Digital Distribution: The Other Guys

By Shamus Posted Friday Jan 27, 2012

Filed under: Column 126 comments

I’m obviously fascinated by this digital distribution business. I think it’s interesting to see this transformation in the industry, changing how people shop for software and how they think about “owning” things. It’s like seeing suburbia switch from shopping downtown in the 50’s and 60’s to shopping in malls from the 70’s onward. There are going to be a lot of non-obvious repercussions to this down the line.

Six years ago I wrote this rant about how I thought digital distribution wasn’t going to make any headway in the marketplace. I think I’ve been pretty firmly proven wrong on that point. However, I’m going to stick to the other point I made that we’re never going to be rid of boxes in stores. This is a much safer bet. I mean, you can buy MMO time cards in a store, which is 100% digital goods. There will always be people looking to buy physical copies, either because they’re old-fashioned or because they want to give it as a gift. Stores won’t give up on it either, simply because it’s another sales vector. Steam can sell me stuff when I browse the store, but it can’t sell me a videogame when I’m shopping for shoes, which is something Target can do.

My column this week is a comparison between some of the big players in the digital distribution realm, and what I think of them.


From The Archives:

126 thoughts on “Digital Distribution: The Other Guys

  1. Okay, so now that audio and videogames are under the belt, that just leaves movies and tv. I’m guessing five years at the max.

    1. Gamer says:

      That’s kinda already happening in a sense, at least for TV. A lot of the people I know either don’t watch TV or watch their shows online. Cable companies may soon find that they need to offer more in order to compete.

      1. Mari says:

        Yep. We still have cable. For our internet. We’ve been sans television service for seven years now. Netflix and Hulu are our “TV” along with some specialty services like CrunchyRoll for non-American-licensed anime and some others of that ilk.

      2. Irridium says:

        Or they could start offering online programming with their subscriptions. Basically, pay your cable bill, be able to watch that program’s shows on its site.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          I always wanted something like that,a unification of services.I want the providers to drastically increase their prices for fast internet(steal leave a cheap offer for packages that are basically just for casual surfing/facebook and such),and then have them pay for everything else:movies,songs,shows,games,…

          1. Even says:

            Actually they did the opposite in my hometown a year back. 24 Mbps connections bargained with a broadbrand TV service. You get a box you can hook up to your TV and just watch it like normal TV. Getting in on the deal, you could get over ten times faster connection for about 20-30€ cheaper than what was currently available. Been over a year now and still working great.

            I don’t really see why connections should get more expensive anyway. The technology of today would allow for fairly cheap and fast connections. In an ideal world we’d all be surfing on fiber optic cables by now. Nobody just wants to pay to replace the old infrastructure. Meanwhile in Sweden they keep building a fiber optics network to cover the whole country. Private homes getting 1 Gigabyte connections, man. Just the thought pisses you off when you realize you won’t probably won’t be seeing that where you live before at least decade has passed when going at this goddamn snail pace.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              I really see no point in having an uber fast internet for the average user.I have 6mb connection,and I can stream videos with ease.In hd.While steam is downloading bunch of updates in the background.Its ridiculous.Going over 10mb is just excessive.

              What I was talking about,however,is making such connections more expensive,but allowing you to download games,movies,shows,music,etc for free.Have your isp pay to the publishers,and you pay just for the internet.Just like how television works(you pay to the network(indirectly,Im not dragging in advertising and cable companies for simplicity)and they pay to the creators to make movies and shows you can then watch there).I would rather pay 200 euros to my provider and then download 10 games,than pay measly 20 euros for internet,and then pay 10-60 euros for every game.

              1. Pete says:

                I never saw the point in having a 200 GB hard drive until I got one and now it has two gigs of space left free. Of course you dont know what you could use a ultra-high speed connection for, you never had one!

                If that seems somewhat agressive its because I really do not like when people label technological growth as “excessive”.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Well I can see one thing that you can be using an ultra high speed for:Piracy.

                  1. Shamus says:

                    As if piracy was the only possible use for bandwidth.

                    I don’t know how much of our connection we use, but it’s not unusual for my family to be streaming more than one movie at a time. Daughter upstairs watching anime on the laptop. Wife in the living room watching Dr. Who on the Wii. And then I’m in the office either watching a netflix or pulling down a 10GB MMO or Steam title, while websurfing in the background. My son in the kitchen playing multiplayer Terraria and talking to his friend on Skype. This is not unusual. This happens almost every day.

                    Youtube just stepped up their default quality from 360 to 480. They did this because the overall speed of home connections is now reaching the point where that’s viable. The more we have, the more ways it will be used. The more we use, the more companies will try to sell us. This is how things have been moving forward for the last couple of decades, and I don’t see any reason why that progress ought to stop at 10Mbps.

                  2. Tse says:

                    Well, not really. If you have a fast enough connection to view 720p youtube videos, you have a fast enough connection for piracy: you can download almost any piece of media in a single night, while you sleep.

                  3. Pete says:

                    Low blow, good sir, low blow.

                    And Ill have you know that getting high-speed ‘net actually made me stop pirating games, because I could actually start playing multiplayer, which usually doesnt work in pirated games. Also the fact I was about the age when I first started actually having any money at the time.

                    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      I shouldve specified that I meant per user,not per household.

                      Also,I dont think that the progress should stop,but for quite a while larger speeds for average users wont be necessary.Again,an example from my country,cheap internet has lead to plethora of people buying unlimited monthly usage of 6mbs,and then using it just to check their mail or facebook.Its wasteful.

                      Yes.Which is why aster isnt necessary at the moment.

                      I already experience no lag(on european servers at least)with 6mbs.I guess better players than me would notice it,which is why I chose 10mbs.But above that,I dont think the advantage would be big enough.

                    2. Klay F. says:


                      In no way is bandwidth a perishable product. You cannot donate your unused bandwidth to the poor internet-less children in Africa, therefore it is completely wrong to say that too much bandwidth is wasteful, because there is no such thing as too much bandwidth. It is not something a rich person can buy up and leave none for everyone else.

                    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Maybe not where you live,but here,where most providers have a limited number of slots to offer their customers,it is.

                    4. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      And even omitting that,more bandwith=more money.And money is something that you can donate and waste.

              2. Alan says:

                Faster internet means my wife and I can be watching different HD streams simultaneously. It means I could be playing the latest 5 GB game off Steam all the faster. It means uploading a mass of high resolution images to Flickr won’t take all night.

              3. Even says:

                Why throttle down? The tech is there, so why not take advantage of it now? In the near future it might as well become the standard anyway. I don’t need to drive a car that saves me 2 liters more gas per 100km either, but if I could get it for a reasonable price, why shouldn’t I get it?

                Technology moves on, and even if there might not be that much overall benefit to it today, there in all likelyhood will be. You could easily foresee the abandonment of the arbitrary download limits (or significantly higher limits at least) for example that are in effect in some countries. Streaming HD at 1080p instead of 720p. The possibilities are numerous. Content delivery just by itself would become initially much more convenient for modern games, cutting the downtime a significant amount while you wait for the download to finish.

