Experienced Points: The Digital Distribution Wars Are On Again

By Shamus
on May 12, 2015
Filed under:
Column

Quite a few people have been asking me what I think of Galaxy, the new client from Good Old Games. “It’s too soon to tell, but I’m impressed so far,” isn’t long enough to fill an entire column, so I did another round-up of all the other digital distribution platforms and compared them.

In the column I said that UPlay is the new Games for Windows LIVE. Thinking more about it, it seems like UPlay might actually be somehow more useless than GFWL. GFWL purportedly offered some sort of cross-platform play between Windows and Xbox players, and I’ve never heard of UPlay offering anything like that. On the other hand, UPlay doesn’t have quite as many comical failures when trying to do simple things. On the gripping hand, UPlay came out years after GFWL and had every chance in the world to avoid or correct for the failings of its predecessor. And then didn’t.

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  1. WWWebb says:

    Everyone will know what you’re talking about, but they prefer to be called GOG.com these days.

    #OldManShamus

  2. Da Mage says:

    “Digital copies of games might be the best in terms of price and convenience, but price and convenience aren’t always the top concern.”

    I laughed. Still cheaper for me to buy a game from a brick-a-mortar store in Australia then it is to buy it on Steam. Electronic stores (not including EB Games) have reduced their game prices the last few years (new release in the $70-$80AUS range down from $90-$100AUS) and with current dollar , they are only slightly more then US prices are conversion.

    Steam still sells at the marked up $90US price tag, and with currency conversion, that puts it out over $100. Hell, unless there is a sale, steam is one of the most expensive platforms here…..and they wonder why piracy rates are skyrocketing in Australia.

    • The Rocketeer says:

      I have a feeling I can guess the answer, but I’ve never understood: What is the rationale behind the ~$30USD Australia surcharge? I’d guess localization, but it can’t cost that much to rotate the video output 180 degrees.

      • Da Mage says:

        In the 80s-90s we got about about 70c US for every $1 AUS in currency conversion. Add that to the extra cost it was to ship the games here and some minimal import taxes, it added up to about $100AUS after it all. It happened (and still does) with basically every piece of software.

        After that value stuck and they never moved it again (same as the standard $60 price in the US has stuck). A few years ago during the recession our dollar actually became worth more then the US dollar and many people suddenly realised just how ripped off we were getting. Electronics stores like JB Hi-Fi, Dick Smith and Harvey Norman started selling cheaper, EB Games did not.

        The going story is that EB Games bullies the publishers to sell games on steam at the same price as them (since they hold a huge market share and publishers need EB Games to sell). However, steam sells in US dollars, and when our currency dropped again, steam became more expansive.

        They did a government inquiry about software pricing last year with Apple, Mircosoft and Adobe, which ended with those companies saying they did because they can and there was nothing Australia could do to stop them. Earlier this year our IT and communications minister said that it was completely legal to use VPNs in order to circumvent geoblocking those companies use on Australians (and other countries).

        It’s the digital goods that annoys most people. We expect that it’s expensive to ship here and run a storefront. But a digital good costs no more to send here, and yet the extra price is added on anyway. It’s why you’ll always find cranky Aussies in a comment thread when someone is complaining about how $60 is too much for games.

        • The Rocketeer says:

          Okay, that all sucks, but… it is kinda funny that the software companies and the Aussie officials are “Don’t hate the player, hate the game”-ing each other.

          • Humanoid says:

            Bit of an aside, but at the moment there’s some scaremongering going on as the government has just announced a new digital goods tax (colloquially the “Netflix tax”), not an actual new tax as such, just an expansion of the existing 10% sales tax to ensure it covers digital sales. Some outlets have gone with the “oh no, Steam games will cost 10% more” line, which is a bit of a fail on the critical analysis front.

            No, Steam prices are already “matched” (I use the term loosely here, as it’s been established that they match the number, but not the currency) to the recommended retail price here, because publisher distribution deals demand it as such. Steam prices will not change, all it means is that once this is implemented, an eleventh of the sale price will go to the Australian government instead of to Valve and the publisher. Very much a good thing for everyone else, so I support this change fully.

        • Peter H. Coffin says:

          TBH, though, exchange rates were nearly at 80s-90s levels through most of the beginning of the year, with AUD1 finally starting to poke back above USD0.80 only occasionally in the past week or two. Most of the early part of the year, it was around USD0.77…

      • Humanoid says:

        It’s to cover the costs incurred by Valve in implementing their tax-avoidance scheme, of course. Complex financial systems to hide all your profits in Bermuda cost money y’know.

