Store Wars: Rivals Threaten To Boycott Steam

By John Walker on November 11th, 2010 at 2:53 pm.

IN A NO-RULES CAGE FIGHT.

As the trend for PC sales leans increasingly toward digital distribution, with retail stores feeling their age, there are increasing rumblings about the prominence and dominance of Valve’s Steam. Today’s MCV reports, from unnamed sources, that retailers and online rivals are beginning to get a little cross with the requirement to install Steam in games they’re selling, and threatening to boycott Steam-infused games entirely. Games, they say, that require you to install some software that makes their own stores redundant. But are their arguments sound? What’s the real reason publishers are choosing Steam?

MCV claims that “key retailers will drop titles that integrate the popular Steam service as fears mount that the service has a ‘monopoly’ on the download market.” While they don’t identify their sources, the quotes, they say, come from “the digital boss at one of the biggest UK games retailers.” Which means either HMV or Game, basically. “If we have a digital service,” this mystery boss says, “then I don’t want to start selling a rival in-store.” He continues, “Publishers are creating a monster – we are telling suppliers to stop using Steam in their games.”

Equating Steam with iTunes, industry types are expressing concern that Valve’s distribution system will have a monopoly on the market, and thus be able to start controlling pricing. Estimates (which are poorly evidenced) suggest that Steam dominates the market with 80% of sales, putting them in a powerful position of control. Of course, Valve has always maintained that the prices on Steam are set by the publishers, not by themselves.

The key issue is, if you sell a copy of, say, COD:BLOPS from anywhere other than Steam, be it in a bricks-and-cardboard-cut-outs-of-men-with-guns shop, or a rival digi-distributor, you’re selling something that installs Steam on the customer’s computer, and requires that the game be run through Steam. They’re saying they’re forced into selling their rival. This, at first glance, seems a reasonable complaint.

CODBLOPS would take a hit without Steam AHAHAHAHA

But what’s not being acknowledged here is the reason why games are requiring Steam, and it’s something none of those apparently complaining are offering: Steamworks. Activision or 2K has no commercial advantage in forcing players onto one source for their games, but they certainly do gain an advantage by using the DRM, multiplayer, update system, achievements, etc, that come with running their game through Valve’s grey window.

So when a rival digital distribution boss says to MCV, “At the moment the big digital distributors need to stock games with Steam. But the power resides with bricks and mortar retailers, they can refuse to stock these titles. Publishers are hesitant, but retail must put pressure on them,” he completely fails to acknowledge not only why publishers are picking Steam, but also where his own software is lacking.

More extraordinary is a quote tucked away in a boxout of the print edition of MCV, again from the unnamed digital rival, stating,

“Steam is killing the PC market and it is no wonder digital retailers are failing. Steam is locking down the market.”

Steam, if anything, is surely boosting the PC market, if it’s selling the huge quantities of games its enemies are claiming? Surely no one would make the argument that iTunes is killing music sales? It may be all manners of problematic, and utterly unfair competition, but it’s sure selling a shitload of songs. Steam may well be locking it down, and that’s an enormous issue, but what is the argument for killing it?

Clearly it would be disadvantageous to all (but Valve) if Steam were to take pricing control of distribution, to become something as obtuse and behemothic as iTunes, and there’s reason for analysts and rivals to watch it extremely carefully in that regard. But the arguments being made and widely reported today simply don’t hold up. Unless these shops and rivals can create software that competes with Steamworks, then their demands of unfairness don’t make sense. (And it’s perhaps hard to engage with the high street shops crying foul over PC games, after the derisory treatment they’ve received over the last ten years.) When the alternatives are the widely loathed Games For Windows Live, or the young and unproven Impulse Reactor, it’s no wonder the big publishers are requiring a Steam install to run their games.

__________________

« | »

, , , .

364 Comments »

  1. Kryopsis says:

    Where were these fine gentlemen when Microsoft launched Games for Windows – Live?

    • starclaws says:

      Except Windows Live Games epic fail.

    • mandrill says:

      They were selling their limited PC shelf space to Microsoft.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      I don’t see how GfWL is relevant to the fact that the Steam store is being bundled with AAA games, thus making Steam grow to the detriment of all its supposed competitors. GfWL neither offers better deals than all its competitors nor aggressively pushes its own storefront. Beyond the absolute idiocy of trying to turn the PC into a closed platform with patching fees and the like and the fact that it’s just sort of shit, GfWL is fairly benign – although that’s largely down to Microsoft being idiots rather than any noble intentions, and ignoring it would obviously be a stupid move.

      Really, though, I don’t see Valve discontinuing Steamworks or making any move to separate Steam-as-distributor from Steam-as-DRM-and-social-platform since its continued existence is entirely in their interests (and mostly against ours).

    • Arthur Barnhouse says:

      It’s funny you bring up GFWL, seeing as Steam games periodically require a Games For Windows Live installation in order to play them. Steam is willing to sell games via there system that installs a rival’s program and store, and do not require games to use Steamworks. It’s a two-way street.

    • Andy O. says:

      “I don’t see how GfWL is relevant to the fact that the Steam store is being bundled with AAA games”

      It’s relevant in that Games for Windows has similar if not the same features as SteamWorks (Achievements, Key Code Protection, and all the other cool stuff that GfWL SHOULD of been back before the XBox 360 came out, you know back when MS was testing or updating their xbox live system?) Steam Store isn’t the problem, it’s SteamWorks, the platform that the game is running on.

      It’s like you buy an XBox game, but when you load the game it connects to PlayStation Network and all it’s features instead of the XBox Live System.

      In this case someone feels that Steam is costing them customers when they find out that Steam exists and is really great. So instead of fixing the problem, they are just complaining.

      I think SteamWorks is succeeding because they took everything that worked in XBox Live and implemented it in a way that’s easy to drop into a new or existing game (lots of older games are now working with SteamWorks) and you cannot beat Steams digital distribution.

      I don’t really have a solution for the brick and morter stores, I suggested on another site they should turn their stores into Japanese gaming centers where you can rent a kiosk, play all the games and make purchases if you want. I’d LOVE to be able to pay some money, try out a couple games and make a purchase for my console and have the game available on my console when I get home (digital push). I can do that on my PC from work, I’ll check out games, buy them and my computer at home will auto-install and by the time I get home from work, NEW GAME! The future is here.

    • Kryopsis says:

      “I don’t see how GfWL is relevant to the fact that the Steam store is being bundled with AAA games, thus making Steam grow to the detriment of all its supposed competitors. GfWL neither offers better deals than all its competitors nor aggressively pushes its own storefront. Beyond the absolute idiocy of trying to turn the PC into a closed platform with patching fees and the like and the fact that it’s just sort of shit, GfWL is fairly benign – although that’s largely down to Microsoft being idiots rather than any noble intentions, and ignoring it would obviously be a stupid move.”

      Since the reply function failed me, the actual response is here:

      http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2010/11/11/store-wars-rivals-threaten-to-boycott-steam/comment-page-2/#comment-550437

    • theSAiNT says:

      FYI, Steam predates XBox Live. They were pushing out CS updates on it sometime in 2002.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      It’s relevant in that Games for Windows has similar if not the same features as SteamWorks
      Steam Store isn’t the problem, it’s SteamWorks

      No on both counts. The problem is that Steamworks, the DRM, comes bundled with a digital distributor’s store. When people install Steam, the DRM platform, they are then aggressively exposed to the Steam store. The problem is not that there is a DRM system out there that needs to be tied to an account and uses a client as far as the other digital distributors are concerned, it’s the fact that Steamworks means exposure to the Steam store.

      As previously stated, mandatory though it may be, GfWL does not push the GfW store anywhere near as much as Steam pushes the Steam store. This is why there is no real problem with GfWL as it is right now. Depending on what Microsoft do after the GfW store relaunch, there may well be the same problem with GfWL as there currently is with Steamworks.

    • monkeybreadman says:

      “I suggested on another site they should turn their stores into Japanese gaming centers where you can rent a kiosk, play all the games and make purchases if you want. I’d LOVE to be able to pay some money, try out a couple games and make a purchase for my console and have the game available on my console when I get home (digital push). I can do that on my PC from work, I’ll check out games, buy them and my computer at home will auto-install and by the time I get home from work, NEW GAME! The future is here.”

