Digital Distribution: The Other Guys

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Digital Distribution: The Other Guys

There are more (and better) options than just Steam and Origin.

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Mr. Shamus, I believe that GOG.com recently announced that they have plans to enter the triple A race, I believe they said it was going to be somewhere around this year (I believe it's sort of implied here http://www.gog.com/en/news/gog_coms_plan_for_the_future_gets_some_news but I can't find where they actually said that), so yeah we have that to look forward too.

For what its worth ive done direct to drive and its a good service. In fact somehow, somewhere it plucked my gamer tag from DOW so i have the rights to download it from them. so yeah my two cents.

I use GamersGate, the only major trouble I have with it not being a client is that it just becomes one of a thousand different accounts I have and another website I have to visit. Steam is a program, I can just pull it up and see the deals.

It also doesn't seem to has sales quite as regularly. Steam always has three going every week: the Daily Deal, the Midweek Madness, and the Weekend Deal. And sometimes it's running two Weekend Deals at once. It's hard to compete with that kind of saving.

That said, it's literally the only place to pre-order a digital copy of anything Paradox Interactive makes, so I've always been a loyal GamersGate customer.

Kaleion:
Mr. Shamus, I believe that GOG.com recently announced that they have plans to enter the triple A race, I believe they said it was going to be somewhere around this year (I believe it's sort of implied here http://www.gog.com/en/news/gog_coms_plan_for_the_future_gets_some_news but I can't find where they actually said that), so yeah we have that to look forward too.

They aren't getting into the AAA market they want to try to get into the indie market. The no DRM policy means that they are not the most attractive to mainstream publishers. Especially since they are involved in legal action with Namco BANDAI over removal of DRM from the witcher 2 and breaking a distribution agreement.

As far as I'm concerned, Steam and GOG complement each other very nicely.

As for GFWL I always thought it was clunky and stupid, but never outright evil... until 2 days ago when I decided I wanted to replay Arkham City. That piece of satanic software jerked me around for an hour before it finally allowed me to play.

-"What's that? You want to play your game? You'll need to sign in first."
-"Wait, no! I need an update before I can let you sign in. Just click here."
-"Oh never mind, I can't be updated here. Quit the game and look for me on the web."
-"Oh and, I may be called Games FOR WINDOWS Live, but you have to download me at Xbox.com"
-"Great, I'm updated, try signing in now!"
-"Nope. I can't connect you even though your LiveID is universal across all live services such as Mail which you use everyday and works."
-"No I can't tell you why, just that I don't work"
-"BTW, don't try even launching the game 'cause It'll crash without Xlive.dll, which I somehow didn't install properly."

>9000 reinstalls later: "Ok ok, I'll install properly this time, thanks for spending time with me; I get lonely :("

"I could dedicate an entire column to cataloging the comprehensive failures of GFWL."

Oh wait; you already did.

You could do it again though; its that terrible.

The other relatively big player (and honestly one of the more interesting ones right now) is Direct2Drive, recently rebranded/taken over by "Gamefly."

Nothing much seems to have changed this time around, aside from the fact that all prior owners of D2D games were told to download them off the service now, because continued offerings were not guaranteed.
In other words, a digital shop changed hands, and customer's goods may disappear.

Currently, the relaunch has happened, and ~65% of my D2D library is no longer available. (the rest requiring a separate downloadable digital storefront to be running)

This is a nightmarish vision of the future of unsuccessful business ventures in this realm: If the store you buy things from goes under, your things vanish. If any of the big players go under, hundreds of thousands to millions may lose the things they bought. Which is as good an argument as I've ever heard for limiting the number of players in this particular field.

(Also, what about OnLive?)

Ah, good to see someone mention Gamers Gate for a change.

I love Gamers Gate and it doesn't get near enough love.

