Steam is a unique case, a strange hybrid of an online game e-shop and a platform for managing and launching your favorite games. And, if you so wish, other media and programs. Valve’s creation has many fans, who used to say they wouldn’t replace it with anything. But that doesn’t mean it is perfect with no room for improvement.
Augmented Steam is an extension for the two most popular browsers, Chrome and Firefox. It wakes up and starts working whenever we visit the Valve store through those browsers, transmutating it behind the scenes. The result is the Steam we all know, but better, friendlier, and in the long run, cheaper.
Some of the useful additions Augmented Steam slaps on Steam are:
- Price comparison based on data from many popular online stores
- Lowest available price and historically lowest price displayed for each title
- Game scores from OpenCritic and MetaCritic on each title’s page
- HowLongToBeat.com estimates on the time it takes to complete a title
- “Ignored” titles being hidden from search results
To install Augmented Steam, search for it through your browser’s extensions/add-ons store. Or visit its official site and click the button corresponding to your browser to visit Augmented Steam’s official entry in one of the two browser stores. Install it like any other extension/add-on for your browser.
Accept your browser’s security warning that Augmented Steam will access your data on the Steam and IsThereAnyDeal sites.
Configuration and usage
Before you start using it, go through all the configuration options of Augmented Steam. To do so, visit the list of add-ons on your browser, and from there, Augmented Steam’s options.
Augmented Steam provides a wide variety of options and parameters that allow you to change the way it operates, select which modifications you’d like it to apply on Steam, and even change the colors it will use to “mark” some titles.
While it’s worth looking at all the options, we find most of the defaults to be adequate for most users. The only things we would – and did – change are:
- GENERAL: Open external links in a new tab > ON
- GENERAL: Show “View in library” button for owned games > ON
- Options for information from 3rd party sites: Show WSGF (Widescreen) info > ON
- PRICE: Disable Auto-detect and select desired primary currency
If you visit Steam now, you won’t immediately see any significant changes. Unless you notice the tiny new menu that appears near Steam’s upper-right corner, giving quick access to Augmented Steam’s options, its GitHub page, its official site, etc. Practically, though, it does not affect or play a role in its daily use, and you’ll probably never even click it after noticing “it’s there.”
The most important and useful addition shows up when you visit any game’s page. Just below the top slideshow and right above the game’s title, you’ll see the best price for the title as found on other competing sites. Just below this, you’ll see the title’s historically lowest price.
How come that’s useful? In the first case, it’s obvious: If a title has a lower price elsewhere, you can buy it from there. It’s worth noting how many of those alternative-to-Steam stores also offer Steam keys. In such cases, after purchasing a game on a different store and getting a Steam key to go with it, you’ll be able to return to Steam and “activate it” there. The result will be the same as if you originally bought it on Steam.
A “historically low price” might seem more like a tease, a lost opportunity, since it usually shows a drastically lower price than what you’ll have to pay now to get a title.
If you think about it, a low historical price means that the title, if you’re willing to play the long waiting game, can and probably will be available much cheaper, again, sometime in the future – perhaps during the next Steam sale. In other words, if you don’t want the title here and now, your wallet will thank you for waiting.
Leave the mouse pointer hovering above the title price, and you’ll see how it fluctuates between different countries. A dramatic difference in its price in one country can be a good indication that a similar reduction will soon appear elsewhere. Again, in such cases it’s worth playing the waiting game instead of buying the actual game itself.
If you check out the informational panels on the right side of Steam, you’ll see some new entries among the familiar crowd. One of them is a direct link to the game’s page on IsThereAnyDeal, the site from where Augmented Steam pulls its price data. Right after it, in the same info panel, you’ll find links to Steam Database and PCGamingWiki, with the latter being more useful for the majority of people. There you can find information on the title’s compatibility with newer operating systems, and instructions, tips, and tools to help it run at its best.
In the game’s details panel, where you can see if it’s single or multi-player, supports Steam Workshop, etc., you will also see a more vivid notice about any “content protection” used in the title. It was already there, but Augmented Steam makes it pop out more to make sure you don’t miss it in case you want to avoid such “annoyances.”
Protections and Digital Rights Management (DRM) are good for protecting a game creator’s rights on the title but can become a significant problem for everyone who only wants to enjoy a game. Just ask anyone who’s bought Darkspore, only to have its box gathering dust on a shelf since the game is unplayable today, thanks to its online protection not being as “online” anymore. Or try playing any game with the latest (back then) versions of the SafeDisc and TAGES protections on anything newer than Windows XP on a PC without optical drives and prepare for a royal headache.
If a game you want comes with a copy protection you’d rather avoid, you can either forget about it or check if it’s available on GOG. The GOG store has a policy of not carrying any titles with DRM.
In the cases of games re-released through it, their team tries to strip any DRM while offering upgraded compatibility with newer systems.
Apart from the above, you’ll also be able to check at a glance the title’s ratings at MetaCritic, UserScore, and OpenCritic. This is extra useful during shopping spree, when your wallet’s run dry and you barely have enough funds for only one out of two games. The games score on those sites might end up being what helps you choose one over the other.
Similarly useful, the HowLongToBeat info gives a ballpark figure of how much time you’ll have to invest in a game to complete it. If it’s a frantic period in your life, with not much time for gaming, you should probably avoid cases like the Witcher series (over 100 hours each)!
Augmented Steam makes lots of small, barely noticeable changes and doesn’t look that of an improvement after you install it and revisit Steam. Soon, though, the features it adds become indispensable, bit by bit, elevating the whole experience of using Steam’s site.
Like most of us who are already using Augmented Steam, you’ll probably appreciate its usefulness only when, after using it for some time and for some reason, you’ll have to browse Steam’s site without it.