        Being facetious of course, but there’s a kernel of truth in there. Steam wants $75.59USD ($94.60AUD) for The Witcher 3, Origin wants $80.99AUD. The Origin price includes 10% tax, so only $73.63AUD goes to Origin. Steam takes the whole $94.60AUD. Both prior to the distributor and publisher divvying up the sale of course.

        * Amusingly though, Steam have forgotten to apply the Australia tax for the Witcher 3 + Expansion Pass bundle, which is listed at $79.99USD, same as the US price and only $4.40 more than the base game alone. I expect this to be “fixed” soon, but it’s a price some people might want to consider. I don’t buy games on Steam unless there’s absolutely no alternative, but this is probably the cheapest non-VPN price available for the moment. The real cheapskates will want to buy from GOG while being dressed as a Ukrainian, or failing that, getting an nVidia coupon from eBay.

      • Yerushalmi says:

        There’s a thriving underground market in Australia for these specialized mounts they have that hang your monitor upside down, to serve customers who buy unlocalized software from foreign online retailers.

        True story.

    • Dreadjaws says:

      Well, to be fair, GOG does offer an incentive on that. Knowing full well that they’re forced to charge more for the games in certain countries like Australia, they give you store credit for the extra money they’re charging you. That means that, effectively, you’re not paying more money for one game, you’re paying the exact money for the game others countries pay plus a bit more for other games.

      • Humanoid says:

        It’s not surprising that they have to do it with games from other publishers, but it’s disappointing that their own games also have regional pricing. Unfortunately that’s the reality because of an unfavourable deal (and subsequent legal threats) that they have signed with Namco-Bandai with regards to distribution of the physical copies. The contract means that the GOG store can not undercut whatever retail price the distributor has chosen to sell the game at.

        At the moment there’s no alternative to this sad situation, because commercial realities mean that having a distribution partner is necessary to get the game out there in numbers, and said partner doesn’t want to sell a new AAA game for less than the price that they’re used to receiving. Hopefully in the future CDPR/GOG will be powerful enough to not have to kowtow to this sort of pressure.

      • Zak McKracken says:

        Given this, and assuming they can offer enough currently popular titles, GOG should be either ruling Australia within very short time, or the prices from other vendors would have to become more sensible.

    • RCN says:

      Well, it may be the case in Australia, but here in Brazil I’ll generally have to pay 100-350 Reals for a game from the store (that’s 30-100 Dollars) or 15 – 60 Reals on Steam. It is a no-brainer. Regional Pricing is a god-send here. Steam had already singlehanded choked piracy to death in my country (well, at the very least it changed “everyone pirates” to “only the really poor pirates”) BEFORE regional pricing, AFTER it some games can actually be cheaper than pirated copies sold on the streets.

      I still use both the platforms though, but so far I haven’t really used GOG for anything other than actual old games.

      Oh, and I still use Impulse (I will NEVER call it Gamestop), but that platform really nosedived and died after Stardock sold it. While I still have it, I only use to for maintenance of the games I already had in it. It still bogles my mind why someone would think “Hey, we have the second largest and most successful digital platform in the market, but maintaining it is keeping us from developing games… I know, why don’t we sell it to this dying retailer that’s been mishandling itself and it’s clients for close to a decade now?”

      Was it really that hard to branch out? Well, I guess since Steam effectively killed Valve as game developers it must be harder than it looks.

  3. Dahud says:

    Thanks for using “on the gripping hand” in context. I’ve been waiting for that to become a common phrase for years. It’s just so useful!

  4. Hamilcar says:

    Can you please talk about Desura in these Steam alternative discussions? Desura does have a lot of users. I support Desura ecause it is open source, linux compatible and you own the game rather than just a license to the game.

    • Humanoid says:

      I’ve never used Desura but I see it’s the only place advertising Will Fight for Food DRM-free, so that might change soon. I’m surprised that the likes of Humble Store and Gamersgate who normally do DRM-free are Steam-key-only though, not sure what’s going on there.

      • Dreadjaws says:

        Humble Bundle used to offer Desura keys (that’s how I found the platform). Not sure why they stopped.