Someone looking for console digital distribution stuff and uses google, and finds this will be disappointed since nothing around is specifying that one is talking about PC digital distribution.

albino boo:

Kaleion:
-snip-

They aren't getting into the AAA market they want to try to get into the indie market. The no DRM policy means that they are not the most attractive to mainstream publishers. Especially since they are involved in legal action with Namco BANDAI over removal of DRM from the witcher 2 and breaking a distribution agreement.

Oh, thanks for pointing that out, I knew I got something wrong, oh well.

Steam and GoG baby, enough said.

I get so angry when I realize I have purchased a game that uses GFWL. Worst service ever. And they can't even bring themselves to proficiently program the service software, it's so clunky. AND to beat it all, there is not even the illusion that the games are protected from piracy. If a game uses GFWL, you don't even need a crack to play an illegally downloaded version. I can't wait till companies are smart enough to stop using them. THQ abandoned it, Capcom abandoned it, every company that has ever used it eventually gets rid of it. I feel Rocksteady was duped into using it for Arkham City.

"I could dedicate an entire column to cataloging the comprehensive failures of GFWL. Every single aspect of the system is horrible and infuriating. GFWL is a plague on PC gaming. It doesn't need to improve, it needs to die. And then Microsoft needs to apologize to everyone inconvenienced by it."

I don't pawn words off without merit, but even with that in mind, I love you Shamus. That perfectly encapsulated everybodies thoughts on the matter.

Sorry but it feels a little disingenuous for you to have made an article like this and missed out:
Direct2Drive / Gamefly
Green Man Gaming
Get Games
Amazon digital download (which seems to be trying to make Steam look bad at the moment).

Surely it wouldn't have taken much research to factor these companies into the equation, although I'll admit revenue figures for digital distribution are hard to come by. Get Games in particular is a small company but right now had Deus Ex: HR for 9 and Serious Sam 3 for 10.

Casimir_Effect:
Sorry but it feels a little disingenuous for you to have made an article like this and missed out:
Direct2Drive / Gamefly
Green Man Gaming
Get Games
Amazon digital download (which seems to be trying to make Steam look bad at the moment).

Surely it wouldn't have taken much research to factor these companies into the equation, although I'll admit revenue figures for digital distribution are hard to come by. Get Games in particular is a small company but right now had Deus Ex: HR for 9 and Serious Sam 3 for 10.

"disingenuous" implies that I was being dishonest. I said very clearly at the top of the post that I haven't used D2D. Moreover, yes, with "some research" I could have found out about those other service, but knowing they exist is not the same as using them. It would have taken more than a "little" research to buy games and evaluate them all.

This isn't a comprehensive study. It's my own analysis of the major players.

I'd like to point out that in my experience only GOG, Steam, and Gamers Gate are available to Australian customers (and Origin and GFWL of course). Gamers Gate offers UK prices to Australians so very often have cheaper new releases than Steam which indulges in regional pricing.

Great article, definitely going to give Gamers Gate a look.

Shamus Young:
Digital Distribution: The Other Guys

There are more (and better) options than just Steam and Origin.

Read Full Article

As some have stated, Direct2drive has been rebranded as Gamefly, which in my opinion is a bad thing. Not necessarily because I don't like Gamefly, but because their pricing is no longer good. I used to occasionally buy games from D2D for the expensive titles I was interested in. Most recent ones are Battlefield 3 and Syndicate, for 52 dollar prepurchase, because I refuse to pay 60 dollars for a PC game. Now that they're Gamefly, those prices seem to have disappeared :(

My experience with Origin, I could indeed register my Mass Effect 2 and most of my Spore addons stuff, but oddly enough it won't take my "Galactic Edition" key for Spore itself, which is kind of confusing. Maybe I should try again and see if it'll work this time.

Gamers Gate has been kind of on my radar for a little bit, but I've got that good old brand name familiarity that's been keeping me with Steam, as well as the fact that Gamers Gate, as stated, REALLY doesn't get brought up a lot. From what you said, that sounds like a real shame, and I may give it a shot and start pushing it on my friends if it's as good as it sounds!