                As for that system, I’m not sure if that would really appeal to all crowds. Unless you actually have the time to waste for all those games/movies/music, it’s hardly ideal for people who enjoy them but simply don’t have the time. They’d just be paying or an excessive backlog of media they’ll never be able to fully consume. It’s the one main reason people drop their cable or TV license: They’re just not getting their money’s worth out of it.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  I never said anything about throttling down.Faster internet is still very necessary for people who are using it for work.And your car analogy isnt really that close.A better one would be a car that can drive up to 200kmh.If its affordable,would you buy it over the one that can drive “only” up to 160kmh,knowing that youll be driving it mostly in the city?

                  As for the system,thats why users who wouldnt be downloading bunch of stuff would pay for the slower packages,that would still be fast enough to watch do plethora of other things you can on the web(read/write blogs,watch youtube,facebooking,play flash games,…)

                  1. Even says:

                    Well.. I’ve never lived in a big city so I wouldn’t know. The closest I’d dare call a city by global standards is 300kms away and the local geography and traffic here doesn’t really warrant for much of “city driving” either. Common sense would dictate that I get the “200km” car just for the extra performance in either case. Whatever that means anyway.

                    The point of my analogy was mainly to illustrate that when a certain economic advantage is achievable, it becomes the more attractive option. Liters (of fuel) per 100 kms is at least in my country a way to measure up the general expediency of a car. Less gas spent means more saved money in the long run. The new car would of course mean for me to make an investment before I could realize the benefit, but the idea of having the car is appealing. A cheaper and faster new “internet” would also require a certain investment (IE rebuilding a national network, which is not that cheap) before the benefits could be realized by the people, but it’s still nevertheless an appealing idea. So unless you want to start really nitpicking, I’d argue that it kind of fits with it.

                    “As for the system,thats why users who wouldnt be downloading bunch of stuff would pay for the slower packages,that would still be fast enough to watch do plethora of other things you can on the web(read/write blogs,watch youtube,facebooking,play flash games,…)”

                    I don’t really see the benefit in this other than if there’d be really limited bandwith to go around. It’s not bad idea per se that ISPs could offer that kind of service though, I just disagree with the idea of somesort of gated system to higher speeds.

                    1. Even says:

                      Durr.. I really shouldn’t come here when I’m tired. “kmh” So yeah. Back to your analogy. That still doesn’t really work with what I was trying to say. I would prefer to drive whichever would be more economical for me. That’s not something you measure by the max speed.

                    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      That system is already how (some) cable television works:You have your basic channels that you get by the provider when you sign the contract.You can watch them whenever,however you want.Im guessing they pay those network some small sum for this.Then you have extra channels that you can buy if you want,but you dont have to.The biggest benefit here is that you dont have to go to every station and pay them monthly in order to watch their programs,you just pay to your provider,and they do the rest.

                      Same would be here:you just pay for your internet,and they pay to all the publishers.This would,again,reflect best in mmos.Instead of paying for wow,swtor,lotro,and your internet,all at various times during the month,youd just shell out the same(or probably less,because of the bulk purchase)amount of money to your provider,and later they would distribute it to blizzard,ea and turbine.It would also benefit people who(like me)dont have a credit card to still purchase stuff online,without having to borrow it from someone.

                      And heck,to use your car analogy,paying for things like this would save you money in the long run,because (usually) when you buy things in bulk they are cheaper then when you pay for everything individually.

                    3. Even says:

                      Well like I said, I can agree it’s not necessarily that bad idea and that it can work to an extent. But the main issue with these systems still is finding a way to maximize their worth. You probably don’t want to be paying for something you may never use. Buying bulk is not really worth it if you can’t dedicate the time to use what you paid for. People who consume less can save more money in the long run without them. The other problem I have with recurring costs relating to media; The psychological effect. It’s not really worth the hassle for me. I don’t want to feel guilty about not taking advantage of the thing I paid for, just because I didn’t have the time and/or interest to invest for it. Currently there’s really no way to regulate it yourself. From the moment you paid for it, the clock ticks and you get only as much out of it as you can spare time for it. For MMOs, it’s the main and only reason I haven’t really bothered with new MMOs in the past couple years. Turbine was at least good enough to offer the lifetime sub for Lotro before they (and the game) got bought by Warner Bros, which I gladly took, so there’s at least one I can play without forcing myself to play it and I still can enjoy the full features free of charge even after the game went F2P.

                      Which comes back again to personal economics and tastes. If you can justify to yourself the costs of that system, then why not. I’d just prefer a system where my own needs as a customer come first. The “free” internet gives me just that, the freedom to do as I please to peruse and consume what it offers me without arbitrary limitations. I can totally relate to not having a credit card though. I’ve always wished the banks would open up more options for online payments or at least make the current ones actually work more globally.

                    4. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Time isnt the only limiting factor for internet though.Monthly internet that I have isnt the only thing my provider offers,but it is the best one for me.One other type of packages is quantity.Meaning,you get a number of gb to spend,and unlimited time to do so(well,Im not sure if its really unlimited or limited by a year or so,because it didnt interest me to check).Its pretty customizable.And I believe the users who buy these packages and buy stuff online would embrace the merging of the two even more than I,because then they wouldnt need to calculate if they have paid for enough gb to download their game/movie/music.By merging these two,youd be able to see and pay the price of both the software you need and the ammount of gb to download it in one go.

          2. Amarsir says:

            Woah, are you advocating different costs for different speed and volume packages? Watch your back! The Net Neutrality mob is going to trample you just as soon as they get enough distance from SOPA to remember how much they actually like regulation after all.

    2. Eric says:

      TV is pretty well covered by Netflix, Hulu and independent network sites. Distribution is the biggest problem – I live in Canada and haave ended up pirating many TV shows that are available in the US, but not here, or used a proxy to get around region locks. I realize that there is a good reason for this stuff being in place, but until the distribution catches up to the demand I’m not going to change my practices. There is simply no good reason (from a consumer perspective) why Americans should have access to a vast library of TV and movies, and I get about 10% of that for the same price.

  2. Museli says:

    No mention of Desura? I’m guessing that’s because it’s another one you’ve not personally experienced. To be honest, the only two things I use it for are the Project Zomboid and Xenonauts alphas. It’s a bit like Steam in style, not bad to use.

  3. Tobias says:

    You are still missing desura :) They seem to only advertise to indie-developers and pre-alpha guys. And they have the best linux support of all the distributors.

    Of course the first digital distribution management system was dpkg in 1993. But that is still a bit sparse on games.

    I used to be quite an impulse fan. With the gamestop takeover some indie groups even pulled their game out of impulse. I would probably never have heard of desura if I hadn’t read about it on some blog of an indie-studio ranting about gamestop sucking.
    Personally I don’t even know if gamestop even has shops in my country.

    I also try to avoid steam wherever I can. Because it tends to be a bit screwy when you are in a non-English speaking country, but prefer to game in English.

