The digital game store wars: Who are the players?

A litany of new digital gaming stores have sprung up over the last few years, in commensurate response to the growth of the video games market. That market, according to research firm Newzoo, is expected to hit $180.1 billion in revenue for 2021, adding roughly $15 billion per year from now until then. The group also claims that the market is 91% digital, meaning there’s a huge electronic money pie for these stores to chase, though the fastest growing and largest portion is for “mobile” gaming. 

For the PC market, consumer reactions have been generally critical of the publishers that opt to create their own alternative stores instead of Valve’s immensely popular Steam. Many are annoyed about the need to have multiple applications installed to access their games, not to mention stores that lack some of the features that Steam offers. Others complain about exclusivity and incompatible multiplayer between versions. Others just simply hate change. 

Regardless, this subject has been a hot topic over the past few years, and the controversy appears to only be growing. As we approach the completion of the first one-fifth of the 21st century (I know, where did the time go?),  here are the major (and minor) players in the online games store market and where things stand today.  

Valve’s Steam 

Really, there is no introduction needed for Steam. Launching way back in the olden days of 2003, Steam is now processing billions of dollars USD in sales per year. Steam also includes the Steamworks API, which is a collection of functions developers can integrate into their games such as matchmaking, achievements, cloud saves, user created content, and more. It has easily the largest feature list of any of the digital stores, with unique options like big picture mode, curation, user reviews, wishlists, custom gamepad mapping integration, and much more. Mobile apps for the store have made their way to millions of Android and iOS devices, as well. Steam also was among the first to allow sales of pre-release software with its love-it-or-hate-it “Greenlight” program (which is now defunct).  

Though well ahead of its time and by all measures wildly successful, in recent years Steam has endured quite a bit of criticism. Issues include high costs to publishers, a languishing UI (it took way too long for high-DPI support), censorship drama (not enough or too much, depending on who you ask), the failed SteamOS platform, and a perceived general corporate arrogance. 

Regardless, Valve’s baby has remained far and away the top digital storefront, and there has been little movement among users to abandon it even when competition has popped up. With over 150 million accounts, Steam is a gaming behemoth.  

Back in the Half Life 2 days, when Steam was new and forward-thinking, both server and internet costs were vastly higher, and as such it might have made more sense for a digital store to employ a significant cut of revenue. These days, those costs are drastically reduced, while Valve’s cut has remained roughly the same, and now developers are largely paying only for the ability to be available on the platform for access to those users. 

For PC gaming to thrive, one could argue that we need more of the funds to go to the people actually making the games, not to the people hosting these games on their servers. Valve is barely even a game studio these days, and the costs to distribute these titles have fallen exponentially over the years. Many people view Valve as abusing its dominant position to extract monopoly profits, while others believe the company is a benevolent overseer. Either way, prices seem to be well above the marginal costs of running Steam, which means the market is ripe for competition.   

In December of last year, Valve announced changes to the revenue split. Historically, Steam has taken 30% of sales, but now that percentage will vary depending on how much revenue a given product has generated. It now starts at the same 30% for the first $10 million in sales, then drops to 25% between $10 and $50 million, and then it drops further to 20% once a game reaches above $50 million. Clearly an attempt to stop publishers from making their own stores, the new model appears to be currently failing, as game exclusivity on other platforms seems to have only increased since Valve enacted this new policy.  

As for future plans, Valve keeps its secrets close to the vest—an advantage of being a privately held company. It’s announced better curation and improved purchase suggestions, Steam China, new mobile chat, an updated library, and improved cheat detection. VR development is almost certainly continuing, but any other amazing future technology or serious enhancements to gaming as a whole are not publicly known to be under development at Valve at this time, although there almost certainly is some kind of work being done. 

 

Microsoft Store 

Microsoft received a fair bit of consumer outrage for its backtracked push to make the Xbox One platform digital first and foremost, but market trends suggested that for most people, it would’ve been fine. The company eventually succumbed to market pressure, largely dropped their digital focus, and settled into second place for this console generation. Microsoft did, however, come out with a pseudo “universal” games and media store.  

The Store originally launched with Windows 8, and Microsoft has for years been trying to grow it into something people would actually want to use. By most accounts, the company has failed. Meant to be a place for people to access applications and media that could run on any Windows device through the use of a new container, Microsoft was hoping to build a giant cross-device store. Application support included Xbox, Hololens, mobile, PCs, IoT devices, and more. Microsoft instead ended up with a dead phone platform, a hated Windows 8, and complaints (many of which were based on factually inaccurate claims) about the direction Microsoft was taking Windows, broadly speaking.  

At first it was set up to use the same somewhat ridiculous 30/70 revenue split that Apple, Valve, and Google use, but without the users and market power, the Microsoft Store spent years without many seriously investing in it. In 2018, Microsoft announced (and just confirmed) a general 5/95 sharing agreement for most apps, but games will retain the 30/70 split. This makes it one heck of a tough sell. No users and high costs is the Microsoft Store position.  

The story of the Microsoft Store today is one of a generally good idea languishing without the resources it ought to have to solve the problems it faces. Search and app discovery have long been a mess (literally for years), and little has been done to rectify it. It’s possible that Microsoft doesn’t even know how to fix it. Subtle UI refinements have made the store look slightly better, but it’s still impossible to separate the actually decent games from the masses of terrible Bejeweled and Candy Crush clones. One look at the “Best selling games” shows you the trouble the store is in and has been in for years.  

The store does have a few standout features, such as the Microsoft Game Pass, a subscription that gives you access to well over 100 games (and growing) on PC or Xbox One (depending on the game), from the original Xbox library right up to current releases. There’s also the Play Anywhere program, which allows you to buy a game once and then play it on either Xbox or PC, with synced cloud saves. Microsoft’s Phil Spencer is on the record saying Microsoft will be launching Game Pass “on every device.” Rumours abound that it will be on Nintendo Switch as well, and maybe even the Playstation, although it seems unlikely that Sony would allow such a thing.  

Microsoft engineers are also working on a cloud streaming service known as “Project xCloud” that should power gaming experiences on even low-end devices. Apparently any Xbox One game can be deployed on Project xCloud with “no additional work.” Microsoft is also rumored to be announcing two new Xbox models at E3 this year, one of which is specifically designed for game streaming. 

