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Is Valve's Steam Anti-Competitive?

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the either-that-or-it-isn't dept.

Games 286

Absolut187 writes "Gearbox Software CEO Randy Pitchford says Steam's domination of digital distribution is 'dangerous,' and exploits small developers. 'Steam helps us as customers, but it's also a money grab, and Valve is exploiting a lot of people in a way that's not totally fair. ... Valve is taking a larger share than it should for the service it's providing. ... There's so much conflict of interest there that it's horrid.' Pitchford's comments came as part of an interview with Maximum PC, and he thinks Valve should spin off Steam to its own company. Is he right? Is there a better answer?" Update: 10/10 at 02:00 GMT by SS: Randy has clarified his remarks in a comment here at Slashdot. He makes it clear that he likes Steam a lot, and for several reasons, but thinks stronger competition would benefit the industry as a whole.

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...should we be outraged? (5, Insightful)

maugle (1369813) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700201)

Steam gives you an easy way to reach customers, and takes a cut of the profit in return. You think they're taking too much, don't put your game on Steam. Where's the problem here?

you are making to much money!!!!! bawwwwlll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29700253)

it's not fair!! you made somthing very useful and are making to much money bawwwllll!!

Re:you are making to much money!!!!! bawwwwlll (0, Offtopic)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700469)

Ok..what the fuck happened to slashdot?

I can't get to my damned comments section on my personal page anymore....

Re:...should we be outraged? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29700325)

I am outraged. That is why I don't support steam with my dollars.

Re:...should we be outraged? (-1, Flamebait)

morari (1080535) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700349)

No problem at all. In fact, I wish no one would put their games on Steam. It's really bad enough having to even have it installed for Team Fortress and Left 4 Dead. It's a terrible service that provides little merit outside of a unified friends list.

Re:...should we be outraged? (1)

DigitAl56K (805623) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700447)

It's a terrible service that provides little merit outside of a unified friends list.

.. and the ability to log into the client anywhere and have it download all your licensed games and updates to them automatically. Although I do remember some prior /. story about license problems across territories.

Re:...should we be outraged? (0, Troll)

morari (1080535) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700809)

I can install from a CD and manually update the games much quicker than it takes Steam to download them from scratch. It's just another obtrusive form of DRM that gets by because it has a few conveniences.

Re:...should we be outraged? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29700465)

No problem at all. In fact, I wish no one would put their games on Steam. It's really bad enough having to even have it installed for Team Fortress and Left 4 Dead. It's a terrible service that provides little merit outside of a unified friends list.

This crap gets a +4 Insightful? What's the matter mods? You find out your supposedly "clean" hacks were no such thing when VAC bit you in the ass?

Re:...should we be outraged? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29700731)

You forgot the cost. Paying as much as 50% more on steam (except those few that get discounted for a while) to not have any physical media is worth it.

Re:...should we be outraged? (0)

CyDharttha (939997) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700837)

I'd list out tons of rebutals to your claim, but I'm way too lazy. A few though... bought the Orange Box when it was new, for $45. 6 games in there. Bought UT3 on sale for $12. Normally $20. Buy a pack of great indie games for $20.. Braid for $10, entire ID collection (some 10 or more games?) for $75. I love just clicking to get a new game, but that's the way I am with everything. Similar case, if it's not on Hulu, I usually don't bother. I'm a sucker for easily accessible media. Wave of the future dude, 100% electronic.

Re:...should we be outraged? (3, Insightful)

Ash Vince (602485) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700737)

Actually it does, it provides an easier way to meet the mass market than the alternative, which is the main games distribution companies like EA. You want a conflict of interest, try doing business with them and releasing a game at Christmas when their flagship titles are coming out.

I know Steam has its detractors as they do not allow resale of titles, but it also has its benefits.

And there are alternatives (5, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700517)

He might have a point if Valve really had a monopoly. If they because the only way to do digital distribution, ok maybe a problem. However, that's not the case. My personal favourite for digital games is Stardock's Impulse (impulsedriven.com). Same idea basic as Steam. What I like about it is it is better on DRM. They don't apply their own DRM to all games, so some have none at all. Others use Impulse GOO, which is kinda like Steamworks but you don't have to be logged in or run the client, others use 3rd party DRM like on Steam.

Yet another option is Direct2Drive. I'm not such a fan of this one, but it works. I've bought a couple of titles from it.

So if a publisher/developer doesn't like Steam, well then don't use them, use one of the others. Nobody is making you use Steam. Or, for that matter, you could always use Steam but offer a better deal to the others if you like them better. Have your game for $50 on Steam and $40 on Impulse. That way you still get sales from Steam, but you can point customers to the platform you like better.

The other funny thing about the whining is that though the digital distributors take a cut, it is way less than retail. Retail is about a 50% markup. So if you buy a game at Target for $50 the publisher sees $25. Digital distributors don't take nearly that large a cut (it is more like 20%).

Re:And there are alternatives (3, Interesting)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700663)

Yep, Steam isn't the only way to go. Not only is there Direct2Drive, but there's also other, smaller, online distributors like Gamer's Gate. There's plenty of room for developers and publishers to add their own distribution methods.

This does give me an interesting idea: image a program that is the digital distribution clone of Trillian or Pidgin. Instead of having to download tons of different distribution programs, visit 50 bajillion websites to download stuff, it would be nice to have them all merged into one program.

Re:...should we be outraged? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29700733)

A good example is Dawn of War II.

You could buy it in a shop, or on Steam, but part of being on Steam meant it had to be activated by Steam, including the shop bought version.

So here's the problem, Steam is an important channel and you'd lose a lot of sales if you didn't use it, but in using it you're also handing control of your software including activation of it to Valve even if you also want to distribute via standard hard copy retail.