Also: Glad to see more articles from you, Shamus... I really kind of missed your writing.

I can't agree more about Impulse. I got an account with them because I got a couple of hard copy StarDock games a little over a year ago, and I absolutely loved their method of digital distribution: no DRM, no special install paths, no need to even have Impulse running unless you were trying to update an old game or download a new one. Unfortunately, I didn't buy a single other game until almost a year after I got the two hard copy games, because Stardock didn't have the clout to get deals that were in any way competitive with Steam. Gamestop does, and it shows. My Impulse library went from two games to nine over the course of a month, and it never would have happened if Gamestop hadn't bought them out. Despite the fact that Gamestop owns it, I can't recommend the service enough.

One nitpick, though: they didn't just announce the buyout early in the year; they did it on April Fools Day. Nobody believed the press release at first because of it XD

I was reading through your list of articles about Games for Windows LIVE, having a good chuckle, as it so perfectly matches my experience.

Then, buried in the comments of another site, I found this absolute little gem of a comment by a fella named Swimon, which I have reproduced here, free of charge, and aside from the fact that the dude eats pineapple on his pizza, it is solid gold.

Enjoy.

some dude named swimon from another website:

What would it be like if GFWL was a pizza delivery service?

I can see it now: you order a pizza wait a few minutes and then he arrives. A tall man with a blank empty stare
-"what do you want?"
-"A Hawaii, how much is that?" I answer
-"800 microsoft points". Confused I look at him like he just said he was 8 Tesla tall.
-"Ok... Can I buy those? If so how much for 800 Microsoft points."
-"20$ for 1000 Microsoft points."
-"I only want 800 though."
-"20$ for 1000 Microsoft points."
-"...Whatever here." At this point I'm severely creeped out and just want him gone so I give him the money.
-"Ok you have bought the pizza."
-"I gathered that... So... are you going to bring me it?" Several minutes passes as he stares at me, or rather through me at the wall behind me.
-"Ok you have the Pizza." I look around just in case I missed something but find no Pizza.
-"I do not, I think it's still in your car." He says nothing, after a while I realise there is no way around this and goes out to the car and get the pizza myself as I return he actually answers.
-"See you have the pizza."

Confused angry and tired I close the door in his face, but before I can shut it he slams it open grabs me by the arm and pulls a gun. At this time I'm inches away from pissing my pants.
-"We are updating our services, do you agree? Note that if you do not you will not be able to use the ordered pizza."
-"Sure" I peep, convinced that these are my last minutes of this world. He stares at me for a short while and then he leaves without a word.

Half a pizza later I have almost successfully repressed this memory when I suddenly hear his voice again.
-"You have eaten half the pizza." Before I can call 911 he has already left without another word.

Ok so that got somewhat long-winded. Bottom line: I HATE GFWL it's worse than most DRM, it's worse than some malware and it's just plain rude.

Shamus, I'm actually quite shocked that you haven't mentioned Desura yet.

It's an online distribution platform and community that supports mods and has quite a collection under it's belt. It even has an expansive amount of indie titles as well.

On top of that, if you picked up any of the Royal Indie Bundles, most of the mods are compatible with Desura (including some that are not compatible with Steam).

It's worth checking out:

http://www.desura.com/

I kinda miss desura on that list as well - they might not compete with steam or Origin, but they serve a very important nieche clientel that might become very important as smaller studios gain marketshares from the DRM-crazy big guys.

Shamus Young:

This isn't a comprehensive study. It's my own analysis of the major players.

Well, fair enough, but for a balanced analysis, I'ld at least mention the smaller players.

Why has no one mentioned he forgot Onlive?

I love that service! (Mainly because I can play games I could normally not play on my crappy PC, and also that I can just replay the 30 min demo on Homefront for as long as I want :3)

These guys need to learn from each other, while Steam offers almost everything the service has gotten extremely cumbersome, to the point that games work far better with a non Steam patch and browsing games is quicker if you go to their site through a regular browser.