      Great idea

    • Jason says:

      You can buy games that use GfWL on Steam. So it’s not like Valve is locking the games they sell into using steamworks, unless something has changed recently. As far as I am concerned, the publishers and gamers have spoken and the retailers can shut up.

  2. Lewie Procter says:

    The actual complaints amount to “we want to have more control over distribution, instead of Valve.”

    Whichever highstreet retailer it is, they have all routinely failed PC gaming over the last decade or more, whereas Valve have successfully created what is a level playing field for all sorts of developers, and a fantastic service for it’s customers. It’s not perfect, by any means, but a lot of people obviously think Valve offer the best service.

    • Tom O'Bedlam says:

      There is an ocean of truth here.

    • tomwaitsfornoman says:

      Yeah, and it isn’t just PC gaming. What about all those used console games that IRL retailers reap 100% of the profit from? Is THAT helping the industry?

    • suibhne says:

      Right on, Lewie. And the comparison with iTunes is even more apt than it might first appear – because exactly the same situation pertained in that case, with the “traditional” market failing the consumer in just about every way imaginable and then crying bloody murder when an upstart came along and did their job far better.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Lewie: that said, who really gives a shit about their motives?

      The important thing is that Steamworks game requiring Steam installation is a pretty terrible thing for digital distribution as a whole, because it forces people onto Steam, where they can be bombarded by the better deals that Steam gets on account of being a bigger store (because it has better deals, and more money, and Steamworks releases, and therefore people stop buying from other DD outlets, which can’t afford to slash prices as much or as often as Steam because they aren’t market leaders). Short-term benefit to the consumer or not, Steamworks is a fairly anticompetitive thing, which is ultimately a bad thing.

    • Mobius says:

      The difference being that there are multiple big retailers with roughly the same amount of power, which ensure competition; whereas Valve is pretty much the only one with that level of power, so there’s a risk of monopoly.

    • noxxit says:

      Oh my gosh, Steam is controlling the PC market, Microsoft is controlling the XBOX market, Sony is controlling the Playstation market, Nintendo is controlling the Wii market. Prices are going haywire! Take cover! *hides behind a stack of sandbags*

      Yeah, like my life would depend on gaming… If you don’t like a price, don’t pay it. Vote with your wallet. Problem solved.

    • katinkabot says:

      I don’t think you can use the blanket statement “anti-competitive business is a bad thing”. Not always. Seriously, not always. We’re not talking about Walmart and your local grocer – where the local grocer sells specialty items like gourmet cheese(yay!) and seaonsal produce and Wal-mart sells generic brand crap. When the local grocer can’t compete you actually lose something as a community – access to a specailty item. This is different. These are ostensbily large-ish corporations fighting to get a piece of Steam’s digitial distribution pie. Problem is, unless they come up with some insane innovation, it won’t happen. Steam does it best. Period.

      When it comes to web tech. (generally of course) people tend to stay with what works and what is cheap. They don’t shop around just to “try something new” like a restaurant or a clothing store. There’s no incentive for them to move to another digital distribution site if they’re purchasing the same exact product but without the guaruntee of support.

    • Archonsod says:

      “The important thing is that Steamworks game requiring Steam installation is a pretty terrible thing for digital distribution as a whole, because it forces people onto Steam, where they can be bombarded by the better deals that Steam gets on account of being a bigger store”

      Steam is regularly undercut by Amazon in my experience, and even Impulse and Gamer’s Gate can shave a few pennies off the Steam price quite frequently In fact I’d say it was a good thing for digital distributors at the moment, since it encourages people to move away from the brick n mortar outlets and onto online distribution, and once they’re used to online distribution it’s just a matter of advertising. The idea of someone being locked in to Steam is as ludicrous as someone only buying games at Game; people are people, and while the marketers would love to think brand loyalty counts for something at the end of the day the vast majority of us will go for the cheapest deal. Generally brick and mortar had a leg up in this regard because shopping around required tramping around a town centre. With digital distribution on the other hand I only need to open a new tab in my web browser.

      With regards to sales, Impulse has a weekend deal every week where they slash prices on several games. Gamer’s Gate also have a week long sale every week where they slash prices on several games too, in addition to giving you cash back. In fact if anything Valve are second only to EA and Direct2Drive in offering generally crap sales, you get what, two cheap games per week?

    • JohnnyMaverik says:

      @ Alexander Norris

      I agree that steam is a little too rigid but honestly, it’s not terrible, and it’s certainly not “against our interests”. Valve give us great value, great deals, a great service, sure sometimes it all goes a little tits up but on the whole not only is it a good substitute for brick and mortar retailers, it’s just plain better.

      There just aren’t enough games with steamworks for the argument of Steam locking out other digital distributors to hold true either, the reason it’s dominant is again, because it’s just plain better. Valve have no policy against rival distributors stocking games that come with steamworks, the reason they don’t do it is because Steam is better, ergo they don’t want to send people there.

      The best argument against a single console is that prices would rocket with out the competition, that may be true, but when it comes to steam, I can’t see Valve ever doing anything other than giving their customers the best possible service, a service that I have full confidence in improving immeasurably in coming years, competition or none.

      Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish death upon the other digital distributors out there, I myself use GOG just as much as Steam and love both for the quality of service they provide, but when it comes to Microsoft and the Brick & Mortar retailers, we’d probably be better of with out them because they’re never going to have our interests at heart and if it’d been left to them, we’d be playing on a 360 right now, with pc gaming a fading memory.

    • Mobius says:

      @noxxit: That’s not really comparable. The Xbox, PS3 or Wii are all video games centric devices with a closed ecosystem. Furthermore, they were all created by their respective companies. It’s not really surprising that they have control over them. The PC, however, is an open platform.

      @katinkabot: You make a good point. However, a question needs to be asked: Is Steam really the best digital service? I mean, I have been prevented from playing my games online more than once because their servers were down, or been unable to play my games offline because the offline mode was being flaky. Furthermore, when you look at the competition… Well, some of them simply look better to me. I’m thinking of Gamersgate especially: They often have prices similar to Steam, they have some DRM free games, and they do not require an always on program to run my games that requires me to go online at least once every 30 days.
      But the updating system of Steam is pretty cool, I’ll give you that.

      @Archonsod: You make some good arguments, but you are forgetting a very important thing: Steamwork, aka that-drm-system-and-game-structure-that-forces-you-to-install-steam. Like the article says, even if you buy your copy of, say Fallout New Vegas or cod black ops in a brick and mortar shop or Amazon, you WILL need to install Steam and use it, thus indeed locking you into Steam. And that is exactly what Valve’s competitor are complaining about.
      Sure, nothing forces you to actually buy games on Steam, but it greatly increases the Steam store’s exposure, thus leading to more sales on Steam, thus making it harder for other digital services to compete.

      @JohnnyMaverik: “There just aren’t enough games with steamworks for the argument of Steam locking out other digital distributors”
      If those distributors wait until then to complain, then it’ll be WAY too late to do anything. Just saying.

      “Valve have no policy against rival distributors stocking games that come with steamworks, the reason they don’t do it is because Steam is better, ergo they don’t want to send people there.”
      Huuuuuh… No, not really. Just like one of the quote in the article says, why would they want to sell a game that gives exposure to a competitor’s store? It’s like if you bought Lamborghini but all the repairs and maintenance had to be done at a Ferari shop.

    • Zogtee says:

      Valve and Steam is the best thing that’s happened to PC gaming. Without it, no one would give a piss about the PC as a gaming platform today. Devs would be all over the consoles, having declared the PC dead a squillion times already.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      It’s hilarious that these digital retailers would want to have the same stranglehold on the market as Valve does if they were given the chance. Now they are just crying because they can’t compete. Steam is dominating the market for a good reason.

      Also, while I understand why they want to boycott games that include Steamworks, they are shooting themselves in the foot. More and more publishers are choosing Steam as a form of DRM for their games that won’t upset the consumer. Their lack of AAA titles is going to kill them.