Microsoft is currently making quite a large investment in this regard, and if it pans out, many people could really buy into a Netflix-like gaming solution on any device. There could be enough interest, at least, that it could potentially threaten Steam and the markets that have grown around this concept of local gaming. Many people thought cable TV and physical media were here to stay, and yet both of those industries are crashing as more and more people flock to Hulu, Netflix, and other streaming solutions. Accomplishing the same thing for gaming would be quite a coup.  

Whether people eventually buy into this service remains to be seen, but more platform-agnostic gaming and fewer technical concerns would be improvements. Microsoft has and is making significant changes to the way it operates its gaming initiative, and much of what it’s doing looks potentially quite beneficial to consumers.  

 

GOG, Origin, and Bethesda

GOG 

Now owned by CDProjekt, the company behind the fantastic Witcher series, GOG has been doing its own thing for a while. No games sold through the GOG store have DRM and can be easily copied, moved, messed with, and played without any interaction with a storefront. With GOG, you can purchase and download the game in your browser without ever needing to install client software to manage it for you. There is client software available (GOG Galaxy), but you don’t need it to access the stuff you’ve bought.  

GOG supports a variety of features, including achievements, leaderboards, forums, cloud saves, update roll back branches, game reviews, wishlists, refunds, and more.  

GOG has been growing over the last few years, but because of the lack of DRM, many publishers aren’t willing to sell through that store at this point. Hopefully that’ll change, because at the moment the platform’s available library is largely “classic” (ahem, “old”) games that nobody is generally going to bother stealing anyway, although there are a few excellent gaming exceptions.  

DRM aside, GOG lacks any amazing standout features, but here’s hoping GOG continues to grow, because its vision of a more consumer friendly experience is one that deserves continued support.

EA’s Origin 

EA’s own storefront, the Origin experiment, started with a collective “this is a dumb idea” from consumers and has grown into a “why does Origin still exist?” as of now. It’s not that Origin is particularly terrible, it’s just that it doesn’t do anything better than anyone else. EA restricts much of its library exclusively to the Origin store.  

Origin now features friend lists, chat, purchases, refunds, and so on,  but nothing that makes it stand out. For a while, EA gave out a collection of mostly ancient games, but that practice has ceased, because the games were so underwhelming that nobody really cared. The company is essentially betting on its massive sports and Battlefield series to force people into its ecosystem, with some success. Essentially it appears as just a copy of Steam, and EA has added little that actually improves gaming, with one exception: its EA Access and Origin Access programs.  

EA/Origin Access is a subscription that allows you to play a number of EA games for one monthly price, similar to how Microsoft’s Game Pass works. EAA works on Xbox One, while OA works on PC. Unlike Microsoft’s Game Pass program, you do need to purchase two passes to play on each platform. Divided into two tiers, “Basic” ($5 per month) and “Premier” ($20 per month), you’re able to play almost 200 games as much as you want. Currently, there are 182 titles in the Basic tier, while Premier offers 189 games. Anthem, Battlefield V, and FIFA19 are the major draws to the upgrade. Though this model is not for everyone, many people may appreciate a lower upfront cost, particularly in emerging markets. Over the last few years, EA’s Access programs have grown into a truly excellent value.  

Bethesda Launcher 

Bethesda, like EA, figures it’s got the clout to force users into its own store front. Starting with Fallout 76, it appears Bethesda games will be exclusive to Bethesda.net. Bethesda has created its own “Bethesda Launcher.” 

Bethesda’s games are incredibly popular, and it’s likely they’ll continue to sell incredibly well. At this point, the launcher has been heavily criticized for lacking features, heavy resource usage, and intermittent reliability. These are likely growing pains, as the launcher is quite new, but it’s no less annoying to consumers. It’s not hard to see why Bethesda, or anyone else, would want to avoid giving Valve 20-30% of its revenue when Bethesda will almost certainly sell many millions of copies with or without storefront exclusivity. Few companies’ games are generally as loved as Bethesda’s, and it’s likely people will grit their teeth over the launcher while loading up Elder Scrolls VI in 2023 (or 2024, or 2025, or whenever it actually launches).

 

Uplay, Epic, and all the rest

Ubisoft’s Uplay

Uplay launched to negative responses on a par with Origin, although it’s generally been either a superior or roughly equivalent product. In an industry first, in-game achievements actually do something, and you can trade them for access to in-game bonuses. Ubisoft has also kept its products listed on other platforms, such as Steam, rather than pulling them as EA has done. It has friends and chat, like the others, but it’s mostly just guilty of being another store application people would rather not install.  

The consensus I’ve heard is that Ubisoft has been doing a much better job of addressing Uplay’s issues when compared to EA and Origin. Ubisoft has also received credit for quicker and smoother game patches when needed. Uplay does work alongside Steam, and and it must be installed and launched when games are launched through Steam, but generally it’s not doing anything that should significantly annoy anyone much anymore. (Surely, some of you will disagree.)  

Epic’s Games Store 

Perhaps the most controversial store of all, Epic’s recently announced and rolled-out store has made waves in the industry. Criticizing Valve for its revenue sharing agreement, Epic drastically undercuts it with a 12/88 split. If you’re using the Unreal Engine, Epic will cover the 5% engine royalty fee out of its 12% cut, making the Unreal engine essentially free.  

Epic is pushing the angle that it benefits developers and consumers if game creators get more money, and it looks like it’s had some successes, with developers at least. The drama around Metro Exodus becoming an Epic exclusive was a hot story for a few days, but it’s not the only one. Saber Interactive recently penned a letter announcing that it’s moving from Steam to the Epic store for WWZ and will simultaneously reduce the price of the game from $39.99 to $34.99. (The price drop is clutch; if we’re going to have storefront exclusives, they better save me money.) 

Heavily criticized as being featureless and unreliable, the Epic Games Store has an uphill battle ahead. Gamers are heavily opinionated, and many are zealots in their views (Epic founder Tim Sweeney included). The rage has been swift and vocal regarding things like the lack of refund policies and user reviews. Whether Epic will able to come up with workable solutions quickly enough to allay that rage remains to be seen.  

The Epic Games store should be available on Windows and macOS now, and it’s coming to Android later in 2019. Epic showed that people would be willing to leave the Google Play market to access Fortnite, and it’s looking to leverage that success into the Android Epic Games store.  