        • Blastinburn says:

          Because they were effectively giving the user 3 copies of the game (DRM-free, Steam-key, Desura-key), people then proceeded to sell/trade/giveaway the keys, either using the drm-free copy, steam-key, or not caring about the game. I guess they weighed the value of the desura keys and decided that the number of people who wanted desura keys wasn’t as much as the people who didn’t care about desura and just turned around and sold/traded the key.

          I really like Desura, so I’m sad this happened.

          • Dreadjaws says:

            Yeah, I sort of figured it was something like this. They should have just changed things, anyway. Maybe for a bundle give only Steam keys while for another give only Desura keys or something like that.

    • AileTheAlien says:

      Cripes, another DRM-free distribution platform? This is awesome! :D

      • tmtvl says:

        Desura is like GOG Galaxy is apparently going to be: client is optional.

        Odd thing: Desura no longer has the rights to sell Fallout, so you can’t get it from the online store; but if you bought it, it will appear in the client.
        Also: downloading a game from the web store instead of through the client ensures you have the latest patches, the client versions aren’t as up-to-date.

    • Spammy says:

      I have not used Desure much, but from what I’ve heard, Desura kind of has a reputation about it’s library kind of like Steam Greenlight or the Ouya.

    • DrMcCoy says:

      Yeah, I too sorely missed Desura in that list. The client is FLOSS (GPLv3), cross-platform and optional, and the games are DRM-free.

  5. Snarkangel says:

    Whenever someone uses the phrase “on the gripping hand”, a piece of me dances like an enthusiastic little child. The whole piece. All of me dances. More people need to use that phrase.

  6. Grenaid says:

    I’ve seriously had people argue with me that uPlay is amazing because first it gives you points, then it gives you wallpaper to spend the points on.

    When I point out that Ubisoft could cut the middle man and just give away the wallpaper, they got mad and said I was ungrateful and ‘didn’t get it.’ Because you got points. And then had things to spend points on.

    I really really don’t get. Are there… uPlay fanboys?

    • Humanoid says:

      I’ve only ever used UPlay in it’s ‘light’ mode, that is, with Might and Magic 10 which didn’t use the full always-on DRM suite that Ubi’s AAA games required. Even then it was broken in at least a couple of ways, refusing to install/update the game unless I forced it to run in administrator mode (which is never mentioned), and then every time I launched the game, it would attempt and fail to cloud sync, which took over a minute. Luckily that ‘feature’ at least could be disabled, and for one minor positive, I think the offline mode worked better than Steam’s in that once set offline, it’s permanently offline – i.e. it’s automatically in offline mode the next time you launch it – until you specifically request to go online. (Unlike Steam bugging you with a dialog box every time you launch it)

      • Patrick-who-is-Hector says:

        I was playing Might and Magic X – and it’s actually a fair amount of fun. But Uplay is *incredibly* badly integrated. A chunk of the game’s content was cut off into “free” DLC you can get via Uplay, except for me (and apparently many others(, it’s do0esn’t work. The game fails to hand you the actual points as you play, so you can’t get the goodies. That includes some of the most useful equipment, including categories of special gear for which there *isn’t* any similarly-useful item for those slots. Other content includes a couple dungeons.

        Yeah, they cut dungeons out of the dungeon crawling game. And failed to provide a useful backup.

        • RCN says:

          Heh, I’m doing a colab LP of Heroes II and I came into arguments with a guy about M&M X.

          Befuddlingly, his peev with the game was NOT UPlay.

          Meanwhile I’m preparing myself for my 4th play through. All-casters will be interesting.

    • Shamus says:

      Years ago people insinuated that marketers hired people (mostly people in 3rd world countries, or kids) pennies on the hour to post pro-publisher stuff to various forums. It sounded like tinfoil hat paranoia to me at the time, but anecdotes like this make me wonder.

      • MrGuy says:

        Sometimes I wonder if they’re bots.

        I would have suggested putting “people who argue with you on the internet” to a Turing test to find out, but then I realized that none of the people who like to argue on the internet could ever convince me they’re an intelligent human being.

        Well played, bots. Well played.

      • Humanoid says:

        Indirectly it’s very much a thing, usually done via a PR agency. What’s surprising I guess is that they don’t get exposed more often, but leaks do happen. I know for example Lance Armstrong used to (and may still) run a campaign that would perpetuate half-truths and misinformation involving supposed “cycling fans” posting on various news sites, forums and social media. This kind of campaign is called “astroturfing”, in that it’s an attempt to imitate a genuine grassroots campaign. On the tech side, I know that nVidia has been found to have done a similar thing in the past, and a lot of the adversarial nV vs AMD vitriol on the Internet is fuelled by this kind of thing.