Actually I just wish the smaller guys would pick up from Steam and learn from their mistakes, expand your game library to become a feasible replacement, make a tighter website, offer more discounts, make an ultra lightweight but optional client,but most importantly do not waste peoples time (load games first do all the other shit in the background).
Just overall cater to the customer and not to yourself, offer people a better experience then Steam and you can easily get them to jump ship.

Shamus Young:

Casimir_Effect:
Sorry but it feels a little disingenuous for you to have made an article like this and missed out:
Direct2Drive / Gamefly
Green Man Gaming
Get Games
Amazon digital download (which seems to be trying to make Steam look bad at the moment).

Surely it wouldn't have taken much research to factor these companies into the equation, although I'll admit revenue figures for digital distribution are hard to come by. Get Games in particular is a small company but right now had Deus Ex: HR for 9 and Serious Sam 3 for 10.

"disingenuous" implies that I was being dishonest. I said very clearly at the top of the post that I haven't used D2D. Moreover, yes, with "some research" I could have found out about those other service, but knowing they exist is not the same as using them. It would have taken more than a "little" research to buy games and evaluate them all.

This isn't a comprehensive study. It's my own analysis of the major players.

I was using it more to imply a lack of sincerity as opposed to dishonesty, as I read your comment about not having used D2D. I'm just surprised you wouldn't ask those who read your blog or follow your twitter (if you have one) their opinion on the various other services. Polling the readership is quite a common data-gathering method.

"GFWL is a plague on PC gaming. It doesn't need to improve, it needs to die. And then Microsoft needs to apologize to everyone inconvenienced by it."

Sadly this is a moderate opinion on GFWL. It really is that bad. Most peoples' review of the service would simply be a picture of some vomit. Im honestly astonished byond belief every time i see a GFWL game actually function. Not function well, just actually let you boot the game up. Bioshock 2 and Dirt 2 are RETAIL games i have bought with GFWL (they were ultra cheap) and they simply would not function. At all. I had to crack them.

GoG and Gamer's Gate deserve more attention i agree but there is something to be said about having a well intergrated service like STEAM has.

I like Gamersgate, but mainly because I am a longtime Paradox fan. They are just not competitive enough with Steam for non-strategy mainstream games, especially in sales.

GFWL? They destroyed my Fable III saves just the other day. "Corrupted" for some inane reason, and since the files are encrypted I can't even use some else's.

As for Origin... the client is awful, and while I /could/ activate my copy of Mass Effect 2, it refuses my key for Mass Effect 1. Hit and miss, but at least it isn't as awful as GFWL.

okay shamus are we going to have regular expeienced points again? because i've missed them. is this just a short stretch of a few articles to tease us or i'm i going to have thoughts on gaming provoked on fridays again? just asking so i'm not angry/mad/dissappointed when i don't see these on fridays.

OT; i haven't really used anything other than steam. I'm one of those old fashioned people that prefer physical copies. It annoys me to no end when a physical discs just have a steam install and a install code, but i see the writing on the wall. I'm still resistant to Origin and i'm not crazy about any other platforms... but well i may hae to deal with it.

As for games for windows live... i don't think it's fair to call it digital distrubution platform, thats an insult to all other DD platforms. I'd say it more of a disease that costs money. maybe legitimized malware.

I mostly use Steam and GOG.

I looked at Impulse before, having been installed alongside GalCiv2. After seeing Freespace 2 on there for $19.99, I decided it wasn't really worth my business.

Not a HUGE fan of Steam (DRM of any kind has me boycotting (or at least buying new) EVERY Ubisoft/EA game for example)...and that's how it feels whenever I use Steam - if it decides to work.

But, on the other hand, I L-O-V-E Good Old Games.
I've probably toss more than I should have at them.

Shamus Young:
For example, I've never used Direct2Drive. Nothing against them, I just haven't experienced their service before.