In the end, the new Epic Games store is controversial and disruptive. Whether it’s beneficial to the industry in the long run or not is yet to be determined. It’s possible that Valve would not have reduced its revenue cut had Epic not delivered an undercut, so in that regard perhaps there’s been some short-term gain already. 

Discord store 

Not to be outdone on the discount store position, Discord announced its own store, with a 10% fee and a commitment to work to reduce that cost even further. Not many other details exist at this point, except that it will allow any developer to self-publish on the Discord store. Regarding its eventual success of failure, nobody knows yet of course, but with 200 million users, Discord is one of only a few companies in the mix with more users than Steam.  

Resellers 

There has grown an entire industry of resellers who provide Steam keys in various methods. There’s Humble Bundle, which offers charitable donations, a pay-what-you-want model, and now a monthly subscription method, as well as more traditional retailers like Fanatical or Green Man Gaming. Each has a niche they target, but pricing aside, they’re all just basically selling Steam keys.  

There are also companies operating in the so-called gray market, such as G2A or Kinguin. These stores sell games keys listed and sold by third parties. How those keys are obtained is apparently a cause for some concern, as there are reports that they may be harvested with potentially illegal methods. Use them with caution and at your own discretion.

Mac app store 

Apple has its own Mac app store, which includes games, but why anyone would use it is unclear. Steam and Epic Games are available on macOS, so you can just use those. Seriously. With many of the same issues as the Microsoft store but with fewer quality titles, you can probably avoid it altogether.  

Lots of changes ahead 

The list above is long, but it will almost certainly get longer. The gaming industry is absolutely massive, and it’s likely to just continue to grow. While many people are annoyed by having multiple storefronts, there are differences between these stores, and hopefully the competition encourages more development. 

We can argue about which store features we each require in order to switch, or whether switching is insane and you’ll never install another stupid store again, or any of the unending list of things nerds argue about, but one thing is clear: The market long held by only a few players is suddenly under increased competition and pressure. From technological advancements to contract and revenue discussions, the digital storefront wars are heating up and should be worth watching.  

 

Josh Pozzolo

I WRITE ON THE TECH REPORT ABOUT ALL THE IMPORTANT STUFF YOU WANNA READ

Comments closed
    • Gastec
    • 3 months ago

    “Over the last few years, EA’s Access programs have grown into a truly excellent value”. I’m sticking a finger down my throat right now.

    • Voldenuit
    • 4 months ago

    People following games stores and epic in particular have some homework for the weekend:
    [url<]https://www.resetera.com/threads/developing-epic-games-launcher-appears-to-collect-your-steam-friends-play-history-epic-responds-see-op.105385/[/url<] [url<]https://www.reddit.com/r/PhoenixPoint/comments/b0rxdq/epic_game_store_spyware_tracking_and_you/[/url<] [url<]https://www.pcgamesn.com/epic-launcher-spyware[/url<] [url<]https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2019/03/epic-says-its-game-store-is-not-spying-on-you/[/url<]

      • K-L-Waster
      • 4 months ago

      This is why they’re charging game devs less than the others: selling games is just a front to collect personal info on as many user accounts as possible.

        • Voldenuit
        • 4 months ago

        I personally don’t think Epic is into the data collection business, because unlike Google or Facebook, they don’t have many ways of monetizing the data* (even with Tencent on board).

        However, Epic’s actions are indicative of a corporate culture with no respect or regard for the privacy or personal rights of their users. If they /do/ want any data from their users, they have no qualms just taking it, whether it is ethical or legal to do so. Permission? Who needs to ask permission from rubes?

        * EDIT: I do believe they share the data and metrics they collect with their top-tier developers, providing it as some form of ‘state of the industry’ snapshot to help them gauge trends among gamers. So I suppose that can be interpreted as monetizing data, but unlike Facebook and Google, they don’t really care about information on individuals.

      • Usacomp2k3
      • 4 months ago

      Don’t attribute to Malice that which can be easily explained by incompetence.

        • Gastec
        • 3 months ago

        Incompetence, Malice? If I knew how and would be allowed to make lots of money by selling your electronic data I would do it with not a shred of remorse.

    • MileageMayVary
    • 4 months ago

    Ubisoft’s, EA’s, and Bethesda’s Launchers/Stores make the list but Activision/Blizzard’s Battle Net doesn’t?

      • sweatshopking
      • 4 months ago

      it was in my notes, but then i forgot it.

    • sweatshopking
    • 4 months ago

    For those concerned

    [url<]https://www.epicgames.com/store/en-US/news/epic-games-store-on-trello[/url<]

    • nafhan
    • 4 months ago

    One thing I didn’t notice in this article: discussion of Linux compatibility. 🙂

    Steam and GOG both support Linux.

    Not to say that it’s altruistic (it’s not), but Valve not only supports Linux OS’s, but has put effort into making Linux based platforms more viable for gaming, which I appreciate. AFAIK, other platforms (with the exception of GOG) aren’t even interested in providing support.

    • Waco
    • 4 months ago

    Sigh. The stupid war claims another – Phoenix Point is now exclusive to Epic store for 1 year.

    I’m getting my money back. Screw this BS.

      • Voldenuit
      • 4 months ago

      Yeah. Epic is trying to turn game distribution from a buyer’s market (gamers have the power) to a seller’s market (distributor gets the say).

      Once they reach critical mass, all their sweetheart deals to publishers and developers are going to dry up and they’re going to Vader everyone.

        • sweatshopking
        • 4 months ago

        How is it a buyers market now? There are choices, but the costs are all high.

          • Voldenuit
          • 4 months ago

          It’s a buyer’s market because Steam is ubiquitous, has many developers fighting to gain user attention and dollars, does not force games to be Steam exclusive, has fairly unmoderated forums, mandatory user ratings and allows third party and direct key sales. Games are also freely available on multiple platforms, including GoG, itch, UPlay, Discord because Valve does not require third party developers to be Steam exclusive, and Valve does not require publishing windows to be moved to accommodate other publishers (which the console makers do, not sure about Epic).