        Now admittedly I don’t know of any direct examples with games publishers specifically, but I would be shocked if this does not happen as a matter of course.

        • Syal says:

          EDIT: How on earth did this post end up in this comment chain?
          Oh well, might as well run with it. Ahem…

          We had a few of those PR folks show up back when Josh was talking about TOR and Guild Wars 2. I remember it not working too well for them; we’re all too intelligent and opinionated.

        • MichaelGC says:

          Bioware and Dragon Age 2. I’m sure there was a more recent high-profile example, but I’m struggling to remember/bing it at the moment!

          • Joe Informatico says:

            I didn’t think that was an organized PR campaign by BioWare. I thought that was one guy who made a sock puppet identity to defend the project he and his colleagues spent the last year and half of his life working on. It was still unethical and I’m by no means defending his actions, but at least his motives weren’t quite so cynical.

            • MichaelGC says:

              I think there were two of them, but I’m verrry hazy on the details! Aye, as you say, it’s still not right, whatever the explanation – but that is at least a good explanation, and certainly better than an organised campaign or an official company sanction.

    • MrGuy says:

      I’d say the Steam inventory and store is way better – they give you pointless collectibles when you buy a game (even really cheap games)that you can sell in their marketplace for actual cash that you can spend on games.

      Then I realized that with the number of clicks it takes to sell those items, which only sell for $0.10 each, that the return on your time invested to list the items is a lot less than it seemed at the time…

      I wonder sometimes who these people are who feel compelled to “catch ’em all” with these virtual trading cards, but if they want to subsidize a bit of my game habit, power to ’em.

      • RodeoClown says:

        You want to check out the Steam Inventory Helper chrome extension: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/steam-inventory-helper/cmeakgjggjdlcpncigglobpjbkabhmjl

        It lets you sell all your stuff with a minimum of clicks, making the ROI much higher than it is doing it all manually!

      • Galad says:

        Sometimes a Steam user likes a game so much they want to even get the meaningless badges for it.

        Some profile backgrounds, earned when crafting said badges, or bought via the marketplace are very good-looking.

        Then again, I have a game I’ve played a whole of 3 hours, but have crafted up to the lvl 3 badge for it, so the deeper reason is probably not all that logical, and inherently boils down to it being some skinner box reward-ish sort of thing.

        (my steam level is only 18)

      • Adeon says:

        “I wonder sometimes who these people are who feel compelled to “catch ’em all” with these virtual trading cards, but if they want to subsidize a bit of my game habit, power to ’em.”

        That’s me. I don’t bother doing the repeat badges but I like to get the first badge for each game I have with them. Generally every few months I’ll put $5 on my Steam account, buy the cards for any badges I’m missing and then spend the rest on any TF2 Genuine/Strange items that are cheap and I don’t have.

        I know it’s pointless but it makes me happy :).

    • Dev Null says:

      uPlay is hilarious. They made me install it to collect the latest Humble Bundle, and so I created an account, logged in once, set everything to offline mode, and threw the password away. In my brief driveby, it appeared to be a windswept desolation of tumbleweeds and coyotes howling at the moon. And because they forced me to install it, I’m not only not tempted, but absolutely dead-set against turning it back on, ever.

    • Phill says:

      I’ve probably posted this before, but I got a free copy of Assassins Creed III (came free with graphics cards that work were buying, so they passed around the free game vouchers). One day I decided to get around to installing it.

      It turns out that the procedure for redeeming the voucher is deliberately obtuse, to the point that you think it doesn’t work. I guess they don’t really want anyone to actually use these vouchers.

      I gave up a few times, but one day decided to solve the problem and figured out how to actually get the free game. Then I had to install UPlay. I decided to go along with it, despite having heard bad things. It was every bit as bad as I’d heard,

      I think I fired the game up twice, and after that refused to have anything to do with UPlay any more and uninstalled the whole thing. It just wasn’t worth the pain of going through UPlay to get in to the game (or to get back out of it in a reasonable time – any software that you end up alt-F4-ing to get out of because the quit procedure is too damn slow is a fail).