Should games companies really be stuck with a choice between handing access control to their software to a competitor or losing out on a large amount of sales?

From the customers point of view Steam also takes away the ability to even sell games activated by Steam, but bought on physical media second hand. I can sell everything in my house on second hand, from my toaster to my toilet seat, I can even sell my naively bought rootkit DRM'd Sony music CDs second hand, but there is one thing I can't sell second hand due to an artificial restriction- my copy of Dawn of War II.

Quite why so many people on Slashdot are anti-DRM and are quick to slag off Sony for using it, Apple for using it, EA for using it but for some reason, give Valve a free pass, despite Valve's implementation being one of the most restrictive on the market. As with all DRM, the piracy excuse doesn't even come into play, because cracked copies of the games are always up before Steam has them up anyway. The fact is, Steam is anti-consumer, and is anti-competitive. Personally, I wouldn't mind so much if it even worked properly, but half the time I load up Defcon I'm forced into trial mode because it can't authenticate with Valve's servers.

Steam is a problem, it's anti-competitive and takes away fundamental consumer rights. Just because Valve makes good games, and Gabe tells us he hates DRM, doesn't excuse Valve or Steam from the fact that when it comes to DRM, their system is worse than just about all DRM that the music industry has churned out.

As Steam grows in marketshare the problem only becomes worse, developers will struggle with sales if they do not use it, and can we be sure that for example, if Valve releases Half-Life 3, the same day Gearbox releases a game, that Valve, knowing the activation servers will see heavy volume wont give priority to those activating Half-Life 3 over those activating GearBox's game?

It's a classic illegal abuse of monopoly situation, if Valve obtains (if it doesn't have already) a monopoly or near monopoly in digital game distribution, can we really be sure that Valve wont leverage this position to give itself an advantage over competitors which then depend on it for financial survival?

Is it acceptable if more and more games follow the path of Dawn of War II, such that even store bought games depend on steam, ultimately decreasing people's reason to even buy in store in the first place that Valve will siphon off, possibly even destroying in the long run retail software chains, becoming the soul or near soul provider of games?

Even if you disagree Valve and Steam's blatant potential for conflict of interest is not a problem now, you cannot disagree there is potential for major problems down the road. Gearbox is not the first to complain, Gamestop have refused to stock games that require Steam activation in the path for exactly the reasons in the last paragraph.

Slashdot, grow the fuck up for once, put your fanboyism away and take your morals back out the bag and treat Valve like you'd treat Sony or Microsoft when they fuck the consumer and act in an anti-competitive manner as Valve are.

Re:...should we be outraged? (4, Informative)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700903)

Your argument fails for the fact that it was the developers choice to use Steam to activate the game. There are tons of games that are on steam and are also available for retail and do not require steam in any way shape or form to run.

Re:...should we be outraged? (2, Interesting)

GMFTatsujin (239569) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700755)

GOG [gog.com] want you to own your games and play whenever you want. Steam want you to rent your games, and play when you're connected to their servers and it's economically convenient.

What you do with your dollar is up to you.

Re:...should we be outraged? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29700849)

My internet was down earlier and I was still able to play my steam games. Your not locked into online online unless your playing an online game.

Re:...should we be outraged? (4, Informative)

Lulfas (1140109) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700865)

You can play when you're not connected to their servers just fine. You don't pay per month, so the "rent" thing doesn't really apply. And once you download a game, you can make your own backups from within Steam just fine.

so do something about it (4, Insightful)

magarity (164372) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700207)

Valve is exploiting a lot of people in a way that's not totally fair
 
So start a competitor with policies you consider to be fair.
 
And stop whining, btw.

Re:so do something about it (3, Informative)

Delwin (599872) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700225)

My digital distribution channel list for work has 10 names on it and Steam isn't even #1. While it may dominate in the US it's by no means the largest channel internationally.

Re:so do something about it (-1, Troll)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700307)

There's nothing wrong with complaining about monopolies.

Re:so do something about it (5, Informative)

Quothz (683368) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700381)

There's nothing wrong with complaining about monopolies.

No, and I'm usually the one up on a soapbox railing against 'em. But Steam isn't a monopoly. There needs to be a special barrier to entry for a company or industry to be one, and I just don't see it. There's no legal bar, like with government-granted monopolies or Google books. There's no incredible infrastructure needed, just reasonable bandwidth and servers. There's not a "desktop" barrier in which users only benefit from one similar product. There's not even an "I wanted to be the car" barrier that caused so much consternation in my youth. Nobody's accusing 'em of coercion. Popularity alone doesn't a monopoly make.

Re:so do something about it (1, Insightful)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700843)

Monopoly is a specific word that has a certain meaning, and it's more than just market dominance.

Part of what gives a company a monopoly is that they have exclusive control over access to a resource, or near enough that it doesn't matter. This control alows a company with a monopoly to prevent competitors to be able to compete by restricting the resource outright or by charging fees that are so high the competitor cannot possibly provide a competitive service at a competitive price.

The obvious example is Microsoft, who had a monopoly on the browser market by virtue of the fact that businesses and consumers were entrenched in Windows. It is obviously not reasonable to expect millions of Windows users to change operating systems just to run a browser, so the ability to tie Internet Explorer in to Windows in such a way that no browser could perform at the same level, as well as coercing retailers into not including competing browsers with no recourse for competitors, was clear evidence that Microsoft was controling a limited resource - lower level access to Windows and the ability to bundle software with Windows - which gave them a monopoly.

Now, on the flip side, they do NOT have a monopoly in the OS market. There is nothing Microsoft directly controls about PCs that prevents someone from installing an alternative operating system on the same hardware.