    1. Someone says:

      Yes, Steam can be difficult. I can’t buy any Bethesda games right now, they’re all region locked.

      1. RCN says:

        Really? I was able to buy Skyrim during the holidays deals here in Brazil.

        Even if only because it was region locked in Impulse.

        I was under the impression Steam was the service that never had problems with Publishers requiring them to region-lock their products. I know I only hit a region lock in Steam once or twice, while I hit it almost all the time in other services that aren’t GoG (or precisely all the time with D2D).

        But maybe Steam just goes the extra mile to include Brazil? I don’t know, seems unlikely.

        1. Someone says:

          I’d only seen, like, one locked game prior, and it was stuck in a digital ocean.

          Then, sometime around the Christmas sale, some sort of a Bethesda blackout had started, and now I can’t get any of their games (despite having a coupon for Fallout 3).

  4. Peter Olson says:

    I don’t know if you’ve tried Desura yet, but it’s another interesting game distribution platform. Mainly interesting because their client supports Linux and also because they recently open-sourced their client.

    While their server is still closed of course, anyone can download and compile the client. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

    The Desura people also run another indi-bundle:

    I first heard of Desura because some of the humble bundles included Desura keys as well. This both kick-started my initial game investment in their client, and provided an easy way for accessing those humble bundle games in linux.

    All in all, they have several neat community driven ideas.

  5. Irridium says:

    GoG is actually going to start offering newer games to the service.

    Not sure how new, but they’ll be offered with no DRM and all the goodies like most other GoG games.

    So… yeah. There’s that.

    1. Bubble181 says:

      Well, with The Witcher 2 they went for “brand new”, but that’s probably going to be an exception. I’l lbe curious to see what prices there’ll be, for what age of games. I could live with buying Skyrim there for €30 2 months after release, for example. Let’s hope and pray :-)

      1. rofltehcat says:

        Witcher doesn’t have DRM so it fits their philosophy.

        1. gyfrmabrd says:

          AFAIK, the guys behind gog are more or less the same people that made the Witcher series, so that might have helped…

          1. Vipermagi says:

            The CD Projekt guys have created both GoG and the Witcher series, yes.

    2. Eric says:

      There are a lot of newer games on, actually:

      Not exactly brand-new of course, but still a bigger selection than you’d expect considering that their best-selling games are almost exclusively 90s-era RPGs.

  6. Andy_Panthro says:

    Gamersgate is generally a pretty great service, and I do prefer the lack of a client. They’re the closest challenger to Steam in my book, although if start selling new games… well, my loyalty may be tested!

    They also have a nifty blue coins loyalty system, which you receive from every purchase (and for a few other things too, also they can be bought directly). Since I use Gamersgate fairly often, I get quite a few of them, which come in handy during the sales.

    They’re also associated with (used to be owned by?) Paradox, who are one of my favourite publishers right now (loads of good games on the way, and they published Mount & Blade which is amazing).

  7. Bubble181 says:

    As for Gamersgate: in my opinion, anyway, they have 3 problems:

    1. Too many, smaller, offers going on all the time. There’s often 2 or 3 pages of “offers”, most of which are DLC and add-ons and whatever. it’s not always very clear what new and big games are on sale. Steam does a much better job of pushing your nose in the fact that, NOW AND TODAY ONLY, you can buy THIS ONE INCREDIBLE GAME for ONLY $39.99. Compared to GG’s “Today: all action games, -15%” is a bit weak.

    2. The fact that they don’t have a client. They’re less intrusive. I see Steam and Steam offers pretty much every time I boot up a Steam-game. On the other hand, unless I’m specifically shopping for a game, I do’nt see or hear anything from Gamersgate. Better service, less obtrusive, less annoying…And less visible.

    3. No DRM. Again, better service for the customer, but, as such, less handy for publishers. Steam and Steamworks are “accepted” forms of DRM these days. Games are built to require it. If I’m going to buy a game that requires Steam – I’m going to buy it through Steam. No point in adding yet another extra layer…

    1. Eric says:

      GamersGate has DRM, and in fact in most cases it’s SecuROM with limited installs. Some games are DRM-free but a lot of the newer releases aren’t. I think it’s more the variability of the DRM that’s a weakness, not the lack or presence of it in itself.

      1. Ragnar says:

        GamersGate has the DRM that the publisher of the game has slapped on the game. They do not have additional DRM above that though. Steam often has both the Steam-DRM (which is obligatory) and the publisher-DRM.

        1. Bubble181 says:

          Yes, thank you :-)

    2. Daimbert says:

      To you, they’re problems. To others, they’re selling points [grin].

      1) The problem with just advertising one game or even having only one sale a day is that if a person has or doesn’t like that game, they go “Meh” and stop shopping, while if you say that all science fiction games, say, are 15% off people might browse for games they know they might like or for what’s included, in case it’s anything good. I know that when Amazon had their DVD sales with massive percentage cuts I’ve picked up a few things and browsed the list looking to take advantage of it. The ideal is to do both: highlight some specific sales and highlight broader sales so that everyone gets an idea of what’s going on. So a smaller list like “1) This game for $29.99. 2) This budget game for $9.99 3) 15% off all science fiction games like this game.” with a handy dandy link to go to each of the deals, which in the last one is the 2 – 3 page list.

      2) I have Impulse due to a game of Stardock’s that I bought and never played. Impulse used to do this to me. Despite my inherent laziness, I went and ripped Impulse out of my start-up programs, and now have a strong dislike for Impulse and will likely never buy a game that uses it. There’s a fine line between annoyance and convenience/visibility. The last thing you want is to have customers annoyed at your service.

      3) DRM is always an issue, but it’s about how publishers want things, not customers. If publishers won’t give them games without DRM, then they’ll have to use DRM. If we have a combined DRM/digital distribution mindset for most of this stuff, then they won’t do well unless they provide independent DRM, which will likely make things worse. No matter how this works out, customers will not win the DRM debate.

  8. CTrees says:

    On the issue of MMO cards in stores, some of us just like to be able to npay in cash. Not having credit card information being distributed, and not heading it available to companies who like auto-payments can be a selling point.

    1. Tizzy says:

      I’m glad you mentioned it. You may want to protect your privacy; others may pay cash because they don’t have a choice. Either way, stores will want to allow people to use cash for the forseeable future (however begrundgingly). They can’t afford to cut off that payment form quite yet.

  9. Mari says:

    We’re huge GOG fans in this house, probably because I’m stuck in a gaming time warp :-P I think I have a Steam account but I honestly just never really use Steam. I don’t like the extra stuff sucking up my resources like a parasite. Dropped $35 last night at Gamer’s Gate for Sims 2 and a metric boatload of expansions for it for one of the kids who recently switched computers and can’t find the serial key for her stupid Sims 2. The $35 is almost what we spent on the original discs alone and this way she got almost all the expansions.
    I do use the Impulse/GameStop service – mostly because I was using it before GS took over. It had some wrinkles for me at times but overall I like the service. No real changes since GS took it over except it’s a little harder to tell it “no, please don’t run the parasitic crap every time I open a game.”

