More Competition Means More Value
It’s no secret that Valve’s Steam has dominated the digital games market in the last few years, both with their store and gaming platform. Steam pretty much became the de facto gaming standard, having revolutionised the way we buy games, way back in 2004, following the release of Half-Life 2. If you’re wondering how that took place –you bought the game DVD, which only contained part of the game, requiring you to sign up to Valve’s Steam platform in order to install the entire game– by downloading the rest through the Steam platform. At the time, this was seen as a controversial tactic on their part, but in hindsight, it had to happen. The Internet took care of that and now that broadband speeds and storage media have advanced in speed and size, the DVD is of course extinct. But over the last three or four years, new players have entered the digital games market, not only as marketplaces but as game platforms as well. This move is also inevitable because they create captive markets and one prime example is Epic Games, creators of the hugely successful Fortnite.
David And Goliath?
Valve takes 30% off all game sales on Steam, whereas Epic is said to take 12%, which is a significant difference. Epic entered the game store market with that huge cash cow, Fortnite, and in doing so, took the battle to Steam by securing a number of AAA exclusives like Metro Exodus and The Division 2. But is Epic the David in this duel? Both companies are said to be worth about $8 billion each, so clearly they have the muscle for any potential fight. However, Valve has a significant advantage with its Steam platform, which is light years ahead of Epic in terms of features. However, Epic has really sharpened its pencil with some aggressive pricing and by giving away free games every week, they have upped the ante and thrown down the gauntlet.
Other major players in the market are Origin (EA) and Uplay (Ubisoft), who have had their respective game platforms up and running for many years, but they don’t seem to have moved with the times a great deal. On the other hand, GOG has really picked up the pace with its Galaxy game launcher, DRM-free content, with regular bundles and sales on offer. GOG (Good Old Games) has become a major player and also a favourite for many gamers due to its DRM-free content, not to mention its owners, CD Projekt of Warsaw, being the developers of one of the most-hyped games of 2019– Cyberpunk 2077, which is due for release in April 2020.
The key to keeping customers coming back seems to be a combination of regular sales, an easy-to-use game platform, a variety of easy payment methods and last but certainly not least, new game content. Add to that, regular game giveaways which appear to be the trend today, then it’s easy to see why this is a good time for gaming.
Monthly Subscriptions – They Want Your Money
Many digital stores and platforms offer monthly subscriptions. For example, Humble Bundle offers a sub of $12 per month for a selection of games, the contents of which change every month.
Microsoft hasn’t been slow to the party either, offering a monthly subscription of $3.99 for over 100 games and $1 for the first month. (I missed out on the $1 for the first three months offer!)
This can make a lot of sense if you’re on a tight budget, especially with most AAA games going for $60 and more. You could also add the distraction factor –when you have a backlog of games in your library, the majority of which you either haven’t finished or have barely begun because of spotting another shiny new game– making subscriptions an advantage if you tend to roam from game to game. Many people previously scoffed at the notion of subscription services for software. In fact, here at DCT, Windows as a subscription service has been written about numerous times and now it’s the same for games. This does make a lot of sense from a budgeting point of view, allowing you to spread that $60, let’s say, over a longer period of time and throw in up to 100 games as well. Surely everyone wins, don’t they? Yes, as long as you keep up the payments.
Other players in the monthly game subscription service are:
A notable absentee in this list is Steam –the biggest player in the market by a long shot– even though it was announced in 2013 that they were launching a subscription service, I can’t find any further information on this.
In many ways, this subscription-based model is no different from paying your monthly rent and utilities. After all, most of us budget on a monthly basis anyway, so why should gaming be any different?
Are There Too Many Game Launchers?
With Steam, Origin, Uplay, GOG, Epic and others having their own launchers and stores, you may find yourself in the odd position of buying a game through X, installing it through Y and launching it through Z. This has become familiar territory for many of us and only the other week I fell to temptation and bought Red Dead Redemption through Humble Bundle, was redirected through to Epic Games and when I launched the game, I had to install Rockstar Game’s own launcher to actually run the game. This is nothing new of course, but a symptom of the times, where everyone wants a slice of the action.
Either way, these little details are mere irritations, but it’s surprising how much of a furor they create when in the end they are simply a means to an end. I’ll admit that the Rockstar and Epic launchers leave a lot to be desired in terms of features. In fact, they’re pretty much bare-bones really and exist simply to launch a game. But at the end of the day, if you pick up a game for $2, reduced from $60 in a sale, does it really matter that you have to launch it through a crap game launcher?
Competition is good and should be encouraged. Let’s face it, Steam has had the cream for well over a decade, but now is the time to level the playing field and I for one welcome an evolving game market. It’s good for everybody.