The state of Steam in 2012

By on June 5, 2012 6:47:22 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

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steamLet me get this out of the way: I like Steam. I like Valve.

We have a poll up right now that asks whether you use Steam. Let us know please.

I’ve been in digital distribution since before digital distribution was a thing.  The very first computer game that was launched at retail and digitally distributed was Galactic Civilizations back in February 2003.

For us, digital distribution was a matter of life or death. Consider this, how many other independent (or heck, just non-publicly traded) game studios have been around 20 years? Go ahead. Count them up. Not many eh?

I incorporated Stardock back in 1993 from my college dorm room. And I can tell you, if it weren’t for digital distribution, we would have stopped making games a long time ago.  That’s because the more people that are between you and your customer, the more opportunities there are for theft. Not by players but by retailers, publishers, distributors, etc. 

One of the reasons why the whole “piracy” bellowing from publishers irritated me was because the biggest obstacle to getting paid for my work wasn’t from pirates. It was from the middle men.

In 1994, we released our first game. Galactic Civilizations for OS/2.  It was published by a company called Advanced Idea Machines.  The game was a huge hit. So I heard anyway. We didn’t get paid. And being a poor college student at the time, I couldn’t afford a lawyer.

So in 1996, we released Galactic Civilizations 2 for OS/2.  This time we released it ourselves. But our retail distributor, Micro Central, went bankrupt and didn’t pay us and our mail order distributor, Blue Orchards went out of business as well and didn’t pay us.

So then we moved to Windows and we released Galactic Civilizations for Windows, published by Strategy First….and again, didn’t get paid.

Do you see a pattern here?

What saved us was digital distribution.  With it, we could sell directly to customers, cutting out the middle man.

As you can imagine, when Steam came out we started to get a little nervous. Not because of the competition but because we feared the idea that we would one day need to sell our software through a third party and hence risk not getting paid…again.

As it had turned out, our fears have been unwarranted.  Impulse, now owned by Gamestop, pays like clock work and so does Steam.  By contrast, with a retail distributor you were lucky to get paid merely 90 days late. And that’s not counting the obnoxious and expensive RMA games they play. I like the service Steam provides. They’re easy to work with, they’re honest, and they’re passionate about what they do.  And most importantly, they let me, as a game developer, focus on what matters: making games.

Anyway, the point here being, what are your feelings on Steam these days?

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August 7, 2012 8:43:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Alstein,

I really want to see Valve broken up by antitrust now.  The CFPB needs antitrust power.

I had a big post written up in response to this, but why bother.  All I'll say is Consumer FINANCIAL Protection Bureau.  Much shorter and makes the same point. 

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August 7, 2012 8:57:18 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Draginol,
Well if you buy a Stardock game on Steam, you're fine as long as either Stardock OR Steam are around.  

Of course, if Stardock were ever to fold (not bloody likely) we'd just put our stuff out into the public domain.

 

 

This is what I hope you mean:

 

If Valve bricked my account for an unfair reason, you would (assuming your game is mandatory Steamworks, and assuming I was not at fault) provide me a new serial so I could play on a new Steam account.

 

Hopefully, and 99% likely, it would never come to that- but it's my nature to worry about the 1%, and Valve has not earned my trust over the years (nor my distrust- I do use Steam, though I think it's a meh service)

 

Now, if I hacked or pirated, or something along those lines - that would be a different story.

 

As for Sins:Rebellion, curious question, can you play that game without activating Steam at all through the .exe like you can with some other Steam games? 

 

 

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August 8, 2012 1:44:42 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

In the past i never liked Steam because i cannot sell a Steam game and that which i cannot sell, i do not own!

However since then it is laziness that has convinced me Steam is good.... i have realized that it is better to not have game disks that i can sell, in exchange for not having to stuff around with game disks to run games!!

The truth is, now that i am used to using digital downloads, the thought of reaching for a disk to run a game is totally unpalatable and i just cannot at all be bothered and even a game like Civ4 which i still only have on disk, i have not played for several years simply and only because of the effort to reach for the disk... "ah f--k it, i will just click on this game (digital download) instead".