    • Memphis-Ahn says:

      “You make some good arguments, but you are forgetting a very important thing: Steamwork”
      You know, if I owned a digital distribution store, I’d be all over Steamworks games. I’d undercut Steam’s prices and then have them take the brunt of the cost by serving up the download/support.
      Sure, the price might be passed onto the publisher and then me but I’d have so much more revenue without any of the associated costs that it would be totally worth it.

      Speaking of which, how much are servers going for these days?

    • katinkabot says:

      @Mobius – Good point. I have no personal experience with Gamersgate so I don’t feel comfortable commenting on that.
      I have to say though, I have not had any of the issues with Steam you have had although I know others have. My experience with it, since its inception, has been wholly positive. It may not be the BEST serivce technically speaking but the community has rallied around it since the Half Life mod/CS days like bees to honey. In turn, Valve has supported this community immensely. Hell, they promote the mods of their own games and bundle them in with their package sales. Technical issues can be tweaked and refined. Gaining large community support? That’s an absolutely mammoth undertaking that most companies just can’t match.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      I agree that steam is a little too rigid but honestly, it’s not terrible, and it’s certainly not “against our interests”

      This has nothing to do with the intrusiveness or lack thereof of Steam as a DRM platform and actually yes, a monopoly over distribution is completely against our interests. The reason why Amazon and places like Tesco/Asda slash prices in the first place is because they have to compete with each other and with Steam. Without the competition, these places have no impetus to slash prices. You can bet yourself that sales will dry up pretty soon if Steam were the only distributor of video games in the world. Even if it’s merely the sole digital distributor, it would mean it only ever has to price-match its closest competitor rather than actively trying to get us a better deal than e.g. Amazon during its sales.

    • Archonsod says:

      ” Steamwork, aka that-drm-system-and-game-structure-that-forces-you-to-install-steam. Like the article says, even if you buy your copy of, say Fallout New Vegas or cod black ops in a brick and mortar shop or Amazon, you WILL need to install Steam and use it, thus indeed locking you into Steam. And that is exactly what Valve’s competitor are complaining about.”

      No, it doesn’t lock me in. Firstly I can buy the games from anywhere, so if say Direct2Drive or Amazon has the game cheaper I can buy it there; so I’m not even locked in to buying the game from Steam. Secondly, having Steam installed does not stop me from using Gamer’s Gate, Impulse, GoG or any other online retailer for future game purchases, so it’s not locked in there either. The only thing it does is force me to use Steam for that game, but I think it’s a pretty fair assumption that I won’t be buying that particular game again when I already own it, so it’s moot.
      The only thing Steam has is the store connected to the client. I don’t really see how it’s that big an advantage over any other advertising method to be honest.

    • SwiftRanger says:

      The fact the store page pops up every time you launch Steam (which you have to do if you want to play a Steamworks game) is reason enough to say it’s unfair. Steam store shouldn’t be tied to Steamworks, period. Impulse does it right with their Reactor matchmaking/copy protection, you don’t even need the Impulse application for that.

      It’s no surprise retailers have problems with this. Steam already took away second-hand PC sales from brick & mortar shops (which imo is probably the biggest reasons they don’t stock new PC games as much as before) and now they push a big advertising page of their own store right into your face whenever you want to game. Retailers are shooting in their own foot and have contributed to PC gaming’s demise but Steam ain’t much better than that if you think about it. They’re both evil.

  3. plugmonkey says:

    This mystery digital distribution boss might want to consider the fact that this is the first moment I have been aware that Game do digital distribution.

    • Mac says:

      They don’t really – they sub it out and have a link …

    • President Weasel says:

      And their main complaint is that something that Valve do properly, with some thought and effort and skill behind it, is out-competing their “fuck it, outsource all that internet crap” approach. Remarkable.

  4. lfwam says:

    We’re told again and again that monopolies are a bad thing. They’re not. What is bad is overpricing and bad service, that almost invariably follow monopolies. Yet this is not always the case. There are some monopolies that should continue to exist, and in the current market Steam may well be one of these. If Steam starts to become overpriced or difficult to work with then another company will no doubt come in and make a competitor to take a slice of a lucrative industry. But right now it’s so far in front of the competition that I really don’t mind that it’s the only choice. I’m sure that eventually it will loose its brilliance, and at that point we’ll all have to go and play on the new king, but for now it’s a chapion of PC gaming, and something to be applauded.

    • Thermal Ions says:

      I agree. Why should I as a customer continue to purchase from a Bricks and Mortar store, paying commonly 60-80% more to do so, stop availing myself of regular Steam game sales that dwarf the 10-20% off offered from said B&M stores, all just in case Valve abuses a monopoly and puts their prices up down the track. I’ll be so far ahead by then, I’ll still be laughing.

      If comparing against other digital distributors not tied to a B&M outfit, then I’d be going without so many games I want because I can’t buy them through their stores because of region restrictions, not to mention that their sales are commonly mostly comprised of games I couldn’t care less about. Consequently, if they’re not interested in my business why would I care what they think.

    • RagingLion says:

      I agree.

    • Bald Space Marine says:

      >monopolies are a bad thing. They’re not

      Wow, just…….wow.

    • Rinox says:

      Steam doesn’t have a ‘monopoly’ on PC gaming digital distrubution any more than Coca-Cola has a monopoly on soda. They are both towering juggernauts in their respective fields, but do not control the entire market.

    • Xocrates says:

      @Bald Space Marine: You know, reading the rest of the post you’re quoting might have helped. Monopolies are not a bad thing in the same that a Dictatorship is not a bad thing. They’re one of the more efficient ways to get things done provided they’re dedicated to their users and welcome to new ideas, which they almost universally are not.

      Monopolies are dangerous things, but they are not, by themselves, bad.

    • jalf says:

      You have a strange definition of “overpriced” if it excludes Steam. When you can save around 50% of the price by buying from online retailers, I think I’d consider Steam to be overpriced.

      You also make a strange leap from “some monopolies are not actively harmful (which is true), to “some monopolies should continue to exist”. Perhaps what you meant to say was “some monopolies should be *allowed* to exist (that is, they don’t need to be regulated), but what you actually *said* sounds like the monopoly should be actively *supported* and kept alive. Which is just ridiculous.

      The best you can ever say about a monopoly is that it *does no harm right now*.

    • Ruzzr says:

      @Rixon

      True!

    • Sigh says:

      “Monopolies are not a bad thing in the same that a Dictatorship is not a bad thing.”

      Also Facism and Nazism are not bad either.

      It’s just all the things that follow from them that are bad. C’mon people I am sick and tired of abstracts like monopolies, facism, and dictatorships getting a bad rap in the forums. They are not to blame, you should just point the blame at the problematic results that inevitably follow their inception. Geez it’s like people are ignorant or something. We should be able to support the institution/abstract without being associated with all of the “negatives” like intransigence, devaluation of human rights, excessive militarization, and price gouging. Grow up!

      /argument

    • Sigh says:

      >>>>>>monopolies are a bad thing. They’re not

      Wow, just…….wow.>>>>>>>

      Best response here!

      +5 logics

    • stahlwerk says:

      GabeN is (worse than) Hitler, clearly.

      But, not unlike Zombie Pigs, I forgive, eventually.

    • frymaster says:

      @jalf:

      this is where online retailers can cash in. I much prefer to have my games tied to steam – infinite re-downloads, not having to remember where I put the manual with the key on the back, etc. If a retail copy is tied into steam, (like, say, CODBLOPS*) I can buy it from a retailer at their lower prices, and still get the benefit of steam-y goodness. For what I’ve long suspected (but have no proof) are contractural reasons relating to the RRP, almost NO publishers release their games for less than RRP on steam at launch. Retailers always undercut RRP. Retailers will always be cheaper. Thus, the more steamworks games there are, the more chance I have of buying a game from an online retailer.

