Digi Retailers Drop Modern Warfare 2

By Jim Rossignol on November 6th, 2009 at 11:33 am.


The Big K has news that the major digital download services are boycotting troubled enormo-shooter Modern Warfare 2 because of the inclusion of Valve’s Steamworks. Apparently Direct2Drive were first out with the news, saying they had “told publishers that they’d stop selling games bundled in such a manner until Valve “decoupled its retail marketplace” from Steam’s other services.”

GamersGate and Impulse will also be boycotting the title for the same reason. The implications of this aren’t clear. Does it play into Valve’s hands and given them an even larger grip on the market? Or is this the bell tolling for Steam’s retail service as a part of Valve’s gaming community?

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209 Comments »

  1. Mike says:

    This seems like a massive foot-shooting by the digital retailers. I’m not saying a monopoly is good, it’s not, but I really think that this will do them a lot of harm, in the Christmas season of all times.

  2. ChaosSmurf says:

    Yeah, I don’t see why devs/pubs won’t just go “okay we’ll use the better integrated/more popular/more tested/prove track record/etc service instead of you guys”.

  3. James G says:

    Owch. Understandable on the part of other retailers, but this is going to seriously damage the uptake of Steamworks. Of course, Steamworks was always intended as a vector of getting Steam installed on more systems, and thus making the Steam store more easily availible to a wider customer base. If Valve were to decouple the two services, this would remove one of their primary drives for creating and supporting steam works in the first place.

    I suppose Valve may be tempted to introduce a ‘Steam lite’ client, which could be bundled with Steamworks games independently of the main steam client. It would appear to act against their best interests, however may be more desireable than the loss of developers that would otherwise occur when they realise their market is constricted. Whether such a move would be sufficient to placate other retailers however is another matter.

    • ascagnel says:

      It will damage the uptake of Steamworks, but it won’t make Valve release a “lite” version. My understanding (based on reading reports of general assumptions) is that Valve has cornered the market for Digital Distribution. If they hadn’t, why else would there be concerns like those from Randy Pitchford (Borderlands, Gearbox: Valve has too much power). I think Valve is more concerned about getting Steam in front of the people who don’t use any online service and only shop brick & mortar.

  4. CMaster says:

    Immediate reaction is that it only seems to play into Valve’s hands.
    That said, you can see why the other portals are annoyed.
    Though didn’t valve say that devs could use Steamworks “transparently” so that players wouldn’t have to ever actually run or know about Steam themselves?

  5. Rick says:

    Well, get ready for another huge amount of complaints going “can’t work spyware Steam on my computer!!11, Valve sux”, as we seem to get from the unwashed masses for every major game release on Steam, from Half-Life 2 to Empire: Total War earlier this year.

  6. Satellite says:

    I am not so sure about that – there are many people who are uncomfortable with Steam’s method of DRM and requiring an online connection (Yeah I know it can be set to offline) and others that out of principle just do not feel comfortable tying their games a Steam account.

    I think it is going to hurt Activision just as much as it will the digital retailers and consumers. Besides can you blame them – Steam is a competitor service and if all the online game retailers protest eventually they are likely to be heard one way or another.

    BTW I buy the vast majority of my games from Steam – but competition is needed to keep Valve in check.

    • Mike says:

      Looking at the bestsellers list for Amazon/Steam, it seems like most MW2 are being bought in hardcopy anyway. So I’m not really sure where this is going. It’s possible they’re trying to play on Valve’s good PR in an attempt to appear like they’re being bullied by Steam.

      Fairly sure Steamworks doesn’t ahve to be fully integrated with Steam. I think it just /is/ because developers like the platform.

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      not to mention offline mode is horribly implemented and never actually is enabled when you NEED it to be, for example if your internet suddenly stops working and you just want to play some fear2 single player.

    • Jad says:

      Yeah offline mode is really annoying. I just moved to a new apartment and don’t have an internet connection set up yet. Of course I forget to set Steam to offline mode before I move so now I can’t play half my games.

      Now, I knew that this kind of thing was what I was getting into when I started using Steam, and I knew that I was supposed to go to offline mode before shutting down my internet, but what about the less computer-savvy customers that Valve is undoubtedly trying to get?

  7. Tei says:

    So this how wars start?

    • Tei says:

      Old Internet wisdow:
      Internet was designed to be open, and for openess. Any attemp to build “small gardens” are doomed.

      My own positive feelings:
      But I have to admit that I happy lalala to live in Steamgarden.

      My own negative feelings:
      I hope me (and my 95 games) are not banned… I can lost all of it if a valve employee (or a employee of a company hired by valve) click the wrong button.

      I know wen I buy on Steam,… I am buying convenience, and not games. Games are free in a torrent site.

    • Jonas says:

      I wish I lived in Steamgarden. It sounds awesome. Do you have your own air ship, Tei?

    • Azazel says:

      Is this like the ‘That Mitchell and Webb Look’ sketch were every TV show has it’s own garden?

