10:41
    
I'm sorry but seeing the quality of the answers I do not believe it's just guessing, I believe it's a valid point of concern that others may have as well. –  Anzeo Mar 7 at 10:49
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Question is a about accessing Steam games without Steam. It has nothing to do with hypothetical scenarios - this is fully covered by Valve legal statements (Steam EULA). These can obviously change in future (as well as Steam going down, etc.), but this matter is not actually discussed here. I believe the question has an educational value, as many users are unaware of such aspects of digital distribution in general. –  acalypso Mar 7 at 11:22

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Steam is a digital distribution service platform, which in practice means the games are leased to users only on Steam, without granting them any kind of real ownership or ability to run the software outside of Steam.

In particular, below is an excerpt from Steam Subscription Agreement:

  1. LICENSES

A. General Software License

Steam and your Subscription(s) require the automatic download and installation of Software onto your computer. Valve hereby grants, and you accept, a limited, terminable, non-exclusive license and right to use the Software for your personal, non-commercial use (except where commercial use is expressly allowed herein or in the applicable Subscription Terms) in accordance with this Agreement, including the Subscription Terms. The Software is licensed, not sold. Your license confers no title or ownership in the Software. To make use of the Software, you must have a Steam Account and you may be required to be running the Steam client and maintaining a connection to the Internet.

The Software is defined at the beginning of the license:

  1. REGISTRATION AS A SUBSCRIBER; APPLICATION OF TERMS TO YOU; YOUR ACCOUNT

Steam is an online service offered by Valve.

You become a subscriber of Steam ("Subscriber") by installing the Steam client software and completing the Steam registration. This Agreement takes effect as soon as you indicate your acceptance of these terms.

As a Subscriber you may obtain access to certain services, software and content available to Subscribers. The Steam client software and any other software, content, and updates you download or access via Steam, including but not limited to Valve or third-party video games and in-game content, and any virtual items you trade, sell or purchase in a Steam Subscription Marketplace are referred to in this Agreement as “Software”; the rights to access and/or use any services, Software and/or content accessible through Steam are referred to in this Agreement as "Subscriptions."

Source: http://store.steampowered.com/subscriber_agreement/

In case of retail games requiring Steam to play, Steam is in practice a DRM system, which aims to eliminate piracy and game trading in exchange for a host of online features (multiplayer, achievements, updates, etc.).

Again, to reiterate - there is no game ownership here, you do not physically own the game. What Steam users own is the right to use the software on Steam as defined in license, and there is no automatic/built-in way to play the games outside of Steam (some developers may grant such possibilities, but it is not a concern of Steam/Valve).

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Thanks for your answer! Doesn't the Software in this case refer to the Steam client? –  Anzeo Mar 7 at 9:50
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See the updated answer. –  acalypso Mar 7 at 9:55
    
You might also want to see this question: gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/82529/… –  acalypso Mar 7 at 9:58
    
Ouch. That's harsh if you think about it. Let's just hope they never close up shop :) –  Anzeo Mar 7 at 10:03
    
Steam appears rock solid currently, but there are quite a large number of smaller digital distribution services, and these seem more risky. But again, it's a problem for every kind of online-provided content. –  acalypso Mar 7 at 10:05

There is no way to legitimately download Steam versions of games outside of the Steam client.

If and when it happens that Valve need to close up shop entirely, then you are going to lose access to installing anything you don't already have installed. There may or may not be any advance warning before this happens; this would depend on the reason they close.

Offline mode should theoretically allow you to keep running previously installed games (as long as it keeps working), at least as long as you don't switch PCs. Outside of that, some games do actually run perfectly fine without Steam, but for those that don't, you would either need a crack or some other way of tricking the game into thinking Steam is running.

A few games - mostly MMORPGs - have you register a separate account, and those games already allow you to download a Steam-free copy from their own site. Other than that, there aren't generally any legitimate ways to recover Steam games as non-Steam games (unless, of course, you bought the game as a Steam Key + DRM-free download).

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