          EGS has a very limited game selection, [i<]extremely[/i<] poor discoverability (good luck finding a title if it's not being featured on the front of their store page), has no forums, has opt-in user ratings (the last two allow developers to silence critics or hide shady business practices), has fairly restrictive ToS about mature games (which gets applied fairly inconsistently), and does not disclose DRM schemes, third party launchers or EULAs. If EGS becomes a dominant game seller, [i<]especially[/i<] given their track history of exclusivity deals, developers will be a lot less answerable to gamers than they currently are. There is no price competition because there are no third party key resellers. Game makers don't have to disclose DRM schemes on their store page. Game makers don't have to engage with the community in the forums (because there aren't any), and they can choose not to allow user reviews if they expect negative feedback.

            • sweatshopking
            • 4 months ago

            Most of those concerns are merely platform concerns, and will be worked on, eg. Search was added this week. Personally, forums and user reviews don’t matter to me, but I realize others like them.
            Ideally, epic continues to develop and adds pressure to steam. Id prefer to see no store with the market power steam has today. If they do that, steam will have to make a larger play for consumers than they’re doing now.

            • LostCat
            • 4 months ago

            I would’ve stayed with Impulse if it was still around. 🙁

    • Ninjitsu
    • 4 months ago

    Halo Master Chief Collection coming to Steam!

    [url<]https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2019/03/12/halo-the-master-chief-collection-coming-to-pc-with-reach/[/url<] [url<]https://store.steampowered.com/app/976730/Halo_The_Master_Chief_Collection/[/url<]

    • Litzner
    • 4 months ago

    Windows Store… If I game is exclusive to the Windows Store it really doesn’t even exist to me. I think that is the case for almost every other PC gamer I know. I don’t know anyone who owns a game on the Windows Store.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 4 months ago

      If they own Xbox games with Play Anywhere enabled, then they probably own a couple. If they don’t own an Xbox then that may be the case. I own a few games on the store but it’s because I got them for Xbox. Halo Wars 2, Killer Instinct, maybe something else, not sure.

      • nanoflower
      • 4 months ago

      I own one game on there but it’s only because I won the game in a raffle. Otherwise I have only used the store for specific apps such as the Linux shell. Even for those things it’s painful as it always takes me a bit to figure out where I need to go to find my items. Something that I can’t say about any of the other stores.

    • BIF
    • 4 months ago

    Stardock used to have their own engine/installer/store, and if memory serves, it worked just fine. But they shut it down a bunch of years ago in favor of going with Steam. Probably a good choice, because it frees them up to do games and not middleware.

    I use Steam for everything, but am open to GOG, too.

    I will never ever buy another EA game again. Swore them off after the SimCity 2013 debacle. I still remember the names of some of the EA soothsayers back then, over 5 years ago now, and they make me angry all over again even today. Thankfully, Cities:Skylines is doing great, allows community modding, does NOT use the badly designed “Glassbox Engine”, and does NOT require multi-player.

    EA, for all they did to the great SimCity franchise, still sucks out loud, even now, more than a half-decade hence. And they still have penance to pay. EA is the reason I don’t buy Madden, know this, learn this, and live by this.

    So now there’s 4 things I will never buy: Brussel’s sprouts, cornbread, GM or Chrysler cars, and EA games. At least brussel’s sprouts and cornbread can be composted; can’t say that for the others!

      • LostCat
      • 4 months ago

      Impulse shut down because Stardock wanted to make games, the store was taking up all their efforts, and they thought Gamestop would actually keep the storefront going. :p

      Impulse was my preferred option, so that sucked.

    • rika13
    • 4 months ago

    Epic is begging for an anti-trust suit.

    By using their store to push their game engine, it is almost textbook tying, with the only difference that instead of an absolute requirement to use their engine, there is a strong financial push.

      • nanoflower
      • 4 months ago

      Maybe if they had a near monopoly but being the new guy with the store front gives them a lot of leeway.

      • Usacomp2k3
      • 4 months ago

      And Steam/HL2 didn’t fit in the same bucket?

        • Voldenuit
        • 4 months ago

        Valve didn’t tie Source licensing into some sweetheart deal with Steam distribution.

        And it’s not as if there aren’t non-Steam Source engine games, Titanfalls 1, 2 and Apex Legends spring to mind.

          • psuedonymous
          • 4 months ago

          [quote<]And it's not as if there aren't non-Steam Source engine games, Titanfalls 1, 2 and Apex Legends spring to mind.[/quote<]Now [b<]THAT'S[/b<] a non-sequiter. There are even more non-Epic-store UE games too.

            • Voldenuit
            • 4 months ago

            It’s especially cogent because that means far more games are incentivized to go with the Epic Game Store to avoid the Unreal Engine licensing tax.

    • IHTurbo
    • 4 months ago

    I have had problems with ALL the “games managers” or “Digital store front” software or whatever they are called, such that I could not sit down and just PLAY the brand new game I had LEGALLY bought.

    I initially had problems with Uplay and it took some considerable back & forth with Ubisoft Support to get it working.
    My first example of not being to just PLAY the brand new game I had LEGALLY bought.

    At one stage, I also got kicked out of Uplay by the Uplay software and my legal, previously-used code would not work.

    Support told me to uninstall & reinstall (the golden old rule) and I refused until they told me WHY that would definitively fix it. They said they could not confirm that this would necessarily work.

    Eventually I managed to bully them into actually providing “support” for their product and the fix actually worked, without un- & re-installing.
    Just proves their Support were initially being lazy.

    Since then, I have had and am still having issues with EA’s Origin, required for Mass Effect (“classic” release buy, many years after initial release) and with the Blizzard “App”, for StarCraft 2.

    Both the Support teams for these 2 have been singularly poorly responsive to attempts to contact, including a 6-hour wait for a Live chat to fix the issue.

    The upshot is that I STILL haven’t played either of these games, to this very day.

    After a while you get so frustrated with trying to get the stupid game manager running, that you just give up and then forget you ever bought the game.

    I have thought a number of times of taking the game back for a refund as “not fit for purpose”.

    So far, I have NEVER not had a problem with a game manager which was required to run a game and as stated, still have outstanding issues, to the extent that I have not bought another game since those with issues mentioned above.

    I won’t say never, but I would have to REALLY REALLY REALLY like a new game before I would buy a game for which I didn’t already have the game manager.

