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  1. #1
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    Is Steam hurting PC gaming by not publishing their sales figures?

    I keep pondering this.

    At a casual glance, PC games are selling incredibly badly and it's always attributed to piracy, so much so that it's caused a boom in frankly offensive DRM and lazy afterthoughts for ports.

    But considering Steam has at least 70% of the PC gaming market it's almost certainly a lot healthier than it seems.

    Would it change anything or are they smart to keep their success to themselves?

  2. #2
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus sabrage's Avatar
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    Sales figures in general hurt PC gaming. If developers were less preoccupied with creating mega hits than they were with creating art, gamers as a whole would benefit. I think that this is where games are separated from books and cinema: there is very little room for an "auteur" amongst 100-strong developer team. There are a few - Ken Levine, Suda51, Kojima - who truly have creative freedom and run wild with it, but by and large the collaborative nature of game development has led to focus-group design and mass appeal at the cost of innovation.

  3. #3
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    Nevertheless, it's still a business and people have to pay their bills. I agree to a point, but you're being both overly idealistic with what goes into making a game and overly pessimistic at the rest of the industry. All games, even the mega blockbusters begin with a labour of love, it's the dilution that the original vision has to go through to appeal to a publisher and the lowest denominator gamers, who I'm afraid are in the majority.

    It's created a vacuum, true, but one that indie devs are more than happy to fill.
    Last edited by Dirtbox; 10-10-2011 at 01:41 PM.

  4. #4
    Steam's sales figures:
    Yes, I think they are. I'm not a fan of hiding numbers, especially when you're the biggest game in town. I'm sure they have a reason for doing so, and it's probably not a bad reason, but I haven't been able to discern what that is. I'd much rather be aware of just how many people bought what, as you said in your post, for the relative format charts comparisons. And even more intrigiuingly, for the digital vs. retail numbers show down.

    I'm actually not that interested in total revenue (if I released something to Steam, I'm sure I would be), just total sales. How many people proved willing to buy this thing is an important metric, even for those outside of development team itself. I would love to hear why Steam decided to keep these numbers hidden, as I cannot imagine a decent reason for doing so.

    Artistry vs. Sales
    There was a nice link in yesterday's Sunday Papers regarding Ian Boghost's two games recently made; Cow Clickers and A Slow Year (linky linky). One was financially successful and the other artistically impressive. There's a mention at the end of the article about the dude realising that there's something to creating something that panders to the masses in the sense that there is something there that they want. And as a game developer, what you want is for people to play your game. Rather than claim that designers should follow their artistic passion indiscriminantly, one should come to understand this need that made people want to play Cow Clickers. Because once you understand that need, you can make a much better, more artistic game that appeals to them.
    Last edited by telpscorei; 10-10-2011 at 01:44 PM.

  5. #5
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Kelron's Avatar
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    Steam might not make those figures public, but publishers know how much they are selling through Steam. They aren't ignoring it when they make the decision to use bullshit DRM or abandon the PC entirely.

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    Probably not. The general public may not know Steam's figures but that doesn't mean that the big publishers who bankroll games are also in the dark. Even if Valve don't give EA/Ubisoft/ActiBlizzard general figures they will be able to infer them pretty well from the results of their own games.

    IMO publishers are releasing more games on the PC than they were 2 years ago. It used to be fairly common for big cross-platform games not to get a PC release but now it's rare.

    Edit: Damn you Kelron!

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Kelron View Post
    Steam might not make those figures public, but publishers know how much they are selling through Steam. They aren't ignoring it when they make the decision to use bullshit DRM or abandon the PC entirely.
    Ah, but the rub here is that other publishers don't see those numbers. So they compare it to their console numbers. They don't have the opportunity to go "Why is Valve's latest doing so well on the PC when ours did so poorly?". Instead we get a series of announcements about how PC gaming is dead / dying.

  8. #8
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Althea's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dirtbox View Post
    But considering Steam has at least 70% of the PC gaming market it's almost certainly a lot healthier than it seems.
    Who on Earth said that?


  9. #9
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus thegooseking's Avatar
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    I think it's not possible, given that last I checked, downloads accounted for a little over 50% of the PC game market. Although I don't know how much has changed since then (it was probably about a year ago), I have my doubts that it's expanded to more than 70%. Steam most probably holds the lion's share of the download market, but it can't hold more than the download market's share of the overall market. That's logically impossible.
    "Moronic cynicism is a kind of na´vetÚ. It's na´vetÚ turned inside-out. Na´vetÚ wearing a sneer." -Momus

  10. #10
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    True. Though Steam activated retail games straddle the line there somewhat do they not?

  11. #11
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Kelron's Avatar
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    People have estimated that Steam control 70% of the digital distribution market rather than the entire PC market.

  12. #12
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    Yeah, I should have been clearer.

  13. #13
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Althea's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kelron View Post
    People have estimated that Steam control 70% of the digital distribution market rather than the entire PC market.
    But surely with Direct2Drive and GamersGate around, that can't really be possible?


  14. #14
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    Without figures, it's impossible to be accurate. However, given their massive headstart and huge catalogue and 35 million accounts it's far from unlikely. Stardock's Impulse estimated Steam's share at 70% a while ago, so that's as close as it gets.

    Source

    Also buying from GamersGate more often than not means purchasing a key that you have to use on Steam.
    Last edited by Dirtbox; 10-10-2011 at 05:20 PM.

  15. #15
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    I see it more as Steam protecting developers who do wish to sell their products on Steam.

    If the highstreet (read: Game) got wind of Steam's sale figures I think they'd double time quick fast drop the titles which feature Steam as drm as they have threatened to do in the past.

  16. #16
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Althea's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dirtbox View Post
    Also buying from GamersGate more often than not means purchasing a key that you have to use on Steam.
    Not really. I don't think I've ever encountered that except for Lead & Gold. They sell a lot of titles that don't use Steam.


  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dirtbox View Post
    Without figures, it's impossible to be accurate. However, given their massive headstart and huge catalogue and 35 million accounts it's far from unlikely. Stardock's Impulse estimated Steam's share at 70% a while ago, so that's as close as it gets.
    They also estimate their own share at 10% with the rest at 20% combined. I'm pretty sure Direct2Drive alone has a much greater market share than Impulse (they certainly have far more accounts).

    Actual figure is going to vary wildly depending on where you draw the line with online distributors and what metric you use to work it out. Which is probably why Steam don't release sales figures; be a bit hard to prevent people claiming they do better simply by shifting the goalposts.

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