    I looked at Origin when they announced non-EA games but didn’t bother to sign up. I’m just not really invested there, yet. I’ve got plenty of alternatives besides them so it’s going to take more than “We now offer the same games you get everywhere else” to get me reeled in.

    One you didn’t mention (probably because they’re really not remotely in the same league) that I also use is Big Fish. They offer mostly “casual” games that my kids like to play like Chocolatier and Mahjong.

    I was already “ok” with the concept of digital distribution but not thrilled with some of the execution when my kids started having their own game libraries. That was what really pushed me over the edge to digital because they’re not always the best in the world about keeping track of the little scraps of paper and manuals and things that have serial keys. This way, their games are durable through pretty much anything. But I’m still kind of picky about services. I don’t like DRM and I don’t want it in my games. So I tend to gravitate to platforms that use as little of that nonsense as possible.

  10. modus0 says:

    As someone who has used Direct2Drive (now freshly merged with Gamefly), and aside from a serial number to activate a game installation, there’s nothing to really dislike.

    Though games on Steam bought through D2D (like Saints Row 2) are going to need the Steam client to run.

    1. Eric says:

      Does Direct2Drive still have those absurd download limits where you have to pay extra money to gain access to the games you’ve already paid for?

      1. modus0 says:

        Don’t recall, I’ve made it a habit to keep a local copy of the file so I never paid attention to anything about that.

  11. Corvus says:

    Steam can sell me stuff when I browse the store, but it can't sell me a videogame when I'm shopping for shoes, which is something Target can do.

    Actually, with their new mobile app, they can do exactly that.

    The key component so many of these discussions ignore (and note I’m not taking a side here) is that the videogame publishers want the sort of control over media that only purely digital services provide. For example: once we’re all well and solidly locked into 100% pure digital media, the entire 2nd economy of resale and rental ceases to be a problem. It also gives them much more leverage to force hardware upgrades by making your entire library unavailable when they decide to stop supporting old tech. From the corporate perspective–digital distribution is win/win.

    This factor will be a huge economic push away from boxed retail games.

    1. Mari says:

      On the other hand, many digital platforms that don’t “run in background” would never have a clue if I, for instance, installed a game on all six computers in my house and all four family members were playing it at once. Because it’s a digital file, it’s very easy for me to do that. With physical media, not so much. I mean, yeah, there are noCD hacks, but those take enough effort and risk to find and use that they weed out a lot of “casual pirates.” They certainly take more effort than telling my kids to go log into my GG and download a game they want from my account.

      1. Peter H. Coffin says:

        The thing is, the “buy it once, install on six computers, with four playing simultaneously” is *exactly* what the licensing is trying to forbid and prevent. You’re taking essentially four times as much fun as you’ve paid for.

        Steam makes you buy the game four different times, with four different accounts, but unless I’m completely misremembering how it behaves, if SteamUserA, SteamUserB, and SteamUserC share a computer, a game owned by SteamUserA and SteamUserB will only be installed once, and SteamUserC simply won’t be allowed to run it. I know for a damned fact that SteamUser A, who uses several computers, can sign into Steam from any of them and have games installed on any or all of them simultaneously. But this kind of management is condoned and supported by the licensing.

        1. Simplex says:

          As a workaround you could install steam game on two computer, go offline on one of them and then two people could play simultaneously on two computers, effectively from the same one account. That’s probably against the license, and of course multiplayer would not be accessible.

    2. Irridium says:

      Hm… I wonder if this is why so many companies push DRM, even though it’s been proven innumerable times that it’s useless in combating piracy.

      It’d certainly make sense from a “control your customers” standpoint that so many companies seem to be pursuing lately.

  12. Brandon says:

    I think part of the reason Steam IS so successful is because of the mandatory daemon. If someone buys a game from GoG, they may not ever return to the site until so long has passed they forgot their login info (Which has happened to me before). With Steam, I don’t have to worry about that. It’s there, on my computer, running all the time. It even helpfully pops up big deals from time to time, whereas I would probably miss a lot of those from GoG.

    Some people might gripe about the mandatory Steam program running, but I don’t feel like it has any negative impact. I’ve never run into a situation where I wished I could close Steam because it was using too many resources and negatively impacting my game. Besides, it offers so many perks having it running, I cannot find many reasons to complain.

    1. Trix2000 says:

      If steam is taking too much on your computer, I would think it’s time to upgrade. It’s pretty lightweight, even when it’s actively doing something. Plus it’s convenient seeing when my friends are online and what they are doing.

      1. Dasick says:


        It doesn’t matter how light weight it is, no program should be taking resources it doesn’t need, especially when all I want to do it play a game.

        1. X2Eliah says:

          Define need, then. Steam needs resources to remain running. To support the in-game overlay. To support the chat/friend stuff, to support the achievements (blergh), to support notifications. Similarly, your firewall needs some resources even when there are no viruses in the local network; the windows’ filesysem, networking processes need to have some resources to make them running. The computer’s time-telling clock is also taking up precious kilobytes of ram. Where do you draw the line between what’s “needed” and what’s “not needed”? What amount of resources, exactly, is too much? 0.1% of your total ram, is that too much? Even when the game can only use up to, say, half of it? What’s the harm in something taking up resources that are completely unused and spare?

          Bottom line… If you want a computer that only runs processes directly relevant to the game, you simply want a console, no ifs or buts about it. Windows, MacOS, Linuxes, they all have tertiary processes running whilst you are playing a game – it’s been that way since, what, 80s? Matter of fact, I’m not even sure if the latest console gen even fits this criteria, what with their networking and online storefront capabilities.

          1. Shamus says:

            As I said below, a 250Mb memory footprint is really big for a “game launcher”. I think it’s pretty reasonable for a user to resent that much overhead when all they want is access to their game.

          2. RCN says:

            I’ve recently got a Macbook air.

            I’ve installed Steam Mac in it.

            Then, after playing for a few hours a game like Civ 4 it gets very sluggish and I may need to bring up the task manager. Usually, Steam will be using more memory than Civ 4, a notorious memory leaker.

            I for one don’t find it acceptable that a client that I just used to launch my game offline is using more resources than the 4X TBS game that, like strategy games are known to do, needs to hog more resources to keep track of my game every turn/action BY DESIGN.

          3. Daimbert says:

            Actually, I think that liking this client running all or most of the time is more of a console mentality than the opposite. If you assume that I’m using the computer for more than games, I don’t want anything running except what I need to do what I’m doing right at the moment. If Steam runs all of the time, I have this extra program running even when I’m not playing games. Why should I think that a good thing? Only if I’m pretty much only playing games on the system is it good, but that’s what a console does.

            1. Brandon says:

              You don’t have to set steam up to start when the computer starts, so if you aren’t going to be using it all the time, you don’t have to have it running. It’s not like it’s some kind of embedded process that can never be turned off, you can close it if you aren’t using it just like you can close your web browser when you’re done surfing the net.