    IHTurbo

      • Chrispy_
      • 4 months ago

      Steam won the war against software piracy not because it’s the best storefront or the cheapest, but because it mostly [i<]just works[/i<] and is super-convenient. Third party stores need to remember that they're not competing on price, they're competing against an illegally-downloaded, DRM-free ISO that has a one-click installer. Pissing off your users with asinine hoops to jump through like mandatory middleware and invasive DRM that causes technical problems is not a strong argument against the legal simplicity of steam or the illegal simplicity of a one-button DRM-free installer.

    • jihadjoe
    • 4 months ago

    There are several games that have had Denuvo [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denuvo#List_of_games_formerly_using_Denuvo<]removed[/url<] on GoG (obviously) and Origin, but still have the hated DRM on Steam.

    • moose17145
    • 4 months ago

    I miss games that came on discs inside boxes that did not require internet connections at all.

    Something else I have noticed, is that several new games don’t even have a LAN play option anymore… if you want to play multiplayer you MUST do it over the internet… even if the person you want to play with is on another computer right next to you.

      • FuturePastNow
      • 4 months ago

      I don’t miss the disks but I miss the very nice manuals and other extras (maps! posters!) that came with them.

        • Yan
        • 4 months ago

        Have three upvotes.

        The manual for Simcity actually taught you something about city planning. Civilization also had a nice manual, if I remember correctly.

        Remember the yucky red sheet that couldn’t be photocopied with the validation codes for Simcity?

          • BIF
          • 4 months ago

          It did have a nice manual, back in the olden days! And back in the days of SC 2000 (or was it 3000?), I had the gameplay guide too, which did a great job of breaking down all of the various “caps” at each point. Not knowing/planning for the caps would eventually stifle the size of your city.

          But you’ll learn even more about city planning with Cities:Skylines; particularly with the travel/traffic model it uses.

        • shaq_mobile
        • 4 months ago

        The mapd, boxes, manuals, and posters were the best. I miss physical game content.

      • shaq_mobile
      • 4 months ago

      My game has lan play… But you need steam for the browser to work. 🙁 (This is a limitation of steam API, not my game! You can still just open a game via console command)

      I even have dedicated servers. 🙂 🙂 Love me

        • sweatshopking
        • 4 months ago

        Link?

          • shaq_mobile
          • 4 months ago

          I’ll post in the forums when I’m doing a public alpha test. Still waiting on a few things. Should be soon though. 🙂

    • LostCat
    • 4 months ago

    I’m with Epic. Too much crap in Steam, don’t really care about *insert objection here.*

      • shaq_mobile
      • 4 months ago

      Maybe I’m just so used to having their launcher open for the last few years, but I don’t mind Epic launcher that much. They have a lot of growing to do, but so does steam, but steam has no excuse. Epic has done some lame stuff but it seems somewhat necessary at this point to elbow their way in. They’ve also done a lot of cool stuff.

      They’ve been far more generous with their income split on both their game and Dev store.

      They gave partial refunds to all the folks that invested in paying for ue4 before they went to a free model.

      They made up the price split difference to devs in the Dev store after they changed it.

      They give devs a one time payment to provide a pack of their content free for a month in their Dev store.

      All in all I’m happy to see a good company do well. Tim seems like a good enough guy running a pretty solid company.

        • LostCat
        • 4 months ago

        Just the fact that they’re giving their Fortnite billions back to the developer community instead of hoarding them and adding useless crap is enough for me.

    • spiked_mistborn
    • 4 months ago

    If a game that I’m looking to buy is available on GOG then I will always get it from them over any other store. It comes down to what you are getting for your money. Back when games came on cartridges, disks, and optical media there was no question about whether you owned that game or not — there it was, just pop it in and play it. I have a collection of retro computers that I use for gaming: a 386 DOS system, a Pentium 3 / Voodoo2 SLI / Win98SE system, an Athlon XP / Radeon 9700 WinXP, and a couple of others. Valve is now deciding that I can no longer play games that I’ve purchased on any of these computers. GOG though? Download the installer, save it in a backup that you can keep forever, and spend more time playing games rather than installing hacks from questionable sources to try to play games that you paid for.

      • Yan
      • 4 months ago

      Why can’t you play these games on the old computers? Because the Steam client won’t run?

      No game released for a 386 requires Steam; that’s obvious.

      • moose17145
      • 4 months ago

      This is why I have also started buying almost exclusively from GOG myself.

    • cygnus1
    • 4 months ago

    [quote<] GOG has been growing over the last few years, but because of the lack of DRM, many publishers aren't willing to sell through that store at this point. Hopefully that'll change, because at the moment the platform's available library is largely "classic" (ahem, "old") games that nobody is generally going to bother stealing anyway, although there are a few excellent gaming exceptions. [/quote<] I don't think this characterization is all that fair these days. A few years ago maybe, but they've significantly grown the indie (aka non-AAA, small publisher) section of their library.

      • GrimDanfango
      • 4 months ago

      Yeah, I’ve seen this misconception come up a lot lately. GoG still maintains their “good old games” service of tooling up old classics to run on modern systems, but that’s long since stopped being the core of their business.
      GoG is chock-full of amazing indie games, quite a few borderline-triple-A and even a couple of outright flagship triple-As.

      They just don’t have any recent EA or Ubisoft releases… which as far as I’m concerned just makes it easier for me to find games I actually give a damn about 🙂

        • sweatshopking
        • 4 months ago

        I assure you, it’s not a misconception on my part. There are some exceptions, but the vast majority of the games are either old or “indie.” I stand by my statement. Some of the best games going are on there though, like original sin 2, but mostly it’s not the major sellers.

          • GrimDanfango
          • 4 months ago

          [quote<]but mostly it's not the major sellers[/quote<] But that’s my point - the “major sellers” are the market that’s actually small in number - a few heavy-hitter, hype-driven, massive-budget eye-candy-fests, laden with microtransactions, grind and carefully designed compulsion loops. Those are the few games I’ve long since lost any interest in. Besides those, the PC gaming industry is a vibrant, wonderful place at the moment... and a *lot* of that is available on GoG, drm-free. It’s a mistake to assume that big Triple-A releases comprise the majority of games. All they comprise is the vast majority of marketing and press. GoG is, no joke, one of the best ways to shop if you want to skim off that turgid upper layer, and only be presented with the works of middle-weight developers and indies - the market without marketing budgets, but with fresh ideas aplenty, and turning out more games than any one person could play in a lifetime!