    • Tei says:

      yes, and yes.

  8. Cheezey says:

    Personally I’d much rather have any game I bought digitally via Steam than any of those, even to the point of paying slightly more just for the sake of having it on steam.

    I understand the conflict of interest argument against Valve, but it sure as hell does sound like a lot of sour grapes on the part of the other services.

    I’d be nice to see the PC platform have one unified place for all of the things like Battle.net/Steamworks/Xfire/Raptr, which any DD service can plug into, providing a more competitive marketplace and giving the feeling of having a unified platform compared to say something like Live. However, seeing as each company wants to control its own setup/distribution channel (if they have one) I can’t see it happening.

    • Baboonanza says:

      'Personally I’d much rather have any game I bought digitally via Steam than any of those, even to the point of paying slightly more just for the sake of having it on steam.'
      I’ve bought from Impulse, GamersGate and Steam (since I generally buy on price), and I have exactly the opposite feeling.
      A) I don’t like having to run additional services just to play a game. True, it doesn’t take long to start Steam but now I’m running my games of an SSD it actually takes longer than loading the game!
      B) Steam has the only form of DRM that has ever, ever, prevented me from playing a game. All you get is a conpletely useless ‘The game failed to initialise’ or some bollocks. I no longer trust Steam to let me play games I own.
      Compare the above to my GamersGate experience:
      - Download and run the installer
      - Enter CD key (copy and paste from account page)
      - No further connection necessary. Ever.
      I'm not a Steam hater by any means, but it is neither the cheapest or the most convenient service IMO, and more competition is welcomed.
      Edit: Why does editing my post in the forum strip all empty lines? grr

    • cliffski says:

      Be careful what you wish for though. The best thing about the PC is that it is the only true open platform with no single point of control, censorship or price-setting.
      World of Goo can be sold with a pick-your-own-price because of this. Mods can be distributed freely because of this. And competition between online stores keeps prices sane.
      Plus little indie devs can actually sell *direct* to their customers, easily. It also means that people who want to can do obscure games about suicide bombers, or arty games that are off the wall, or niche games like hex-based wargames or political sim games, without having to ‘pitch’ their idea to a portal.

      This is all good stuff.

      Steam are good guys, but imagine a future where Microsoft buy valve for a billion dollars next week.
      Still happy?

    • Riesenmaulhai says:

      If I was Microsoft, I’d totally do that. Despite the fact that I would never ever be allowed to bundle a game with steam in Europe (i.e. IE)

    • Cheezey says:

      @Baboonanza

      I think Steam certainly has room for improvement. I’ve always had the lingering feeling it has been rather shaky at best when it comes to product launches, certainly in the case of popular titles.

      @cliffski

      Good point, well made. My desire in that area is more so related to the single friends-list aspect than anything else, or at least one that most people who would use. At the moment I feel like i’m using 7 different programs/services to keep in touch with people who all like using something different.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      Buying things from Steam even if they’re slightly more expensive is stupid and self-defeating. Steam is one of the more heavily DRMed DD services around and is not immune to problems by any stretch. It’s customer service is also lack-luster. Unless you have a hard-on for Steam achievements (in which case buy a console, you’ll love it) I can’t see any logical reason to buy from Steam when it’s more expensive to do so, it offers no advantages over Impulse whereas you can run games bought on Impulse without the Impulse client and without being connected to the internet, both big pluses in my book.

      My Steam collection is huge but I’ve never conned myself into buying something at a higher price on Steam when I could get a hard-copy or use another DD service and save both money and time.

    • Walsh says:

      Uh Direct2Drive is way more heavily DRM’d than Steam. You’ll notice most mods that require changes to the way the application launches (like FOSE for Fallout) do not work with Direct2Drive versions of the game because of the nature of their DRM. When it did break with Steam, the Steam developers actually took steps to make it work.

      Plus Direct2Drive has a clunky activation system vs Steam where most games you don’t have to worry about activating it.

  9. Persus-9 says:

    Gutsy move by D2D et al but I can’t help feeling they should pick their battles more carefully since they aren’t going to win this one. Still I guess it does send a very loud clear message to all devs since if they’ve got the guts to pass on the chance to sell CoD then they’ve got the guts to pass on anything.

  10. monchberter says:

    Handbags. Sheer handbags.

  11. Carra says:

    Understandable. It’s not proper to force your users to install steams store to be able to play a game.

    In the short run they’ll loose some profit but if they can decouple games from steam then in the long run they’ll increase their profits.

  12. monchberter says:

    From Valve’s perspective, they should just perhaps nip this one in the bud and have the ‘Store’ tab and sales messages in Steam as an option rather than set part of the rest of Steam. Toggle whether it appears at all when you install and the job’s a good ‘un.