      On a similar subject, remember that steam is in many ways a middle-man. Steam do not set prices (apart from for valve games, obviously, tho see above abouot RRP), the individual publishers do. Even if steam were the only way to buy games in the world, it still wouldn’t be a dangerous monopoly in price terms, because publishers would still be competing between themselves. (It might be a dangerous monopoly in other ways, though, because steam would have no incentive to improve, or fix bugs)

      *And are they seriously saying they don’t want to cash in on the next MW2 sales bonanza? Oh wait, I forgot, they make all of their money on the second-hand market these days…

    • Popish Frenzy says:

      A few things:

      When one thing invariably follows another you can argue there’s isnt much utility in distinguishing between them sure.

      The word ‘almost’ was used a few times. This may be important.

      People use soundbites to further their arguments even on online messages boards.

      Some analogies, while being theoretically appealing almost invariably escalate arguments instead of / them.

    • Zyrxil says:

      “Monopolies are not a bad thing in the same that a Dictatorship is not a bad thing.”

      Also Facism and Nazism are not bad either.

      I suppose you believe Democracy is a magic pill for governance too.

    • Sigh says:

      “I suppose you believe Democracy is a magic pill for governance too.”

      No, but I do believe in the central tenets of “Liberalism” especially as they are expressed by the Philosopher John Rawls. Far from perfect I admit, but reasonable.

      Every political system is flawed in some manner and will never convince 100% of the citizens contained within its reach, but I do believe that humans can objectively reach a reasonable consensus as to ideal forms of political organization. I am not even claiming that a single one is ideal, but actually a range of competing options that happen to have shared values.

      Also the human factor influences every form of government in practice.

    • Sigh says:

      “Some analogies, while being theoretically appealing almost invariably escalate arguments instead of / them.”

      One more thing:

      Perhaps said analogy was never intended to end said argument but only aspired to be an admittedly imature but ironic commentary on the existing discussion. Even the alleged inclusion of “/argument” was thinly veiled irony. Perhaps said analogy was never intended to have any more value than the rest of the discussion.

      However, dry commentry that begins with “A few things” will typically raise the value level of the ensuing discourse.

      Thank you for your contriubtion.

    • Popish Frenzy says:

      That bit was actually referring to Xocrates’ Dicatorship analogy.

    • Xocrates says:

      @Popish Frenzy: True, and I apologize for that.

      Though to be fair my point with the analogy was to point out that while not necessarily bad it’s not a good idea. Sadly (and by my own fault) I don’t think it conveyed very well.

    • dysphemism says:

      Woof. I don’t know if I’ve seen such a contentious week on the RPS boards.

      Let’s clarify, as I think this is sowing some confusion:
      Whether or not Valve (Steam) constitutes a monopoly is not at issue here and, believe it or not, monopolies are in many cases allowed to exist in the marketplace (are even encouraged in the case of IP and patent law). Where the legal tolerance for a monopoly ends is when they engage in anti-competitive practices, which is the issue here.

      To liken it to a more widely-known case, U.S. v Microsoft, Microsoft was brought to court for bundling Internet Explorer with Windows. The concern there was that it constituted, essentially, a barrier to entry for other competing browsers. In the end, though, the courts did not rule that Microsoft could not continue tying software to Windows.

      To say that Steam is anti-competitive by virtue of being “too awesome” (as I seem to be reading in a couple of comments here) is not enough. Like others have mentioned, Steam does not set pricing, so they can’t be accused of dumping or price fixing. And given the Microsoft case, I’m doubtful that “bundling” software like this is considered a true threat, though I’ll admit it worries me somewhat.

    • Popish Frenzy says:

      @dysphemism

      Straight up beast of a post! Shame it didnt come earlier really. Also obliged me to actually go look up anti-competitive practices:)

    • perilisk says:

      Steam isn’t a monopoly to begin with, it’s just the best in a field with numerous competitors. It gives them something to aspire to and they in turn keep Vale from getting complacent.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      @dysphemism — except in the EU, where they did rule that MS could no longer simply bundle IE with Windows. MS are now forced to offer up a “browser selector” when you boot a fresh Windows install, which will automatically go and download your choice of Firefox or Opera, or leave you with the default IE install.

    • Sigh says:

      “That bit was actually referring to Xocrates’ Dicatorship analogy.”

      @Popish Frenzy

      Apologies.

      -Sigh

    • Sigh says:

      “That bit was actually referring to Xocrates’ Dicatorship analogy.”

      @Popish Frenzy

      Sincere apologies.

      -SIgh

    • Sigh says:

      Reply fail.

      That last one wasn’t supposed to be sarcastic, I didn’t see my reply so I made a new one. Sheesh.

    • MrEvilGuy says:

      @sigh

      It’s nice to see Rawls mentioned on the internets.

    • Sigh says:

      Yeah it doesn’t happen often, but he is one of my philosophical role models…which sounds weird when you write it out.

  5. harald74 says:

    Brick-and-mortar stores sure as hell isn’t doing the indie scene any favours, and that alone is a for me a powerful argument for Steam.

  6. Thermal Ions says:

    Cry some more. “I’m making an inferior product, offering an inferior service, and it’s not fair. All you developers and publishers should stop making your customers happy because I might be expected to lift my game or go out of business.”

  7. Lobotomist says:

    I wondered too. How other companies view required steam installation issue. And I agree that their claim is valid. And no company should have forced monopoly.

    On other hand Steam is easy solution for players and developers.

  8. teo says:

    I can see both sides of the argument. I hate having all my games tied to Steam but I love the convenience of it, except for the few occasions when it inconveiniences me, lending games for example. I have a fuckton of Steam games I never play that I can’t lend to anyone.

    Maybe they should separate the store from the rest of the client

  9. MQ says:

    You have to marvel at the audacity of these retail stores. With the increasing decline of shelf space given to PC games, it’s clear they favour the console side of gaming. Yet they still complain when another company comes in to pick up the market they’ve largely abandoned.

    • Urael says:

      It’s absolutely ridiculous, isn’t it? They’ve relegated PC Gaming to shitty little shelves at the back of the store while cock-sucking the consoles at every turn and now expect to be able to complain when Steam – a service I actually don’t like very much – comes along and does their job much better than they do. The sheer balls these guys have to make statements like that…

      And as for Steam being a monopoly…I buy more of my games from Amazon. I don’t see them complaining about that particular giant.

    • Anonymousity says:

      Or the do you have a pre-order bullshit, they asked me that and I started buying games from the hi-fi store that always has new releases for cheaper and then I started buying from amazon.

  10. Seamus says:

    Oh well, then. I suppose I’ll just have to buy those games that they’re going to not sell off Steam, instead.

    It’s like they’re cutting off their noses to spite their faces. Absolutely retarded.

  11. Fionny says:

    Their own fault for not moving with the times… Steam is a great platform, i dont even mind spending a little more on games to have them on Steam for downloading.

    No other platform is as complete as steam.

  12. lu says:

    i really like steam and will never shop at GAME stores after they messed up a preorder of mine a few years back why should i walk in to town unsure if they have the stock , when i can just download the fulling working pre patched game? also I have most of my (reallife) friends in my list so its an easy way of keeping in touch

    as for Games For Windows Live , well its just plain awfull a pain to use offers you nothing

  13. Joshua says:

    Retailers’ concerns aside, I’m never screwed out of playing all the software I’ve purchased when I buy in-box from retailers. I’m screwed when a digital distributor decides to flake out and their software doesn’t work. I’ve spent hours diagnosing and dealing with a Steam client that won’t install, won’t re-install after failing updates, and I’m stuck with the repair while being completely unable to access my library.

    They’re not killing PC gaming, but the growing dependency on them for rights control is certainly giving it a massive black eye.

  14. Toby says:

    Life isn’t fair. But you can make it fair if you would actually put some effort into something that can compete with steam. I say that steam has deserved it’s place in the industry.

  15. Commissar says:

    So they want a slice of the PC gaming pie that they’ve left behind in favour of consoles?

  16. Om says:

    But what’s not being acknowledged here is the reason why games are requiring Steam, and it’s something none of those apparently complaining are offering: Steamworks

    This ties in with what I’ve heard from Paradox (who have an interest in pushing GamersGate) – its the developers, not the publishers, who are clamouring for Steam. They simply find it a very useful and handy way of updating games and verifying users.