      So UPlay is bad enough to stop me playing a free game on it. Which I suppose, logically implies that they would have to actually [i]pay me[/i] to use UPlay to play a game I’d got for free. That’s not a great advert for the quality of their platform.

      (And then I read some press statement about how they wanted to use UPlay to add extra value to games. Apparently they said this with a straight face.)

      You should perhaps bear in mind that I’m a bit of a luddite – I still haven’t ever got around to playing civ 5 (despite having everything for civ 1-4), entirely because there is no option to play it without Steam. Steam is also a net negative for me, adding nothing that I want and an extra layer of lack of control over my own games. But having had to use it for work, I at least know that it’s not bad enough to put me off from playing a free game on it.

      • Richard says:

        I had an almost identical experience, which has put me off the entire Ass. Creed franchise forever.

        I’m never going to buy another Ass. Creed game or uPlay-based game, because the hideous mess of redemption, uPlay client and DRM left me in an emotional state where the game needed to be absolutely mind-blowingly incredibly awesome to justify the time I’d wasted just getting the damn thing installed.

        And it wasn’t.

        I spent less time playing the game than I did installing it. I suspect that might have still been true if I finished the game.

        That’s not true of any of my Steam games, even the ones that I’ve started once.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      There was only one good thing about uplay that I found:In heroes of might and magic 6 you could have your own dynasty of heroes with weapons you could keep through generations.Sadly,like the rest of the game,it was broken as hell.So even the one good concept they had was badly executed.

  7. Daniel England says:

    There’s only one thing that Origin has over Steam (besides the exclusive games,) and that’s its refund policy. I don’t remember the specifics, but they will refund games that are broken after you buy them. And that’s a whole lot better than Steam’s “deal with it” kind of stance… Though Origin is still pretty bad otherwise.

    • Humanoid says:

      There’s also, umm…. a better colour scheme than Steam? Seriously, Steam’s newish blue-on-blue-on-blue(-on grey) theme, what the hell were they thinking?

      (Also as noted earlier, Origin does have better pricing in some cases, but this is probably only true in a handful of countries)

  8. MrGuy says:

    I think the telling contrast between Galaxy and systems like GFWL and Uplay is that Galaxy recognizes Steam exists, and that to succeed you have to win customers away from Steam.

    Which means that not only do you have to offer something Steam doesn’t (in Galazy’s case, no-DRM games), but also you need to be quiet, unassuming, and stay out of the way sufficiently that nobody will mind having BOTH you AND Steam installed. Nobody’s going to abandon Steam on day one for your platform. So be as nonintrusive as you can so they can dip their toe in your water without regretting having installed your client.

    UPlay and GFWL fail the “sit quietly in the corner until I decide I want to use you” test. Even if they did have something Steam didn’t (which they don’t – they COULD have exclusive titles that are available on them and NOT Steam, but they realized not being on Steam was suicide, so they sit on top of Steam like a wart…), they don’t realize that (at best) having something unique isn’t the same as being better. “Occasionally sitting unwelcomely on top of” is not the same as “coexisting peacefully with.”

    Gamer Gate appears to have the opposite issue. It wins for non-intrusive, but (as far as I see, though I’ve never played with it) it doesn’t offer anything over and above Steam. There’s no compelling reason to switch.

    • AileTheAlien says:

      Yeah, the a-la-carte stance of GOG Galaxy* is really cool. I mean, the DRM-free aspect is cool, although I only award them half-points, since they were already DRM-free, and simply didn’t add any when making their new piece of software. :)

      * Should we call it GOGG? :P

    • Dreadjaws says:

      Gamersgate does have the coin system. Whenever you purchase a game, you earn a certain percentage of the price in “coins” (about 1000 coins per dollar, I believe), and they can be used as store credit when you get enough of them.

      I remember them having another advantage, but right now I don’t recall what it is. It’s been a while since I’ve purchase any PC game in any platform, due to hardware problems and the fact that I have too long of a backlog to purchase any more games right now.

  9. Rack says:

    It’s worth noting that these days Gamersgate has a drm platform of their very own, which is needed for any games that aren’t using someone elses platform. It’s only needed at install rather than run, but it’s still a fiddly nuisance bit of badly designed software mandating another username/password combo separate from the one they insist you have to buy games from them.

  10. Syal says:

    Does Galaxy let you migrate Steam games onto it?