  13. Big X says:

    Hang on, doesn’t steam already have something daft like 20m users already? Which is probably far more than all of the other portals combined (geddit?), so this is only hurting idiots kicking up a fuss. I suppose if Games for Windows actually worked, Steam wouldn’t be the main platform on which gamers chat and game with each other, then we wouldn’t have this mess

  14. Schmung says:

    Wow. CoD is certainly giving a vast number of people reasons to get angry.

  15. Sp4rkR4t says:

    Oh no, services I would never use in place of Steam anyway are removing an option I would never use and therefore help their largest competitor.

  16. Starky says:

    Meh, this is akin to Lidl and Aldi saying to Kelloggs (or some other large grocery brand) “We’re not going to sell your product unless you stop selling it at Tesco”.

    No company looking to sell their product is going to refuse Tesco’s for some smaller and weaker retail outlet.

    I foresee Activision just telling them to like it or lump it.

    Hell if I was Activision I’d just go “You know what? Fine, We’ll be pulling every single one of our games from your retail outlet effective immediately.”
    See how long their silly little boycott would last then if the largest publisher in the game refused to deal with them while they boycotted.

    Steam offers a better deal (mostly) to consumers, and publishers – it offers vastly better service for publishers, in terms of sales tracking, included features and such, and is deservedly the largest digital distribution platform.

    Valve with steam are deserving market leaders, adding features to their service to remain leaders and offer users and publishers more in order to maintain that.

    The rest need to put up or shut up, I have no sympathy whatsoever for them.
    With the exception of GoG they all offer a crappy service (or at least zero added value from traditional retail), or a just plain steam clones (impulse).

    • cliffski says:

      Are you speaking from personal experience?
      Unless you have read a distribution and publishing agreement from all the online publishers, you can’t say who gives the best deal.
      And if you have read them, you are under NDA to not reveal them :D

    • Bforge says:

      Ah, the overzealous Valve fanboy speaking out of anything but experience or knowledge.

    • CMaster says:

      Actually, it’s more like Aldi and Lidl stopping selling Kellogg’s cornflakes because it comes with Tesco’s new mail order catalogue inside, that you must unwrap before you get to the cereal.

      Well, that’s the substance of D2D’s argument, anyway.

    • Psychopomp says:

      If I’m not mistaken, Impulse, GoG, and Gamersgate, are all DRM free. I’d say that’s a pretty big boon to them, even though I’m a steam user myself.

      Steams big advantage over the others, from a consumer perspective, is its built in community features. While Impulse has them as well, it’s not exactly like you can ask your friend what his Impulse ID is, as it’s quite unlikely he’s even heard of Impulse.

      D2D is a broken pile of shit, in my experience. I have bought two games with them, both of which are completely unplayable, no matter how many times I try to redownload them. Support just tells me “loldownload is again,” so I finally just demanded a refund.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      Gamersgate is no more DRM free than Direct2Drive is. It’s got a 1 time online activation, just like Direct2Drive. Both are better than steam in terms of their DRM though since neither require a client to run the game, nor a connection to the internet after the initial activation.

    • Magnus says:

      GOG is fully DRM free, Impulse requires online authentication (afaik) and also you have to use the impulse client to get patches etc. GamersGate just requires an online check once you’ve installed or the first time you play (again afaik).

      For me, GOG is the best, but GamersGate has a reasonable system. Not sure I like Impulse locking you in for patches and stuff though, that’s quite similar to Steam.

    • Starky says:

      Half personal, half hearing from others with first hand experience – and you’re correct in that from what I’ve personally read I can’t give details. My personal experience is a few years out of date though, but I do try and keep track of what is going on in the industry and still know a few people).

      Still you’ll know as well as anyone Steam takes a average cut for DD, a cut vastly lower than any brick and mortar retailer would when combined with a traditional publisher (even if the title was self funded).
      The reason I know this is that I used to work for one of those B&M companies, and it was my Job (a few years back now so I’m out of date, decided to get out of retail and go to electrical engineering) to track and compare those things for my chain (first Electronic Boutique, when it still had that name – then Game).

      I was trying to convince upper management at the time that it would be worth their time to start speaking to smaller local Dev studio’s (UK based), and begin offering them direct deals (Assuming they could press the CDs or DVDs themselves (which was easy and cheap enough). Steam wasn’t nearly as successful at the time and most of the other DDs didn’t exist yet. Still the writing was on the wall, and most of the people I spoke too (regional level management, PR execs and so on) knew it.

      Though it’s taken longer than I thought it would have to get rolling – Still it’s going to happen, the PSPgo is just the start.

    • Starky says:

      That above post was in response to cliffsky (none of the others were there when I hit reply :P)

      Oh and FYI I’m no a Valve fanboy (a stupid and mindless accusation spoken only from the mouths of idiots).

      There is plenty wrong with Steam, things that need to be improved in my opinion.
      They should allow multiple logins to the same account to play different games, or implement some kind of sub-account system – It’s frustrating not been able to let a friend (in the same house) play one game on steam while I play another.