  17. Pony Canyon says:

    Would a boycott really have any positive effect for the rivals?

    I currently use either Steam or Direct2Drive for all my digital distribution purchases. Let’s say Mass Effect 3 comes out and it requires Steam. Direct2Drive decides to boycott it. I guess I know where I’m buying Mass Effect 3, then, don’t I?

    • Christopher M. says:

      This goes double for people who don’t know Steam exists. They want to buy a fancy new game, walk into their favorite meatspace store, and lo-and-behold, it doesn’t exist. They now have three options: Ask the manager (“We’re boycotting it because it has Steam.” “Steam? What’s that?” “An online download site.” “Oh, cool. I’ll have to take a look at that.”), look it up on Google (“Oh, it’s available on this site called Steam. Let’s see…”), get it in another store (“Huh. This game comes with something called Steam.”), or just ignore it completely (which creates no net profit at all).

    • dysphemism says:

      They’re probably aware of the no-win scenario. More likely it’s a bluff to try and get publishers to drop the bundling of steamworks — even if developers are pushing for it, if the publisher believes they’ll lose sales due to a boycott I could absolutely see them caving to retailer demands. After all, it’s no skin off their noses.

  18. markcocjin says:

    Seems to me they are only complaining about Steam because of it’s success. If it’s all about Steam’s being embedded in some big AAA games, then why aren’t they complaining about Games For F’ing Windows Live? If there was ever software who didn’t deserve being a mandatory install, then that should be it.

  19. Henry says:

    Maybe if retailers actually stocked PC games and stopped charging ludicrous prices people would give a shit about what theyr’e saying.

    People use steam because it’s EASIER, BETTER and during the sales it’s FAR CHEAPER.

    They need ot quit whining because valve are providing something people want and actually try and make a good service themselves.

    Steam has done nothing but improve my PC gaming experience.

  20. Hides-His-Eyes says:

    Seems a reasonable complaint as a violation of competition rules to me; It’s absolutely as if one had to install ITunes in order to listen to a CD you’d bought.

    However what B&M stores don’t seem to get is that for the PC at least, they’re shit and nobody uses them accordingly

  21. Jonathan says:

    I’m oversimplifying, but surely PSN and XBox live have monopolies over digital distribution on Playstation and Xbox platforms. Why are they not complaining about that?

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Because the consoles are closed platforms and the PC is not.

    • Tasloi says:

      Even more reason to complain.

    • gou says:

      A closed platform that extends it reign of power into our open one. The arbitrary delays for the PC versions in cross-platform launches or blanket delays. The fact that before xbox gained connectivity, DLC was by definition something that was a free “thank you” but now it is a buzzword for micro-transactions

  22. RaveTurned says:

    I popped into my local HMV this weekend. Rows of shelfspace for XBox, PS3, Wii and DS games. Precicely one square metre of shelfspace for PC, full of overhyped shitty “AAA” games completely devoid of innovation. If stores like this stopped selling certain games I probably wouldn’t notice, let alone care.

  23. Brendan says:

    The reason Steam is so successful is because it is a GOOD SERVICE!

    If anybody can offer something that does every single thing that Steam can do – huge selection of games, constant sales, great prices, review scores, friends list, groups, events, demos, achievements, cloud data, clean and simple interface, constant community interaction, options and advertising for AAA titles as well as indie titles, the list goes on – then I would more than happily give it a shot.

    Until then, stop fucking whining that your rivals are better at their job than you are, you pompous ass.
    Boycotting steam would be the stupidest thing any developer could possibly do. Not to mention Valve have never done anything shady with their games or developers other than giving incorrect prices to games of differing regions and stuffing up release times.

    I have never heard of any developer complaining about their experience with selling on Steam. You have an instant audience of millions who browse the list of games every day, and with your game showing on the home page for weeks and the option to give specials to boost sales it’s more than lucrative for developers/publishers to use it.

    Bah. I can’t wait until these clowns get laughed off stage.

    • jalf says:

      No, it really isn’t a “good service”. It is overpriced and has lousy customer support.

      But it is convenient, it has a big selection of games, and it is widely known and has a loyal fan base. Maybe that’s all it takes in order to be considered a “good service”, but I really think they’re just resting on their laurels. They were first out the gate with a *tolerable* DD service. And since they’re the biggest, they don’t need to make it better, so it’s *still* a tolerable DD service.

    • Brendan says:

      In the last 2 months I’ve picked up Dead Space for $7, SupCom 2 and its DLC for $8 total, Batman AA for $15, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light for $12, Dead Rising 2 for $40, Frontlines for $5, Nation Red for $5, the entire new Monkey Island series for like $10, etc.

      If you think that is over priced then tell me where you shop so I can go there. Not to mention the only issue I’ve ever had with steam was a “This game is not available offline” error. I emailed Steam support and within 24 hours i had instructions in my inbox on how to fix the issue, and it worked.

    • Cataclysm says:

      I agree with Jalf, I see Steam for what it is, its convenient and it has some good Sale offers, but its Regular priced games are Overpriced. Amazon are usually around £27.99 with a new PC title, where Steam is about £35.99 and even B&M shops are around £29.99-£31.99.

      They offer a service no one else currently does (a decent Direct Download service) that works to a good standard and which is generally easy to use. It still has some of the flaws DD game services all have and holds a high price tag.

    • apsaps says:

      Publishers sets the prices. Not steam.

    • Brendan says:

      Well I guess it doesn’t mean much to US residents seeing as you guys see cheap games anyway, but when you live in Australia where every single new release costs > $100, Steam is always the better option, more often than not offering new games for up to half the RRP.

    • Vagabond says:

      Fellow Australian here. Steam may well be less expensive than EB or JB Hifi (unless you’re talking about anything published by 2K, in which case you are getting royally screwed if you buy it on steam), but when it comes to new releases you can usually do a fair bit better.
      http://ecogamer.com/ keeps track of the best deals in bricks and mortar stores, and if you can wait the week and a half for them to deliver from the UK http://www.ozgameshop.com has the consistently lowest prices I’ve found for an online retailer (bearing in mind the free postage).

  24. Patarejas says:

    iTunes analogy was bad.

  25. Joe Duck says:

    These guys are great. They are the same ones who banished PC games from shelves it in order to give more space to Wii fits, plastic guitars and Singstar iterations.
    And now they have finally realised that the reason there are less and less products going through them is because they are being bypassed. It’s not that “PC gaming is dead”, but that it turns out that PC gaming is dead for them.
    So what’s a good middleman to do?
    As all middlemen have done in this moment in history, they try to use the leverage they still have to force back things to the previous situation, back to the “good old times”.
    Here’s one hoping they do not succeed.

  26. cliffski says:

    Nobody ever mentions the other alternative to steam.
    Not impulse, gamersgate,direct2drive,greenhouse or bigfishgames. But the developers themselves.
    It used to be commonplace to go buy games direct of the developers. you downloaded an exe, no DRM, no install limit, no ‘client’ to run 24/7, no hassle, no complications.
    You just ran that exe like you would run windows calculator, or microsoft word.

    You can still do that, in many cases. Developers like me, 2dboy,puppygames, moonpos,pompom, winterwolves, wolffire etc etc…

    • Lewie Procter says:

      Nobody?

      I think you could make that claim on most other sites, but not on RPS.

    • Thermal Ions says:

      Yes, but … let’s face it, they form a very small part of the PC gaming market, and in this sort of discussion are somewhat irrelevant.

      Don’t get me wrong, I love these sort of developers and purchase games from them if they are of interest to me. Purchasing DRM free direct from a developer will generally always win out over Steam, however, usually these are games that don’t incorporate (or need) the services and benefits of steamworks etc so could be argued it’s oranges and apples.

    • Lilliput King says:

      I’m slightly ashamed to admit this as it somewhat diminishes one’s indie cred (and also hurts the developers a little) but I do like my games being in one place. I held off buying Fate of the World, for example, because I knew it was coming out on steam and I also knew that if I purchased it from the developers I’d completely forget about it. I know I should just keep a list of games I own along with their websites etc, but I’m just being realistic here. I’m sure many other gamers with disposable incomes feel the same way.

