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.

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364 Comments »

  1. Muzman says:

    Steam might give them a convenient target but the real watershed was the internet itself. Once games started recommending and then insisting you had a connection in order to play them, the writing was on the wall.

  2. The Sombrero Kid says:

    SMARTEST CEO in the world:

    lets see the options to increase my market share are:

    1.) make my own products better
    2.) make my competitors products worse
    3.) make my own products cheaper
    4.)refuse to sell products as good as my competitor unless i can some how make them worse by stripping out services & such.

    hmmm i choose 4.

  3. Hmm says:

    That’s what I’ve been saying here for a long time, but Steam fanatics here refuse to look any further than the tips of their noses. They believe everyone loves Steam, everyone wants to use Steam, that any other option is evil.
    Well, newsflash: they are wrong.

    Games should not force anyone to install a shop application, which Steam essentially is. Games should use a neutral equivalent of Steamworks.
    GFWL is taking the right approach – they’re getting rid of the GFWLMarketplace client, which was always separate from the game anyway, and bringing everything to the web.
    Impulse Reactor works similar to Battle.net – you get multiplayer, community features, achievement, patching and don’t have to install ANY CLIENT at all.
    This is the way PC games should work. Mandatory, annoying clients like Steam have no place here.

    You say that Impulse Reactor is young and unproven – well, let’s give it a chance, shall we? We won’t know how well it works until SOMEONE decides to use it.
    Take Shank, for example. Why is this STEAM EXCLUSIVE? Why can’t I buy it from Impulse with Reactor support?

    • subedii says:

      Instead of making blanket ad-hominems, it might be useful to make some valid points. Your post contains quite a few factual inaccuracies.

      First off, it is possible for games to make use of Steamworks without being attached to the Steam store. There are actually one or two games that do that.

      More to the point, GFWL store is very much tied to GFWL. I can access the store from in-game, and if I want to buy DLC for games, it has to be in MS Points. It doesn’t matter that they’re introducing a web based client now, the GFWL in-game store is still going to exist, as well as their separate marketplace client.

      I’m happily willing to give Impulse Reactor a chance, as long as it gives me the featuresets I’m looking for. Right now, the big two competitors for community systems are Steam, and GFWL. And frankly, GFWL is tripe.

    • Thermal Ions says:

      Well if clients like Steam have no place here, why are they so damned popular? Could it be that they provide a significant number (yes, I’ll admit it, not all, maybe not even the majority) gamers, developers and publishers with what they want.

      Oh, by the way, wake me up when a game I might possibly be interested in decides to use Impulse Reactor – I’m off to hibernate for the winter confident of sleeping undisturbed.

    • Archonsod says:

      Paradox are also kicking off their own community thang too, so there’ll be another one shortly :P

      As for Steam being a popular client, I’m not so sure about that. I mean it’s installed on a lot of machines and I know a lot of people use it, but the question is how many people actively use the client and how many people it’s just a little icon in the taskbar for. Personally I prefer X Fire for the community thing, but I was using that long before Steam and imho it’s better at what it does.

    • Quxxy says:

      Here’s how I see it:

      Valve aren’t evil. I don’t think they want to be the one and only service for PC games. It’s just that everyone else was asleep at the wheel for so long that by the time anyone bothered to actually try competing on service and features, it was already too late.

      Personally, I don’t use Impulse because I don’t want a million and one clients on my machine. Hell, I was really furious when I found out that Batman: AA required GFWL. If I’d known that beforehand, I wouldn’t have bought it.

      What I’d love to see is some decentralisation: decouple the Steam client, store and community. Make it so that I can buy and download games from the Impulse store via the Steam client and vice-versa. And frankly, given the players in the game, I’d much rather Valve be in a commanding position than Microsoft. There’s actually a chance Valve will play nice.

      But none of this impacts the argument as to whether or not retail game stores deserve to survive in the PC market. As far as I’m concerned, they don’t. Dealing with the digital distribution landscape is a whole other discussion.

  4. FrowningEyes says:

    Publishers bending over backwards for a frightened retailers is a much more frightening and realistic worry for me.

  5. Trevor says:

    The amount of shortsightedness in this post and on this comment thread is staggering. It wasn’t unexpected in the comments of the VG247′s article about the same piece of news (http://www.vg247.com/2010/11/11/retailers-speak-out-against-valve-steam-is-killing-the-pc-market/) because they cater more to the Sun reading/console playing demographic, but reading the same type of comments on RPS, and worse, reading the article and seeing the same type of commentary in there as well, is truly disturbing.

    Let me ask you this: Have you ever lent a game to a friend or borrowed one from a friend? Have you sold or traded an old game you’re not playing anymore? Have you ever bought or traded an old game you missed when it came out initially? I’ve done all of these. That is, until the rise of the Steam-ification of most of the new (post-2008) games. With Steam, that’s all gone. The same goes for other DRMs disguised as features, like Starcraft 2 (and Diablo 3, most likely) and BattleNet 2.0. Everybody seems to be dismissing that for some reason, but all the reasons I see posted here are not good enough in my opinion. So many of you are putting so much blind faith in Valve, Blizzard and their ilk. And you can’t even claim that they’re completely innocent even now, let alone after a few years when they’ll become even more fat and content. Should I remind anyone of the people banned from BattleNet 2.0 because they used trainers in single player? Or about the people banned from entire swathes of Steam games because that particular engine was banned after loading the wrong mods? The cold truth is that you have absolutely no control whatsoever over a thing you bought. It’s not even a matter of not being able to sell something you, supposedly, own anymore. It’s already an issue of being denied the use something you paid for. If you don’t find that disturbing, then I have nothing else to add. You know what, SecuROM and StarForce seem mighty fine compared to Steam right now. At least with these ones you could do whatever you wanted with the games you already paid for.

    @Cliffski: Yes, I’m doing exactly that. Buying directly from the developers… when I can. The problem is that you can’t do that all the time. For example, Flotilla, Defense Grid or Audiosurf, to name just a few, come exclusively with Steam. I didn’t find any way of buying Flotilla or Defense Grid directly from the developers. I had an even worse experience with Audiosurf. I bought a retail copy and when I tried to install it it asked me to install Steam first.

    Now I got to the point where the first thing I check out before buying is what DRM a game comes with and the that has veto power over everything else.

    • Rinox says:

      Borrowing games (to and fro) was always illegal technically speaking, though. So can’t really blame publishers for putting a stop on that. The not being able to resell or trade in old games, however, is a shame. Greenmangaming was (and is?) trying to fill that gap though, so we may still see some kind of advance in that area. Without being overly optimistic, I would put it beyond Valve to introduce user features on steam that are not aimed solely at making them more money (in the short run anyway).

    • Rinox says:

      wouldn’t* negation fail

    • subedii says:

      Defence Grid isn’t a Steam exclusive. You can get it on a number of DD services, including Impulse, or heck, even OnLive now.

    • tomwaitsfornoman says:

      When and how did buying and trading used games become a good thing?