Other examples of monopolies are telecom and cable companies - these are government enabled monopolies, whereby only certain companies are permitted to install new cable. A competing service would find it very very difficult to run new lines or use existing lines in an area with full coverage by a single provider. This kind of monopoly really disgusts me, since the government is supposed to prevent monopolies not create them. Note that the monopolies were originally used as incentive to build the networks that would not have been profitable to build otherwise, but that was ages ago and we have long since paid for it by now. The splitting of Bell helped, but frankly it has only reduced the monopolies to regional monopolies instead of a national monopoly. It isn't a whole lot better, as competition is only less stifled than it used to be.

Re:so do something about it (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700503)

There's nothing wrong with complaining about monopolies
 
No, you just sometimes waste your breath doing so. Monopolies are only bad when they engage in coercive activities to keep out new competitors. Natural monopolies on the other hand, are not really bad compared to the benefits. Imagine what the landscape would look like if there were 20 companies all stringing power lines to every neighborhood to compete for home electrical power.
 
This game software "monopoly" being complained about is 1: not a monopoly because there are several competitors I can think of without even searching and 2: its potential competitors have barriers to entry that are really low. The complainer is a CEO fer cryin' out loud - he must know some people with cash and starting up a new web based service with policies he considers fair wouldn't have any outrageous barriers to entry.

Re:so do something about it (1)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700693)

Imagine what the landscape would look like if there were 20 companies all stringing power lines to every neighborhood to compete for home electrical power.

It might look something like it already does, though I doubt that 20 companies would exist on any given street. It might be more akin to one company laying fiber on the street, while another company runs cable, and another one runs telephone lines. With the duplicated power lines will come extra redundancy and competition.

Re:so do something about it (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29700453)

I love people that whine about other people whining and then claim they weren't really whining like you're about to do.

Re:so do something about it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29700647)

There are competitors. For example Archive Games has a selection of free and pay-to-play games, from indie developers. It's not perfect, but it does have some support for Linux.

http://www.archivegames.net/

Re:so do something about it (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700785)

Dude, I responded the same way and went so far as to write gearbox. Randy wrote me back, personally, and cleared it up. This article is sensationalist exaggeration and bullshit, thats what it is. I knew my critic-o-meter was off today! I should have known a journalist will say crazy junk just to seem cool.

Here is the link to my post (right here in slashdot comments) where I quote him from his e-mail to me.

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1399359&cid=29700749 [slashdot.org]

are our brains leaking out of our heads? (3, Insightful)

MagicMerlin (576324) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700209)

A company creates a digital content distribution service that is (almost) single handedly keeping pc gaming alive and we speculate how unfair it is. To great things go great rewards...losing sight of that simple principle shows just how into twilight we have gone.

Re:are our brains leaking out of our heads? (4, Insightful)

maugle (1369813) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700317)

Re: Digital distribution that's keeping PC gaming alive

There's one other thing that's revived PC gaming for me, and digital distribution does it by default. Apart from games I bought on Steam or from GOG, only one of them doesn't force me to insert the %^&*ing CD in order to play. This is despite the fact that games load just about nothing from CD these days because it's too slow!

Re:are our brains leaking out of our heads? (1)

Jared555 (874152) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700741)

Typically they literally load nothing from the cd. They just check to make sure it is there (and legit) and after that you can just eject the disk with no issue.

Re:are our brains leaking out of our heads? (1)

Mr680x0 (1116783) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700873)

Re: Digital distribution that's keeping PC gaming alive There's one other thing that's revived PC gaming for me, and digital distribution does it by default. Apart from games I bought on Steam or from GOG, only one of them doesn't force me to insert the %^&*ing CD in order to play. This is despite the fact that games load just about nothing from CD these days because it's too slow!

You do realize that most common games have a no-CD crack available for them, right?

Re:are our brains leaking out of our heads? (-1, Flamebait)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700545)

Steam is an anti-competitive, anti-consumer piece of shit, and I'm surprised people on slashdot, of all places, are ready to white-knight it against any criticism. This guy might be still a whiny bitch, but then Steam still sucks for many reasons, including some of those he mentioned.

A system designed by greed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29700217)

Anti-competitive... really?

Wow... who would imagine.

Re:A system designed by greed... (3, Funny)

master5o1 (1068594) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700493)

Wow... who would imagine.

WOW isn't on steam.

Well.. (1, Insightful)

Renraku (518261) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700227)

As much as I like Steam, they'll always be anti-competitive as long as you cannot unlink and resale games to other people. It ensures that Steam NEVER has to compete with itself for a sale, that is, no one can get a Steam-exclusive game and then resell it to another person, without selling their entire account off.

I have no issues with letting them dominate the market if they'd allow games to be resold or transferred between accounts. They haven't, to my knowledge, been anti-competitive towards other companies. There have been many attempts to set up a decent network like it, but many have failed. Why? They want to encrypt/encode your games, but limit their bandwidth to a T-1 that serves hundreds of thousands of customers, AND tell you to fuck off when the game doesn't work.

Re:Well.. (4, Interesting)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700337)

It's worth noting that for Valve's exclusive games, when you buy bundle packs containing copies you already have, you get more copies which can be given to friends.

Unfortunately, the same doesn't apply for third-party games.

I can understand the publisher's desire to lock a game to every customer. It ensures every sale gives you profit. I also understand that in the case of Steam, that's giving us much lower prices. Unlike most other platforms, Steam is flooded with quality games that go on sale for between $5 to $15.

When's the last time you got an XBox360 game brand new for $10? You can take your rights of sale and shove them... somewhere. I'll lose at least that much money trying to sell a game I picked up new, so resale doesn't really concern me much. Plus, after I sell it and lose $10+, I don't have it anymore.