      2. Shamus says:

        “Lightweight” is pretty relative.

        Right now, I have a half dozen web windows open, some photo editing, and full-sized novel in a word processor. Steam eats more memory than any of those. By more than double.

        It’s eating just under a 250MB – a quarter of a gig. Given that a LOT of computers out there are capped at 3GB, I don’t think you can trivialize a memory footprint like that.

        1. Irridium says:

          250? That’s… pretty insane. I’ve never had it take up that much memory. How in the world is leaving such a large footprint?

          For me it eats up about 35MB when in use, and around 17MB when it’s in the background.

          Just tested it when running a game (New Vegas), Steam was using about 27MB, the overlay about 10MB. So 37 in all.

          1. Shamus says:

            35MB sounds much more reasonable. Now this is getting interesting. Let’s see what’s going on here…

            * I have 55 games installed.
            * I had been browsing the store prior to checking the mem usage.
            * NOT playing a game.
            * NOT logged in to friends.

            Anyone else want to post their results / numbers?

            1. Irridium says:

              Well, I just posted the overall footprint when running a game, here’s what I get when browsing the store.

              50 games installed

              Clicking around the store, it shot up to about 70MB, and when it finished loading things it steadily went down and is now hovering at around 64MB.

              This is with just loading up one game page in the store. Maybe continued browsing raises memory usage?

              EDIT: And right when I exited, it dropped right down to 12MB.

            2. Soylent Dave says:

              *113 games installed (… I should probably uninstall some of those, actually)
              *Uses 100MB as it first boots up and does its stuff
              *Calms down to 13MB when running in the background (stays at this whether it’s minimised or not)
              *50-65MB clicking around in the Store or talking to friends, resets back to 12-13MB when taskbarred
              *NOT playing a game

              (so looks like I’m getting the same footprint as Irridium)

            3. Joe says:

              17 games installed. Currently using 13MB (in offline mode). Went up to 23MB when Skyrim is launched. (Incidentally – just noticed firefox takes up 390MB!)

            4. Brandon says:

              I have 24 games installed.

              Idle, when not running a game or browsing the store, it is taking 7.5 MB.

              Browsing the store, just looking at the daily deals and such, jumped up to 60 MB. Still lower than your average web browser, even with only one tab.

              Opened Skyrim to test that out, and it hovered around 50 MB.

              I have to wonder what’s going on with your Steam Shamus. Maybe it was updating a game (or a bunch of games) when you got that number? 250 MB seems really high compared to other people’s results here.

              EDIT: Oh, hm.. Maybe it has a bit of a memory leak. I just noticed that it stayed up around 50 MB after I closed Skyrim, even though it currently should be going back to idle. I wonder if it just takes a while to catch up with the fact that they game is closed, or if it’s bugged.

              1. Shamus says:

                Interesting. You know, I tend to leave my computer running, so if each time you launch a game it throws some memory away then that MIGHT explain what I’m seeing.

                1. Brandon says:

                  Yeah, I noticed a bit of other weird memory stuff too. It was hanging around 50 mb after I closed Skyrim, then I went into the store and looked around a bit, and it dropped down to 26 mb after I closed the store. I restarted my computer, haven’t touched it since, and now it’s back down around 11 mb again.

                  Either way, not seeing anywhere near the high usage that you were getting. I would say that something fishy is going on with it though, memory management-wise. From the looks of things though, it has a pretty small imprint when it hasn’t been used.

        2. Tse says:

          It uses that much? I never checked, I have 6/8 GB of memory (different PCs) because I used to study architecture (graduated half a week ago and there are no jobs in my field) and I needed a lot of it for Photoshop. I never fill up my RAM from games, but I still think 250 MB is too much.

    2. Daimbert says:

      I don’t have Steam, but I did get Impulse for a game that I never really played (I found it cheap and was hoping that the multiplayer would allow me to run a hotseat game, since it was turn-based. It didn’t, and I never played it after that). Impulse ran at start-up and kept popping up offering me deals. Now, generally I’m too lazy to ever change things like this, but this was annoying me so much that I found where Impulse started up at start-up and yanked it out, and it’s soured me completely on Impulse. There’s little more annoying than popping up ads when all I want to do is check my E-mail.

      The always there model works well for dedicated gamers who’d probably be checking anyway, or are at least almost always in a gaming mindset when they boot up, but it doesn’t work so well for people that are more casual who normally only think about games when they’re going to play them.

    3. Ragnar says:

      “It even helpfully pops up big deals from time to time”

      Helpfully only for Steam. It might be good if I could tell Steam that I only want to be informed about specific games or genres.

      And why is not logging in a problem? GoG logins are remembered between visits. And if you don’t save your account credentials anywhere, you can always get a switch password mail. Also, what do you do if you have to reinstall your computer, you would need your Steam account credentials then, no?

  13. Amstrad says:

    I disagree Shamus, I fully expect the boxed copy of games in stores to rapidly be a thing of the past. Especially as the current gen and next gen of consoles move more and more to digital distribution. What will likely happen will be the sale of physical gift cards with either codes for individual games or just a fixed dollar amount for whatever distribution service.

    1. Eric says:

      Right, because we no longer have CD stores for music, and movie rental stores…

      Don’t confuse downsizing with outright disappearance. Blockbuster, HMV and whoever else may be undergoing a very harsh transition, but that doesn’t mean they’re going away entirely – they’re merely being forced to expand their product lines and services. There will always be a market for physical media, even if the nature of that media changes.

      1. Zukhramm says:

        There pretty much are no CD stores where I used to live (where I live now I know of two places that sell CDs). I found this out one day when I decided to buy a CD and just couldn’t find any palce to do so. Sure, I could order it online (I did) but still, how much music piracy would go away if there were more palces to actually buy music?

        1. Eruanno says:

          What? I can think of at least six stores in my town that still sell CDs. Five of those are either electronics stores or normal stores for everyday things (food etc.) whereas only one of them is a niche music store for all things CD/LP.’

          EDIT: Wait, reading that back it feels like I’m coming off as that guy who says “I’ve never seen that problem, clearly that problem doesn’t exist!”
          What I meant was, I live in a small town, and CDs are still readily available, despite not being the most popular format since quite a while back. Boxed games are probably not going anywhere in a while, using the same logic.

      2. Soylent Dave says:

        How many vinyl stores are there?
        How many places where you can buy VHS and audio cassettes?

        I’m sure there are probably some, but I’m willing to bet it’s not mainstream outlets – and even the niche outlets are disappearing.

        More importantly – how many recent films were released on VHS? How many recent albums were released on vinyl or cassette?

        If the publishers aren’t releasing things on obsolete media, then it doesn’t matter whether the outlets exist or not – and eventually there comes a point when it isn’t worth releasing your product on old media, because the niche market is so tiny.