    • Humanoid says:

      If you have a Steam copy of the Witcher games, you can claim a GOG version of them. If you have a retail copy of the STALKER games, you can claim GOG versions of them too. They’re working with publishers to try to get more CD-key to digital copy conversions going, but it’s slow going.

      http://www.gog.com/reclaim

      • Galad says:

        oh wow, thanks. It’s gonna make getting the expansions to Witcher 3 on GoG a lot easier, when I initially bought the game on Steam

        Also, on the topic:

        “This will be a really interesting test of public preference. Is there really a large contingent of PC gamers that hate DRM and are hungry for an alternative? Or are we DRM-complainers just a loud minority? We’re about to find out.”

        Well now there’s a relatively small, compared to Steam’s size, but firm minority of gamers that are against steam because of the paid mods fiasco, so there’s that.

        • Humanoid says:

          Well, I haven’t seen anything announced for the latest games so I wouldn’t say it’s that good yet. It’s about getting copies of the previous two games on GOG, and also noting that you get a discount on the third game on GOG once you have the previous two.

          That said, I believe Steam are okay with cancelling pre-orders, so you could do that still. (Or as mentioned, the cheapest ‘legit’ option would be buying an nVidia bundle coupon on eBay, it redeems a GOG copy)

          Missed the link for W1/2 copy redemption: https://www.gog.com/witcher/backup

  11. Weimer says:

    Origin has one cool feature though, it’s called Game Time. Basically, they give you free access to a game for a limited time. It’s like one of those old WoW one-week-long-free-trials.

    Currently they have only three games that support it, sadly.

    I was mildly interested in Battlefield 4, so I tried this Game Time out and it worked like charm! (Although it was just the base game without any DLC).

    • Humanoid says:

      It’s the same thing as Steam free weekends though, so it’s neither an advantage or disadvantage really, other than the selection of eligible games. I suppose it’s more flexible in when you get to play it, but then you also get less total hours to potentially play it as a tradeoff.

      • DeadlyDark says:

        Well, one full week versus weekend plus flexibility. I guess Origin is winner here. And that’s enough time for, say play single-player in BF4 and some multi-player matches. I think, that’s a good idea from EA, though it would probably working well with only multi-player heavy titles.

      • Weimer says:

        (I thought this was an unique idea, how could I forget about Steam free weekends?!)

        The length of the program is fine. I think two days for a game would be enough to form an opinion about it.

        The number of games featured in Origin in general is a significant problem when implementing ideas like this. If they had some small addicting games there sucking up gamers it might be a significant moneymaker.

    • Dreadjaws says:

      Origin also gives free games once in a while. Yeah, Steam does that too, but every one or two years. Origin does it every other month or so. You add the game to your library before the promotion ends and it stays there forever.

  12. DeadlyDark says:

    The only thing I wanted to expand in that kind of article, is why UPlay terrible. I personally see it as mostly useless, so I’m really interested to see what things objectively makes it worse than Origin or Steam (because it’s always interesting to see what I miss). Well, I could see, with Origin things like Game Time and refund policy, but that’s small features (I guess) in grand scheme of things.

    *But with one exception. Ubisoft seems to break cloud savings, so I lost my Blacklist saves with everything ghosted when I migrated to new PC year ago. Still angry, cause I wanted to test few levels.

  13. Dreadjaws says:

    One of the best things about Galaxy is that they actually encourage users to give feedback and say what they’d like to see in the Client, and they talk to the users to tell them if their suggestions are feasible and even likely. To be fair, they’ve been doing this before the client. Their website has a “Wish List” section, where users ask for features or games they wish to see included in their website, and they always comment if they’re possible, and they mark them if they’re in progress or done.

    Whereas Steam is “We changed this thing. Deal with it.” Hell, had it not been for the overwhelming amount of negative feedback their paid mods plan would still be around with zero change.

  14. DeadlyDark says:

    Oh. That reminds me. They (GOG team) make importing of the already installed games! I already have some their games installed so this Galaxy-feature is superb and time saving. I mean, they could easily not done it and nobody blamed them, but they do and that’s great.

  15. Thomas says:

    The two features I need from GoG are:

    1) Email notifications when a wishlist game goes on sale

    2) Cloud saves

    If those two things could happen I will always buy a game on GoG before Steam.

    • John says:

      I want item number 1 oh so badly. I suppose item number 2 might be possible for new games, but I have a really hard time imagining anyone going through the trouble to make GOG’s library of DOS games cloud-compatible.

  16. Lombombadom says:

    Steam has their seasonal sales a few times a year when they use their market share to practically give away games. While other distribution sites probably couldn’t match steam on prices it would be interesting to see what would happen if GOG or Origin came out with a huge sale about a week before Steam’s sale hit the market. Maybe they could take the wind out of Steam’s sails a bit.

    • Bubble181 says:

      GOG has been doing huge – often better-than-Steam – sales for years now, usually just before, just after or right around the Steam sales. People just don’t pay attention/are alerted to it enough. I bought Faster than Light from GOG at -85% when Steam had it at -66%, for example. It really depends from game to game which is cheaper where, though.

  17. Zak McKracken says:

    Now, I’m not a native speaker but I find this very weird:
    Why is everyone calling downloads “digital” distribution? Last time I used analogue distribution was in the Eighties, but putting the datasette in a cassette player and having the computer listen to it never really worked reliably, so we got a floppy disk drive eventually.

    All computer games are digital. I’d find it much more obvious to talk about “online” distribution or “downloads” or such rather than via “digital distribution” — because, as I said, you cannot get games on analogue media these days*

    *I’m certain there is some really cool art project somewhere which does exactly that…

    • MichaelGC says:

      It’s an odd one, isn’t it! (I guess that’s language for you – my favourite linguistic oddity is ‘cleave’, which means ‘cleave’, and also means ‘the opposite of cleave’.)

      My guess as to how ‘digital’ came to be used as the opposite of ‘physical’ in this context is:

      (a) the alliteration;

      (b) ‘download’ is too closely associated with extras to a main product (expansion packs or horse armour or whatnot);

      (c) ‘online’ is too closely associated with things that remain online (e.g. an MMO, or a wiki-type document saved in the cloud) whilst you’re using them, as opposed to things that might be bought online, but then are generally used offline.

      All guesswork, though – and certainly not to say the other suggestions are wrong, of course: indeed, Wikipedia basically makes the same suggestions!

      Also, here is an example of an analog videogame. I haven’t yet been able to establish whether or not it came with achievements…

    • Blackbird71 says:

      The meaning of “digital distribution” is not that the game or other software is in itself digital, but rather that the method of distributing the game is digital, i.e., by downloading it through the internet.

      This is in contrast to “physical distribution,” such as going to a store and buying a box with the game on a disc, or even ordering through a website but still having a physical copy shipped to your home. Yes, that disc contains a digital copy of the game, but it exists on a physical object rather than only being a digital copy.

      A more accurate term might have been “electronic distribution,” but “digital” is the term which has stuck for now.

      • MichaelGC says:

        Aye, I think there was a brief push to try to get “ESD” to catch on: “electronic software distribution.” If so, I’m pretty glad that failed! Sounds awful. Sounds like … well, I dunno – it just somehow has the air of the acronym for one of several different things, all of them nasty!

  18. Basilios says:

    Green Man Gaming, a reseller roughly comparable to GamersGate, also has its own distribution client, Playfire, and not long ago launched a Rewards program to encourage gamers to use it.

  19. Tonich says:

    Actually, in Russia GOG are already a step ahead of Steam, even aside of the DRM issue – or at least that’s how I see the current situation.
    I remember reading in one of your columns of (I think) a few years ago about how Steam won over pirates in Russia by offering them convenience – and that was absolutely true. Region-specific prices, constant sales and promotions, cloud saves, plus a whole lot of social stuff and other goodies – that was not just a good alternative to boxed PC games, it was practically the only way for an average (read: not exactly well-off) Russian gamer to fulfil their gaming needs without resorting to piracy.
    Also, Steam had the feature that I absolutely loved – gifts. The only drawback for me was that Steam had region locks on most big titles and new releases, meaning you couldn’t gift those games outside of CIS countries. And while that wasn’t exactly good for people with a lot of friends worldwide, it made sense from the business standpoint. Besides, there were always older games and indies…
    And then, in December 2014 Russian economy crashed. Russian currency devalued to almost half its value. So what did Valve do? They region-locked ALL of the games on Steam, saying it’s “to avoid raising prices”. And still, within a couple of months most of the publishers do exactly that – they raise the prices of their games on the Russian Steam marketplace, essentially crossing out Valve’s prior promises.
    At about exactly the same time GOG:
    a) starts selling most of its library at region-specific prices for Russia (most probably for other CIS states, too);
    b) introduces Russian interface for its website;
    c) keeps most of its games giftable worldwide.
    So, what I’m seeing is GOG actually pulling a Steam on Steam itself in Russia. :) It offers a better service AND it’s DRM-free.
    Of course, that’s only how I see this situation, so I might be missing something.