One thing I would like to see is Valve not allowing non-Steam DRM in games. I hate it when games have double-protection(like Universe At War), and then it doesn't work because of the non-Steam DRM.

Re:Well.. (1)

Kesch (943326) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700377)

I'm actually pretty surprised by the prices on Steam though. Despite a strong second-hand market for PC games, the prices on Steam (and PC games in general) still seem to have some strong pressure from somewhere (piracy?). New game prices sometimes start below their console ports, and the price gap just widens from there. On top of that they offer sometimes crazy good sales and some amazing value bundles. Of course, they're not the only digital distributor with good deals. The recent D2D $5 sale has had me buying tons of games.

Are these two companies both being driven by some pricing pressure in the market, or is Valve just pro-consumer and everyone else is racing to catch up?

Re:Well.. (2, Informative)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700425)

Well with digital distribution you cut out the publisher/distributor, and you can either turn that cost into profit or cut ti out of the cost of the game.

And of course since it costs mere pennies to distribute, once you make up the cost of producing a game you can set the price point wherever you want and it's pure profit.

Prices compared to retail? (1)

Jared555 (874152) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700229)

Technically the service valve provides takes the role of packager, distributor, and store so if you add up the amounts those companies normally get (on an equally priced game) and it is a similar amount then it shouldn't be any big deal (for the developer). Especially since valve may have to distribute the game a hundred times.

Re:Prices compared to retail? (1)

arbiter1 (1204146) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700323)

games on steam are same price as in a retail store, minus the cost of shipping the game to the store, box, cd/dvd.

Re:Prices compared to retail? (1)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700373)

If ordering online, you also save shipping and handling from the eStore to you.

In my case - I'm Canadian - Steam saves me 12% tax. (more depending on province)

And I usually wait for things to go 50-75% off before purchasing, which puts my Steam cost at about 20% of retail cost.

Re:Prices compared to retail? (1)

Fneb (1181615) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700389)

Not true. Generally speaking, games are more expensive on Steam than online retailers. As an example, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is £29.99 on Steam. On Play.com, it is £17.99. Risen is £34.99 on Steam, £24.99 on Play.com. In fact, from the games listed on the front page's scrolling display that have identical retail products as of the time of writing this post, the only game with identical prices on both places is Left 4 Dead 2 (and only because Steam has reduced the price by a few quid temporarily).

Re:Prices compared to retail? (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700415)

Do other online retailers tend to have awesome sales every week like Steam does? I've never used other online retailers but brick-and-mortar stores NEVER put their games on sale. Ever.

Re:Prices compared to retail? (1)

Fneb (1181615) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700441)

You do occasionally get a decent deal on Steam, but most of the time any temporary price reductions of games just bring prices down to around what is expected from online retailers of games, some of which, including Play.com and Amazon.co.uk, offer free delivery (on orders above £5 for Amazon, and all orders from Play.com). I've seen the price of Dawn of War 2 bounce around all over the place on Play.com. Right now its at £24.99 but I've seen it go right down to £11.99. Price on Steam? £34.99, same as when it was released back in February.

Re:Prices compared to retail? (1)

Adradis (1160201) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700485)

The overly high prices in Europe (Which I'm assuming your from, based on the money-type shown in the post) is something that Valve did a while back. No one has gotten an answer from them, but in the US end of things, the prices are fairly decent.

Re:Prices compared to retail? (1)

Draek (916851) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700509)

Generally speaking, they aren't. In Europe they may be, but everywhere else Steam costs the same or less than retail, specially here in South America where it's common for the same game on Steam cost a third of what it sells for in retail.

I've heard that Play.com has lower than average prices thanks to abusing some loopholes to avoid paying taxes, too, but I don't know how valid those claims may be.

Re:Prices compared to retail? (1)

ensignyu (417022) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700707)

I think it's because retail products take up physical space, so there's an incentive to clear inventory. With digital distribution, they can sell as many or as few copies as they want in order to maximize revenue.

Re:Prices compared to retail? (1)

Jared555 (874152) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700451)

I was referring to the % of the price that goes to steam vs the developer compared to stores/distributors/manufacturers in retail. Sorry that I wasn't clear.

Yeah! Competition! (1)

Iriscal (1563535) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700267)

Right, because I want to have to register for and keep track of seven different digital distribution ser-- Oh, wait... Steam... iTunes... Rhapsody... Playstation Network... *Counts on fingers...*

Voluntary = exploitative? (3, Insightful)

MrMista_B (891430) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700269)

How on earth is a voluntary service exploitative?

In the same way I guess that a story exploits people who voluntarily buy from them.

Is there something I'm missing here?

Re:Voluntary = exploitative? (1)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700455)

I'm not saying Steam is an example, but why can't a voluntary service be exploitative? People volunteer to do business with a high speed ISP, for example, but that ISP may be the only provider in the area, and lobby for laws to keep municipalities from establishing a competing service, so as to keep the price up, while also getting subsidies from the federal government. You volunteer to do buisiness directly with the company, but you also have financial involvement with them you didn't volunteer for - surely there can be exploitation there even by libertarian argument?
      Many of us believe a company can also exploit a relationship just as an individual can, even without government coercion being involved. Individual exploitation can take many forms. People get married voluntarily (at least in most parts of the world), but what if one person is a lazy bum who has broken many promises made, and constantly reminds the other person that their religion forbids divorce except for adultery? Sure the other person could change their religion (again in many parts of the world), or ignore what the preacher says. But if they don't, is it wrong to say "Girlfriend, that lazy bum is just exploiting you - tell him to get a job and pay his share of the rent or get out!".
      Personally, I can think of many things a company can do that are exploitative. Employment is a voluntary relationship, but when a company asks its employees to do additional unpaid labor to keep their jobs, that's exploitation. Customer is a voluntary relationship, but what if the business sells rebranded knockoffs as the real thing?