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August 8, 2012 4:52:48 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

I don't really mind steam (do not use it yet) and see the advantages of it. What disturbs me is the idea of a monopolistic mean of distribution. There are other digital distributors (like Impulse as you mention it) and yet, when they sell a steam protected game, you need to go trough steam. This could become a major problem one day (see also the comments done by the boss of Valve about his fears with Windows 8).

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August 8, 2012 5:21:37 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Quoting Draginol,
Well if you buy a Stardock game on Steam, you're fine as long as either Stardock OR Steam are around.  

Of course, if Stardock were ever to fold (not bloody likely) we'd just put our stuff out into the public domain.

 

Now...that's good to hear!

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August 8, 2012 6:21:13 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

My concerns with Steam:

 

1) It's market power and ability to change the TOS whenever it wishes:  That's near-absolute power, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  I wouldn't trust Brad with this power either.   Some great games (Din's Curse), and some interesting niche games, have been shafted by Valve in the past.   A free market instead of a failed market (and DD is a failed market) would force consumers into having multiple services, and increase the exposure of smaller games.   That increased exposure would mean more/better games of the types I like.

 

2) The possibility of a PSN-style monthlong outage hack.  This may be super-remote, but I'm sure someone could pull if off. With other servies, I'd be able to play my games.  Steam's offline mode just doesn't work well enough.

 

3) For SP it's an inferior service.  (For MP it's a great service).  This last one is just opinion.  Given how most Stardock games are primarily SP focused, going Steam-only would make the games more annoying to start.  (This isn't the case with Sins, and I can understand why Sins went Steam-only since it's primarily MP)

 

I'm ok with not being able to resell games since there are plenty of sales- and I factor that into what I'm willing to pay.  some DD games do offer refunds (Soldak offers a 30 day refund- but their games are awesome)

 

Another scenario I'd be fine with: given what Brad said earlier: if he really would reimburse folks who got legitimately screwed by Valve, having Steam be used for updates/installs, but having the game run DRM-free, just like what Stardock games do now- I'd accept that.  Some Steam games do this (Dredmor/Mount and Blade), so it's not hard to do.   If I felt it was fine with Impulse, it should be fine with Steam.   If someone owns Sins and is reading this: does Sins work like this?   I believe I've asked before, but never received an answer- can you get Sins running without having Steam running?

 

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August 8, 2012 3:35:36 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

News from Valve:

Steam Expands Beyond Games

Launch Set of "Software" Titles Coming Sept 5 Aug 8, 2012 -- Valve, creators of best-selling game franchises (such as Counter-Strike, Half-Life, Left 4 Dead, Portal, and Team Fortress) and leading technologies (such as Steam and Source), today announced the first set of Software titles are heading to Steam, marking a major expansion to the platform most commonly known as a leading destination for PC and Mac games. The Software titles coming to Steam range from creativity to productivity. Many of the launch titles will take advantage of popular Steamworks features, such as easy installation, automatic updating, and the ability to save your work to your personal Steam Cloud space so your files may travel with you. More Software titles will be added in an ongoing fashion following the September 5th launch, and developers will be welcome to submit Software titles via Steam Greenlight. "The 40 million gamers frequenting Steam are interested in more than playing games," said Mark

Richardson at Valve. "They have told us they would like to have more of their software on Steam, so this expansion is in response to those customer requests."

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August 8, 2012 3:50:45 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

A logical decision given that MS will try to corner Windows8 with their own marketplace which, from what I hear, is already deeply ingrained in the UI.

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August 8, 2012 8:50:28 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Quoting Alstein,
I believe I've asked before, but never received an answer- can you get Sins running without having Steam running?

 

 

Ah that's rite, one time i went on holidays overseas, before i left, i transferred some games from Impulse to my laptop and i was able to run them without Impulse or internet.... that really saved me! Could i do that with Steam? Well not so much but i could still solve the overall problem by installing Steam on the laptop and then run the games in offline mode. Not sure i can rely that offline mode will always be there on Steam tho? I could well believe offline mode would be a feature under pressure to can - hmm i forget do we have authority to allow Steam updates? If not, what does that suggest??? Interesting.

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August 8, 2012 9:50:51 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Offline mode doesn't work for everyone. and it's occasionally buggy for me the rare times I've needed it (and always slow).