    • Trevor says:

      @Rionx: The fact that the publishers state in the EULA that they don’t allow you to lend/borrow/rent a game doesn’t give it the power of law, thus it can’t be characterized as either legal or illegal. And a law like that, even if the publishers would love it, wouldn’t pass muster because it would gut the whole first sale doctrine first, and the concept of property ownership (and I’m talking real, cold-hard physical property, not intellectual property which is a far more airy concept compared to physical property) right after.

      @subedii: You’re right about that, but you can’t buy Defense Grid directly from the developers’ site (and, thus, without DRM). That’s what Cliffski and I were talking about. The thing is that, in my opinion, it doesn’t matter if it’s Steam or Impulse or any other similar platform. As long as you have to register it to your account and make it non-transferable to other accounts, it could be tied to your DNA for all I care. Even the Green Man Gaming thing that Rionx was talking about is, on a fundamental level, nothing but what the bricks&mortar games do for console games. The only thing that would make it right would be the ability to transfer a game between accounts… even if it’s for a fee, as long as the fee is at most a few dollars/euro/pounds.

      @tomwaitsfornoman: You’re confusing this with bricks&mortar stores buying back console games for pennies and reselling them as “used” at almost full price. I’m talking about people selling/buying/trading 5-15 years old games on eBay, gameTZ, CheapAssGamer etc. Now you can do that and get old titles cheaply without any intent to sell them, sell all your games because you need the money/need the space/are moving out, complete you collection etc. The reasons are too many to enumerate. If the Steam trend doesn’t turn into a passing fad, in 15 years you won’t be able to do that with today’s games. Who wins? Valve. Who loses? Everybody else, including the developers and the publishers. It is a well recognized fact (I don’t have a reference on hand, but I could look it up) that if you buy a good with the knowledge that you’ll be able to resell it at a later date, one is ready to pay a higher price at first sale than if when you buy something that you know for certain that you won’t be able to resell. And I’m not saying “won’t be able” as in “won’t be allowed” but as in “won’t have the ability to do it even if I ignored everything else”. What the bricks&mortar shops is, indeed very low, but if you were them, you would do the same, I assure you. A simple serial number for the multi-player is enough to kill that kind of action and it worked excellently for PC games with a multi-player component for a long time. Those interested in multi-player needed to buy a new copy, those interested just in single player could buy anything they wanted second hand unless they had great interest in the game to begin with. There’s nothing bad about that. It’s basic economic sense.

    • Urthman says:

      You list three games. One of them–Defense Grid–you can buy new in a box from Amazon right now for less than what Steam is charging (today). So that’s two games you’ve listed.

      Other than those two, pretty much any other PC game you can think of can be had new or used from Amazon for less than Steam charges (outside of Steam’s short-term mega-sales). So how exactly has Steam killed the used market?

    • wengart says:

      Sure you can’t trade in games but I never buy games at full price so I am essentially buying them at used prices off of Steam.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I’ve never known any reputable shops to take PC game trade ins in the UK (not including cash converters and CEX – they still allow you to trade in you Steam games). Since my first gaming experiences of the first Command and Conquer games and the first Half Life. They all required CD-Keys to play online so shops wouldn’t let you trade them in, it was too easy to just copy the disc and write down the serial number. Stop being high and mighty in your posts, your full of crap frankly.

    • Ateius says:

      RE: It’s Steam’s fault we can’t borrow and re-sell old games amongst ourselves anymore

      That’s a bit unfair. What about all the other DRM schemes, especially the ones with my old favourite “limited installations”? Have fun trying to re-install an old classic and finding out you’ve reached your limit. Or letting a friend borrow it and finding out it used up your last activation.

    • Trevor says:

      @DrGonzo:

      “Stop being high and mighty in your posts, your full of crap frankly.”

      Oh, well, I might very well be full of crap. Would you mind explaining why you think that? I don’t think there are any inconsistencies across my posts. If you think that using a set of principles instead of childish enthusiasm about or dislike for this and that and looking at the big picture instead of considering just the immediate implications is acting high and mighty or being full of crap, then by all means, I am acting high and mighty and I am being full or crap.

      Cheerio!

    • Trevor says:

      @Ateius:

      “What about all the other DRM schemes, especially the ones with my old favourite “limited installations”? Have fun trying to re-install an old classic and finding out you’ve reached your limit. Or letting a friend borrow it and finding out it used up your last activation.”

      That’s very true. From my point of view those are even worse because they have all the downsides and none of the upsides of Steam. There are some obscure and, frankly, obnoxious DRMs that do that, among them, if I recall correctly, the ones coming with The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena and Two Worlds. Fortunately, the more successful titles that came with limited installations DRM had also de-authorization tools that you could use to claim back an used install. That was the case with Bishock, before the patch that removed the install limit altogether or EA’s Red Alert 3, Dead Space, Mirror’s Edge, Crysis: Warhead or Spore. I don’t know what happened to Ubisoft’s Far Cry 2, which came with the same limited installations DRM setup.

    • Archonsod says:

      ” Have you ever lent a game to a friend or borrowed one from a friend? Have you sold or traded an old game you’re not playing anymore? Have you ever bought or traded an old game you missed when it came out initially?”

      Not since the days of the 8 bits and games coming on tape, no. By the time the Amiga came out we just copied the games instead. Illegal, but more convenient.

      ” The cold truth is that you have absolutely no control whatsoever over a thing you bought. ”

      As long as it’s downloaded to my system I do. Steam emulators aren’t hard to find, and in fact anyone with a bit of know how can mimic the Steam server response from their own system. The opposite tends to be true, once the data is on a system, it’s the guy owning the system who controls it.

    • Kadayi says:

      @Trevor

      ‘ Would you mind explaining why you think that?’

      He already did, you just didn’t get it.

    • Znea says:

      I share my Steam account with my sister, and since she lives on the other side of the pacific from me it works a lot better then trading discs back and forth through the mail. Maybe I’m just doing it wrong, but I haven’t run into any trouble with it and haven’t had to set anything special up (other than changing my password to something she could remember).

    • Luke says:

      @Trevor

      ‘ Would you mind explaining why you think that?’

      For me it was the bit where you decided to condemn “The amount of shortsightedness in this post” and compare the majority of contributors here to “the Sun reading/console playing demographic”, their conclusions ” truly disturbing.”

      Without this yours would merely be an opinion hysterically expressed in the manner of a McArthy era moral guardian type. This, combined with your intellectual head shaking and sermoninising at people who had the audacity to express an opinion which did not match the tenor or your own lead to your hubrisitic descent into being high and mighty and full of crap in your posts.

      Cheerio!

  6. FrowningEyes says:

    Publishers bending over backwards for a frightened retailer is a much more frightening and realistic worry for me.

  7. itsallcrap says:

    If it’s really a case of Steam vs World, I’m backing Steam – mainly because it has pretty much the least intrusive DRM you can reasonably expect in this day and age.

    Excluding direct http downloads, I’ve only ever used non-Steam digital distribution for one game, which was Sins of a Solar Empire over Impulse. Sins is not available on Steam.

    • Hmm says:

      Steam is the most intrusive DRM out there. Period. One could argue that Ubisoft’s is even worse, and it probably is.
      Stardock’s GOO? Superior to Steam DRM.
      Securom? Superior, because it means one-time internet activation at worst, no bullcrap which needs to run in the background and many games patch it out completely after a while.