            • Voldenuit
            • 4 months ago

            [quote<]It’s a mistake to assume that big Triple-A releases comprise the majority of games. All they comprise is the vast majority of marketing and press. [/quote<] I'm an indie fan myself (I haven't bought a AAA game since Destiny 2 in 2017, and before that, Overwatch in 2016), but the AAA games [url=https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2019/03/here-are-the-most-popular-playstation-games-based-on-public-trophy-data/<]completely outweigh[/url<] indie games, and mobile games [url=https://newzoo.com/insights/articles/global-games-market-reaches-137-9-billion-in-2018-mobile-games-take-half/<]make up ~50% of the entire gaming industry[/url<] by revenue. They will continue to be the focus of the industry as long as they keep making the money.

            • GrimDanfango
            • 4 months ago

            I wasn’t saying “comprise the majority of game revenue”. Sure, Triple-A clearly comprises the lion’s share of gross revenue – they’re hyped up massively with huge marketing budgets, and Triple-A pretty much by definition means “The huge games that make huge sums of money”.

            But they are [b<][i<]not[/i<][/b<] the lion's share of actual number of games. They're a handful of "Too big to fail" style budget-sinks. For every 1 massive Triple-A release, there's numerous smaller indie projects, half of which most people will never even hear about for lack of exposure. Agreed, even with those numbers, collectively they won't make anything like the same aggregate revenue as the big-hitters... ...but my point remains - "the majority of games" [b<][i<]are[/i<][/b<] smaller indie projects. You only have to bother to go and look for them, and you can [b<][i<]very[/i<][/b<] easily discover enough thoroughly interesting, innovative new work that you'll never need to concern yourself with another Assassin's Creed or Call of Duty again. (And yes, all of them are very much in the shadow of mobile these days, although I'd be hesitant to even refer to that industry as "games" - they're mostly microtransaction-extraction-devices, they aren't built to be games. I'd argue that the audience is almost entirely different. Anyone who gives a rat's a** about games doesn't game on a mobile platform)

    • DragonDaddyBear
    • 4 months ago

    Confession: I haven’t bought a PC game in years. That’s right, years. I just can’t get around the DRM and online requirements for some of these things. I know it’s not true in all cases, and that some options have an offline mode. But what happens years down the road when I want to play a game and the store isn’t around? Or a legal spat takes it away? What if I get banned from a store/system? I’m even leery of consoles given the recent fiasco with Xbox One’s crapping out because a network issue.

    Honestly, the only store option I feel comfortable with is GoG, just because I know that the games are mine and they can’t take them away.

    EDIT: Timely that GoG just released Diablo 1.
    [url<]https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2019/03/original-diablo-is-now-on-sale-for-10-drm-free-but-not-on-blizzards-app/[/url<]

    • psuedonymous
    • 4 months ago

    The absolute fucking embarrassment is the treatment of games as some sort of special unicorn application that needs to be carefully petted within the confines of a ‘launcher’, rather than launched directly like every other program on your computer. Once you stop jumping through that completely pointless hoop, then ‘store exclusivity’ becomes utterly meaningless: [b<]the program is on my PC[/b<], I can launch it regardless of where I bought it from. The root, of course, is the attempt to tie a bunch of things utterly unrelated to 'purchasing a program' into a storefront. First it was deployment of the program (OK, not awful, I can see the convenience of not using regular TCP/IP or bittorrent for transfer). Then it was the 'launcher' (a transparent attempt to keep you within the storefront for no benefit), and then we have the execrable cascade of pointless twaddle that has been tacked on since: trading cards, 'points', community functions (a shop is not a fucking community!), matchmaking functions (as if tieing your networking code to a storefront has [i<]ever[/i<] not backfired in the past), etc.

      • Krogoth
      • 4 months ago

      Blame DRM schemes and other anti-piracy measures.

    • Platedslicer
    • 4 months ago

    [quote<]"mobile" gaming[/quote<] [quote<]mobile "gaming"[/quote<] FTFY

    • K-L-Waster
    • 4 months ago

    The existence of multiple stores in and of itself isn’t a problem: it’s worked well in the brick-and-mortar world for centuries. No one says “we have Walmart, so Target, Fry’s, Barnes & Noble, and all those mom’n’pop stores need to disappear!” (Well, maybe some people do, but I think they all have a last name of Walton….)

    What I would really love, though, would be if the stores would be, well, just a store. Let me buy what I want, get my purchase, then get out of my way. If you must have DRM (and it’s the real world, so I doubt DRM is going away any time soon), then make it something light weight that doesn’t interrupt me or slow my system down or add back doors through my firewall. This “you must have an always running system tray app to launch any games you bought from us” thing is tedious and overdue for revision. (In that respect, GOG is awesome.)

    • Chrispy_
    • 4 months ago

    [b<]Steam:[/b<] - Amazing, like Amazon. - Full of crap and impossible to sort through properly, like Amazon. - Greedy bar-stewards, like Amazon. [b<]GOG:[/b<] - The equivalent of an open-source underdog. - Amazing idea, but will never get AAA titles because all the main publishers are ngreedia. [b<]All the other stores:[/b<] - Install as necessary for that one game. - Accept that it's useless middleware junk that serves no valid purpose - Uninstall as soon as possible. - Badmouth, whinge, whine, complain, and moan about it; that is your duty as a gamer.

      • cynan
      • 4 months ago

      You forgot a category:

      [b<]All the other stores that (essentially only) sell Steam keys[/b<] -Parasitic-symbiotic relationship with Steam -Parasitic for Steam because they subsist off of Steam -Symbiotic for the customer, because they require a Steam account and facilitate cheaper prices through competition -Symbiotic for the customer because you only need to install Steam (and avoid other middleware) - Exalt, proclaim, fanboy ad nauseam that Steam is the way, truth and life when it comes to PC gaming because they are benevolent enough to "permit" key resale (which is essentially just marketing to get more people on Steam and the margins are so thin if remaining competitive that only one or two legit sites (eg GGG) that have managed to attain the threshold of significant volume can make a legit business out of it)

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 4 months ago

        humble is cool if you only buy games that are steam + drm free.

