Streaming on Steam – Looking at Selection & Functionality

Steam Has Video Content?

Note:  this article was written 7/19/2018. Some points made in this article may be irrelevant as the service is updated for those of you viewing this in future land.

When most people think Steam they think videos games like Portal or the Half-life series, but today I’ll be taking a look at their video streaming service that’s built right into their platform. I aim to look at their streaming selection, pricing, and functionality. Recently I was inspired to use the service while watching the anime, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju since you can’t legal purchase the show outside of the Steam platform so it seemed like a good time to also write this article.

Pros & Cons Quick Overview

Here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons of using Steam for video content. Specifically streaming since they have largely abandoned downloadable film for offline viewing.

Pros:

  • Convenience – Video is right there alongside your games for easy use.
  • Pricing – Outside of film, the pricing is very fair. Usually cheaper or comparable to disk prices.
  • Video Player – Surprisingly good. Works better than some players for more established services. Fairly comprehensive options.
  • Exclusives – Normally, this is a pretty big con but some of these exclusives are for things that will NEVER get a physical release. Examples being some anime titles and documentaries.

Cons:

  • Film Selection – Simply abysmal. Mostly B-content and gaming documentaries now. Nothing against that on its own, but they seem to have given up on title acquisition for anything that might matter to a wider audience here.
  • Subtitles & Language Tracks – Outside of anime and a very select few titles, subtitles don’t exist even if the original product has them. Language is typically English or Japanese with regards to anime specifically. Live-action TV shows seem to be the only real exception to this but still generally lack English subtitles.
  • Pricing (Specifically Film, See Above) – Film is usually too expensive unless you want a 48 hour rental.
  • Offline Viewing – There isn’t any. You MUST have an internet connection for video content, even if you own it.

How it Works

When you decide to stream something on Steam it is actually super simple. First, you purchase the title you want to have for viewing, then it is permanently added (or you can choose to rent films for 48 hours) to your account just like any game, lastly, you select the video for streaming when you are ready to watch under the, “videos” tab in the Steam client just like you would for a game.

Once you select the video you want, or episode in the case of a TV show, a player will pop up and begin playing your selected title after a few seconds. Even with my poor internet connection I can still manage to stream no problem but I do have to accept lower quality since I can’t do HD.

The player itself is surprisingly good. If the video has multiple audio tracks, you can switch between them with ease. Video quality can be adjusted to as low as 360p and as high as 1080p for most of the content they offer. There is also an audio option for stereo to something else, but for the videos I have access to that seems to just be there for visual consistency. Lastly, there is a playback speed button for people who want to watch things at half to double speed for whatever reason.

Of course, your standard features are there too. Unlike some streaming services, they do also have a jump forward or backward 30 second button (perfect for skipping recap or opening sequences on a show if desired) as well as a button to play the next episode of something so you don’t have to exit the player. These features may seem obvious but you’d be surprised by how many things don’t have these properly implemented across their various platforms.

The last thing I want to mention is that subtitles appear to function properly for things that have them. Most things don’t outside of anime, but some do. I’m not really sure why this is the case but if you need subtitles and aren’t going to watch anime, than this is going to be an automatic killer for you.

Video Selection

Steam offers a variety of streaming content from live-action television series like, Mad Men, web series like Roster Teeth’s, Camp Camp, films like, Saw, and anime. To be frank their film selection is pretty horrible. They seemed to be really into it when they first rolled out the service around 2015 but have since not made much effort to acquire quality films.

Here’s a list of what films they have that we’ve reviewed:

I included a list for the films section to really illustrate how few titles they actually have in terms of film. If you are a regular at Jon Spencer Reviews then you’d know we have fairly comprehensive coverage of film thanks to contributor Jacob. Between him and myself, we even take a look at older titles, so this lack of film selection is pretty laughable.

As for everything else, the selections seem to be a lot better. TV still isn’t fantastic but they have enough quality programming there that you’ll surely find a few gems to your liking. The inclusion of web series is nice but that’s something that most people will take or leave. This combined section is fairly solid.

Lastly, on the anime front, Crunchyroll seemingly randomly gives Steam the rights to various shows each season. Steam has a few exclusives like Rakugo and The Lost Village which makes this the healthiest of the segments. This is largely due to the fact that it is updated semi-regularly and the few select exclusives for those that like to own media they enjoy.

Pricing

When it comes to pricing some things are better than others. Film is probably the worst offender since the price doesn’t seem to go down with time. Some of the ones I listed above would be cheaper to buy on Blu-ray than purchase to own in a stream-only format here. Still, it is convenient to have videos attached to your account since you can access it practically everywhere without having to carry around disks. However, renting film is great value ranging from $3.99-$4.99 for most titles.

When it comes to TV and anime, the value proposition increases dramatically. Some TV they offer is cheaper on disk but Steam bundles episodic content in such a way that it is generally comparable or better value than a physical copy. This is particularly true of anime series on the platform. Disks can cost upwards of $40 dollars for some anime and here you can get shows as cheaply as $13.5.

Final Verdict

Steam isn’t my go-to place for streaming or video content but for some things I will definitely be using it. Mainly, this is great for anime and some TV shows that are just too expensive elsewhere or simply unavailable in any other format. Amazon will still be my number one stop for video content I want to own digitally and sites like VRV are better for streaming the kind of content I usually watch, but Steam is still something worth using from time-to-time.


I want to take a second to mention that I have a Steam curator page where I review both video content and games, some of which are exclusive to my Steam curator page. Please give that a follow for said reviews and to help me out, I’d really appreciate it.

Have you used Steam for video content or only for games? Do you think they should even offer video content in the first place? Let me know in the comments below. If you like the content I’m making here and want to support the site financially a bit, please click the button below to donate a few dollars. Thank you, as always, for reading and I hope to see you back here at Jon Spencer Reviews again soon!

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7 thoughts on “Streaming on Steam – Looking at Selection & Functionality

  1. I’d never checked out the video content on steam so thanks for that. Still, if you have to have an internet connection and most the stuff is available on Crunchyroll (which from the titles I found that I liked, they are) then there really isn’t any point in paying for it unless it disappeared from the other service that I’m already paying for. It would be different if it could be off-line content because then I’d see the value in it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I figured most hadn’t and I was curious enough so thought there was some value in checking it out. Totally understandable. I see some value in this, your example is one such instance, but largely I agree. The one big plus is that the player is really good.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think most streaming services are going to have to get into the off-line content gig if they are really going to get a larger Australian audience. My biggest issue with paying subscriptions is that whenever I travel in country, there are large chunks of time when I can’t access any of my content because I either have no internet or the internet is far too slow to stream video. I’d be more inclined to subscribe to a service or to pay for content that I could use offline and would definitely jump ship from some of my existing subscriptions is such a service came around.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah, I feel like if Steam offered the offline viewing that a lot of people would jump on board. The only service I can think of that lets me do that here in the US is VRV and it doesn’t always work anyway…

          Liked by 1 person

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