    • itsallcrap says:

      If Ubisoft’s is worse (which it definitely is), Steam is not the worst.

      Securom is worse because you need to DVD in the drive, which is a collosal pain in the arse.

      I guess I’ll take your word for it on GOO, because I wasn’t even aware that Stardock games had any DRM beside the fact that you had to download them using their client. Does that really count? Certainly they run without it…

    • Ignorant Texan says:

      SecuRom as a force for good? Really? It’s a fucking root-kit/malware/spyware copper. I can uninstall Steam, but you have to dig deeply through your registry to remove all the scattered pieces of this SONY-owned malware. They refuse to list what programs are incompatible/’illegal’ and thus, software I’ve bought will not work for reasons they will not state, other than some gibberish as to what is a null value with my soundcard, video card, my neighbors dog, etc…. And will be nonreturnable to a retailer because the box has been opened. In my more cynical moments, IE most of the time, I believe SecuRom is SONY’s underhanded attempt to drive people away from PC-gaming and into their even more draconian and restricted PS3 world.

    • subedii says:

      SecuROM does run in the background, it’s part of the actual executable. And frankly, I’ve had more issues with SecuROM not recognising my DVD Drive than I have had with Steam.

      I don’t even see how you can even claim GOO is superior, it’s not even out yet,. Impulse as it currently exists now however, I lump in as being about as intrusive as Steam. That is to say: not very.

    • Hmm says:

      GOO IS OUT. Has been for a long time. Majesty 2 used it. So did Red Faction Guerilla.

      As for Securom – like I said, it can be patched out very easily. So no DVD in the drive is needed.

    • Ignorant Texan says:

      So, publishers wake up and realize SecuRom loses them sales. After a while does not mean that it isn’t a malicious rootkit. Having to completely reload drivers and all sorts of other repair does not make SecuRom benign by any stretch of the imagination.

    • subedii says:

      So wait, you’re saying SecuROM’s better because you need to get rid of it?

      Because that’s precisely what happened with Supreme Commander 1. SecuROM was causing so many freaking issues that GPG had no choice but to ultimately release a patch and get rid of it. Heck, Ubisoft even did the same with R6 Vegas, and you know what? They didn’t even patch it out properly, they applied a scene No-CD Hack to get rid of it. Yes CLEARLY that’s the most stable and ideal solution, and not at all problematic and certainly doesn’t put the user’s PC at risk for doing so.

      Steam on the other hand, I haven’t had that issue with.

      I will acquiesce however, that I did not know that GOO had been released. That was my mistake.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Impulse now spams adverts onto your desktop, I think it’s pretty disgusting frankly and has really put me off the service, which I used to like. How is that not intrusive? In my opinion that’s worse than DRM.

    • Urael says:

      @Dr Gonzo

      Have you tried, I don’t know, TURNING IT OFF? I did and haven’t seen a pop-up advert since.

    • Archonsod says:

      “Impulse now spams adverts onto your desktop, I think it’s pretty disgusting frankly and has really put me off the service, which I used to like. How is that not intrusive? In my opinion that’s worse than DRM.”

      So does Steam. Both let you opt out, the difference is Steam resets it after every update. As it does with your choices on whether to allow automatic patches of games. I put that down to laziness on Valve’s part though.

  8. Jorune2112 says:

    On the comment that Steam doesn’t ‘price fix’ games. Apparently, that’s not true. Two weeks ago I bought an indie game directly from a publisher located in the UK (I am in the U.S.). I paid 16 US dollars for it. When it came out on Steam a week later, it was 10 bucks. I wrote to the publisher with a complaint that as an early adopter trying to buy directly from the publisher, I shouldn’t be paying more money for the product. I received an email this morning from the publisher stating that they wanted to charge more for the game, but Steam has strict guidelines that they had to follow.

    • sneetch says:

      Really? I find that hard to believe, they must have very complex strict guidelines as just browsing the games in the Steam indie section I’m seeing games for €2.49, €2.99, €3.99, €4.49, €4.99, €5.99, €6.99, €7.99, €8.99, €9.99, €11.99, €12.99, €13.99, €14.99, €15.99, €16.99, €17.99, €18.99, €19.99 and €22.99. I wonder what the difference between a €4.49 and a €4.99 game is, for example?

      Sounds like they’re trying to fob you off.

    • Thermal Ions says:

      Maybe the strict guidelines related to having signed a publishing deal releasing the game at an agreed price, with agreed commission for Valve, based upon an expected number of unit sales. Valve quite rightly may require them to honour that agreement, regardless if the developer then decides to increase the price at the last minute (which in Valve’s view possibly risked reduced unit sales such that expected commission revenue would be impacted).

      The dev’s might have also realised that the payment processor charges (assuming 3rd party) incurred for purchases “direct” from them plus the bandwidth costs meant their profit from these “direct” purchases wouldn’t meet expectations, thus increased the “direct” price.

    • Urthman says:

      Wait, so you bought a game and then later found it for sale at a cheaper price?

      Just like every other game that ever existed? And this surprised you?

    • Jorune2112 says:

      No, not at a sale price. They were selling the game for $32 bucks at their own web site, with half-off now if you pre-order the beta product. So I paid $16. Than it comes out on Steam at $10. Please don’t simplify it. This is directly addressing whether or not Steam sets prices on games.

      From the publisher’s email:
      “Unfortunately Steam are
      very firm in their pricing requests and we have to agree to them and
      thus it went on their site somewhat cheaper than we had planned.”

      I’m loathe to name the developer simply because they took the time to address my issue personally and quickly, so if you need to dismiss it, cool.

      Jorune

    • Archonsod says:

      It depends on what you mean by “publishers”. Actual publishers like EA, Ubisoft et al can set their prices, indie devs and smaller companies have a lot less clout when it comes to negotiating.

      They’re not that different from any other publisher. They want to make money, if you’re asking too much for your game they’ll walk. To be fair though, they probably know a lot more than the indie dev about the marketing side of things.

  9. Jethro says:

    Surely by making Steam the only place to buy PC games these stores will put Valve in its place!

    • DrGonzo says:

      That’s pretty much how I see it going. If the shops boycott Steam then it will no longer have reason to keep it’s prices artificially high as well – if that really is why they are so high.

  10. Ham says:

    Great, I’ll think about that the next time those fucking stores don’t have the game I’m looking for.

  11. Artist says:

    Omg, Steam own us! HAMSTER RIOT!
    Seriously, I buy most new steam games somewhere else, cos steam is ridiculous expensive! Its only good for bargains.

    • Baf says:

      I can’t agree about the pricing, because I don’t think I’ve ever paid full price for a game on Steam. I’ve been buying games on Steam at a faster rate than I can finish them, but entirely through their “75% off” sales and the like.

    • Artist says:

      Yes, “x% off” is what most persons call “bargain”….

    • Baf says:

      That part was understood. My point is just that they discount their games so often that their non-discounted prices are pretty much irrelevant. Calling Steam too expensive except for the bargains is a bit like saying your bedroom is a really uncomfortable place to sleep except for the bed.