 

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August 8, 2012 10:01:19 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Quoting Alstein,
Offline mode doesn't work for everyone. and it's occasionally buggy for me the rare times I've needed it (and always slow).

 

 

While that may be true, it is by far the exception and not the rule so keep that in perspective.  What you just said about STEAM could be said about pretty much any product/service available on the free market these days, doesn't mean it's anymore a valid reason than simple choice for or not for using them. 

 

I would guess that most anything/everything in our lives today (that we have a choice about) can/does/sometimes will/won't work in the manner intended.  If however the product/service provides us *mostly* with what we want/need we use it.  The same could be said about STEAM or any other product/service provider. 

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August 9, 2012 7:30:27 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Quoting Alstein,


As for Sins:Rebellion, curious question, can you play that game without activating Steam at all through the .exe like you can with some other Steam games?

I have tested in one of my comps and starting rebellion exe starts steam, so no you can not run rebellion without steam( and I also tested rebellion on another of my systems that does NOT have steam and rebellion would NOT run).

harpo

 

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August 9, 2012 10:29:02 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Quoting Lonemessiah,

Quoting taltamir, reply 311



You don't have those games, they are just associated with your account.

When steam finally goes under you will lose every single one of them.


 

You do realise if your house was damaged by fire, flood or another natural disaster and you lost all your cd's you would be screwed, however if they were on Steam you'd be ok? Which would you say is the more likely thing to happen to to the countless people on Steam in the next 10 years?

 

If your account is banned you lose all "your" games.  Also Steam may be sold (hypotetically) like Impulse to another company. Paranoid users (like me ) can store copies of their games on external hdd, DVD and free hosting sites. I appreciate only those publishers who uses a serial number as only possible DRM. Sorry for my English, I hope you have understood my thought.

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August 10, 2012 12:41:02 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Quoting Draginol,
Well if you buy a Stardock game on Steam, you're fine as long as either Stardock OR Steam are around.  

Of course, if Stardock were ever to fold (not bloody likely) we'd just put our stuff out into the public domain.

I want to believe that Brad, and it really means a lot to hear that from stardock's ceo in person. One of the reasons I trust stardock more then steam.

But a lot of companies made that claim and didn't follow it through. And aren't there legal obstacles? Your company's creditors (the hypothetical ones if the company hits hard times, I imagine you don't have creditors when flush with cash) have rights and that includes a right to have you auction off all of the company's assets to recover the money they are owed. Unless I am mistaken, wouldn't putting it into public domain when going under be considered a theft of their property?

And you did sell impulse to Gamestop! understandable due to the financial hardship at the time; you did what you had to do. But I wouldn't trust gamestop as far as I could throw them and I had bought a lot of games from impulse based on that trust in your word specifically brad. That and the fact that unlike steam impulse allowed you to backup your games to zips and reinstall from those WITHOUT an online DRM verification, an assurance against the servers ever going down. I don't believe gamestop can be trusted to respect your policy and word.

And do you intend to do this forever? what about when you pass on (everyone dies eventually; hopefully not anytime soon though)? Whomever ends up with ownership of the company then can sell it to whomever they want, even EA.

Quoting YaroslavUSSR,
If your account is banned you lose all "your" games.  Also Steam may be sold (hypotetically) like Impulse to another company.

IRL example that happened: EA bans users from forums over DRM argument. Customer loses all their games.

IRL example that happened: Impulse was sold off to GameStop.

Quoting Lonemessiah,
 You do realise if your house was damaged by fire, flood or another natural disaster and you lost all your cd's you would be screwed, however if they were on Steam you'd be ok? Which would you say is the more likely thing to happen to to the countless people on Steam in the next 10 years?

Why does everyone assume I buy CDs when I blast steam's DRM? I get low/no DRM from some of steam competitors, when there is no choice I either don't buy the game at all (onerous DRM) or buy it with the DRM in downloadable format... sometimes even from steam itself (I have a decent sized library). This is because the DRM on CDs is far far worse then that on DRMed games. Buying a CD means buying both a product AND a license with the drawbacks of both and the benefits of neither, combined with worse DRM then steam.