    • Optimaximal says:

      Sorry Cliffski, but that’s pretty short sighted…

      I can’t think of any time pre-Steam where it was ‘commonplace’ to buy from a developers website, especially when said website was a shoddy Frontpage effort with various round-the-house non-secure payment methods of dubious legality.

      Yes, the option was there, but pre-digital distribution, retail (be it brick & mortar or online shops) was where I (and many others) bought games.

    • Zyrxil says:

      I remember I bought Aquaria from the dev’s website when it was released, long before it was available on Steam. If you wanted to redownload the latest installer with all patches included, you had to email the distribution website they signed up with, send them your order receipt, and wait for a new link to be emailed to you. Yeah, that’s awesome.

    • subedii says:

      I’m with Optimaximal on this. Commonplace it most certainly wasn’t. I used to buy direct from devs, heck, still do. I bought Jets ‘n’ Guns from RakeInGrass’s website. I even pre-ordered World of Goo, largely based on RPS’s own coverage. But I’m a freaking rarity who actually keeps up to date with indie titles that I’m interested in.

      Indie’s tend to make much bigger splashes when they get a big publishing deal going. The thing is, that was never really possible back when it was all about the retail model. Now that that model is online and those stores are digital, even independent developers have benefited (yourself included) from having their games also accessible on the big marketplace sites.

    • noobnob says:

      I am willing to sacrifice all that, cliffski, for the sake of other conveniences. I was aware of digital distribution before Steam even came around, but it was never a viable choice because the management of all the games bought online would be nothing else other than a royal pain in the ass. An unified storefront helps me and everybody else who uses such services to have our game collections well organized into a single list, be it on a client or a web page. I’ve bought a fair amount of games from several small devs, not necessarily indies, through Steam and to a lesser extent GamersGate and GoG. Games I wouldn’t even bother considering if I had to buy from each individual developer store.

      Though I did buy World of Goo from the 2dboy store, I wanted to have it tied to my Steam account. It didn’t even cross my mind at the time to ask 2dboy to, somehow, tie my purchase from their webstore to my Steam account. Bought it again on Steam when I had the chance, and I don’t regret it.

      I just can’t view games as mere products anymore, the “games as a service” business model is something that I intend to support from now on. If I am to support indie developers, it will be through the big DDs, even if it’s more expensive.

    • subedii says:

      Funnily enough, 2D Boy actually allowed WoG to be tied to Steam if you had pre-ordered.

      With pre-orders you were sent a code to access the beta. They made a deal with Valve where if you input the code into Steam it would give you access to World of Goo on Steam as well.

      I thought that was pretty awesome of them.

    • PJ says:

      I also don’t know why gamersgate gets little mention among digital distribution discussions. It’s client-less, you don’t have to be online to play, AND you earn like 5% store credit with EVERY PURCHASE, earning more when you pre-order, or refer friends to buy games. It’s definitely my first stop when buying games. They have tons on sale every week too.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      @Cliffski: Maybe you’re right, but a lot of people never would have known it if not for Steam. The only reason I know who you are and have had the opportunity to buy any of your stuff was because of Steam; I saw a game on there that looked interesting, googled it, found a link to an article about it here, followed it and saw an article about your views on piracy. I’d almost certainly have never heard of you or of most independent developers otherwise. Granted, if a game doesn’t actually use Steamworks features I’d prefer to get it as a simple .exe, but what good does that availability do anyone if gamers like myself never find out that the game even exists?

    • Chalky says:

      @cliffski

      I’m sorry buddy, I would probably agree with you more if I’d not attempted to re-download GSB the other day and had to wait a day for the download link to be re-enabled. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I wished I’d bought it on Steam. Also, what happens if your site goes dark and I want to redownload? I’ll have to download it off a torrent. Precisely the same place I’ll have to download my Steam games if Steam goes dark.

      So lets face it, what’s the real difference here between these two methods? From where I stand, Steam is far more convenient and (lets face it) far less likely to vanish in a poof of smoke.

    • subedii says:

      That’s not really fair. What defines Cliffski’s approach there isn’t simply the fact that his game is re-downloadable, it’s that even if Cliffski’s site goes completely offline and he decides to do something else, that downloaded copy will still work. Because it’s completely DRM free.

      Wtih Steam, if they ever go out of business, you’ve just lost your game collection. Regardless of whether it’s on your HDD or not.

      It’s always something to bear in mind. Because whilst I may like Steam as a service, and consider this huffing and puffing by the B&M retail market to be complete tripe, Steam is still DRM. It may be largely unobtrusive DRM, but it’s still something that can limit your replaying your game one day.

      Personally that fact prevented me from buying a Steam game for a long time. Years. But eventually, I just came to terms with it. As I’ve gotten older I’ve just gotten more pragmatic about gaming. There’s rarely the time or inclination to replay old classics like I used to when I was a kid. And there’s always something new and interesting on the horizon.

      Given everything that I’ve gotten out of it, if Steam were to go tomorrow, I’d be sad, but I’d also be able to say “You know what? I still got my moneys worth out of what I bought, and the system they provided with it.” But I’m not under any illusions that Steam closing down could never happen.

    • cliffski says:

      Also, what happens if your site goes dark and I want to redownload? I’ll have to download it off a torrent. Precisely the same place I’ll have to download my Steam games if Steam goes dark.
      So lets face it, what’s the real difference here between these two methods? From where I stand, Steam is far more convenient and (lets face it) far less likely to vanish in a poof of smoke.

      I’ve been online longer than valve, selling games online longer than valve have existed as a company.
      Just saying…

    • Archonsod says:

      “Given everything that I’ve gotten out of it, if Steam were to go tomorrow, I’d be sad, but I’d also be able to say “You know what? I still got my moneys worth out of what I bought, and the system they provided with it.” But I’m not under any illusions that Steam closing down could never happen.”

      It’s not even a case of going out of business. Storage is not infinite. I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere down the line they start removing older titles from the service.

    • Chalky says:

      [i]even if Cliffski’s site goes completely offline and he decides to do something else, that downloaded copy will still work. Because it’s completely DRM free.[/i]

      Which is fine in a world where people keep every single file that they download and game that they install on disk, but many people don’t. And doing so may be fine for a handful of inde games – but the idea that we would all keep backups of every installer for every game we play if they were all DRM seems rather far fetched.

      In reality, if the site goes down in 5 years time then many people will be unable to re-download their game for the time it takes them to find an “alternative download”.

      [i]Wtih Steam, if they ever go out of business, you’ve just lost your game collection. Regardless of whether it’s on your HDD or not.[/i]

      But again, in reality, you will only lose your game collection for the time it takes you to download an official patch to remove the steam requirements or, if no patch is forthcoming, the time it takes you to download the pre-existing cracks that bypass steam for your particular game.

      Given the choice between a massive distribution mechanism such as steam with so much behind it, compared to a fractured system with everyone distributing their games from their own servers… fractured seems more risky with rather slim benifits in reality. Certainly from the perspective of someone with always-on internet access.

    • Chalky says:

      Erm, imagine I used html correctly, and said “they were all DRM free” at the end of that first bit.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      @PJ: I also don’t know why gamersgate gets little mention among digital distribution discussions.

      I don’t know about others, but GamersGate has been overpriced, and used the 1$->1€ conversion from the start. So they can go piss right off. Valve at least did something about this a (long) while after they’ve added separate prices in euros.

    • Archonsod says:

      I usually find Gamer’s Gate cheaper to be honest, even if it’s only 5p or so. Probably depends on your location. Gamer’s Gate is certainly cheaper when paying in Sterling, Steam on the other hand tends to be the more expensive option.

  27. Phinor says:

    Steam has been overpriced from the moment they started charging in €uros. I haven’t bought a single full priced game from Steam since that change but I do have around 10 Steamworks game all bought on release day for at least 30%, usually 50% less than the Steam price. I have bought these Steamworks gmaes from local retail shops, ordered from UK retail stores, UK online stores, bought from other digital stores (including GAME digital store and D2D) but I have not bought a single full priced game from Steam.

    In my books, Steamworks adds value to the game because I can buy it cheap and I get the game into my Steam account. Now if Steam was to become a monopoly, then I’d stop buying games on release day altogether because I refuse to pay the prices Steam asks and I have very little faith the prices go down if it indeed becomes a monopoly.

    • Ovno says:

      The reason some games on steam are so overpriced is because publishers have to up the steam price to keep the retailers happy, take the retailers out of the situation and hopefully the price will drop.

    • jalf says:

      Oh really? So why are even Valve’s own games frequently cheaper in traditional stores?

      (One also has to savor the irony in your statement: remove the competition, and the prices will “hopefully” drop? Where exactly would the motivation for lowering prices be?)

    • Ovno says:

      Arn’t valves own games published by someone else in stores or has that changed as I would have thought that such an arrangement would require a similar price fixing deal for valves games too…

      (One also has to savor the irony in your statement: remove the competition, and the prices will “hopefully” drop? Where exactly would the motivation for lowering prices be?)

      And the motivation for lowering prices would be that many games are sold by online retailers and other direct download stores that may not suffer from the same anti competitive restrictions and who therefore are already cheaper than steam….

    • Thermal Ions says:

      @jalf:
      Somewhat depends upon which country you come from. I’ve never seen Valve games cheaper at retail in Australia than direct from Steam. As an example, EB Games currently advertises Left4Dead @ $59.96 AUD (http://www.ebgames.com.au/pc-147832-Left-4-Dead-2-PC) while on Steam it’s $19.99 USD approx $20.01 AUD (http://store.steampowered.com/app/550/). Even on release it was about 80% more expensive through retail. TF2 used to be 100-150% *more* expensive at retail the last time I saw it stocked.

      With the Euro conversion issue that seems prevalent with most publishers on Steam and the apparently decent retail specials that pop up over there, I can see it wouldn’t necessarily be the same in parts of Europe.

  28. Junior says:

    Well I’m convinced, I’m going to do my part this weekend, go to Game and see if I can find the PC section and buy one of the 5 modern games they stock, or perhaps one of the 20 classics they’ve got.

    • Thermal Ions says:

      Make sure to take a torch, emergency rations and leave a trail of breadcrumbs to find your way back from the dark recessed hole they occupy.

    • JohnnyMaverik says:

      To be fair it’s a bit hash to say the high-street retailers don’t support the pc when plenty of high-street retailers are still selling the classic APB… oh no wait =/

  29. Brumisator says:

    I remember when steam was dark green…those were the days, my friends.

    Anyway, when they start threatening with those kinds of demands, it’s already too late.

  30. Ovno says:

    I look forward to this retailer backing out of pc games entirely, that way we won’t havbe to listen to the likes of them any more….

    • Urael says:

      Having to listen to them now is as much a tacit acknowledgement as we’re ever going to get that PC Gaming is NOT dying and, in fact, still generates some pretty envious revenues.

  31. President Weasel says:

    Steamworks and Steam and the Steam store are parts of the same whole, but the fact that a game uses some features of Steam in no way forces a consumer with that game to buy any future releases through the Steam store.
    It does, however, give them a glimpse into how convenient it is to get games from Steam, which I am sure terrifies the bricks and mortar retailers.

    I honestly can’t remember the last time I bought a PC game from a bricks and mortar store. I’ll check the price in Steam, maybe another download store or two, and if I am not in a hurry to receive the game I’ll check online retailers like play and amazon since they usually have agressive pricing.
    I can remember the last time I tried to buy a game from a shop – the last Dragon Age for the DS. They didn’t have any copies so I got it from Play.

    One of the main problems with Steam is their secracy about theier sales figures. If they released them I think we’d find that the PC sector is actually quietly doing rather well. It’s the absence of Steam and similar sales (particularly Steam since they have such a chunk of the market) that makes PC sales figures look lower than they are for certain titles.

  32. Hunam says:

    To be honest, of the 130 or so games I have on steam, I think about 50% of them were bought boxed or from competing retailers for a cheaper price. I like steamworks, I like being able to download my game as many times as I fucking like and I like the auto-patching service. Sure, you can’t sell them on but thems the breaks. Most other stores are much slower at downloading and have a clusterfuck of horrid DRM involved too.

    I say fuck ‘em. I’m sure Tesco and ASDA et al wont mind selling the boxed products with steamworks.

  33. sneetch says:

    It’s not really a monopoly though is it? As in they don’t actually control the PC market in any way, the publishers can simply go with other distributors and they can’t prevent others selling the games or force publishers to use Steam, they’re just the most successful service because of their features. As for them suddenly gaining control and setting prices, well that’s a bit alarmist and frankly hilarious; the publishers have always set the prices and if Steam try any such thing then the publishers can (and will) simply go with one of their competing digital and/or brick & mortar stores.

    It’s not like the Xbox or PS3 where the system is closed, Steam can’t prevent you from accessing websites and other stores.

    I wouldn’t really notice if my local shops boycotted any PC games, the local HMV has a single 3 or so foot long shelf underneath the PSP games for PC games, Gamestop has bugger all PC games and the Game near me has a couple of racks upstairs at the back most of which is taken up with clicky adventures and various 2 for €25 budget offers.

  34. pkt-zer0 says:

    See, this post probably should reference Minecraft. On PC, all it takes is a PayPal link on your site, and you have the potential to make obscenely large amounts of money. Whether Valve wants it or not.

    • Joe Duck says:

      Minecraft is exactly, exactly what they don’t get.
      Where’s the capital? Where’s the marketing campaign? Where’s the projected market share for the next 5 years? The DLC and versions 2, 3 and Gold? And more importantly, where are the managers? Who controls the appearance of things like this “Minecraft”? Who is accountable and we can put pressure on to “tap into that revenue stream”? How can they “monetize” a company of one person working in his basement?
      These people are professionals with a lot of resources who pay a lot of analysts to make reports and lots and lots of Powerpoint graphs and yet they do not know how many people play PC games. Or what games they play or why. Or why would someone play a mod, or make a mod, or host a server, or go to a LAN party. It’s incredible what they do not know.
      They want another simple volume oriented business, just another console. That way, they have no fuss, just another colour for PC boxes and lots and lots of the same product to sell fast.
      Lots of COD or Madden or Rock Band in all platforms (marketing is cheaper this way) and away you go.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      Joe Duck: Very well put.

    • Urael says:

      @Joe Duck

      Best comment of the thread right there. ‘Big Gaming’ is a business run by Ignorant Simpletons.

  35. Georg P. says:

    Most of the actual titles I have purchased, were purchased using Steam. The only alternative I’d like to use is Games for Windwos Live Marketplace. The problem there is I can’t buy anything as my account is locked to the US and I am living in germany. There is no possibility to change this. I have even tried telephone suuport. I do not know any other digital distributor. Someone should write an article about this and not about Steam taking over the PC market if there is no alternative.

  36. Turin Turambar says:

    Being honest, tha’s basically the point that i don’t like about Steam. I’s vaery monopoly-lke tactic, using Steamworks to tie bit a bit the pc videogame market with Steam itself, in detriment to their competitors (Gamersgate, Impulse, D2D, etc).
    Every videogame sold in a retail shop or in a competitor digital shop with Steamworks is like a little Trojan horse: It will install Steam in the computer, and it has to be used to activate the game.

    The problem is the union of Steam, the digital shop company , with Steam, the software to launch, play and update the game. Ideally, both things would be separated.

  37. Tasloi says:

    They’ve been played off the field fair & square with a couple own goals to boot. No use to start crying about it now.

  38. Noterist says:

    Retailer reduces number of PC games on shelves, effectively stops selling PC games.

    Retailer sees competitor filling gap in market, digital distribution covering lack of PC games in stores, tries it’s hand, fails.

    Retailer reduces number of PC games on shelves in retaliation.

    • Sassenach says:

      They should be careful, trying to divide by 0 might make their shop crash.

  39. Biggie says:

    This is pure sour grapes, they look at all the sales Steam is making and they want a bigger piece of the pie. Standing up to steam has been tried and failed. Direct2Drive boycott steam by not selling Modern Warfare 2 due to steamworks integration. But given that they are now selling Black Ops, I guess they decided that some sales is better than no sales.

  40. _Jackalope_ says:

    You can buy PC games in shops?I do vagualey recall once going into a “shop” before, there were rows and rows of PC games. But that was a very long time ago. Before you wree born.

    This all used to be fields you know!

  41. Nick says:

    These are the same retailers that give up a whole 3 inches of shelf space to PC right?

    • Stew says:

      You get a whole three inches? That’s impressive!

      Fuck the high street, Steam meets my needs quite happily.

    • Nick says:

      To be fair though, its 3 inches of sims expansions.

    • Matthew says:

      Well, two and a half inches. The other half inch is made up of WoW time cards.

    • Gotem says:

      Strange, I get tons of mails wanting to also sell me 3 inches expansions

    • Urael says:

      @Matthew

      WoW time cards? All I get in my last half inch of PC Gaming space is fucking Norton. FUCK the High Street.

  42. The Sombrero Kid says:

    lol the brick & mortars desire to kill of the pc by choking the supply chain is what cost them their market share, they tried to damn a river of money & are surprised when it dried up on the far side & flooded the developers side with cash they used to pocket.

  43. Johnny deBris says:

    It’s funny to note how Direct2Drive decided not to sell MW2 because of the requirement on the Steam client (and made quite a bit of noise about it), but now decided to do sell CODBLOPS even though that has the same requirement… Seems that they decided boycotting Steam may not actually be such a wise decision. :)

  44. sgc2000 says:

    I remember ages ago that Stardock (owners of the Impulse digital store) said they wouldn’t stock Steamworks integrated games for similar reasons. They also specifically designed Impulse Reactor (their version of Steamworks) so it could be included in a game without bundling the digital store in with it.

  45. Quxxy says:

    Dear retail game companies,

    You know how you guys marginalised PC games into that tiny corner of the store that only seems to stock the four newest releases from Activision, every Blizzard compilation and two dozen shitty compilations of five year old games that never sold because they were garbage? Oh, and don’t forget the phalanx of Barbie games.

    You know how you never seem to stock any of the games I’m actually interested in? Games that I’ve bought in the past like Audiosurf, Beat Hazard, Blueberry Garden, Eufloria, Flotilla, Loom, Osmos, Plain Sight, Psychonauts, Civ IV, SW: KotOR, Torchlight and Trine?

    You know how every time I go in to buy anything I have to spend what feels like twenty minutes in what feels like a conversation with a bloody customs officer?

    “We have four used copies and…” “No.” “Do you want to buy a subscription to Leet Gamr Magazn for just…” “No.” “How about a single issue for…” “No.” “Well, how about a Prima Str…” “No.” “Would you like disc insuran…” “JUST GIVE ME THE SODDING GAME!”

    You know how you’re always advertising sales of “up to 40% off!” and it turns out the only titles more than 10% off are three year old Wii titles from some publisher I’ve never even heard of with names like “Awesome Car Racer Game!”?

    You know how the games you sell more often than not come with something like SecuROM that only lets me install the game three times, requires the disc, an active internet connection, can never be uninstalled and if I lose the disc I’m screwed?

    You know how for some games on Steam I have to pay 150% the price that Americans do for the exact same product, plus the cost in download quota and having my connection tied up for several days, supposedly to keep you in business?

    Well, you’re losing to Steam because you completely and utterly suck at serving your customers. Valve don’t. The day you stumble away, bloodied and sobbing, from the PC market, I will cheer for joy.

    • gryffinp says:

      I was going to make a sarcastic comment regarding the complete lack of helpfulness that retailers have been to my PC gaming, but this says it better then I ever could. Five stars.

  46. rammjaeger says:

    Things like this always make me laugh. Lets see, these shops are going to boycott games that require Steam thus losing revenue for the retail store and driving more people to buy the game on Steam. And this is going to help the retailer how?

    Most retail shops have relegated PC games to a tiny shelf hidden in the corner of the store. Where Steam is actually providing value to the consumer. Buyers will go where they are best served, and a lot are going to Steam. These retailers need to stop stomping their feet, and instead try and come up with a better value proposition for the gamers.

  47. Pijama says:

    Good article John, but it has a very good deal of bias here.

    Although Steam is indeed the major reference of a good product and there is the added benefit of Steamworks, no matter how much hug-able Gabe Newell is, Valve is already one of those “entrepreneurial monoliths” of gaming – and that has pretty bad consequences for us gamers. Although I have no reason to believe that they are not actually out to *get* that monopoly, Valve is still treading into that territory indirectly.

    Depending on the figures and which regulatory organization is observing it, Valve could be framed into unfair commercial practice already – however, given the peculiar object of the issue (digital entertainment), I doubt that any organization of that type is bothering to look and -

    - Wait, I forget. Being based on the U.S., there is little hope in that regard. ;)

    Anyway… This is a situation where convenience sucks. Steam is pretty much the best service around for folks like me who live outside the NA-Europe center of gaming – the lack of options and the severely overpriced retail pretty much allows Steam to reign sole.

    • frymaster says:

      ironically enough, in NA-Europe, it’s a pretty safe bet that the Steam price for a game at release will be higher than the store price (games always start at the RRP in Steam, while stores always undercut that so they can put their “Save £5!” stickers on everything)

  48. cheapo the rediculous says:

    I just buy games where they are sold for the smallest sum of money. It’s that simple. Physical computer game shops have been nigh on completely fucking useless since amazon rolled into town. I sometimes go in them to smirk at the prices, laugh at the three titles they have in stock for PC and then urinate on the counter.

  49. Sir-Lucius says:

    I’ve never really understood the idea of other retailers boycotting Steam/Steam-infused games. Sure, you’re selling a rival product, but I’m not going to NOT buy a game just because D2D/Gamersgate/Gamestop/Walmart/Best Buy or whoever decides to whine and gnash their teeth about it. I’ll spend my money elsewhere or just go through Steam directly, and then instead of maybe getting some money out of it you’re assured no profit at all. Hell, the whole reason I even started buying from D2D at all was because they had a better sale on a Steamworks enabled game than Steam did (forget what it was now). But I’ve since started buying games from them (including non-Steamworks games) that I wouldn’t have otherwise had they decided to take this whole “boycott Steam” stance.

    And in the case of retail, I have even less sympathy. Unlike other digital distributors that have been focusing on promoting PC game sales and which offer alternative services to Steam, what does retail offer? Greatly diminished libraries to select from, poor pricing, and generally speaking, employees who have no idea about the product they’re selling. They have nothing to offer consumers that ANY of the major DD sources offer, they’ve focused on selling console games (and in many of the stores around where I am often times not even bothered to stock certain new releases on PC), and now they have the nerve to bitch and moan about how somebody else is doing it better than them and it’s not fair.

  50. Mac says:

    Uter tosh – the simple issue that most people are price sensitive …

    I went to Game yesterday to buy a copy of COD:BO as I have a £25 gift card I wanted to use. However, when I got there I noticed that they were trying to sell the PC version for £39.99 … given that it is £34.99 on their website for both a physical copy and a download copy, why on earth would I pay £5 more to buy it in their shop?

    Retailers need to get real with pricing, and stop whining …

    By the way, I buy very few games through Steam as they are always overpriced too – however, they do have good sales now and again.

    The argument should be the other way really – why would people buy through Steam if you could get the same product cheaper elsewhere? And you can … people are selling COD:BO for £33, and given that it activates on Steam you have exactly the same version that Steam are trying to sell for £40.

    At the end of the day COD:BO is a bad example – for me personally I do not believe that an annual update of a very derivative shooter is worth over £30, so I have not bought it. However, I do believe that retailers need to look at what their competition is doing and react to it, rather than moaning about competition.

    In addition – why do they believe that the PC version should be £40? They will not let you trade it in, later like you can with the console version, so it actually has less inherent value, and no licencing costs to pay to MS or Sony – so it should be very much cheaper …