  12. kikito says:

    Let me translate:

    Digital distribution boss says to MCV: “I want more money, but Valve is taking it. Because they are monopolistic.”

  13. malkav11 says:

    Why exactly should it matter to these companies why the games forcibly install a competing service? It’s clearly detrimental to them regardless of what benefits it may provide to the developers or indeed users. And you’ll forgive me if I don’t want every copy of any given game tied to Steam forever myself. It’s one thing if I make the deliberate choice to purchase through Steam for my own copy, something I quite regularly do because Steam usually has the best sales and a number of excellent design elements to their store and their client. But my deliberately taking the risk that they one day go out of business and leave me unable to play their games is fine. Making the game universally unplayable if that scenario should occur, not so much.

    • D says:

      You don’t sound like a steam hater at all, so this is not directed at you, but I want to point out to that this argument (the DOOMSDAY argument) is completely and utterly bollocks. On the PC today, we can play arcade games that were made in the 80′s and probably some from the 70′s as well. To think that the closure of Steam, Steamworks etc. would make all software hackers and crackers go “Oh well! Nothing to do about that” is far fetched. I am not worried for the future, in this respect.

  14. DukeBG says:

    If a game is not on Steam – i won’t buy it.

    Wanna sell games in your own store? Make it bugless and trustworthy. Having some freaky DRM that relies on the company store “is_purchased” check that will break (and render your digital copy unplayable) after 2 years (what? 2 y.o. game? we not gonna support that!) is an awful user experience.

  15. kororas says:

    Steam is on a roll. That is all.

  16. jvempire says:

    Ya boycotting will sure work when the holiday sales start!! Oh wait.

  17. Wilson says:

    I can’t remember the last time I bought something in a physical store. There’s always somewhere online where you can get it cheaper or quicker, or both. Plus there are hardly any PC games in stores. So… meh to stores. Steam potentially getting too big is something of a concern. Hopefully other online stores will become more popular as time goes by. I’ve got games from a few different online stores (I’ve found Impulse to be solid, and have quite a few games on there) and plenty of indie games bought direct from the devs. It’s handy that I’ve got an external HD to store the installers on, but you can generally redownload them anyway.

  18. Frank says:

    Bah, just gossip.

  19. Ninja Dodo says:

    hahaha-ho, hum….

    Seriously though.

    That was funny, Retail.

    In the last three years I think I’ve bought about two PC games boxed. One of them was from Amazon, the other had some nice books and things that came with. If they had been available on Steam at the time I would’ve gotten them on that…

  20. Cunzy1 1 says:

    Anyone visited the PC software section of their nearest high street retailer?

    If you can find the game you want (over two weeks old? sorry that’s ancient) it’s often more expensive. Or it’ll be second hand boo ha boo hiss ha booo.

    So we aren’t given much choice and get dicked on the price? Great.

  21. Incolas says:

    I think we’ve seen more threatening big bad wolves out there before. That said, they’re in control of the PC market and now they’re getting Sony to bend to get Portal 2 to the PS3. I wonder who will stop that. Microsoft had Apple, Sega had Nintendo, Xbox had PS3, what’s Steam’s counterpart?

  22. Jim Jones says:

    The PC games section in my local Game is tiny (basically the top 10 games + random selection of £5 rubbish).

    If they want people to buy games from them they need to support the PC properly. Last time I bought something from Game must be at least 3 years ago. Steam is a complete red herring, they are killing the PC as a gaming platform not Steam.

    Anyway Amazon & Play are much cheaper :)

  23. John Smith says:

    Here in Montreal there are no shops whatsoever that carry PC games. Future Shop, EB Games, Gamezone etc all stopped pushing PC gaming about 5 years ago, WAY before Steam had taken off. Retailers forced users to Steam, not the other way around.

    Now that I’ve taken the Steam pill, I can say without a doubt, that there is no need for retail game shops. They are just there to screw people over on the second hand scene.

    Do I miss hanging out in stinky disgusting stores smelling teen sweat while browsing hundreds of titles? Nope. (okay a little)

  24. John Smith says:

    Here in Montreal there are no shops whatsoever that carry PC games. Future Shop, EB Games, Gamezone etc all stopped pushing PC gaming about 5 years ago, WAY before Steam had taken off. Retailers forced users to Steam, not the other way around. (Future Shop has a bunch of Sims and SC2 boxes, but doesnt try to keep up with pc games)

    Now that I’ve taken the Steam pill, I can say without a doubt, that there is no need for retail game shops. They are just there to screw people over on the second hand scene.

    Do I miss hanging out in stinky disgusting stores smelling teen sweat while browsing hundreds of titles? Nope. (okay a little)

  25. CTDahl says:

    Besides Steamworks, Valve has been offering anouther great tool for developers and publishers: *STATISTICS*

    I yet to hear of an existing direct download service that offers hard statistics of game consumer demographics in the way that Valve does it. For a fee, Valve can tell you who is buying the game, when, where, the consumer’s past shopping habits, and so on.

    This probably entices publishers more then developers, as it is their money on the line and it gives them the ability for invest smartly into future projects.

  26. Atholearl says:

    Personally I stopped using brick and mortar retailers in favour of sites like amazon/play. Far easier to get what I wanted, and a didn’t have to stare at a pathetic amount of shelf space to do it. They stopped supporting PC games so I stopped going, it really is that simple. Steam and similar services just continued my online shopping to the next level.

    Steam has risen to where it is because it’s (arguably) the best at what it does. It didn’t start that way ether, it improved and fought for it’s place. It’s far from perfect, but it’s certainly one off the best options around. Here’s a hint retailers: if you want a piece of the action, don’t ignore the user base then whine later on services that replaced you are dominate. Man up and fight for your place and the user base will respond.

    I’d also argue that steamworks isn’t that much of a threat to retailers anyway. Release day games are usually more expensive, and I’m more likely to order the game where it’s cheapest with steamwoks attached. It is however a threat to other digital distribution sites, and competition is needed to keep things from getting stale.

  27. Delusibeta says:

    Ultimately, cry some more. Steamworks provide multiplayer matchmaking, server list provision, rapid patch distribution, DRM that’s liked by the majority of PC gamers, DLC sales, cloud saving and the Steam Community, all for the low price for free. Of course publishers and developers are going to use it!

    Make a superior competitor and then we’ll talk.

    (It’s interesting to note that this is the second time there’s been a major QQ about Steamworks from retailers, shortly after the second Call of Duty game to use Steamworks was released. Last bout of whining was shortly after Modern Warfare 2′s release. I wonder what would be their response once Activision gets Blizzard to implement Battle.net in the PC Call of Duty games?)

  28. Wulf says:

    For all this though, the PC is still an open platform, thank goodness. I agree that it’s awkward that Stemaworks forces people into using Steam, but I don’t really mind, because Valve has never, ever done wrong by me. I’ve been using Steam since the year of its launch, when it was a barren wasteland with only Valve products on it, and I’ve watched it grow and grow. I like that they’re fairly friendly customer-service wise too if you’re at least personable, since a couple of times I’ve had ‘buy for a friend’ sales fail, which were fixed, and I’ve managed to get refunds on a couple of games when things simply outright haven’t worked for me.