      Their pricing model needs to be sorted in Europe – I know they don’t set the prices, the publishers do, but Valve need to put their foot down.

      Also they need to lower their prices generally, they are higher than retail in most cases – so much so I generally only buy from them during sales, or offers.

      Still, had I the choice between Steam and any other digital distribution service at the same price, I’d choose steam.

      Steam friends, steam community, auto-patching, unlimited downloads, easy backup and restoring all add a bit more value than simply buying the game at retail.

      Honestly though, most of the best deals for PC games STILL come from retail, in the form of online only retail websites such as play.com, I buy most of my games physically still because they are cheaper – and often delivery takes less time than AAA games take to download anyway.

    • Psychopomp says:

      tl;dr:”You were quite mistaken, Pomp.”

  17. Bforge says:

    I really doubt this will affect Valve or Activision at all. Steam-only buyers already outnumber D2D and Impulse-only buyers, and many (if not most) buy from all services without bias depending on which one provides the best price.

    For a moment there I thought the DD services were boycotting the game for its recent failures with the PC crowd… how silly of me.

    • Riesenmaulhai says:

      If they were better at marketing, they would have done exactly that.
      If PC gamers are really that annoyed by Infinity Wards decisions, you could wonderfully build up a “pro-pc-gamer”-reputation for your DD-store.

  18. Magnus says:

    I applaud them for it, especially as they are doing this at cost to themselves.

    The steam as DRM, steam as retailer, steam as service issue is a problem for me because I want there to be proper competition in the digital download sector, and I view steamworks inclusion on 3rd party games as being uncompetitive.

    Every paying customer out there should want more real competition, in order to get the best value and the best service.

  19. Psychopomp says:

    So they force their consumers to go buy from their biggest competitor, giving Steam a larger base, and they think this will help them?

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      it doesn’t give steam a larger base, since everyone who buys the game needs steam to run it, just a bigger cut of the profits, just because you’ve got steam installed though doesn’t mean you’re going to buy games on steam though.

    • MrFake says:

      They force the publishers to rethink agreements with distribution portals about the inclusion of software. Activision loses potential market exposure with each portal that drops the game, and any future games. Now Activision may or may not turn to Valve to renegotiate present or future contracts. Valve, in a roundabout way, may be made to separate Steamworks from the marketplace, and the other portals won’t have to sell games with a competitor’s marketplace embedded in them.

      It depends on how willing the publishers are to renegotiate with Valve, of course. i.e. what’s the trade-off for including the marketplace software and is it worth dropping that perk just to be on D2D et al?

  20. Rinox says:

    Even if it sells only one copy less of CoD4: Money-Grab Console Shooter 2 I’ll be a happy man.

  21. Die Happy says:

    great idea, drive away your customers to buy from the competition. really smart move.
    and NOW they are complaining about it, but are still selling dawn of War & Empire: Total War that do the same thing.

    just just silly whining because they lack behind in development of their platforms.

    steam provides:
    DRM
    steam cloud
    auto updates
    achievement stuff (for those who need their e-penis to get bigger)
    steamworks for developers

    none of the other platforms supply any of these services (maybe DRM though)

    you lost the battle and now you cry …

  22. Kadayi says:

    I’ll take Valve over Rupert Murdoch any day. That guy can go eat a dick.

  23. Gap Gen says:

    At what point does a software platform become monopolistic or anti-competitive? If including IE with Windows is anti-competitive, what about introducing a competing OS for the Xbox (PS3 technically comes with Linux, which I’m sure all of 3 people use outside of academia)? And is it purely about size, or can it be applied to smaller companies, like Valve?

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      90% penetration makes you a monopoly under the law at which point you are required to conform to anti monopoly regulation, which is where the ie thing came in, i’m not sure steam has 90% of the market tbh at which point though, they’d be required not to use one product to force the uptake of another, e.g. requiring steam for you to play half life, beyond that they aren’t doing anything anti competitive, that i can see.

    • Baboonanza says:

      I have no doubt that it would be argued that although Steam is near-monopoly in digital distribution it is not a monopoly on overall distribution. It would be very difficult to make any monopoly claim stick.

      And besides – no one but PC gamers care, and no one cares about PC gamers :)

  24. blobulon says:

    I’m not sure what to think of this. Obviously, Steam is a profit-center for Valve, but I’ve seen more and crazier deals on their store than anywhere else on these digital distributors.

    Hell, I got S.T.A.L.K.E.R. for $5. $5! From a consumer standpoint, they get megaprops from me.

    The question you have to ask yourself is: Is the priority of making a profit from Steam primary or secondary to the client service?

  25. The Sombrero Kid says:

    steamworks is decoupled from the store hence you can sell a game with steamworks on a different site. the only difference is steam is bigger than all the others combined, because the service is leagues ahead, i can see their point but there problem is a problem with games as a service, which is what all developers/distributors are doing not just valve.

