The venerable Windows XP — which will be old enough to vote next year — and the rather contentious Windows Vista operating systems, are losing support from one of the world’s largest gaming platforms.
Microsoft stopped supporting either of these platforms several years ago, and even their successor, Windows 7, is on its last legs as far as support is concerned. Regardless, Windows XP, if not Vista, is still a very popular OS and is still in use all over the world.
Valve, the operators of Steam, a gaming platform with over 100 million users, has announced that they will be dropping support for Windows XP and Vista by year end. While it’s true that XP users make up a fraction of 1 percent of Steam’s userbase, that still amounts to over 275,000 users.
This is very sad because some of the most popular games on Steam, including Counter-Strike, don’t need a newer operating system.
Valve’s excuse for this security. They claim that the Steam client relies on a version of Google Chrome that is not supported by XP or Vista. The client will also require “Windows feature and security updates only present in Windows 7 and above”.
XP and Vista users will be able to use Steam for the remainder of the year, but only with limited functionality.
A step like this is a stark reminder that we no longer own apps and games in the traditional sense. If you had the original CD, you could easily fire up a copy of Half-Life on even Windows 98. You wouldn't have an entity like Steam restricting your freedom in such a fashion.
Valve’s decision is understandable from a security standpoint, but how does one reconcile the fact that 275,000 users will be deprived of a game library that they spent their hard-earned money on? It’s not impossible for Valve to build a Steam client, maybe even an offline one, for Windows XP and Vista users, but it’s unlikely that Valve will ever do that.
When Microsoft eventually drops support for Windows 7, or Valve hits a switch and turns evil, what does one do about their game library? To a gamer, those games are worth more than the money they spent. I’ve personally sunk thousands of hours into various games over the years, am I supposed to give up on all that hard-earned progress on someone else’s whim?
If you are in such a quandary, I’d recommend migrating your library to GOG.com. GOG is a store that offers DRM-free games to its users, in other words, it works on trust. DRM-free means that the game is not tied to any service like Steam. Users are free to install games on their machines if they meet the minimum requirements for said games.
Better yet, GOG is currently running a GOG connect program, where users can migrate participating games from Steam to their GOG library. You will lose your save data, but a bit of Googling should put you on the right track. It’s little consolation to affected users, but it’s better than nothing.
Don’t get me wrong, Windows XP and Vista, and even Windows 7, are by now a security nightmare that’s being held together with a lot of duct-tape. Windows 10 has its issues, but those issues are unlikely to outweigh the security nightmare that these older platforms represent.
That said, Steam’s decision to completely ditch its older users is unfortunate.