  14. Soylent Dave says:

    Shamus: I’m going to stick to the other point I made that we're never going to be rid of boxes in stores

    Much as I would love to agree with you here, Shamus – I can’t.

    Your generation, and mine (I’m 31, so not quite a generation behind you… but let’s pretend) like owning physical things. I particularly enjoy having my games, CDs, DVDs in a row on the shelf. It’s pleasing to the eye, it’s satisfying to watch the collection grow, it feeds my OCD to put them in alphabetical order etc. etc.

    But my son’s generation – he’s 16* now – don’t give a toss about physical media. My son and his friends – and people I know who are anywhere up to 5 years older than them – don’t own ANY music on physical media. My son owns half a dozen PC games on disc (most of which I gave him!), the rest he owns via Steam.

    He owns xbox games as physical discs-and-boxes, but only because there isn’t a realistic alternative (XBLA is rubbish and releases things long after they’ve been available in store, for twice the going rate) – but the idea that future generations will go digital only doesn’t horrify him the way it does me.

    He – and his friends – just seem to think that all-digital distribution is not only more convenient, but that it’s normal.

    I’m sure there’ll be a crossover period where old technology (and believe me, just considering ‘all forms of physical media’ as ‘old technology’ is pretty damn chilling) is available at the same time that digital stuff is the preferred method for sales, for old fogeys and stick-in-the-muds, just like paying by cheque is still an option (in the UK they’re pretty much only used by the over 70s, and cheques nearly got phased out entirely last year…)

    But I really do think there’ll come a time when movies, games and music is distributed exclusively in digital (i.e. download) formats.

    Not necessarily because it’s better, or faster, or more convenient (although it does generally have these benefits for the end user, in most cases) but because it’s what the distributors want, and the consumers (of the coming generation) don’t care enough to oppose it.

    Those of us who want our entertainment purchases stored in physical media are increasingly becoming a niche market. Like those who buy vinyl records.

    *Stepson, for anyone who’s doing the maths

    1. Andy_Panthro says:

      The biggest reason for physical media to stick around for a while yet is that internet access is still not good enough in some areas.

      It’s easy for someone like myself, with fast cable internet, to think that everything could (and should!) be digital. For anyone like me, this is the most convenient way of accessing media. However, there are still many places in my country (UK) which have slow and unreliable internet access, so downloading movies or games is not an option for them.

      When these delivery issues get sorted out, digital distribution of all media will start being the main (if not only) way to access new media.

      Of course, that brings with it a few problems, which are detailed here:

      1. Soylent Dave says:

        Yeah, I don’t think it’ll be soon, and I don’t think it’ll be a sudden cut off – not until fast internet access gets more universal (or ‘universal’ in terms of the markets mainstream distributors are interested in), I just think it’s a more inevitable step than a lot of us today are willing to admit (because we like owning ‘stuff’).

        (That article is brilliant, incidentally!)

    2. Museli says:

      “Those of us who want our entertainment purchases stored in physical media are increasingly becoming a niche market. Like those who buy vinyl records.”

      Vinyl is doing pretty damn well given its age, because there’s something ‘special’ about it, an intangible that just makes it a more appealing format for certain people, regardless of sound quality or convenience. It’s outlasted cassette tapes and it’ll probably outlast CDs. I don’t think gamers view boxed games in the same way as audiophiles view vinyl, so I’m with you – boxed games will soon be a thing of the past.

    3. Axle says:

      I don’t think it’s an age thing. I’m 38 and I’m quite pleased with digital media, at least for games. Games, for me, are most of the time, a one time thing, so the boxes just become nothing more than something that takes up precious space. Or in other words – junk.
      A few years ago, when I moved in with my girlfriend (now wife) I threw away most of my boxed games without any regret or hard feelings.

    4. RCN says:

      For me… I just sort of trust digital products more.

      Every single one of the CDs I owned when I was little failed to still be in working condition when I tried then again 10 years later. And I did take care of them, but my city has too much of a harsh climate for the wellbeing of CDs (4 months of really hot and wet, 5 months of really hot and dry and 3 months really, really dry and cold)

      I’m still to experience anything close with my GoG/Impulse/Steam copies.

      1. Soylent Dave says:

        I’m the other way around – my main reason for disliking the transition to digital is that I distrust the ‘illusory’ nature of it all.

        I’ve still got physical copies of my Atari 2600, ZX spectrum and Megadrive (Genesis) games; I can still play them if I like – but if a digital game gets withdrawn (or Valve goes bankrupt and Steam dissolves into the aether) then what happens to all my digital-only games?

        It’ll be like they never existed at all.

        (on the other hand – I don’t play any of my old games on the old systems, mostly because they are shit (and when I do get nostalgic, I play them on emulators because setting up a Spectrum or an Atari would take FOREVER!) so really I’ve collected all that stuff for no reason whatsoever. Hmm.)

        1. RCN says:

          I think the key is accepting that even the physical media is temporary (even more so in my climate, so I get to experience it earlier).

          I was devastated when my Heroes II CD didn’t work when I tried to install it in 2004. And it was kept in a well-tightned storage made specifically for CDs. I couldn’t find it anywhere so I just downloaded it as abandonware (3DO was well under and Ubisoft hadn’t picked the license yet, if I remember well). It was really bad having to play it without sound (or, after much fiddling with the DOSBox, MIDI sound), so it was really awesome for me when GoG launched it with the original soundtrack.

          Heck, my Baldur’s Gate 2 second CD would bug out in a loading screen at some point in the underdark or the asylum… I don’t really know. And it was plain new, but its warranty certainly was void in my country (remember, not all games are launched all over the world officially), if it had a warranty at all. I didn’t get to finish Baldur’s Gate 2 until I got it again with GoG.

    5. Josh R says:

      I’ve noticed this with myself. I’ve bought several indie bundles but the games that aren’t on steam I just ignore. If the only games I want off a bundle aren’t on steam, I just don’t bother.

      My steam account is fast becoming one of the most important possessions I own. I find it actually more convenient to own a steam copy of a game than a boxed copy – the steam copy will exist on any pc I install steam on, whereas the boxed copy will sit wherever I left it,

  15. Jokerman says:

    Gog is the only one ive ever used – never been a huge pc gamer and my laptop wont even allow it. Buying an expensive pc is out of the question. But gog has opened my eyes to lots of classics – i have bought so many games off there its hard to count how many.

    Back when these games were recent i had to put up with a ps2 version on dues ex and half life…and i still loved them games – but it was so much better to play them on my pc. Got into baldurs gate, Planescape Torment, fallout 1-2.

    I could very easily just pirate most of these old games but i feel i would rather not in these cases – i want to support good old games.

  16. X2Eliah says:

    What about that OnLive thingy? Iirc it’s been available in the states for a while now (and the uk).. Some of the people who’ve tried it have been going nearly mental about how good it is.

    1. Andy_Panthro says:

      I have to say, Onlive is something that I really don’t like. It’s kind of an irrational dislike, because I can certainly see how it could be useful to people without good PCs.