  26. manintheshack says:

    Apparently Direct2Drive were first out with the news, saying they had “told publishers that they’d stop selling games bundled in such a manner until Valve “decoupled its retail marketplace” from Steam’s other services.”

    If they’re going to demand something as far out as that they could have at least slipped in a bit about dedi servers and player caps as well…

  27. Sagan says:

    I think they are going to lose this battle. Activision won’t budge, because they aren’t going to lose any sales because of this. Because Modern Warfare 2 is popular enough, that people will just buy it from elsewhere. Either from brick and mortar shops, or from Amazon or from Steam. And Activision is stubborn enough, that they wouldn’t care, even if they sold 1000 or 2000 copies less because of this.

    However if D2D and Impulse and Gamersgate persevere, and don’t give up after a month, then this might have implications on future games. No indie game maker will ever dare to make a game that requires Steamworks.

    So even though I think they are going to lose this battle, I think they might win the war. And as has been pointed out before in this thread: I guess that is a good thing for all of us in the long term.

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      that’s bollocks i couldn’t give a flying fuck about direct2drive gamersgate or impulse, they offer me nothing i wont be doing myself, whereas steam has a lot of cool community features, i hope they do become competitive because a monopoly isn’t any good for anyone, but they should focus on improving thier own service.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      Impulse is already a superior service to Steam and just because it doesn’t have a fucking built in chatroom doesn’t make Steam better. Heck Steam friends is annoying as hell, I don’t want to be harrassed when I’m playing games and I have my own vent server for people I actually give a fuck about.

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      impulse is defiantly the best of the rest, but saying it’s superior because it lacks features is just daft, you don’t need to log into steam community or add any friends, you do need to alt tab out of an impulse game if you want to browse the web or check the time, steam even opens this service up to it’s competitors, the didn’t have to.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      To me control of what I do with my games is far more important than in-game instant messaging nonsense. Until I can play any game I download via Steam without having Steam loaded and without an internet connection, then Impulse will be the superior platform. I dislike anything that takes up unnecessary system resources and gets in the way of playing the games I legitimately purchased. DRM is a far bigger issue to me than in-game chat and achievements.

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      that’s a much more compelling argument and one I’m much more inclined to agree with, I’d say valve should’ve mandated that all the games play nice with the offline mode, unfortunately they do not and this is a right pain in the arse.

  28. dontroel says:

    A bold, but intelligent move by those competing digital download sites. I applaud them. They are, of course, not doing this for the customers (though the blurb about ‘protecting users from trojan horses’ in the linked article by D2D (of course) tries to elude to this); they are trying to protect their business’s by trying to fight against a clever move by a big guy. But in doing this, they help keep the playing field fairly level – and this ultimately benefits us, the customers.

    Also, the fact, that Valve/Steam may be widely perceived as ‘a bunch of good guys’ is (as cliffski noted) entirely beside the point. They probably won’t keep that emblem infinitely; and, the flipside of the nuisance in having to trade and maintain a relationship with numerous services with varying levels of flaws, is that we can do exactly that: Pick and choose where we want to buy our stuff.

  29. Monkeybreadman says:

    My thoughts……. without Steam, PC gaming would be in a dark cold empty place….. so cold….

    • Monkeybreadman says:

      WHOOOOPS, I think whats lacking is a third party (preferably a deep pocketed one) with a vested interest in PC gaming. At the moment we have retailers and developers

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      exactly given the choice between valve and gamestop…

      someone like zenimax should get into the Digital Distribution biz they seem to be pretty hands off money lovers.

  30. Binni says:

    It’s WIN for Steam…plain and simple. They get all the business and besides….why don’t the other download services get of their lazy asses and offer something like Steamworks on their services? Also Steam has the best community features by far. Impulse are nice but incomplete but gamersgate and d2d don’t even pretend trying.

  31. Daniel C says:

    Direct2Drive sells Empire, FEAR 2, Saints Row 2, Zeno Clash and more all of which require Steam? How is MW2 any different? Besides being a high-profile game to make a point with.

  32. Rei Onryou says:

    To be honest, I would expect Valve to make a statement about this fairly quickly. Not only that, but to actually work with the other DigiDistributors to come to some agreement. There’s no real reason for them to not do so.

    I wonder how many people Valve will have to fly over in order to settle this latest can of worms…

  33. Craig L says:

    I do the same thing (pay slightly more to have it on steam) most of the time. I like having everything centralised so when I get fed up I just look at a long list of games I have, double click one so it installs, then play it. Lovely.

    Saves logging into different DD services or digging out installers/disks for me. Plus I auto sign-in to steam anyway because I always use it for the overlay.

  34. The Sombrero Kid says:

    i think they should progress to a shared server architechture for authentication tbh, so that no matter which DD service one you’re logged into you can authenticate on another ones server, that’d help smooth things out.

  35. PHeMoX says:

    Bad move on their part as this will undoubtedly mean more Steam sales of Modern Warfare 2 for Valve.