HUH? Small devs are getting exposure with steam! (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700275)

For the end-user, Steam is great. I've bought a lot more indie games then I normally would simply because I love seeing the weekend deals. Small developers don't have the marketing budget to pay for exposure and steam provides that. Even indirectly when I see my friends playing "Game X" and I decide to go check it out.

If you're a big publisher (or developer), such as Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, etc. you can afford the marketing budget.

The only "legit" complaint I could see is if you are a "middle" publisher and thus are having a hard time compete with both sides.

Gearbox has ported a LOT of First Person Shooters. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gearbox_Software) Instead of blaming publishers, why not make a good game that customers want?

Re:HUH? Small devs are getting exposure with steam (1)

Darundal (891860) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700331)

Can I ask how you think Steam hurts "middle" publishers?

pro-capitalist replies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29700295)

I'm amazed at the pro-capitalist replies given the depressing socialist climate of today...

Amen, I say. If you don't like their policies, don't use them. Sounds fair to me. Nobody is holding a gun to anyone's head.

Valve has a right to set their own policies and prices, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a thankless dog.

"anti-competitive" (1)

postmortem (906676) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700333)

such a lame word.. what should they do to not be 'anti-competitive' ? deny customers? increase prices 100%? share profits with competitors?

valve has done something right the rest havn't (3, Insightful)

arbiter1 (1204146) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700335)

valve made a problem that takes all the crap of needing to keep disc's around that can get scratched. plus they made a system of drm that works and don't treat everyone like pirates. Also don't crash machines and cause more headaches for the legit customer then the pirates.

That depends (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700341)

Steam is less anti-competitive than say, The Pirate Bay?

      What's stopping game developers from hosting their own pay-per-download site, instead of whining about Steam? Then they can keep ALL of the profit (less bandwidth and marketing costs).

steaming piece of shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29700343)

steam sucks, it uses up a lot of memory for nothing, and forces you to be connected to the internet to play games( even if its for single player). And btw steam is going to die since blizzard is making their new steam aka battle.net 2.0, which is pretty much a blatant copy of the steam service except for blizzard games.

Re:steaming piece of shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29700687)

I know you're just trolling, but for anyone who doesn't actually know how it works, parent is completely wrong. Steam works fine in offline mode, and uses 10-15 megs of memory when idle.

Unfair competition? (3, Insightful)

steveha (103154) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700345)

Has Valve somehow managed to erect barriers to entry into the market, or in any way block competitors from starting a competing service? Is there in fact anything unethical or unfair going on?

Valve pioneered this area. Now they are reaping the rewards. Anyone who doesn't like it is welcome to start up their own, competing service.

But hey, he's entitled to complain about it if it makes him feel better. That's less work that trying to compete with Valve.

steveha

Re:Unfair competition? (4, Insightful)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700535)

Anyone who doesn't like it is welcome to start up their own, competing service.

Sure and LOL, they were the first carrying titles like Counter-Strike and Half-life, pretty much forcing people to install Steam in order to play these highly desired games. NOBODY would install Steam without some good game already in. You can try to start a competing company with no such games, good luck.

Re:Unfair competition? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29700559)

So you are saying that a good game company that sells it's own games on a service that is willing to sell others is unfair? Hardly. I have downloaded games from other providers with far less customer service for no less money and they have chosen to not sell competing games. Well I don't like having a dozen accounts. I'll stick with a good product with a wide variety of games. If it isn't on steam I wont buy it unless its the next big thing. Why should I?

Re:Unfair competition? (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700801)

Sure and LOL, they were the first carrying titles like Counter-Strike and Half-life, pretty much forcing people to install Steam in order to play these highly desired games. NOBODY would install Steam without some good game already in. You can try to start a competing company with no such games, good luck.

So what game did Direct2Drive use to achieve popularity, then?

Also, even if your premise holds true, game market itself is quite competitive. It ain't cheap, but it's certainly feasible for a new entity to come up with a new good game, and then tie that to its new electronic distribution service, just like Valve did.

So, again, what's the problem here?

Re:Unfair competition? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29700835)

Considering Valve created both CS and HL, your point is moot. Why wouldn't they put their own games on their distribution service. In fact, there was a time when you could purchase both games before Steam was even conceived.

Steam helps us as customers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29700353)

How does Steam help us as customers? You can't sell your used Steam games and you can't run them completely offline. I have not and will not buy a game that requires Steam.

Use Impulse Instead (4, Interesting)

DelitaTheFridge (912659) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700355)

So Impulse (http://www.impulsedriven.com/) is like steam, but run by Stardock. Games you buy on impulse don't require it to be running ala games on steam. I don't know how their pricing is for game developers, but they sure seem nicer and friendlier than the big behemoth to me, and I'll always buy a given game on impulse over steam if they have it.

Re:Use Impulse Instead (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700723)

From their developer [impulsedriven.com] page:

Each month, you will be sent an update showing your sales for that period. The base royalty percentage is 70% but that amount goes to 85% if your website is the referring page

Re:Use Impulse Instead (1)

TheRealRainFall (1464687) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700783)

Impulse also has terrible customer service and let's people put buggy as hell flawed games on the market. (See Demigod)

Re:Use Impulse Instead (1)

DelitaTheFridge (912659) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700895)

Demigod was produced by the owners of impulse, heh. It also had most of it's issues resolved for people who could forward ports pretty quickly, and is fun as hell. I'd suggest taking another look if you tried before and it sucked. I mean, I don't doubt that it is unprofessional, but that is a pretty shitty reason not to use a service. Do you actually buy games without knowing what they are beforehand?