    Then again, this might be something to do with me being a customer in good standing, I’ve never used hacks in online gaming (a hateful thing), and I’ve never tried fraud (there are some hilarious stories about this), so I’m probably head and shoulders above most the PC audience in this respect. Despite how stupid the average PC script kiddy is though, it’s good that Valve still realises that the PC is an open platform. What this means is: They don’t care what you do with your single-player game. I mean, you could cheat horribly with single-player games, but they take the attitude that the only person you’re cheating is yourself. The worst they’d do is turn off the achievements for that game.

    This is ulike, say, Blizzard. Blizzard is the sort of company that would likely turn the PC into a closed platform if it could, it would likely only allow modding through a modding suite that’s encrypted, and it already requires that mods be vetted by humans, a lot of which get cast to the roadside (this is NOT the PC way, Blizzard). Moreover, Blizzard has banned people for using cheats in a single-player game. Allow me to repeat that just to stress the fucking idiocy of it. Blizzard has banned people for cheating in a single-player game. What does that mean? If you cheat in your single-player game, only hurting yourself, you’re denied access to your game. The money you spent on buying it is lost, it’s gone, Blizzard won’t change their stance on this.

    Admittedly, Valve ban, but for online cheating, and even then only under drastic circumstances, and usually because a publisher has demanded it. With their own games, they tend to not ban, in TF2 they just wipe achievements/items instead, which is a much more fair approach, so they don’t ban with their own games even for online cheating, which is bloody incredible, it’s almost too fair of them. But Blizzard? That old buzzard will ban you access from your game for using any kind of injected code, and this has nothing to do with online gaming. Blizzard is like vultures circling above, you can see them circling, and they’re just waiting for you to do something stupid, so that they can feast on your corpse.

    That’s how it could be. The thing is, for all that Valve is, things could be worse.

    Things could be a lot, lot worse.

    Frankly, I’m glad that the reigning power at the moment actually has some sense of fairness, understands that the PC is an open platform, and actually cares about the future of our platform. That’s more than you could say about Microsoft, Blizzard, or so many others. Yes, they’re a company. Yes, they’re out to make profit. But there’s just something else with them, something where they’d fly the heads of a game’s boycott out to meet them for free, just to show them how awesome the thing they’re boycotting is.

    Steam is a company, but there’s still Valve behind it. And neither Steam or Valve has done wrong by me. And frankly? It’s better than the alternatives.

    • Thermal Ions says:

      I think you’ll find that Valve will VAC ban for TF2 cheating, especially as VAC bans are at the engine level – so a ban in any of DOD:S, CS:S, TF2 and whatever else is on the same engine version atm will affect the others. The loss of achievements / items relates more to other Terms of Service breaches (e.g. using 3rd party idling software).

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      I figure we’ll be okay as long as Valve remains privately owned and Gabe Newell remains sane.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      “Moreover, Blizzard has banned people for using cheats in a single-player game.”

      If you neglect the fact that said cheats were map/drophacks, yeah, it’s easier to act all indignant. If you’re stupid enough to go online while running multiplayer hacks in the background, you kind of deserve the ban.

  29. Kryopsis says:

    “GfWL neither offers better deals than all its competitors nor aggressively pushes its own storefront.”

    As someone who worked on two high-profile Games for Windows – Live games and who had to sit through boring Games for Windows conferences every few months, I can tell you that you’re wrong on both counts.

    When was the last time you’ve seen Halo 2, Gears of War, Viva Pinata or Age of Empires III for sale on a digital distribution site that is not owned by Microsoft? You have to admit that Games for Windows offers a fair share of exclusive high quality titles* and DLC. The ‘Deal of the Week’ initiative that was implemented several months ago is only an example of things to come once the Games for Windows Marketplace (http://www.microsoft.com/games/en-US/community/pages/gond.aspx) launches next week. In other words, not only Microsoft has desirable content that nobody else has but they are beginning to take the offensive.

    This, of course, is of little relevance to publishers and yet we keep seeing GfW-L games (http://news.bigdownload.com/2010/11/03/thq-exec-hints-at-using-games-for-windows-live-for-pc-again/) to the detriment of consumers. What Microsoft gives publishers is priceless: free advertising. Like it or not, Games for Windows has brand recognition mainly to the association to Xbox Live. All GfW titles are advertised on the portal site. Moreover, whenever you see a game supporting Microsoft’s platform being advertised in a magazine, chances are it’s being paid for by Microsoft. Every Games for Windows game sold (not to mention Live) advertises the platform but the platform advertises the products. This is not something Steam can provide. As popular as steampowered.com is, it cannot equal the ‘Games for Windows’ logo on top of a row of neat boxes on a store shelf. Games that require Steam to play rarely contain references to the service at all, save a small red warning box at the back. Why is that, do you think?

    To clarify, I am not in favour of Games for Windows – Live, as my first post in this thread will tell you. Nonetheless, Microsoft cannot be ignored as a competitor. If the rise of the Xbox will tell you anything is that the company is tenacious, ruthless and knows how to sell its products.

    *: Yes, I know. “Halo 2, desirable title? Hahah!” and so on. The point is that until very recently, GfW-L had better exclusives than the competition.

    • FrowningEyes says:

      Well I definitively believe you attended GWFL conferences.

    • JohnnyMaverik says:

      Yea but Microsoft are still massive, massive wankers who deserve the biggest kick in the nuts that every poor soul who has sat through 45 minutes of GFWL updating after installing a game that uses the client can muster and having a fking cheek to demand we pay for a gold subscription to play bloody Gears of War online. What’s more exclusivity is not a service, exclusivity is a cheep back handed way of trying to get a hold on a market. Other than Valve’s own games they hold nothing exclusive to steam and in fact stock plenty of games that use GFWL. Why don’t Microsoft put Gears on steam? I’ll bet you anything if they had the PC version of Gears would have made them a profit and the “no Gears 2 because we lost money on the first game” argument wouldn’t hold any ground.

      Fk Microsoft. and GFWL, they couldn’t give less of a crap about the pc as a gaming platform and pc gamers, the sooner they leave our Platform alone the better, and if pc gamers have any sense they’ll let them know that they’re not interested with their wallets.

    • Hmm says:

      I’d like MS to be ruthless and tenacious when it comes to their GFW division… because right now, it’s a joke. It’s been four years since the whole GFW initiative launched and it’s pathetic how MS handled it.
      Xbox this, xbox that, xbox gets the games, hundreds of million of $$$ on marketing. GFW? Nothing. No games. It got Gears of War, but not GoW2 or 3. Halo 2, but not even Halo 3. No arcade games like Limbo or Shadow Complex. Nothing. Null. Zero. The client is still a joke – the interface, patching… awful.
      The GFW team – all two guys on the team – must be a bunch of sad folks. Underpaid, understaffed, unable to get even console ports on the service. Always in the shadow of the money hemorrhaging Xbox division, which cost MS billions of dollars they’ll never get back.

    • Savage says:

      The trouble with Microsoft “competing” int he PC games space, is their utter lack of consistency or follow-thru. We all remember the big “PC gaming on Windows 7 is going to be revolutionized” with GFWL, but the reality is that after the initial marketing push with the Win7 launch, Microsoft once again walked away from the initiative.