    To be honest, I don’t see a problem with their Steamworks stuff.

  36. Harper says:

    Why would any self respecting PC gamer buy this overpriced crap anyway? They do know they are getting ripped off right?

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      Because they lack self-control and are easily lead.

    • bansama says:

      Well the pricing depends on the region. You consider it overpriced at $60 USD or the pound equivalent, but both of those prices are still cheaper than standard pricing in some countries. I’d happily pay the US price for the game (it’d be cheap for me) but then, I have to wait to see how much higher Square Enix are going to mark up the price. Knowing them, it’ll be set to at least $80 on Steam (if they bother to allow to be sold directly that way) or $100 or more via a limited retail release (and that will be the standard version, not any fancy version with night vision goggles or whatever).

  37. kadayi says:

    I’m interested to see how Activision CEO Bobby Kotick responds to this. With guaranteed money rolling in every month from WoW as well as Diablo 3, & Starcraft waiting in the wings he can probably afford to take the hit of removing all of Activisions back catalogue off all 3 portals if he wanted to.

  38. bansama says:

    Has GamersGate ever sold a game coupled with Steam? I honestly can’t think of one and I know they don’t currently sell any Activision titles.

    But they do sell Red Faction Guerrilla which automatically ties itself to Impulse — it doesn’t seem to actually require Impulse, but then it doesn’t give you a choice as to whether you want to attach it to Impulse or not either.

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      no, gamersgate never sold steam games. the reason red faction guerrilla (and majesty2 and any other goo drm game) is also added to your account on impulse is because of the way goo drm works. wherein you’re supposed to be able to download goo titles for anywhere that sells it as you own a copy of ‘the game’ and not a impulse copy of the game or gamersgate copy of the game specifically. it’s pretty much the ideal solution, while steam is bullshit and horrible. hehe.

    • bansama says:

      In the case of games using Goo though, how does patching work? Are you then forced to patch through the Impulse client (like all Impulse sold games) or is a standalone patch also provided? If there is no standalone patch, then it’s still the same situation as Steam considering that the Impulse client (which must be run to patch Impulse sold games) also comes combined with a store interface.

      But seeing as the only Goo game I have (RFG) doesn’t appear to have a patch yet, I still don’t know how that will work.

  39. RC-1290'Dreadnought' says:

    If you don’t want Valve to have the most power in the pc market, STOP IGNORING THE PC MARKET!
    That should help.

  40. meeper says:

    I think the reasoning is cut and dry for D2D, Stardock, etc: If they offered MW2 via their stores, then they’re giving Valve a direct line to their customers. While many of us interweb savvy people having multiple clients installed, I know of several casual PC gamers who only have Steam or only have Impulse.

    It’s be like Ford stenciling the telephone number of a GM dealership on the hood of each new car they sold.

  41. Andrew J says:

    I discovered one scary thing about Steam yesterday, when my account was disabled for reasons unbeknownst to me. I can no longer play any of my games.e

  42. Andrew J says:

    I discovered one scary thing about Steam yesterday, when my account was disabled for reasons unbeknownst to me. I can no longer play any of my games.

  43. mbp says:

    But…but..but…

    I thought we had all agreed not to buy the PC version of MW2 anyway?

  44. Javier-de-Ass says:

    on the part of gamersgate at least this isn’t a ‘move’ or new turn for this game, they never sold steam anything games on their site. and I have specifically asked them about this before because I fucking hate steam and was afraid one of the games would have a steam something in it that would just annoy the shit out of me.

    in an interesting turn today, gamersgate just added saintsrow2 to their catalogue. a steam free saintsrow2. damn I wish this had come like whenever saintsrow2 come out, early in the year or whenever. would have definitely got this over the horrible retail version that’s completely nailed to steam and worthless on its own.

  45. 1stGear says:

    Nice. “We’re going to refuse to carry MW2, thereby forcing everyone who wants to buy digitally to buy from Steam! That’ll show ‘em!”

  46. Leeks! says:

    I ultimately think it’s a mistake for D2D and others to do this. On one hand, a big, mega-seller like what MW2 is destined to be has the most potential for damage to their respective customer bases via steamworks, but on the other, what they’ve essentially done is made sure that everyone is going to buy this game with steam. It isn’t as though a digital distribution platform can have a stranglehold on ‘X” region or “X” demographic, either: it is very, very easy to simply install one with the features (and the games) that you want, so I doubt it will even have much impact on Infinity Ward’s bottom line.

    So, Valve will sell more games and I doubt Infinity Ward will sell any less. Nothing is made more or less convenient by any significant degree for customers who wish to buy online (and, frankly, I think Steam is the best digidistro platform there is anyway). The only one hurt from this is D2D and the other’s who refuse to sell the game. I think, if you’re a company getting into the digital distribution game, you do so with a certain understanding that you’re doing so in Valve’s house. All of the competitors aligned against Valve are just screaming in the void.