Inconceivable! (1)

Renaissance 2K (773059) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700365)

God forbid we have a digital distribution service that benefits the consumer!

If Valve takes advantage of small developers, I don't know why those developers continue to flock to the service like flies to honey. And if there really is a conflict of interest, they don't seem to be exercising it. Valve games aren't advertised any more than third-party titles, and the standard non-sale prices are comparable.

You keep using that word... (1)

panthrkub (886691) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700435)

I totally agree. I would not have known about Darwinia if it weren't for Steam, and now I feel like I've contributed to a good cause (a small developer with genuine talent).

Gearbox should make their own, then. (0)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700385)

And quit crying about how Valve did something so great...

Guess what, you can do it too!

But, oh, right... this is America. We now foster the 'lets blame the winners' attitude, to include predatory lawyers that perpetuate it.

Yeah, its Valve's fault. :rolleyes:

Grow up.

Re:Gearbox should make their own, then. (0)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700749)

NO NO NO! MOD THAT DOWN! THAT WAS AN IGNORANT RESPONSE TO A SENSATIONALIST ARTICLE!

I immediately went to gearbox's website and wrote with specific directions to deliver my message to Richard Pitchford. I wrote about, well, basically what I wrote in that first post here... I told him I would not be buying borderlands despite how much I have been waiting for it. Within a short time he actually personally wrote me back and made clear to me that what we are reading here on slashdot is an exaggeration. The writer is using sensationalism to get people to care about his article, that is all.

I will exclude the more personal discussion we had in e-mail and include only the part that he referenced from a forum he posted on to clarify things. I am doing this because I know it is on a forum and I didn't ask him permission to post his other stuff.
-------

As a gamer, I *love* Valve's games. Hell, I've *made* some of Valve's games!

As a customer, I love Steam. I like owning a credential that I can use from any terminal and I like the software. There are other things I like, too.

As a businessman, I appreciate the access to Valve's customers that they are providing with Steam. I think there's value to that access. I'm really happy that the Brothers in Arms games are available on Steam and I think Steam customers are really going to dig Borderlands. I have been and hope to be a partner to Valve for many years.

From an industry perspective of digital distribution on the PC, I think Steam is doing it the best right now. They're in front and they're really getting value out of their leadership position with digital distribution on the PC.

From an industry perspective, I believe that Steam would be even better off if it were a separate company. Trust issues that result from conflict of interest could be mitigated if Steam were a separate company. Take that only as analysis. It doesn't matter how much I trust Valve or how trustworthy Valve actually is - it's just perception within segments of the publishing and development community that, I guess, no one is really talking about. I'm on record in this article saying how I personally trust Valve. I was attempting to comment on perception from some angles of the industry.

I also believe that gamers and customers and anyone making games using 3rd party digital distribution systems would be greatly benefited if Steam had some viable competitors. Competition generally drives higher quality products and services at lower prices. I can't see how anyone could argue against that point. If we love Steam, we should hope that as competition appears that it prompts the Steam folks to go faster and better towards improving the service and the pricing.

In spite of the implication made in this blurb, I do not want Microsoft to control digital distribution on PC, but believe they (and others) could enter the space if they wanted to and help the competitive landscape and even, perhaps, help to standardize the landscape a bit. I believe that because Valve is a game maker that generally "gets it" I think there's a lot of value to the position they have and I'm really excited about the risk they took and the foresight Valve showed in paving the way there.

These are not mutually exclusive feelings and they are all honest and forthright.

-------

Waah waah waah. (1)

straponego (521991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700409)

Compete if you don't like it. Get a cartel of game companies to fund a copy of Steam. I doubt it will save much money, though.

I've definitely purchased more games due to Steam. I do wish that more of the games supported online backups of saved games, and that it had a default configuration/hinting system for settings such as key and mouse binds. Movement, invert mouse, zoom, jump, crouch, prone, etc: most games of a similar type have mostly similar controls.

Steam is great. They've had the potential to be evil since inception, but they seem to have realized that they'll do much better by treating customers well. I doubt I'll ever buy a game on physical (fragile, wasteful) media again.

Re:Waah waah waah. (1)

pinkj (521155) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700475)

Steam is great. They've had the potential to be evil since inception, but they seem to have realized that they'll do much better by treating customers well. I doubt I'll ever buy a game on physical (fragile, wasteful) media again.

Hear hear! There is nothing more annoying than a DVD or CD that won't read. I understand some of the foibles people have with Steam, but the convenience and great deals more than make up for it.

Re:Waah waah waah. (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29700691)

"I've definitely purchased more games due to Steam"

For some reason, you've misspelled "rented" as "purchased". Please do not make that mistake again.

There's plenty of competition. (2, Insightful)

Carra (1220410) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700445)

I've bought games from gamersgate, direct2drive, impulse.net, gog.com and steam. Steam doesn't quite have a monopoly yet.

But the only service from this list I like more then steam is gog.com. Steam offers a great service which offers very fast downloads, an easy to use steam app, weekend deals, plenty of community features, achievements... The only thing they seriously fuck up is their price ranges. Direct dollar to euro conversions make me feel ripped of. It also means that new games are always cheaper to get at a retail store. Steam is only useful for weekend deals.

If you offer a service with non intrusive drm, a good community and cheaper prices I'll be glad to buy at your shop. Direct2drive is an example of how not do it. It offers very little community interaction. Their games are country restricted. A £5 game seems cheap at first until you see that others pay $5, it's 40% cheaper and again makes me feel ripped of. And needing both serial codes and activation codes makes things a mess to install. I received 4(!) serials when installing titan quest. Compare that to gog.com where a game plus expansion is offered in one bundle with no DRM. Those games are guaranteed to work with xp & vista. They offer user reviews, fora for each games, advised mods to use... And a game costs $6 even if I live in Europe.