    2. GiantRaven says:

      It would be a lot better if the subscription service was cheaper and allowed access to all the games they offer.

    3. Eric says:

      Maybe it’s because I live in Canada, but I tried the demo. It was basically unplayable for me. It relies on having a pretty fast Internet connection (5 Mbps doesn’t really cut it), but even with that in mind, you don’t own any games on it, many of them run on lower-end settings, during heavy loads it’s common to get lag and framerates to plummet, etc. They might have worked out some of the kinks in the last few months but there’s no way I can recommend it over even a standard console, and certainly not over even a low end gaming PC.

  17. Eruanno says:

    I have said it before in comments somewhere (possibly here? I can’t remember), my favorite kind of games are those that give me a box AND allow me to sign it up to an online service (preferrably Steam) so I can redownload it if my disc gets scratched/the cat eats it/other nonspecificed reason.

    Skyrim, Rage, Call of Duty, etc. all do this. I get the boxed copy in the store, pop in the DVD, register my key, bam, I can now speed-install it using the disc, or download it with Steam if the disc isn’t around. And I get to put the box in my shelf and stare at my nice game collection.

    1. Ragnar says:

      Why would you want a physical disc with your game when it is locked to Steam? You can’t really do anything with the disc anyway (yes, you can potentially install the game from that, but you will probably need to download a lot of stuff anyway if there have been lots of patching since release).

      Also, locking a game to a specific digital distributor is very, very bad in my not so humble opinion. I try to avoid such games.

      1. Eruanno says:

        Because then I can look at my Steam library, think “Oh dear, I want to play right now. Maaaan, I have to wait four hours for the bloody thing to download.” If I have a disc, I can install it much faster (okay, patching still happens, but downloading maybe 200-300 mb of patches is still a lot faster than downloading ~8 gigabytes of game).
        Also I like collecting boxes, but I don’t like the prospect of my game getting lost forever because the DVD got mangled.

      2. X2Eliah says:

        Is it better if the game is locked to a single publisher’s activation server? (E.g. Biuoware’s games, ubisoft’s games, any other game that connects something over the internet to verify you aren’t a dirty thief).. At least with a digital distributer, you have some level of guarantee that it will keep being available. Good luck with drm-activation servers on that part (how many games newer than, say, ’05 has EA shut down already?).

    2. Bubble181 says:

      Yup, I quite like that about Blizzard games. I still have my boxes oF Diablo, Diablo II, Diablo II ToB, Starcraft, Starxcraft brood War and Starcraft II…But if I want to install them at my brothers’ house, I can, without any trouble.

      I do think there’s a difference between being linked to Steam or being linked to the publisher, though…And both have merits and problems.

      1. Eruanno says:

        Yeah, same here. Very convenient. It is always a question of accessibility versus not quite “owning” your game…

    3. Tse says:

      I usually download Warcraft 3 from torrents before installing it, because downloading the disk images and installing from them is faster than installing from the original CDs. After all, the game is on a slow CD from several years ago, modern games install much faster from the original source (still not as fast as from the HDD).
      Before anyone accuses me of piracy, I own the game and downloading copyrighted content is legal in my country.

      1. Marauder says:

        You can register your Warcraft 3 serial number with Blizzard on and then not only will they allow you to download an installer directly from them (and thus no hidden malicious payloads, piracy accusations, etc.) but it will be an updated installer with the latest, fully patched, version of the game and still no DRM. At least that is the case in the US. You can also register and download updated installers for Starcraft, Starcraft 2, and Diablo 2 (and of course World of Warcraft).

        1. Tse says:

          That’s the slowest option. I download the game in several hours from their servers, I do it in less than 5 minutes from a torrent site.
          And besides, I don’t use the crack, just the image of the original disk. Then I update through BattleNet, which uses a bittorent service for update downloads.

          1. Marauder says:

            It’s no slower then downloading updates from would be since Blizzard uses the same BitTorrent infrastructure for client downloads as they do for patching. You download an download client .exe (or .app) which then downloads the actual installer files.

            I was just able to download the latest Warcraft 3 installer in about six minutes from the time I hit the “download” link on the website to the time the downloader finished and launched the installer. Frozen Throne took five minutes. And after installing, I don’t have to wait for patching since it’s already up to date.

            I find downloading potential contraband bits from unknown third party sources to be dubious at best, and downright dangerous. It would make much more sense to me to just make and keep images of your OWN CD’s rather than download someone else’s that could have been tampered with. Or, if it really takes five hours to download the legitimate client, then download the when you don’t want to play it and archive it for when you do…

            1. Tse says:

              It’s from a legitimate, controlled source (since downloading copyrighted information for non-profit use is not copyright infringement in Bulgaria). I have the disks, that’s why I have no problem installing from them if I wanted to wait.

              Anyway, back to my original point, what I meant to say was that a digital download can be faster than installation from a disk. I used downloading from a torrent site as an example because the torrent system is the most efficient file sharing system at the moment. BattleNet uses it for patches, not for installer downloads, which is the reason for the horrendous speeds I get while trying to download from there. If Steam and the other digital providers embraced a similar system of downloading from other people who bought the same game, digital downloads would become as fast as the internet connection of the user.
              P.S. Digital distribution needs to do this in order to compete with pirated content, they don’t provide the better service at the moment.

              1. Peter H. Coffin says:

                Torrent schemes kind of presuppose that people are willing to pay for their games not only with money but also with an indeterminate amount of bandwidth used up for the benefit of the seller. I think that might be a little bit of a stretch…

                1. Marauder says:

                  Especially since in many cases, bandwidth IS money. If I’m out in rural Australia and have a quota of only a couple Gigabytes, I’m not going to want to waste any of that to help some stranger download their game faster! I’d want to save every precious MB for my own use. Even here in the US, many broadband providers such as Comcase and AT&T Uverse are starting to impose quotas on consumer connections.

                  I would rather a company invest in the infrastructure required to support their user base rather then freeloading off the internet connections of their users.

                  Maybe if there was a toggleable configuration option, but I could see that still encourage companies to not invest in infrastructure.

                2. Peter H. Coffin says:

                  Just to … clarify a little bit, since I think I missed explaining a mental leap, a lot of the complaints about digital delivery involve that there’s a client running “all the time” (upon which torrent-style delivery would depend), and that said client sucks up resources (memory and CPU). Of all the resources a person is MOST LIKELY to have plenty of, it’s memory and CPU, not disk space or bandwidth.

              2. Marauder says:

                That may have once been the case, but at least here in the US now uses the Blizzard downloader (torrent wrapper) for client downloads. It’s even possible to extract the related torrent file with the right tool (or if you know where to look) so you might want to give it another try.

                Distributed systems have many benefits, and performance can be one of them, but I have also seen poorly implemented distributed systems that perform significantly worse than properly scaled centralized systems as well. It’s not a magic bullet. Whatever the system, distributed/decentralized or centralized, it needs to be properly implemented. I personally can’t say I have performance issues downloading content with Steam, in fact larger (5-15 GB) games like Skyrim will download pretty quickly as well (often as quick as tens of minutes) for me.