      The half-dozen games you mentioned (with the exception of AOEIII) are all primarily Xbox games. When you mention playing a round of Halo, no one thinks you;re about to head to your PC, do thay?

      I’ll give a specific example of how GFWL on the PC can actually KILL a PC game:

      My gaming community has 7 dedicated (dual quad core) boxes that host over 30 games server (Tf2, L4D, etc.) . We host game servers on the east coast, west coast, and in the UK….and our servers garner over half a million player connections per month. What that means is that fi we put our support behind a game, we generally have no problem filling a server on a daily basis.

      Section 8 was a game that many of our players loved. It had its problems, but had enough interesting game mechanics for us to give it a shot with our community.

      Unfortunately, the process for hosting a game server with GFWL was a HUGE impediment. Unliek nearly every other game we’ve launched a server for, it took us over TWO MONTHS to get a S8 server up and running, all due to the shoddy, bloated, piece of crap that is GFWL. Hell, I was actually told (about 6 weeks into trying to get a server up) that the ONE GUY that handled server “whitelists” was on vacation for two weeks, so they wouldn’t be able to get our license handled until then. This is on a game that was BRAND NEW and needed all the word of mouth it could get. Make no mistake GFWL KILLED Section 8′s chances of gaining any kind of PC audience.

      The GFWL does not understand the concept of community support, nor with their “Xbox Live” colored glasses on, will they ever. Until they can stop trying to showhorn the PC experience into the Console box, PC gamers will continue to look elsewhere.

      Can Microsoft relaunch/revitalize the service? I’m sure they can…they should at the very least have the funding and personnel to put up a good fight. Will they? I doubt it. Where M$ is failing is in trying to shape the experience to what THEY think it should be, as opposed to what their customers WANT it to be. M$ doesn’t listen to PC gamers anymore, if they ever did.

      Valve does, and that’s why Valve is winning.

      As for the Bricks and Mortar guys boycotting PC games, I say go right ahead, I don;t really need a copy of “Barbie Fashion Show” anyway…and if I did, I’d probably buy it from Amazon anyway. Go ahead and nash your teeth and stomp your feet all the way to bankruptcy. You are the buggy-whip makers of the 21st century, and that’s just the way it goes.

      I can’t wait until physical media goes away all together, and we can stop listening to all the moaning and whining brought on by these antiquated business models all together.

    • subedii says:

      I don’t doubt that they are ruthless, tenacious, and know how to sell their products.

      I do however doubt that they have the actual inclination to do so and truly invest in GFWL this time, any more now than they did the last three times they relaunched the service.

      I think that a lot of it comes down to a fundamental conflict of interest. MS’s unfortunate but fundamental internal conflict of interest between project teams which ultimately means that they need to emphasise the 360 games market over the PC games market. GFWL has always been sidelined by Microsoft because their key games platform is the 360 now. Which leads to things like Alan Wake suddenly becoming a 360 exclusive despite originally being a poster boy for DX10, or deliberately canning projects to increase cross-platform compatibility because it “reflects poorly” on the 360 if KBAM players can consistently outperform players on a gamepad, or timed exclusives on DLC and game releases in general…

      And really, this is before you get into all the OTHER reasons that GFWL does so poorly. MS keep trying to shove shove shove a system designed specifically for XBL into the PC sphere without thought, and it keeps resulting in half-measure and a community system that’s frankly, lacklustre compared to the competition that was around even before Steam. And yet, with their big revamp of GFWL (again) coming on the 15th, the biggest feature they’re currently touting is that they’re going to have an all new, web based store.

      You link to MS propositioning THQ to come back to GFWL, but really, there are a myriad of problems with GFWL that forced companies like Relic to drop it in the first place (this is NOT a decision to be taken lightly, considering what a bad position it leaves the DoW2 franchise in), and precisely none of them have been addressed to date.

    • Gabbo says:

      So it had 360 ports and one PC exclusive title? Get back to me when the back catalogue of MS pc titles gets put up on GfW.

      Half of the games I have in my Steam account are retail games I’ve tossed the key in because it’s mandatory or are Valve games (and a good chunk of those came from my old copy of Half-life1).
      I don’t put my money behind one platform or another, I go where the games I want are the cheapest. Occasionally that is Steam, other times it’s not. I’m ‘one of those people’ who prefers having a hard copy, and will buy online retail when I can any way. If a game doesn’t require Steam I won’t go out of my way to add it to the client. I would prefer steamworks and the Steam client be separate, but I’m not going to stop buying pc game altogether until that happens.

    • subedii says:

      The Steam store and Steamworks are separate, and devs can choose to implement it as such if they so wish. There a couple of games that have done just that IIRC.

    • Neut says:

      “What Microsoft gives publishers is priceless: free advertising. Like it or not, Games for Windows has brand recognition mainly to the association to Xbox Live.”

      “As popular as steampowered.com is, it cannot equal the ‘Games for Windows’ logo on top of a row of neat boxes on a store shelf.”

      Tbh I would question the judgement of a publisher that wants to have a logo on their box that, to nearly all PC gamers, says “this product has a stinking shitstain joke of a service that will negatively impact your game experience”.

    • malkav11 says:

      A game that can only be purchased from one service by definition cannot be a better deal on that service than another – because there is no competition.

    • noobnob says:

      Kryopsis, even though the mentioned titles are high-profile, were they capable of building up an online community capable of driving the GfWL platform forward, adding value to the service itself, in the same way Steam and Microsoft’s own Xbox LIVE did?

      I ask this because after reading all of the horror stories surrounding GfWL, the impression they left led me to the Games for Windows website looking for more insight and answers, and I stumbled upon the forums, which to my surprise were dead, with the exception of the support sections. I honestly expected more, but what I saw there instead was a few sane people, while the rest would just decry Steam as the devil of PC gaming, like parrots.

      Even if GfWL has high profile games under its belt, after all that, I have to question if they were really enough to drive the platform forward. Betcha the GfWL team would die to have codblops tied to their platform, as anyone can see, right now, how many people are playing it and many other (non) Steamworks titles.

      Additionally, the only third-party big publishers that still use GfWL on their games are Codemasters and Capcom, meaning that all the other publishers eventually lost interest on the platform and abandoned it over time.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Games that require Steam to play rarely contain references to the service at all, save a small red warning box at the back.

      The problem is that the Steam store is advertised when you’ve installed a Steamworks game, and this is precisely what GfWL games do not presently do.

      The presence or lack thereof of a big, recognisable logo on the game’s box has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that post-installation, Steamworks games result in the Steam store being advertised to people who bought the Steamworks game in the first place from another distributor. That’s the problem, not any exclusivity or branding issues.

      Obviously, there’s going to be the same problem with GfWL as there is with Steam/Steamworks if Microsoft advertise aggressively from within the GfWL client and offer excellent deals once they do the GfW store revamp.

    • Gabbo says:

      @subedii I said steam client, not store. If I can get all the great features Steamworks provides, but not need the client running for a third party game (ie not a Valve game) then I would be fine, and this issue wouldn’t exist.

      Also, which games have steamworks but don’t come bundled with steam/the store? I know of none, but continue to hear this argument everywhere.