And to answer your question, statistically speaking, steam shutting down is more likely per person. If (hypothetical number) 0.01% of steam customers will lose their house in a fire or a flood per 10 years. If steam shuts down 100% of their customer's lose their data. That means that for those two to merely equal each other, steam shutting down has to be 1/10,000 th the likelihood of a fire.

Also,

Microsoft shuts down DRM servers http://news.cnet.com/8301-10784_3-9926476-7.html

Yehoo shuts down DRM servers https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20080724/0341381775.shtml

Walmart shuts down DRM servers https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20080929/0004132388.shtml

heck, even bioware (post EA acquisition) shut down their older games' servers.

Of course in reality there is always the ILLEGAL option of pirating a product you purchase that was was lost (be it fire or DRM Server termination) due to being impossible to backup due to DRM. As hilariously explained in http://xkcd.com/488/

Note the line at the bottom, they are not advocating piracy they are advocating that customer demand DRM free products.

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August 10, 2012 12:52:02 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Quoting Anguille,
I don't really mind steam (do not use it yet) and see the advantages of it. What disturbs me is the idea of a monopolistic mean of distribution. There are other digital distributors (like Impulse as you mention it) and yet, when they sell a steam protected game, you need to go trough steam. This could become a major problem one day (see also the comments done by the boss of Valve about his fears with Windows 8).

"Steam protected" games are protected from the customer! aka, steam DRMed games. Protected from YOU! You are the enemy... its like selling "protection" to protect a mugger from their victims.

And yea, it drives me up that wall when I buy a game from steam's competitor only to find out it requires steamworks to play...

3) For SP it's an inferior service.  (For MP it's a great service).  This last one is just opinion.  Given how most Stardock games are primarily SP focused, going Steam-only would make the games more annoying to start.  (This isn't the case with Sins, and I can understand why Sins went Steam-only since it's primarily MP)

Agreed.

Speaking of, why does it have to be steam only? Does steam require an ILLEGAL anti competition clause to publish games?

Because otherwise I see no reason why stardock can't offer all their games on steam and in addition to that, via direct distribution in DRM free exe installers.

Also, steam DRM has been cracked a long time ago by pirates. So using steam as your DRM is pointless in terms of piracy anyways. The real enemy is the customer. DRM is there to prevent second hand sales and to a lesser extent to force repurchase of games when the DRM fails.

 

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August 10, 2012 12:45:10 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Quoting taltamir,


And you did sell impulse to Gamestop! understandable due to the financial hardship at the time. But I wouldn't trust gamestop as far as I could throw them

That's why I trust babies.  I can throw them pretty far.

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August 10, 2012 1:10:36 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Jythier,

Quoting taltamir, reply 339

And you did sell impulse to Gamestop! understandable due to the financial hardship at the time. But I wouldn't trust gamestop as far as I could throw them

That's why I trust babies.  I can throw them pretty far.

Especially when you hold em by the leg and swing around like the hammer toss.

 

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August 10, 2012 2:28:10 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Quoting Jythier,
That's why I trust babies.  I can throw them pretty far.

Perfect example indeed. Can you name a baby who stabbed someone in the back?

Well, I guess a baby CAN pee on your nice new suit.

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August 11, 2012 11:35:10 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting taltamir,



Speaking of, why does it have to be steam only? Does steam require an ILLEGAL anti competition clause to publish games?

Because otherwise I see no reason why stardock can't offer all their games on steam and in addition to that, via direct distribution in DRM free exe installers.

 

 

I think you are getting Steam...the download service and Steamworks confused.  They are two separate things, although tied together obviously.

Steamworks is simply a set of developer tools made available for free to game developers.  Includes things like multiplayer, achievements and a whole host of other things.

Steam the digital download store is a separate thing.  A game sold on Steam certainly does not need Steamworks.

So Stardock integrates Steamworks into Rebellion.  This means that no matter where the game is sold (GoG, retail store, Stardock direct or Steam store) Steam will be required to install and run the game.

However take a game like GalCiv2.   Steamworks is not in the game.  Thus if you buy it somewhere other then Steam you don't need Steam to run it.