There's room for competition but you need to offer a better service. Not just throw your DRM protected crap at your customers. And while steam is a nice platform there's definately room for improvement.

Monopoly? (1)

Rycross (836649) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700449)

You can put it on Impulse, GameTap, or make it a direct download on your site. You can port it to console and put it on WiiWare, XBox Live, or PSN. Seriously, there's a lot of alternatives here, and its hard for me to think of Steam as a monopoly.

Re:Monopoly? (2, Informative)

rcolbert (1631881) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700533)

You can put it on Impulse, GameTap, or make it a direct download on your site. You can port it to console and put it on WiiWare, XBox Live, or PSN. Seriously, there's a lot of alternatives here, and its hard for me to think of Steam as a monopoly.

Agreed. Steam has the Valve titles plus a smattering of nice indies. But they're hardly a monopoly. Direct2Drive anyone? Just about every mainstream title is available now as a digital download from D2D except the Valve titles and Steam exclusives. If anything D2D should be the specimen under this pointless microscope.

Re:Monopoly? (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700739)

Monopoly in the antitrust sense just requires a certain market share, I think steam probably have that market share, OFC now they need to abuse it to get this prize [archive.org]

Expensive (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29700459)

I find Steam quite expensive to be honest. I pay the same price (and sometimes more) than for a boxed version. Whenever i can, i rather use Gamer's Gate.

Re:Expensive (3, Insightful)

samsmithnz (702471) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700499)

I completely disagree. The prices are often cheaper - new releases often have specials (10-20% off), and they have specials all the time - specials I wouldn't normally see since I don't go to a gamestop/best buy every week. Add to that the ability to preinstall games and be available from any computer (you log into), I think it's brilliant.

Re:Expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29700745)

Are you European? Steam seems to screw over Euro gamers, but in North America the prices are generally very good.

Steam flaws (3, Informative)

Inverted Intellect (950622) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700547)

I'm seeing a lot of comments discussing various flaws of Steam, but nothing which I recognize as anti-competitiveness. Now I'm not terribly well informed on what constitutes anti-competitive practices, so I did what any random Joe Slashdot on the street would do, which is look it up on WP.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-competitive_practices [wikipedia.org]

Looking at the list of typical anti-competitive practices, I see none which I can imagine applying to Valve's Steam, so I'd imagine that their high popularity with publishers given their high cut of the price is simply due to a lack of good competition rather than Valve pushing all their competitors in online game distribution off the market.

If Steam wasn't ultimately providing a profitable service, I'm sure publishers would simply stick with the physical retail market.

mod 0p (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29700597)

Direct orders, or market. Therefore, CWould you like to a change to

Capitalism... A love story (1)

TheRealRainFall (1464687) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700601)

Steam is an amazing product. As one person said before i can download my games anywhere. I can even give a friend my login and they can play my games as long as i'm not playing them. (I'm sure the violates ToS but whatever). I even preordered a product(AION) and played the beta and it was having miserable lag. I emailed and said i was disappointed with the game and would be interested in a refund if the problems weren't fixed by the end of beta. They said they would gladly refund my purchase if the problems weren't fixed. They fixed the problems and there was no problem. Well at least not until i hit level 24ish and the game turned into a grind and i cancelled, but i digress. They are a corporation maximizing profits. Monopoly is inevitable in capitalism without government intervention. If you don't like this you really don't like capitalism. Which is fine. But there's no point in nitpicking a system over one thing when you dislike the entirety of the system.

Comment from the source (5, Informative)

Randy Pitchford (547487) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700607)

As a guy who reads, trusts and respects slashdot and the community here, I figured I'd take the time to clarify my position since my intent has been construed out of context. As a gamer, I *love* Valve's games. Hell, I've *made* some of Valve's games! As a customer, I love Steam. I like owning a credential that I can use from any terminal and I like the software. There are other things I like, too. As a businessman, I appreciate the access to Valve's customers that they are providing with Steam. I think there's value to that access. I'm really happy that the Brothers in Arms games are available on Steam and I think Steam customers are really going to dig Borderlands. I have been and hope to be a partner to Valve for many years. From an industry perspective of digital distribution on the PC, I think Steam is doing it the best right now. They're in front and they're really getting value out of their leadership position with digital distribution on the PC. From an industry perspective, I believe that Steam would be even better off if it were a separate company. Trust issues that result from conflict of interest could be mitigated if Steam were a separate company. Take that only as analysis. It doesn't matter how much I trust Valve or how trustworthy Valve actually is - it's just perception within segments of the publishing and development community that, I guess, no one is really talking about. I'm on record in this article saying how I personally trust Valve. I was attempting to comment on perception from some angles of the industry. I also believe that gamers and customers and anyone making games using 3rd party digital distribution systems would be greatly benefited if Steam had some viable competitors. Competition generally drives higher quality products and services at lower prices. I can't see how anyone could argue against that point. If we love Steam, we should hope that as competition appears that it prompts the Steam folks to go faster and better towards improving the service and the pricing. In spite of the implication made in the original source article, I do not want Microsoft to control digital distribution on PC, but believe they (and others) could enter the space if they wanted to and help the competitive landscape and even, perhaps, help to standardize the landscape a bit. I believe that because Valve is a game maker that generally "gets it" I think there's a lot of value to the position they have and I'm really excited about the risk they took and the foresight Valve showed in paving the way there. These are not mutually exclusive feelings and they are all honest and forthright.

