So Valve has allowed the sale of it's games on Gamestop's platform (impulse), but it's only a desktop shortcut effectively. From there it launches Steam, which launches it's games. (They all require steam activation) This is a grand misstep by the people at Valve.
They claim to want to support PC gaming. And to some extent they have, they've revitalized the indie games market for the PC to a good degree. They've made availability of PC games easy and provide frequent updates, all the goodies you're used to getting with a steam game. Friends, and updates and sales oh my. All the cookies you can eat, Holy Shit it's making me fat!
They're the trendsetter when it's come to digital downloads. It was genuinely insightful and done with foresight and clarity. But they're doing PC gamers a disservice now, by not allowing their games to be sold on other digital distribution platforms that use different DRM. I'm not strongly opposed to DRM, as long as it's neither draconian nor largely inconvenient, but not allowing other developers to be responsible for their own digital distribution platforms is going to start a weird little war that is going to be divisive to PC gamers. And if you haven't guessed already I'm not talking about impulse.
If you were unaware, EA's Origin service is a newcomer to the fray of digital distribution. (to log all of these, There is steam, impulse, [now owned by Gamestop, previously owned by Stardock], Gamefly's client, which sells titles for Direct to Drive, Windows Live Marketplace and Of course Origin, [there is also Desura, though that has a focus on mods]) What's happening is interesting. For a long time, Valve made it so that if you bought one of their games, starting back in 2004 with the release of Half Life 2, you needed steam to run it. This guaranteed that their distribution platform was installed when there game was. And while this was new, and in some ways felt duplicitous, we let it go in and in the end it paid us back reasonably well. But now EA can use it as a rationale to prevent the sale of games like Battlefield and more importantly Mass Effect 3 on platforms other than Origin. Right now there is no recourse for the consumer, we end up with numerous clients if we want to get this and that and that. And it's a problem, for you as well as me.
Valve needs to choose to allow its games to be sold on other platforms, with the DRM of that platform. They need to be the role model here, not the underhanded one. Installing steam with Half Life 2 was underhanded, and deep down we all knew it. Some people balked, and didn't buy it through steam, they got pirated copies. But a lot of people did, and it was forgivable prior to their being real competitors in the marketplace. Valve's got the experience with customer service to do this well, but they run the risk of becoming the dinengenuous motherfuckers. They need to give a little bit if they don't want to scuttle PC gaming, which they claim to support.
This squabble, like several others could put an end to PC gaming. Some of you think that may be grandiose, and some I know do not give a shit. But the PC gaming hobby is already fragile, but this will be an upended thinking process that will further befuddle the PC market. PCs already have trouble for not being unified in terms of hardware. It is one of the strongest arguments “against” PC gaming. Really the argument is that publishers do not want to invest in making a PC game work well for the variety of PCs out there, but while this is a related issue, it's not what I'm talking about at the moment. Also, there is the issue of DRM. I was tempted to go the route of piracy a short while back, I'd thought that PC gaming was going to become too expensive for something that didn't work well (PC ports), but I ran aground the Gamefly client, which would allow you to filter bad ports ahead of time. Which I think is an important, viable alternative.
What this does, in essence is create a climate of hostility and chaos in a fragile market. The PC market is already fissured over fucking video cards and cpus and brands of motherboards and every other little thing out there. And this isn't the simplest point to make, but now that we've got two, or more software applications that do the job of one, we're coming to a kind of major clusterfuck. It's a kind of event horizon for the PC gaming industry. Not only will we need to have all of these platforms, but they'll be competing for advertising space on your computer. All of them try to launch when the computer launches. They are, in a sense, adware, and they're all going to be running, with your consent, on your computer. No less, this will likely cause a spike in piracy, that will further dissuade developers from developing for the PC platform.
And I want them to compete, but the thing is, I don't want to end up having to run three, four clients in the long term. Eventually, what should happen is that people settle on one of them, and discard the others because they prefer whichever. But what's going to happen if we stay on this course is that gaming on the PC is going to be such a huge hassle, that no one will want to do it. I think publishers want this to some extent, they can look at the receipts from the sales of their games, and are willing to bank on people migrating to consoles to a large extent, but for those that don't, it's no great loss to them.
If Valve wants to maintain PC gaming (which they say they want) they're going to have to bite the bullet here and allow other platforms to distribute their games, and use that platforms DRM. This will allow for real competition, rather than a contrived one. And will give them moral high ground compared to EA or Activision/Blizzard. Though I'm sure they find it challenging to give up that grip on their software, they need to acquiesce and let others protect their IP with their own DRM. If something happens, they can go the route the rest of us have to go and sue. If they let EA have this one, or worse Activision/Blizzard, they're going to run the risk of looking greedy, which will further undermine a challenged marketplace.
A similar, though less likely solution, is a class action suit that forces the various competitors to run their competitors games, undertaken by consumers (ECA perhaps?). But getting the PC gaming community to agree to anything is not even herding cats. It's cleaning a dragon's teeth. I like the idea that we as consumers could mount a cohesive attack on the people fucking us. But what I think what is more likely is that rather than take it to the court system, to address a civil matter that would require intervention, they'd sit on their hands and complain about filing a lawsuit. (prove me wrong, please)wsuit. (prove me wrong, please)
LOOK WHO CAME: