Posted by Rampant Coyote on September 20, 2013
Is releasing a game on PC without being guaranteed on Steam a losing proposition?
Seriously, this scares me. There’s a whole lot about this that scares me. I don’t want to have an entire industry completely beholden to a single company (oh, wait, there’s Microsoft… we’re already doomed…)
I’ll tell you – the numbers, the responses, much of what they talk about here – they all look extremely familiar. Very, very familiar. They could have been talking about an RPG very near and dear to my heart.
(Except the RPG took significantly longer to make…)
This will probably shock and surprise nobody. But for games that are sold as products (instead of as services, like an MMO), Steam’s pretty much the 800 lb gorilla. If submitting and selling games via Steam was as simple as selling a game via Google Play or the App Store, that’d be one thing. You just do it. So long as your title adheres to some minimal standards, no problem. But instead, there’s the massive high-school student council election popularity contest where your game has to compete with vaporware marvels that promise the world.
But hey, after spending all that time and money generating support to get the Greenlight votes, who has anything left to actually finish a game?
As it currently exists… Steam is simultaneously enabling PC gaming on one hand, and choking the life out of it on the other. If I want to make a PC game, but I can’t guarantee a spot on Steam, it’s getting to the point where I would be very reluctant (as an actual business trying to survive making games) to do anything without some kind of prior blessing from the gods of Steam. This puts us in EXACTLY the same place we were in the bad ol’ days of the publishers dominating the landscape. This is exactly what the indie movement was trying to avoid. We didn’t intend to sacrifice a consortium of overlords for one big (if usually benevolent) overlord.
I’m going to be eternally grateful to Notch for not putting Minecraft on Steam. So at least there’s one giant title that reminds people that Steam is not the source of all indie games.
Now this is usually the point where people launch into angry tirades about how much they love Steam, justify their decisions to stick with Steam-and-almost-exclusively Steam. I know, I know. I’ve got about three metric buttloads of games on Steam, too. Amazon is my go-to place for books and my Christmas / birthday shopping, too. I even shop at Wal*Mart. But that doesn’t mean that these juggernauts don’t concern me. Honestly – I don’t want a world without Steam. Or Amazon. Or Wal*Mart, for that matter. They are convenient as hell. And they offer such service that everybody else who even wants to compete in this space has to up their game. That’s a good thing. Even when it means I have to do the same.
What I’d like to see is that these guys are always running scared of their competition, and that they and their competitors keep each other on their toes correspondingly. I’d like to see consumers that are fully educated in their decisions, and know what alternatives are out there. I think we’ll get there, but I think we need to find better ways of fighting the good fight without the juggernauts. We need to find ways to be Pepsi in a world dominated by Coca Cola. It shouldn’t be an either-or proposition for consumers or developers.
(Note – As of today I’m out of the country, and I have a bunch of blog posts – some guest posts – set to auto-post while I’m gone. I’ll try and go “live” when I can, but I don’t know the quality of the connection from where I’ll be. Bangladesh, for those who might be curious… with a pit-stop on the way back in Thailand. Day-job stuff. Anyway, I may be a little slow responding to comments as a result. Sorry.)
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