  47. Lilliput King says:

    This is sad day. I want Impulse to be successful. They’re my /favourite/.

    I suppose they must be doing okay, though.

  48. dsmart says:

    This is just silly and they’re just shooting themselves in the foot. There are two sides to this. As someone who has games on Digital River, Steam, Gamers Gate, D2D, Game Streamer, Metaboli/GameTap, Real Netoworks (+700 affliliates) etc – but not Impulse (guess why that is), here is my take on what is really going on.

    Publishers don’t have to us Steam for distribution. But if you want your games on their marketplace, you have to use it. This is no different from Microsoft enforcing Games For Windows compliance where you can pick and choose how far you want to go – though you have to be in some mandatory compliance regardless.

    With Steam, all you need to have games on there, is to use their SteamWorks wrapper. You do NOT have to use their DRM (SteamWorks CEG) as that is optional – just like leaderboards, Stream Cloud, voice chat etc etc. You only have to use the Steamworks wrapper which is mandatory for the game to be authenticated, sales tracked etc. This is why you see some SecuROM games on Steam.

    If you want to use the SteamWorks DRM (aka CEG), you have that option too. Must like all ther other SteamWorks stuff you get for free.

    On Direct2Drive, Gamers Gate, Real Networks etc – you have a choice of which DRM scheme to use. The most popular being SecuROM. Though some Starforce, Tages and even SafeDisc games are on there. These publishers all have licensed (from Sony DADC, Starforce etc) backend which allows them to authenticate and generate serial numbers. They pay a per unit royalty to Sony, Starforce etc.

    Impulse is similar – though imo is sub-par compared to the likes of integrated solutions like Steam, Metaboli/GameTap etc

    ALL publishers who want their games on various sites, HAVE to adhere to the standards set by those publishers or they can’t (or won’t) carry your game. e.g. you can’t insist on using SecuRom on a publisher site that does not support it. You have to use what they support or your game won’t be sold there.

    Steam games can be sold at ANY publisher site – even on retail discs. What makes this possible is that Valve generates the serial numbers for the product, then gives it to the developer who then hands it over to the publisher who adds it to their server backend so that each purchase is given a unique key. This is how come you see some Steam authenticated games on D2D. When the game is installed, the Steam client downloads it and asks for the key. In this case, the authentication is done by Steam servers, not – for e.g. Direct2Drive Sony DADC licensed servers.

    Unlike Steam enabled games, you CANNOT sell ANY other DRM enabled game to other sites in this manner because they would have to setup their own authentication servers (e.g. SecuROM) or rely on a third-party (in this case then DRM developers) for authentication. Steam just makes is easy and seamless. Valve handles the authentication and auto-patching automatically.

    So for baseline Steam use, you only have authentication and auto-patching. Here’s the really kewl thing. Since Steam has a FULL image of the game on their servers, if you wanted to sell direct, all you have to do is give out keys. The end user fires up the Steam client, enters the key and downloads the game. Directly from Valve. In fact, thats how we sell Steam versions of our games through BMT Micro (our store frontend) and Digital River. We populate the dB with keys and give out a Steam key with each purchase. If you have Steam installed, it is a no-brainer. If you don’t, you have a link (in the purchase email) showing you where to download the Steam client from. You install, enter key, download game.

    Steam is by far the best scheme to date. And in this Shacknews post, I explain in detail why Steam remains popular. And why some are rightfully jealous and/or worried.

    This about face by Direct2Drive et al – while understandable – is foolish. If they sell a Steam game, THEY get the revenue. NOT Valve. What Valve gets is possibly a new Steam user. And this is just free advertising for them. And given that they have 20m+ Steam users, my guess is that only very few gamers out there don’t already have at least ONE Steam game already installed.

    So all they’re doing is saying that they don’t want to continue to support Steam’s continued growth. Well gee, since the genie is out of the bottle, its kinda late for that.

    But here is the kicker. With Steam, you get SO MUCH stuff – FOR FREE – that is not even funny. PLUS not only is it all trivial to implement, the royalties that Valve doles out to Steam publishers is on par with what these other sites give out. And THEY have NO added value whatsover – unlike Valve which gives you all this stuff and everything you need to be successful on the platform.

    Which is why they’re all worried. They can’t undercut Steam – nor compete – in any, way, shape or form because they were all sleeping at the wheel. The only way they are going to compete is to provide a better service (lol!!), better pricing, games that you can’t get elsewhere. e.g. You can only get Stardock games on Impulse.

    So this has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that they no longer want to help increase Steam’s client install base.

    IF the publishers want to have their games on D2D, GG etc, they can do a SecuROM build. Obviously they see more value in a single solution (Steam) than in multiple solutions (ALL of which can be cracked on Day One and with ease). This is no different from e.g. Best Buy having the exclusive on something like Crime Craft. That can be either because Best Buy gave out concessions to have the game exclusively or because other retailers didn’t want to carry it.

