I recently saw an article on Tom’s Hardware which asks if Steam has a monopoly over PC gaming. It should be noted that at in the headline of the article, Tom’s mentions that some “report” (I’m assuming it’s the linked Tech Radar article) says that Steam, “has a monopoly over PC gaming”. It points to preparation for a Mac version of Steam and explains that the eventual release twists the panties of conspiracy theorists and that fingers are all pointing at Steam saying, “You see! They did it!”
Tom’s links to this article in Tech Radar. While Tom’s declares that this “report” (again, Tech Radar?) says that Steam is a monopoly, Tech Radar merely poses to question to the reader while giving the POV of all sides. My take on this is simple, while Steam is the most successful PC game digital distribution platform, it’s not the only one. This already busts the myth without even mentioning that it’s fair to say that Steam does not control PC gaming. I say control, simply because this is what’s in the dictionary definition of a monopoly. I wouldn’t even be talking about this if Steam didn’t have competitors (like Games for Windows and Direct2Drive) and Valve was forcing game makers to allow it to distribute CDs and DVDs of the games it sells. Direct2Drive sells games for the Mac and PC yet no one will even mention monopoly because, simply, it’s just not as successful as Steam.
In other words, Steam is not a monopoly. So, go relax and have some dip.
Fear of a word
Over in the States, the fear buzzword of the day is Socialism. You’ll be damned if someone points their grimy little finger at you and shouts, “This one’s a socialist!” In the tech world, ever since the big anti-trust cases against Microsoft, if you are called a monopoly, you shit yourself. Just ask Google what it feels like when they become the target of someone’s monopoly rage. Of course, this is not limited to the tech world but my point is that if you repeat a word enough and sprinkle a dash of fearmongering, you’ll get any weak-minded sheep to believe whatever drivel you wish to spew from that hole in your mouth.
Free speech is a pain, ain’t it? 😀
iTunes == Steam?
It wasn’t too long ago that these same questions were being posed when talking about iTunes. Fortunately for Apple, they learned from the demise of the industry whipping boy (Napster) that you need to make deals with the Recording mafia err… Recording companies so you can sell digital files for mass consumption. You need to make it worth their while and you need to show them that it will work. Apple apparently did just that and they became the most successful digital distribution platform for music – and that was before they dropped the crappy DRM scheme!
If anything, people should be thanking Apple for iTunes because now other retailers have gotten their act together and are now selling DRM-free digital music. Places such as Amazon and CDON.fi here in Finland. I’ve purchased music from both iTunes and CDON. I believe the same thing will happen in the digital game area once companies get their act together and figure out how to compete against Steam. To call a more successful company a monopoly, when it doesn’t even fit the definition, is giving other competitors excuses and crutches.
Steam and I, Steam and you
So, am I biased about Steam because I use it? I don’t think so. I happen to believe that someone or something deserves a label when it actually fits the definition of that label. I have bought games from Steam and I have criticisms and questions that I do not believe have been properly addressed.
Some of the comments I read on the Tom’s article are a little silly. They refer to reasons why some do not use Steam:
“I don’t use Steam because I don’t want to re-download the games if something should happen to my computer and I have to reinstall everything.”
-You can make backup copies of your games you purchase from Steam by right-clicking on the game in the Games tab and selecting “Backup game files…” This will create a backup copy that you can store wherever you like. It also creates an installer which you can use to reinstall the game.
“Steam does not allow me to play games offline. I have to be online in order to play.”
-This has already been proven false for most games. This is the Steam support article addressing how to play games offline.
The whole point of this article was to basically say that Steam does not have a monopoly over PC gaming. In fact, the whole topic should not have even been addressed and it was ludicrous to have even suggested it. In my personal opinion (Read: not fact), both Tom’s and Tech Radar wasted everyone’s time writing fluffy, fear pieces intended to drive up traffic. While Tech Radar gets kudos for merely posing the question to it’s readers, Tom’s fails hard for a sensationalist headline that was not representative of the meaning behind the Tech Radar. Assuming, that is what Tom’s meant by the so-called “report”…