    • subedii says:

      At the moment, Wikipedia only lists two known examples, NBA 2K9, and SupCom 2 for the Mac. Those as the article notes, “Valve does not make announcements about such games”, so realistically whenever it does happen, we simply don’t know about it.

      It’s a similar situation with Gamespy. Quite a lot of games use Gamespy but don’t actually post that they do, or even bear the Gamespy logo anywhere.

  30. Andy says:

    Judging from my experience this week of trying to by CODBLOPS at retail, no shops actually stock PC games anymore anyway…. I eventually gave up and gave Steam my money. So if you want to sell PC games, try stocking them?

  31. invisiblejesus says:

    This isn’t entirely new news, when MW2 was released Gamersgate, D2D and Impulse (who already wasn’t selling Steam-integrated games) announced they would be refusing to sell any game that required Steam. D2D has wisely reversed that policy. It would have made sense a few years ago, when Steam wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is now, but the fact is the genie’s out of the bottle now. Between MW2, the Left 4 Dead series and the Orange Box, pretty much every PC gamer who hasn’t conciously chosen not to use Steam already has it on their PC. The damage, if that is what you think it is, is already done.

    Having said that, I certainly wouldn’t object if Valve did remove the store tab from Steam, or allowed a no-storefront version of Steam to be included in games. I never actually use the store tab in the Steam client anyway and I doubt most other Steam customers do either, as the web site is much faster and more responsive.

  32. Navagon says:

    Surely this isn’t from UK retailers? As in the stores that stock up to two PC games. Not much of a threat.

  33. DMJ says:

    High street retailers might want to increase their shelf space devoted to PC games from “one set of shelves stocking nothing but budget games from 2002 and MW2″ as their first step in establishing more control over PC sales.

  34. TheApologist says:

    Game might as well have sent out a press release that said:
    ‘our days selling PC games digitally are numbered. Thank you.’

    Also, despite all the noise, I still have not seen a convincing argument against Steam. It’s convenience, its stability, and its range of services make it a good service. Arguments like ‘it’s not really a good service, it’s just convenient’ as seen in this comments thread are patronising beyond belief. People are quite capable of deciding for themselves what makes for a good service.

  35. Juppstein says:

    It is quite interesting that some years ago everyone was laughing at Steam for trying to be an internet based distribution platform with a unified interface with no future. Today they curse steam for stealing away their own possibilities to market their games digitally.

    Valve did not get big with Steam because they had billions of money or other means to shove the product down our throats (yes, I am looking at you, MS) but they became big because players (and publishers) did accept the platform and welcomed the features it gave them.

    At first it was a nice way for publishers to get additional sales aside from the brick and mortar sales. But when the point was crossed when electronic sales became a real factor they started to fear Steam for what it was. The really embarassing point is that in all those years they did not move one little pinky finger to come forward with their own digital distribution solutions. “Too bad, you loose” I say.

    And if I would have the choice between Steam and a mix of 10 different publisher e-distribution services I would still choose Steam, because it is easier to use for the consumer.

    1:0 for Valve methinks.

  36. DJ Phantoon says:

    Hey, will this be good for the Aussies, or will it not matter? I keep wanting to play some new games with some friends from there, but they can’t afford it because it costs way too much.

    Also, what’s with your stores thinking they can act like the newspapers and be fine?

  37. DrGonzo says:

    This is all pointless anyway though. Game don’t stock PC games, other than a few puzzle games. HMV used to stock PC games, but I went it last week and they had got rid of all of them other than a few copies of Football Manager and the Sims.

    Who cares if they boycott Steam when they don’t stock PC games anyway? Seems like a pretty pointless discussion to me.

  38. ScubaMonster says:

    Isn’t this what a free market is? Do or die. Valve isn’t using any sort of anti-competitive practices. Publishers are choosing the Steam route because of the benefits. Instantly large market and advertising just by putting it on Steam, not to mention they get some form of DRM control without angering the populace. It’s a win, win for everybody. If the competitors can’t offer a superior service, then put up or shut up. I realize that Valve is dominating the market, giving everybody else entering the digital distribution market a big uphill battle. I have no problem with this because Steam is an awesome service.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Valve isn’t using any sort of anti-competitive practices.

      Except they are. Namely, bundling the Steam store with Steam DRM in Steamworks titles.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I don’t see how that is anti competitive. Others can still stock and sell their games. The problem is no one else offers a decent service, that isn’t Steams fault.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      That’s not anti-competitive. You are still perfectly capable of going to a brick and mortar store or other digital store and purchasing games that require Steam, provided that they are offered. If Valve were to stipulate that games requiring Steam could only be sold via Steam, that would be anticompetitive, but that is not what is happening.

    • Kryopsis says:

      I think what Alexander is saying is that in case of Steam, the store, the service (friends, community, in-game overlay) and the DRM is all combined and comes from the same source.
      Ironically this is the very reason so many publishers prefer Steam: they get a comprehensive package that gives them a distribution platform, a cheap DRM service, tools, comprehensive statistics and a strong customer base. Until other digital distribution companies start offering this (http://steampowered.com/steamworks/developmenttools.php), Steam will remain at the hight of the competition. GfW-L is the only other system that *could* rival Steam. Unfortunately, whoever wins, the customers lose.

      This said, I do not have anything against Valve’s business policies and I do not think these practices can be singled out to be called anti-competitive.

    • Urthman says:

      Yeah, Steam is in no way anti-competitive. Installing the Steam store on your desktop is no more coercive than throwing up an advertisement in your face when you install the game. It makes it easier to buy your next game from Steam, but it does absolutely nothing to hinder you in buying your next game from someone else.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Why are the shops not boycotting Xbox then? It requires you to use the Xbox dashboard and go through Microsoft’s store and use their DRM etc.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Playing a Steamworks game requires you to install a program that then frequently advertises deals to you on its own digital store, where (thanks to its size and profitability), it can offer you better deals than other people. This is something that actively undermines their competitors’ sales.

      That is the very definition of anti-competitive.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      “bundling the Steam store with Steam DRM in Steamworks titles.”

      That’s kind of why they can give Steamworks away for free.
      Also, you can just disable the ads if you want.

    • subedii says:

      Developers are not required to install access to the Steam store with Steamworks if they so desire, and there have in fact been games released which do just that: Use Steamworks without being tied to the Steam store.

  39. subedii says:

    So leaving other companies aside, does this mean that they’re actually going to stop selling Valve games? You know, those games that are some of the biggest sellers on the PC platform?

    It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out, come Portal 2.

    “What do you mean you don’t stock Portal 2? You’ve got it right there on the PS3 and 360 shelves, you ought to have the PC version. It just released, you can’t be out of stock already.”

    At which point buyer has two options:

    a) Don’t buy Portal 2, and instead buy some other crappy game that the Gamestop clerk suggests (“would you like a copy of Barbie Princess Adventures? There are plenty of those”).

    or

    b) Get the game off of Steam.

    Actually that’s another point. Steamworks is ALSO going to be included with the PS3 version of Portal 2 now, and quite possibly, other Valve releases on the platform in future (something that Sony themselves seem to have actually embraced, considering they had Gabe Newell himself at their E3 press conference for the announcement). So does that mean they’re going to have to drop that as well?