        • Shobai
        • 4 months ago

        My only issue with them is that purchases there don’t count for keeping Market access; now that Valve no longer bothers with good sales I can’t afford to buy there, so haven’t maintained Market access.

        Between a new job and two kids under three I haven’t enjoyed the gaming time I used to be able to. Even so, I’ve bought and played Wolf2, Dishonored 2 and Death of the Outsider, and CoD WWII in the last year or so, and the first three were cheaper to buy from Harvey Norman (!!) than Steam. The last I bought from Amazon – AU$8 delivered. All Steam keys, none bought from Steam.

          • Shobai
          • 4 months ago

          Case in point: I just received an email from Steam to say that Middle Earth: Shadow of War is on sale for AU$18.13. Harvey Norman is currently clearing the same game at AU$8, despite HN selling a physically printed Steam key in a DVD case.

      • gmskking
      • 4 months ago

      Amazon has the worst web-site

    • Ninjitsu
    • 4 months ago

    Probably worth mentioning in the article: [url<]https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2019/02/microsoft-takes-a-big-step-towards-putting-xbox-games-on-windows/[/url<]

      • superjawes
      • 4 months ago

      Good news. Blurring the line between PC and console would probably be the best course for Xbox right now (IMO).

    • odizzido
    • 4 months ago

    GoG is my number one choice by far. Devs can’t force patch in loot boxes or microtransactions or other ways to make the game worse in an attempt to make a couple extra dollars.

    • kloreep
    • 4 months ago

    GOG is the bee’s knees.

    Steam’s expansion into cool client capabilities like streaming and controller support is awesome, and their push for Linux support has been great.

    My ideal game store would bring some hybrid of GOG’s DRM-free policy and pro-consumer attitude, and Valve’s technological bar-raising.

      • NovusBogus
      • 4 months ago

      I’m not wedded to them in a brand-loyalty sense, but they’re currently the only source of games where I don’t have to do research to find out all the ways the publisher wants to screw me over and evaluate the level of screwing against my desire to play the game, which gives GOG a de facto monopoly on my gaming budget.

    • davidbowser
    • 4 months ago

    Another thing that becomes odd with digital stores is the pricing and discounts for non-new (2-5 years old) games. Although I have gotten some great deals on Steam during sale events, everyone is better served by shopping around. For example, the prices of boxed games on Amazon can even differ from the digital download option (really just a Steam or uplay key).

    I recently went looking for a copy of The Division on steam and it seemed to be list price ($35 maybe?), so I checked around and they evidently jacked the price back up in anticipation of the release of The Division 2. I ended up buying a boxed copy on Amazon for $15.

      • KeillRandor
      • 4 months ago

      The Uplay launcher had the Gold edition of The Division (1) for £7.50 recently… (Not sure how much that is in $ these days)

    • highlandr
    • 4 months ago

    Here’s a fun one: Try to search for a game in the Epic store. Really, look for a search bar. The only way to search for games is with GOOGLE.

    That’s a real good sign of their ability to grow the selection…

      • nanoflower
      • 4 months ago

      I think they’ve fixed that now.

    • drfish
    • 4 months ago

    Can someone break this down for me D&D alignment-style?

      • Rand
      • 4 months ago

      My opinions:

      Steam has the best UI and service by far. The client is miles ahead of anyone else, and they offer far more extraneous functionality. Forums, reviews, screenshots, streaming, a full community, integrated modding scene. Everything.
      That said, they’ve long since ceased to care as far as I can tell. The few changes they’ve made over the last few years have made things worse, their developer services are growing increasingly limited and they appear to have little to no interest in trying to remain competitive.

      Their coasting on past success and can probably keeping doing so for quite awhile if only because everyone uses them, and the existing library is massive.
      On the plus side Proton makes them far and away the best choice for Linux users. That’s a legitimate godsend if your primary OS isn’t Windows/Mac OS.

      Epic’s client is absolutely atrocious… but it’s early. Their not doing much of anything to endear themselves to consumers though, that’s for sure. They seem pretty resistant to doing anything that might be good for consumers.
      The developer revenue sharing side makes them a no brainer for any developer to want to jump on however, and they appear willing to spend to lock up some exclusives.

      UPlay used to be awful but it’s mostly just uninspired these days. It’s fine, functions adequately. Does all it needs to. Offers some small bonuses for achievements. That’s better then most, and a whole lot better then it once was.

      Microsoft’s store… well, it still doesn’t even work properly. Downloads sometimes fail to complete, sometimes mysteriously pause for no reason and refuse to resume ever again. It occasionally forgets what products you own. The sorting system is a mess.
      Until they can figure out the bare minimum of how to download a file it’s irrelevant, how it’s 2019 and Microsoft can’t do the basics right I can’t even begin to fathom. It’s an embarrassment. They were doing better then this when the internet was still nascent.
      Worse still, it offers few advantages and a host of disadvantages if it even did work. Microsoft Game Pass might eventually grow into a selling point though.
      Alas, I don’t think their even trying, which is baffling as they clearly desperately want users and developer adoption…. they just… don’t want to actually do anything to achieve it? I honestly have no idea how it can be this consistently broken.
      I’d like to see Microsoft grow into a viable competitor but it would be tough to convince people to care at this point even when it’s shipping with a nice little shortcut on everyone’s taskbar.

      Origin… uh, it’s a thing. Origin Access seems good if you’re into their games? Awful past experiences with that has warded me away though so I’m unlikely to ever try it.
      Discord… I’m not sure Discord remembers it let alone anyone else.

      GOG, DRM free is good! Very consumer friendly. All updates are optional, and copies of all previous versions of games are always available. They seem entirely happy to stay out of the way, and just give you whatever you ask.
      Lots of classic games not available elsewhere, but not much AAA because how many AAA devs want to touch anything without DRM? Seems pretty heavily curated too, which is both a blessing and a curse.
      Client is passable, but there is ample room for improvement that’s coming very very slowly. Chat functionality sucks.
      They’ll never be more then a bit player, but I imagine there is a niche for them to succeed and CD Projekt Red’s success will keep them in the news every so often.

      • Voldenuit
      • 4 months ago

      Chaotic Good: Itch.io
      Neutral Good: GoG.

      Everyone else: Evil, Lawful Evil, or Chaotic Evil.