So Stardock can indeed sell games in places other then Steam that doesn't have the "Steam DRM" *if* the game doesn't use Steamworks.  If they decide to use Steamworks in a game then of course Steam becomes required.

Hope that helps clear things up a bit.  Certainly doesn't really change your argument but I just wanted to point out that's it's quite easy and common to sell a game on Steam that doesn't actually require it.

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August 12, 2012 10:51:03 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Quoting bonscott,
I think you are getting Steam...the download service and Steamworks confused.  They are two separate things, although tied together obviously.

Steamworks means that the game REQUIRES steam to be running in order to install/run the game.

To claim they are separate things is absurd. You might be able to buy it at walmart but you are merely having walmart act as a distributer for steam. In the end the game comes from steam.

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August 12, 2012 10:44:13 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting taltamir,

Quoting bonscott, reply 344I think you are getting Steam...the download service and Steamworks confused.  They are two separate things, although tied together obviously.

Steamworks means that the game REQUIRES steam to be running in order to install/run the game.

To claim they are separate things is absurd. You might be able to buy it at walmart but you are merely having walmart act as a distributer for steam. In the end the game comes from steam.

What I meant was that if game *doesn't* use Steamworks then it being sold on Steam is no different then buying it elsewhere.  Thus if Stardock or any company releases a game that doesn't use Steamworks then you could easily buy it direct or at another store and never have to use Steam.  However if the game uses Steamworks then you are required to use Steam.

So you should rally against *Steamworks* being in games, not the Steam digital download store (well you could still rally against it too I guess).  What I think you want is games not using Steamworks and thus forcing you into Steam.

However, as Brad has pointed out several times, what other choices are out there for developers they could use that provide the functionality and tools that Steamworks does?  Until there is something Steamworks will only get used more and more.

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August 13, 2012 12:37:46 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Software developers and distributors should put their money where their mouth is and put in an equal effort combating anti competition as they do combating piracy! But cannot expect the free market to not be self interested hypocrites so i would settle for just government authorities world wide putting in as much effort combating anti competition activity as they do piracy!!!

Ironically, combating anti competition also means your indirectly combating one of the big motives for piracy!

 

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August 13, 2012 7:20:42 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Quoting bonscott,
What I meant was that if game *doesn't* use Steamworks then it being sold on Steam is no different then buying it elsewhere.  Thus if Stardock or any company releases a game that doesn't use Steamworks then you could easily buy it direct or at another store and never have to use Steam.  However if the game uses Steamworks then you are required to use Steam.

That is true. mostly.

A game could have a version with steamworks and a version without.

Quoting bonscott,
So you should rally against *Steamworks* being in games, not the Steam digital download store (well you could still rally against it too I guess).  What I think you want is games not using Steamworks and thus forcing you into Steam.

I didn't call for it to not be available on steam, I called for it to not be a steam EXCLUSIVE.

And further commented that if it makes steamworks mandatory that means its a steam exclusive regardless of where you buy it.

Quoting bonscott,
However, as Brad has pointed out several times, what other choices are out there for developers they could use that provide the functionality and tools that Steamworks does?  Until there is something Steamworks will only get used more and more.

1. Impulse

2. Steamworks can be made non mandatory (ex: V1.00 of skyrim had steamworks but you could run the game without it by linking directly to the game EXE rather then the steam launcher. This was modified in patch 1.02 so that steam must be running.

3. I don't care for those "features" in a single player game and it is perfectly possible to include them in the steam version and exclude them from other versions.

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August 15, 2012 11:02:39 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

I'm not a big fan of Steam because I have to launch games from their service, rather than directly.  They also tend to have the highest prices for AAA titles, and are very slow at cutting those prices.

 

I buy most of my games these days via Amazon.com's digital distribution system.  They often have great deals, I can install games to any drive I want, they require no 3rd party software or launcher, and the downloads are fast and easy.  My second purchase option is usually direct from the developer if they have a digital distribution system.

 

Steam is the last place I ever look for a game.  If I was a huge fan of indie games, Steam would be great for me, but I'm not a big indie gamer. 

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August 16, 2012 7:26:17 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I love Steam.  

I won't use Impulse, or anything else associated with GameStop.

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