  20. Darren says:

    I must be the only person on Earth who never had a problem with GFWL, outside of a baffling issue I had with Viva Pinata once. But Bulletstorm, Dawn of War II, Arkham Asylum, and probably more that I’m forgetting all worked flawlessly or, if there were problems, they weren’t caused by GFWL.

    Which is a long way of saying that Uplay is horrible and needs to be rooted out with pitchforks and torches.

    • Robyrt says:

      Yeah, GWFL worked fine for me with Dark Souls 1, except that it was an additional layer of system cruft you had to log in to, download updates for, etc. just so the developers didn’t have to write their own multiplayer interface.

      To be fair, the PC port was otherwise terrible, so GFWL integration probably made the game more stable!

      • Ruethus says:

        PC Dark Souls isn’t too bad now that it’s moved to Steamworks instead of GFWL, but I haven’t played the console version so I just have the PC version for reference.
        I had no lag in Blighttown, only occasionally had stutters, and only needed mods to increase the size of the internal frame buffer and hide the mouse cursor to make the game playable.

    • Cybron says:

      Even when GFWL was functioning optimally it was still a mess of stuff I didn’t want with a poor interface that I was required to use.

      • Lombombadom says:

        The only problem I ever had with GFWL is that their password reset service always took several hours to send the reset email. So none of my GFWL games ever got played

  21. Duoae says:

    I’ve had a couple of so-so experiences with Steam customer service – though all ended well! Mostly, it was due to them not recognising that people move around in today’s connected and muli-national world.

    However, I’ve yet to have a good experience through Origin. My dad has an account (possibly I do too but I refuse to buy anything on there even though what they’re selling as platform exclusives really don’t entice me much anyway) and he’s had nothing but trouble: Register a game key? No product shows up in his account for two weeks. No error message apart from “this Key is already registered to an account” in the software – it can’t even tell you that your registration attempt was successful!, no customer service help until late in the game where he was, regrettably informed that my sister had bought him an expansion rather than the main game – or, at least, I assume as I was never fully in on the purchase or name of it.

    I told him to make a Steam account and a GoG account. I don’t 100% like Steam but it’s pretty much guaranteed to work. GoG, on the other hand I love…. but they don’t have that many new games.

    • Kalil says:

      My only bad experience with Steam customer service was when they couldn’t help me get the Fable III DLC running – GFWL had lost the keys, and there was nothing they could do.

      I don’t really hold that against them.

  22. Kalil says:

    Golden manacles.
    I like GOG, and I would be interested in switching. Except…

    I already own a couple hundred games on Steam, I use its social functions, I use its matchmaking capabilities, I collect Steam achievements… I’m kind of hooked.

    • Reed says:

      I’m your evil opposite. The only Steam games I own are the must-haves I couldn’t get any other way (Orange Box, Portal 2).

      On the other hand, I own a couple hundred games on GOG. :)

      Cheap, no DRM, no client, no hassle. Download and install mods from any site I like…

      At first I was upset that GOG was trying to copy Steam. But then I realized… GOG Galaxy is all win for me.

      I can go right on safely ignoring it (since I don’t care about trophies or multiplayer or social fiddly-bits) — but if it helps GOG eat into Steam’s userbase, making GOG even more attractive to developers… I still benefit from Galaxy’s existence.

      All win… :)

  23. WarlockOfOz says:

    Potential dark horse in this race: Humble (of humble bundle fame). They have a store. They have a library/download manager (albeit for Android, but it shows they’re aware of the concept). So far as I know, they’re the only store that regularly provides both Android and PC versions for games in both formats. I already have several hundred games attached to my account with them.

    • Vorpal Smilodon says:

      Humble is neat, because their sales beat even the cheapest of Steam sales – if they tried integrating a client, they’d get people dipping their toe in because they just bought ten beloved indie games for a dollar.

    • Eskel says:

      Humble store is nice, but these days half of the games they sell are Steam only so I don’t see any reason for them to make their own client.

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