    Enquiring minds need to know!

    • Wowza says:

      I’m pretty sure the PS3 version is only going to have the basic Steamworks features, not the store.

    • subedii says:

      And if the game gets DLC? The DLC is going to be going through Steamworks, and probably for free. As opposed to having a store case (like you can buy for the DLC for Borderlands, or Fallout 3).

      Yet MORE money Valve is clearly siphoning away from beleaguered Brick & Mortar stores. Frankly, it’s sickening.

  40. Savage says:

    Where people seem to be missing the boat on the whole “monoploy” argument is that there is absolutely NOTHING preventing any other potential competitor to steam from taking their business model and making it better.

    Valve (quite wisely) took all the backend DRM, anti-cheat, and other time/cost consuming tools publisher’s need for their games and developed an integrated package they could offer those publisher’s for free in return for using their service. Exactly what is it that is preventing ANY OTHER COMPANY from doing the exact same thing?

    Not a damn thing.

    People argue that a Steam-supported game should’;t come with Steam store support built-in. Fine..strip that tab from the Steam client. I doubt that would have but the smallest effect on overall sales.

    But…as long as we’re doing that…make sure you have EA strip all the EA store plugs from their other games and from those games respective player statistics sites as well…and make sure DICE doesn’t plug MOH in the BC2 browser….and tell Activision that I don’t need to see ads for WOW when I play SC2….etc.etc.

    As ridiculous as those suggestions are, so is the idea that consumers (especially PC gamers, which are a much more discerning bunch than the console sheep) do not have the intelligence or the judgment necessary to tell if a service is serving their needs or not. Frankly, I couldn’t care less if a game I want is released on 20 different platforms. As long as I can have the convenience and ease of use that Steam provides, I’ll stick with steam. If you can build a better service, I’ll leave Steam behind in a heartbeat.

    I have yet to see a single press release from Valve calling a game a “Steam Store Exclusive”. What these guys are really crying about is the marketing channel Valve gets by having Steam included in a game that they do not have access to.

    SO….all the whining from the brick and mortar businesses of the world is invalid as long as none of the whiners are presenting a viable alternative. All I’m hearing now is “Steam is hurting us!”. If you can actually combine that rant with “Here is a better, more user-friendly solution”, I’m all ears. Until then, I’ll stay away from your lack of selection, poorly informed sales people pushing “backend” products I don’t need, and complete lack of any semblance of decent customer service…and you can keep holding onto the dream that physical media will always be around to keep your doors open.

    If you need to see how it’s going to turn out, give Blockbuster a call.

  41. Kualtek says:

    This argument, if this isn’t completely rumor, is invalid. The publishers who put games on steam already take measures to make sure the physical box carriers get a bit of an advantage. In case you haven’t noticed, games that release on steam usually don’t unlock until noon or later on steam (east coast experience here). This is the publishers choice!

    I’m sure I remember reading that steam basically offers all their services for a cut of the profit of each sale. The details have always been hush hush, with both sides signing NDA’s on their business agreements so this could be complete crap.

    Boycotting steam games will just end up with less sales for them. Everything about this seems like a troll.

  42. bleeters says:

    Stores refusing to stock games that use steam? Guess I’ll buy them through steam instead, then.

    I sense a possibly flaw in the plan, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

  43. Ateius says:

    Last time I ventured into a brick-and-mortar store I had to spend ten minutes trying to find the PC games. They occupied one lonely, dingy stand-up rack and were mostly shovelware.

    I’m sorry, Retail Games Industry, I seem to have misplaced my sympathy.

  44. daveloft says:

    @Mobius

    If Steam goes down you can still play offline. As far as online, its no different than EA servers being down when I want to play BC2.

    Your complaint is irrelevant.

    If a game requires steamworks, then it requires steam. It doesn’t lock you into using steam for all your games and it doesn’t mean you can’t buy your games elsewhere. That doesn’t constitute being locked in to me.

    Most games require something else be it DRM like SecuROM or anti cheat like Punkbusters or a social platform like GFWL. The only difference with Steam is it is a seperate executable instead of being hidden in the game.

    Valve sells games that use competitors DRM, anti cheat and social platform, what do you mean no not really.

    If retailers don’t want to carry PC games anymore, no worries its just another win for digital distribution.

    I would love to see someone build something that can compete with steam. I like achievements, I love not worrying about my saved games, i like more easily being able to get into an online game with friends without having to create a new friends list for each game. I like being able to go a friends place and long into steam to download and play any of my titles.

    Even if steam became a monopoly it doesn’t mean the prices will go up. The prices are set by the publishers and Valve only has control of their own titles.

    Before steam I never bought anything. Why do people hate on great things? What are you afraid of? Or are you just pissed you didn’t do it first?

  45. CommanderZx2 says:

    Who here actually still buys PC games at retail? Their selection is tiny and generally overpriced. I couldn’t care less if they stopped selling PC games altogether, I’ll continue to just buy them digitally or online from elsewhere.

  46. Tei says:

    I know that tecnically brick-and-mortar store still sell PC games, but wen I visit one I see a lot of console games and very few PC games. I have never see a game like World of Goo in a brick-and-mortar store, maybe is not for sale there?

    These brick-and-mortar stores are specialized in console games and used games, and I don’t buy these products, so I get my games from Steam.

    Steam …. I know is DRM and DRM is morally wrong, but I am also very lazy, and lazyness is also wrong, so I buy my games from Steam that is very friendly to my lazyness.

    Also, I have no sympathy for these stores and how have removed all the PC content, I feel these people hate PC gamming. I have no sympathy for then at all. I am tempted to say “can’t die soon enough”, but maybe Steam is worse.

    • StormTec says:

      I’m sorry, but there’s something I have to question in your post there…

      DRM is morally wrong? Please elaborate.

    • Tei says:

      @StormTec: DRM is wrong, because the only rights that authors morally have is copyright. But authors are control freaks and want to control everything about “the experience”.. the problem with DRM is that able these people realize these freak dreams. At the moments we have not laws against DRM, so all types of abuses are possible. Like… Steam can lock you from playing any of your games because you did something “bad”, thats something authors sould not control, is beyond the copyright thing.

    • Urthman says:

      World of Goo was on the shelves at Wal-Mart for at least a year.

  47. Cynicide says:

    People support Steam because they built a good platform on which to buy games, not by whining to the media and threatening boycotts. I don’t see Valve throwing a dummy spit when Dawn of War II used GFWL, they still sold it.

  48. Jimbo says:

    Hey game retailers, you see that tiny speck on the horizon? That’s the horse that bolted about five years ago.

    I used to go out of my way to shop at Game just out of loyalty – there was a time they were the only place around here that even sold games. But there’s only so many times you can show up on launch day to pick something up only to be told “Sorry, we don’t have that, you should have pre-ordered” or “I’ve never heard of that game! What is it? LOL!” before you’re forced to go elsewhere.

  49. StormTec says:

    So they’re saying that they don’t want to stock games which push DD outlets like Steam, Impulse and GFWL… I don’t think they realise exactly how many games that would leave them with.

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