                Gabe Newell/Valve has said publicly, many times, that “piracy” (I hate that term as actual piracy has nothing to do with copyright) comes down to a service issue, and that legitimate sources need to provide a better service, and better experience then illegitimate sources. Steam offers a pretty good service and I know of plenty of people who stopped downloading games from illegitimate sources because Steam made things so convenient to be legitimate (third party DRM aside).

                I think that’s the key with Steam, in exchange for their relatively soft DRM (you can be installed on unlimited systems, only running on one at a time, supports offline mode after first run, etc.), you get other benefits in return such as the ability to redownload on a whim (and in my experience performs pretty well overall), steam cloud syncing, etc..

                What I would really like to see in Steam is more detailed filters to hide/show based on features or otherwise do things such as “Don’t bother showing me titles with third party DRM”, and “Show me titles that use Steam Cloud sync”.

                1. Josh R says:

                  Also Show games with local co-op for when you’ve got a friend over

  18. Dasick says:

    I don’t know if anyone’s covered it, but I just don’t like the fact that someone has so much control over things I buy.

    And it’s not irrational. Here is but ONE example of how I got burned by Steam:

    I bought Mafia II DVD while I was visiting Motherland. “Hey, neat-o”, I thought “it’s in my native language, the voice actors for this language are really awesome, and this brand new game costs $30”. Bought it, went back to Canada, tried to install the game.

    Steam: “LOL! You have wrong country code to install this game”. I’ve scoured the whole box, there is absolutely no mention that it is tied to regional code of any sorts. I can’t return it. Valve won’t do anything, because they can just hand-wave it as being in the EULA (which, by the way, I’ve never seen, because Steam wouldn’t let me).

    Grr. Yarr.

    1. RCN says:


      I’ve had far more problems with Steam. Endemic problems. I really, really hate Steam’s DRM. For me, it is just a short step away from Ubisoft’s DRM. Every time I’ve had a hassle with Ubi’s DRM, I’d have a 60% chance of having a hassle with Steam and resort to Impulse’s games (which don’t require the client to run).

      1. RCN says:

        I also hate how Steam likes to sabotage your operating system when it gets an update and needs to restart. All of a sudden, my game starts to falter until it grinds to a halt and unless I’ve exited before that I’ll have to kill it in the task manager, at which point steam will tell me it had a new update and had to restart.

        So I thrown my computer out of the window and swear off gaming forever. Or at least I wish I had the guts to.

        1. Irridium says:

          It’s even better when after going through all that crap, Steam gives you it’s “game is not available at this time, try again later” message.

          Or as I like to call it, the “fuck you” message. Takes quite a bit of willpower for me to not punch my monitor when this happens.

  19. RCN says:

    I like Impulse.

    Not even GameStop managed to make me hate it.

    Playing a digital game and not needing to deal with the client? That’s almost as good as having a pirated copy! Actually, it is better, since I can still play multiplayer (suck that, piracy!)

    Sure, I still have to deal with the publisher’s DRM (booooo!), but these are games I own digitally, have a client I can use for practical download and updating, DOESN’T force me to stay up-to-date to play, and can safely tell to not start at windows start-up.

    All the conveniences of Steam with all the hands-offness of GamersGate. What’s not to like?

    Even Good Old Games has this really annoying downloader that is borderline useless and still is the only reliable way to download their titles.

    1. RCN says:

      What’s not to like?

      Oh, right… region locks and GameStop. It is just a matter of time before GameStop majorly screws it up somehow.

      (Posted as a new post because comments up to moderation can’t be edited)

    2. GiantRaven says:

      I’ve never used the GOG downloader before so you definitely aren’t forced to use it.

      1. Bubble181 says:

        Depends on what games you download, though. Smaller games are perfectly fine with just downloading in the browser. Bigger/newer games, when you go into several gigabytes, the downloader really is more secure as far as “not losing connection” is concerned.

      2. RCN says:

        Oh, you’re not forced to use it.

        But I don’t have a fast nor reliable connection. If I try downloading something and my connection drops at any time, I hate to restart the download from scratch unless I use GoG’s downloader.

    3. X2Eliah says:

      this really annoying downloader that is borderline useless and still is the only reliable way to download

      Looks like you have a very, very weird definition of useless, then. A Download manager is useless because it reliably downloads large files? Or is it useless because it does not have all sorts of popups or storefronts or in-game overlays/cheevos/friendlists like steam?

      1. RCN says:

        It is useless because it takes 10 hours to download a 50 MB game, when it’d take 40 minutes through browser.

        1. RCN says:

          And it takes forever to launch.

          hmm, why is the EDIT function vanishing from my posts? I always remember something else to add just as I finish posting it…

        2. X2Eliah says:

          Can’t say I’ve ever experienced that. I guess it could be useless on your specific system & location.

  20. Amarsir says:

    As I’d commented on last week’s article, I think consoles will catch up to and then bypass PC games for digital distribution as soon as successive generations are built around it. Friday’s leak that Xbox 720 will have integrated copy protection certainly supports that idea.

    More generally though, I wonder how long it will be until all stores are virtually extinct except for perishable items or interactive service. Online stores will simply be better aggregators because of their reach, and those who don’t gravitate there for price will likely do so for variety. Right now Apple and Amazon are at war with each other, and it’s good for customers, but brick & mortar just can’t keep up with the crossfire.

    Someone above mentioned CD stores. Although they still exist, they’re undeniably phasing out. In the 90s I remember malls near me had multiples of the same store in different wings/levels. “No no, I think the downstairs Sam Goody is closer.” The Wiz, FYE, Record World, Tower Records, J&R, Musicland… isn’t the most helpful, but even comparing mall directories now with 8 years ago the disappearance is visible.

    (Games too. A decade ago there was Babbages, Electronics Boutique, and (most tellingly) independent sellers. Now it’s a GameStop. Maybe 2 GameStops.)

    Store rotation isn’t the same as store extinction of course. In the malls, phone shops have by-and-large replaced the music stores. But when you see products getting chased to big boxes or stores having to merge that’s a sign they’re under serious fire. Even the big boxes have it rough: Circuit City couldn’t cut it, CompUSA is nearly dead. Walmart’s safe, but gamers want better than Walmart variety. Best Buy’s really the last battleground, and I understand they’re planning to huddle around Geek Squad service.

    My prediction, and feel free to throw this in my face 20 years from now if I’m wrong, is that stores will shift more toward outlet-style vertical integration. They’ll be more about advertising and directing to products than physically storing and distributing them. “Paying cash” for many things will mean buying a prepaid Visa and then using that online. Games will be one of the easier transitions because they can be downloaded, but even when it means waiting for FedEx and UPS that’ll just be how it’s done.

  21. BvG says:

    I didn’t like your article. I expected a review of the current online seller landscape. Instead you created an opinion piece about a small and random assembly of services you tried. Expectations can be a bitch i guess :(

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