      • shaq_mobile
      • 4 months ago

      Lawful good – gog
      Lawful neutral – battle.net
      Lawful evil – ea
      Neutral good – itch
      True neutral – steam
      Neutral evil – bethesda
      Chaotic good – discord
      Chaotic neutral – Epic
      Chaotic evil – Ubiplay, Microsoft

      Gog has always been there as a gold standard.
      Battlenet is reliable, is a good client, but is limited in games.
      EA is EA, but they do have good customer service and return policy is decent.
      Itch is great for indie but the games are understandably hit or miss.
      Steam is an old client with its own issues (terrible service, so so return policy, clunky UI) and it’s primarily on cruise control for gaben and friends to soak cash and pretend to be investing heavily in VR
      Bethesda is notoriously bad with QA and their games are released in late alpha at best, but manage to be fun when modders help.
      Discord is a great client for social networking but they just don’t bring anything else to the table, seems like drunk people run the company
      Epic is trying their best to elbow in with fartnite cash but needs a face lift and some PR.
      Ubisoft is a poor man’s EA.
      Microsoft is inept and prone to destroying everything it touches while managing to make everyone’s life worse, also the Microsoft store has no library Management.

        • drfish
        • 4 months ago

        Thanks! That’s pretty much how my own list stacked up as well.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 4 months ago

      Steam: chaotic neutral
      Microsoft: lawful good, but low stat rolls like Barney Fife
      Apple: lawful evil
      Origin: neutral evil
      GoG: neutral good
      UPlay: true neutral

      I forgot the other stores. Meh.

      • Antias
      • 4 months ago

      Very simple mate…
      They’re ALL Chaotic Neutral..

    • meerkt
    • 4 months ago

    [quote<]GOG Now owned by CDProjekt[/quote<] Now? Always.

      • sweatshopking
      • 4 months ago

      True facts. For some reason I thought it was recent.

    • thedosbox
    • 4 months ago

    [quote<] ...traditional retailers like Fanatical or Green Man Gaming. Each has a niche they target, but pricing aside, they're all just basically selling Steam keys. [/quote<] It's worth highlighting that Ubisoft games bought through the likes of GMG will activate directly in Uplay as they use Ubisoft Connect. No involvement of Steam. I assume this applies to Ubi games bought through the Epic store too.

    • TurtlePerson2
    • 4 months ago

    It’s a shame because everyone benefits from being connected to the same network. If all my games are on Steam, then it’s easier for me to manage my library and also for me to coordinate with friends. It would be nice if someone stepped up to operate as a platform with minimal fees, while allowing other websites to sell codes that activate on that platform. If PC games were all on a singular platform, PC gamers would benefit.

    The fragmentation is even worse than this article describes. Within the last few weeks, I’ve played games from Steam, Origin, Battle-Net, and League of Legend’s launcher.

    • chuckula
    • 4 months ago

    Normally it’s: Hate the game not the playa!

    But in this case we can reverse it.

    I will say that Steam has been a major contributor to getting a decent selection of games ported to Linux and that is a major plus in my book.

    • anotherengineer
    • 4 months ago

    Remember when you could buy the game on dvd and install and play without internet, or launcher or anything.

    Steam, Epic, etc., etc. gaming is turning into another bloatware disease.

    However the steam voice chat is nice, that pretty much replaced skype on my end.

      • peaceandflowers
      • 4 months ago

      GoG is even better than DVDs in my view. You don’t even need to mess with activation codes: Just download, install wherever, go. Just give it a try.

        • anotherengineer
        • 4 months ago

        Ya its ok. I have it for the witcher 3 GOTY ed, the only thing I have on it.

        Been 1 year now and haven’t had a chance to play it yet lol

        Maybe when the kids have moved away to school in another 10 years.

      • nanoflower
      • 4 months ago

      Yeah, I hated when Blizzard started making all of their games require Internet access. Sure, I’m typically connected but I loved having the option to not be. If I were traveling and didn’t have Internet access I couldn’t play Starcraft 2 even though it has single player available.

    • Valiant1
    • 4 months ago

    It’s a tricky thing. One one hand increased competition is important. But on the other hand it really is super annoying to have 10 different stores to run everything through. If there was a program that combined all the stores into one and bypassed all the awful UI I wouldn’t mind. But having to learn a new set of skills for each store and in game overlay is obnoxious. Let alone remembering logins and reinstalling after every reformat (something I do regularly cause I’m bad at computers and always break mine) is just too much work.

      • thedosbox
      • 4 months ago

      I find it hard to take the complaint about additional logins seriously, especially in 2019 when we all have dozens of logins. This is what a password manager is for.

      • highlandr
      • 4 months ago

      If your games don’t get wiped on the reinstall you could try [url=https://playnite.link/<]Playnite[/url<]. I haven't taken the time to install it and get it setup, but it looks pretty slick.

    • Vhalidictes
    • 4 months ago

    The funny thing about EA’s Origin is that while I don’t want to install it, and probably never will, I must have an account somewhere because I’ve played DA2.

    You know your product is truly successful when it’s being ignored by people who must have already used it.

    EDIT: I almost forgot to mention that there are those of us that still remember where that name came from. It’s good to see that Origin remains in good (cat-like) hands.

    • Krogoth
    • 4 months ago

    As long as steam is making the bank. Valve has no reason to follow-up on their own IPs.

      • FuturePastNow
      • 4 months ago

      Yes, and the natural follow-up to that statement is that if Steam’s competitors start to hurt it, Valve can pull out the exclusives.

        • Krogoth
        • 4 months ago

        Half-Life 3: The Search for More Moola

          • FuturePastNow
          • 4 months ago

          Portal 3: In Your Own Hole

          Team Fortress 3: Now With Battle Royale!

    • derFunkenstein
    • 4 months ago

    From the Discord section:

    [quote<]Regarding its eventual success of failure[/quote<] Freudian slip, perhaps? Discord will successfully fail to break into the game store market? Or will it fail to fail successfully? WHO KNOWS??? edit: as a Mac user, I agree. Don't use the Mac App Store. Games that are cross-platform on Steam or whatever other storefront will cost the same but will be limited to just the Mac if you buy through Apple. The only App Store purchases that are on my Mac are Apple-made apps (Logic Pro X and FCPX, which I got in a student bundle...probably the best thing about going back to school later in life)

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