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Left 4 Dead 2 Goes Free and Crashes Steam

As one of the most awesome Christmas presents we could get, the computer game Left 4 Dead 2 went free on Steam. This was only for a period of a day, but it was still a very welcome surprise. And it was so popular that Steam had problems keeping its servers up during this period!

What is Left 4 Dead 2?

If you do not already know what the game is, it is a first person shooter for the computer that is based on the zombie apocalypse. If you have seen or heard of Resident Evil, it is really about the same genre, with the difference being that it is in first person (as opposed to third) and it is also multiplayer (with up to four people total per team, or eight total if you are doing the player vs player modes). The goal behind it is to make your way to safety, while taking on hordes of undead zombies. As its name would imply, you are simply “left for dead” and it is up to you to ensure you and your team stay safe. The game is intense, and it can be a little scary if you are playing with the lights off, but it is a blast to play! Not to mention it has multiple game play modes that let you play the way you want.

Normal Pricing?

The normal price of Left 4 Dead 2 is $9.99. For Christmas, however, the game was absolutely free. There was one trick to it, though, which is that it had to be installed within a 24 hour period of the freebie starting or you would have to pay full price. This meant no creating new accounts to claim the free game and sell them, but it also led to another problem: those with slower Internet connections might not have been able to claim the free game either. It is not clear as to whether or not you had to completely finish installing the game; all we know is that they said it has to be “installed.” I think, or at least would hope, that if someone were in the process of installing it when the timer went off that they would still be able to keep the free game. Regardless, though, floods of people got it!

Steam Goes Down

Steam went down over and over during the sale. It affected the website (which would time out) and the Steam client itself. In fact, if you were trying to log in to Steam so you could play a game that is not even related to Left 4 Dead 2, you were out of luck. You would have to sit there spamming the log in and hope that you eventually got through. And even if you did, getting past the entrance of the client could be tough as well due to all the server crashing. In my case, I spent a couple hours trying to get the game added to my account before I finally gave it a break to try again later. After a while, I gave it another go and was able to get it added and installed.

My install actually went pretty quick (at around 3 MB/s), but some were not so lucky. There were people with 100 MB/s connections that were at the sub MB speed on their downloads. It is possible that this is because I ended up on a different patching or download server, or it could simply be a location thing. In any case, mine went fast and smooth. I have played the game many times since the sale closed, and it is still free! One of the most awesome Christmas presents there is, and it did not even require leaving the house.

Hopes for the Future

I can not help but think that Steam had to know how popular this game was going to be. We all love free stuff, but Left 4 Dead is also pretty well known among gamers. Preparing for the massive influx of downloads and visits should have been done prior to releasing the freebie. With the servers being up and down for hours, that did not seem to happen. It caused a lot of us to almost give up completely on the game (I figured if my latest attempt did not work I would give it one more late at night and give up after that), as well as Steam itself. And I feel extremely bad for people who already had Left 4 Dead 2 or were simply trying to play other games on Steam or log in to see their friends. With the server going down as much as it was, pretty much nobody could get on unless they wasted all of their time trying over and over. This was not a good part of the service, and I can not help but to think that maybe releasing this on Christmas was a bad idea (being that presumably a lot of people were off work at Steam so they could not fix any issues that arose, plus most people were at home for the holidays which meant more clients). Even so, I do hope that Steam has learned from this situation and will release similar offers in the future, with more time and effort spent preparing for the problems before they occur.

Conclusion

Steam gave us gamers one of the greatest gifts this Christmas: Left 4 Dead 2. This was a one day sale, but anyone who got the game added to their account and downloaded it gets to keep it forever. When we look at Steam sales, we often see things that are 50% off; it is rare to see anything that is absolutely free, regardless as to how long that window is for. This made it very special to us. On the down side, Steam's servers going down all the time caused problems for people trying to get in on the promotion on time, as well as their paying customers that were just trying to get in to their other games or visit with their friends. The server problems caused frustration among people that were both free customers and paid, and I truly hope that Steam has learned from the (possibly) bad timing and lack of preparing and will not allow this down fall to happen again in the future. From someone who got in on the free game, I must still say thank you Steam!

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