    My guess is that Activision is not going to cave in because while this is only news now, it has probably been brewing for awhile now. Both the online and retail versions of MW2 – like Valve’s own games as well as others (e.g. Killing Floor, Fear 2 etc) use Steam. My guess is that the combined sales of the game on these other services pales compared to Steam. So why bother with the extra work of having different DRM schemes?

    From my perspective, the ONLY danger (and concern) that I have about Steam is that Valve gets to choose which games go on there. When you have situations like this MW2 thing happen, small devs like us can’t even pull a stunt like this because if we do – thus alienating our other partners – there is a chance that they won’t carry our games. And if Valve passes on publishing them, we’re farked. Thats the real concern that I see here regarding Steam. e.g. to have a game on D2D, GG etc – all I have to do is contact my a/c manager, give them the details etc. The game goes up.

    With Valve, they are more of a traditional publisher in that they get to pick and choose which games they want on there and which they think would do well with their subscribers.

    Is this wrong? tbh, I’m not so sure.

    I personally ran into this issue a few months back because apparently Valve doesn’t feel that space games do well on the service. Its their service and I trust that they know it better than I do. So I left it at that. After all, my space games are sold everywhere else – so if someone wants those games bad enough, they know where to go. They don’t have to be on Steam to be sold nor to be successful. On Steam – despite their install base – you’re only as successful as your game. Just because its there doesn’t guarantee sucesss. Its not like we’re comparing Walmart to Best Buy which, in those two instances, takes volume into account. With ESD, you don’t have that luxury due to the type of goods being sold.

    After all you either want 1000 games on Steam, with 50% crap or you want 500 games on there with 10% crap. Valve still has to foot the bill of those crap games and they don’t ask you the publisher for anything in return.

    Unlike retail publishers who can pull non-performing products from the shelf, throw them in the bargin bin, return them to the publisher etc – while issuing chargebacks to the publisher – you can’t do any of that with ESD games. So once your game is on there, thats it. The distributors (e.g. Valve) has to hope that good, bad or ugly, the game sells enough for it to a) pay for the resources it is using up b) pay Valve for hosting it

    And with Steam, you get world class tools, real-time reporting, an AMAZING publisher support staff etc.Apart from competent support staff (I can only speak for the services that sell my games), you get more – in terms of publishing tools and such – by going with Steam, than you do elsewhere. It is a one stop shop. And thats why it is powerful and popular all at once.

    Think about this for a minute. Paradox Int. a publisher that also owns Gamers Gate. Yet, you can find Paradox games at all the competing sites – including Steam. Same with the likes of EA, Atari etc. Guess why that is.

    So them not carrying MW2 because of the Steam client is akin to biting your nose to spite your face. At the end of the day, you lose. And its not even about competition because, quite frankly, none of them have anything to compete with the VAS that Steam offers developers.

    Disclaimer: My games on all these services, use different DRM schemes – and so, no Steam. Only our games sold on Steam and through our own web store (powered by BMT Micro and Digital River – who don’t give a rat’s ass either way – as well as the upcoming retail releases) use the Steam version. I’m not stupid. :)

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      “Impulse (guess why that is),” – Oh I dunno, maybe they have standards ;)

    • Monkeybreadman says:

      Can you say that again?

    • kalidanthepalidan says:

      That could be the longest comment I have ever seen.

    • Obdicut says:

      Thanks for the interesting perspective.

      I do think that this action, at this point, is totally baffling.

      The only thing I think you might be missing, the only only thing, is that MW2 seems like it may severely disappoint and piss off people who buy it, and perhaps the other digital distribution channels are actually not wanting to carry it because of that. That’s pretty dumb, though– but so is the action itself.

      As you said, the genie is out of the bottle. If you’re afraid of people simply having Steam, you’re not prepared to compete with them. That’s all.

    • Levictus says:

      Thanks, for the interesting read. Regarding Steam and the space games thing, do they actually not allow some space themed games or what? I didn’t quite get the implication of Valve thinking that space games aren’t that popular on Steam.

  49. Jahkaivah says:

    At first I thought it was being boycotted because all the recent multiplayer bollocks.

    That would have been awesome.

  50. Lilliput King says:

    @TB “nor a connection to the internet after the initial activation.”

    + @to Starky “It’s frustrating not been able to let a friend (in the same house) play one game on steam while I play another.”

    Offline mode is dead useful in that it provides a workaround for both of these problems. You need to load up the game once in online mode, then switch it to offline mode and you can play it indefinitely, while not actually being logged in to the account the game is on (so someone else can log in and also play the same game or a different one from the same account, though you have to trust them with your details.)

    For non-valve games, this usually means you can play a game through LAN as if you had multiple accounts and copies of the game, while only having the one. You can also /then/ use Hamachi to play the game over the internet with friends on a VPN.

    I don’t think you’re supposed to do any of these things, though.

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