Re:Comment from the source (4, Funny)

Megaweapon (25185) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700717)

As a guy who reads, trusts and respects slashdot and the community here

You lost me.

Re:Comment from the source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29700815)

From an industry perspective of digital distribution on the PC, I think Steam is doing it the best right now. They're in front and they're really getting value out of their leadership position with digital distribution on the PC. ...

I also believe that gamers and customers and anyone making games using 3rd party digital distribution systems would be greatly benefited if Steam had some viable competitors. ...

In spite of the implication made in the original source article, I do not want Microsoft to control digital distribution on PC, but believe they (and others) could enter the space if they wanted to and help the competitive landscape and even, perhaps, help to standardize the landscape a bit.

So Direct2Drive, GamersGate, GOG.com, Impulse and Metaboli are not viable competitors in your eyes?

Re:Comment from the source (1)

caladine (1290184) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700905)

I don't know about you, but Steam is the only one I've ever actually used. I've heard of D2D, but probably won't ever use it. I haven't even heard of the others you have listed.

Re:Comment from the source (3, Insightful)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700909)

As a guy who reads, trusts and respects slashdot and the community here,

That is where you are going wrong, we are in fact 90% self righteous troll, fortunately I'm part of the 10% that responds to logic and completely agree that it would be better for everybody involved if steam/valve split. If they do not they will have to take great care to not end up running afoul of anti-trust laws as they are a major part of several markets distribution,PC FPS (particularly at a pro level),engine licensor.

Slashdot instabilities (1)

jimmydevice (699057) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700633)

Wow, /. seems to be even more unstable tonight. Refresh pulls up different discussions, dropping some seemingly at random. Gud gob Earl.

Steam is quite good at times. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29700635)

Sure, sometimes it can be just a tad slow at times, but usually there is good reason behind it, such as, new updates released to games. You know, this is a good thing here too. Steam keeps all the games up to date for everyone.

Not to mention, Steam does have good deals on games at times.

It's good to be a PC. :)

Valve RIAA now the GIAA? (1)

teknosapien (1012209) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700649)

it it the new recording industry almost sounds as if they are taking over the record industries business model

Gimme a second here (2, Insightful)

gencha (1020671) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700651)

You think that if I pay money for a product that can be altered at an any time through the distributor or where the distributor can revoke my right to use the product at any time is somehow bad? I can not believe what I am hearing! Here I was thinking that it was totally awesome to buy a product which I could never resell nor would I have any control over. I personally think that Steam is an awesome platform and am very happy that all these DRM practices strayed far away from it.

Anticompetitive (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700759)

Does Steam prevent another company setting up a similar service?
Do they force their users into an unfair contract against their will?
Do they force the software authors into an unfair contract against their will?
Does Steam intefere with, or say that you can't use, other similar services?

No? Then it's probably not anticompetitive. Just because you don't like it, doesn't mean it's anticompetitive. Just because they are the only decent online to-your-desktop electronic software distribution network that is popular doesn't mean they are stopping others trying the same. It's only when people play dirty that it's anticompetitive - charging money that people willingly pay isn't necessarily anticompetitive on it's own. If the contracts were unfair, software authors wouldn't sign them. If they could get a better deal elsewhere, they would. But the fact is that ALL the other similar schemes, I've never used, I don't know anyone that has used them, and I have no intention of using them because they just aren't as good.

Anti-competition laws only apply to abuses of such power. It's not like Steam has snatched up every distribution network. It's not like they force other vendors out of business through anything more than providing a better product and getting the best software houses on board. It's not like they force you to install Steam on every computer you sell.

If you have evidence to the contrary and it's hurting your business - take it to court. There's big money to be made in that. Chances are, though, that people are griping that because Valve know they have the best distribution model that people will accept less money overall if they can get onto Steam, because they will make more sales. Pricing yourself as the best isn't the same and forcing your customers to buy.

Thoughts from a game dev (3, Informative)

appleprophet (233330) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700787)

As someone who has an upcoming indie game [wolfire.com] appearing on Steam, here are my thoughts.

First of all, there is no shortage of competition [wolfire.com] for Steam. Steam is definitely the biggest, but they are not doing anything anti-competitve.

Unlike the console market, it is not uncommon to see a game sold on Steam, D2D, Impulse, and the 15+ other contendors simultaneously, from day one, in addition to being sold by the creator directly. In fact, even earlier than day one, due to the trend of preorders.

If Steam pressured developers into exclusive deals (which they could easily do, due to their size), then sure, I would be kind of pissed. The fact of the matter is that Valve isn't doing that -- they are simply acting like a big, friendly store where developers can put their game for sale. They have been great dudes so far.

They don't have a monopoly (2, Interesting)

Random5 (826815) | more than 4 years ago | (#29700821)

There are other digital distribution systems which are still common names and the market is still developing. Off the top of my head I know of direct2drive and I use Stardock's Impulse system when I can to buy games. It's a lot better than steam, not always cheaper for big games but you can add physical copies of any games you own to it, have it manage updates, your keys, reinstallation when you want without using the physical media. Has a lot less DRM, doesn't need to be running for you to run it's games. Not that i'm hugely against steam, it does some things I don't like (automatically updates games - not an issue now that steam is unmetered with my isp but it used to be, restricts by country when certain publishers demand it).Though being Australian and having been ripped off by publishers through retail (90 to 110 $AUD for a new game, 1 AUD averages 0.8 USD but it varies a lot - 0.9 at the moment, dipped into the low 0.6's at one point), having $50-$60 games from most publishers is great, though there is one which kicked up a stink and made steam charge more to Australians so it wasn't cheaper than retail anymore).
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