I have, and they've been my favorite for a while now.

The download program they provide has been hassle-free, and they'll still let you download your stuff without using it.

Outside of the US, they're often cheaper than Steam, but then, so is retail. Generally, Steam is HUGELY overpriced once you cross the pond.

More than a few times, I've been throughly puzzled by how a game like, say, MW3 or Black Ops, could cost 40% less off D2D compared to Steam, only to find out that said game needs to bind itself to my Steam account, after which I get the same as everyone else. Makes no sense.

I've also been a long-time paying subscriber to IGN, which among other things netted me a 15% discount off D2D, something which has paid for the sub a few times over by now.

But alas, D2D is actually merging with GameFly, as it were. One can only hope they're as hassle-free under a different banner.

omicron1:
The other relatively big player (and honestly one of the more interesting ones right now) is Direct2Drive, recently rebranded/taken over by "Gamefly."

Nothing much seems to have changed this time around, aside from the fact that all prior owners of D2D games were told to download them off the service now, because continued offerings were not guaranteed.
In other words, a digital shop changed hands, and customer's goods may disappear.

Currently, the relaunch has happened, and ~65% of my D2D library is no longer available. (the rest requiring a separate downloadable digital storefront to be running)

This is a nightmarish vision of the future of unsuccessful business ventures in this realm: If the store you buy things from goes under, your things vanish. If any of the big players go under, hundreds of thousands to millions may lose the things they bought. Which is as good an argument as I've ever heard for limiting the number of players in this particular field.

(Also, what about OnLive?)

The account transferral process only just began on Tuesday. To be fair I think it might be a little early to call disaster on it. On Wednesday I noticed several things weren't listed on my account history and sent a support ticket asking if I should be concerned. They responded within 6 hours telling me it was a known issue, it wasn't just me and that their migration techs were working on it. 2 days later and my account history is up to date. That's an understandable hiccup and perfectly acceptable customer service if you ask me.

I got their emails weeks ago letting me know about the merge and the potential for the odd title to not make the cut on the new service. They assured me that affected games' owners would be contacted (presumably for voucher/credit) and that all other games would be rolled into the service in the following months.

I was also encouraged to download and backup anything I might want to play in the near future to avoid unnecessary inconvenience. Frankly, they gave me ample time to do so and were very upfront about the situation. What else could you ask of them? I'm sorry I just don't see the nightmarish vision of the future in that.

Thank you Shamus.

Dawn of War 2, on sale on Gamersgate, 75% off, 3.75. Bargain. Added to Steam library. Yay.

UnderGlass:

omicron1:
The other relatively big player (and honestly one of the more interesting ones right now) is Direct2Drive, recently rebranded/taken over by "Gamefly."

Nothing much seems to have changed this time around, aside from the fact that all prior owners of D2D games were told to download them off the service now, because continued offerings were not guaranteed.
In other words, a digital shop changed hands, and customer's goods may disappear.

Currently, the relaunch has happened, and ~65% of my D2D library is no longer available. (the rest requiring a separate downloadable digital storefront to be running)

This is a nightmarish vision of the future of unsuccessful business ventures in this realm: If the store you buy things from goes under, your things vanish. If any of the big players go under, hundreds of thousands to millions may lose the things they bought. Which is as good an argument as I've ever heard for limiting the number of players in this particular field.

(Also, what about OnLive?)

The account transferral process only just began on Tuesday. To be fair I think it might be a little early to call disaster on it. On Wednesday I noticed several things weren't listed on my account history and sent a support ticket asking if I should be concerned. They responded within 6 hours telling me it was a known issue, it wasn't just me and that their migration techs were working on it. 2 days later and my account history is up to date. That's an understandable hiccup and perfectly acceptable customer service if you ask me.

I got their emails weeks ago letting me know about the merge and the potential for the odd title to not make the cut on the new service. They assured me that affected games' owners would be contacted (presumably for voucher/credit) and that all other games would be rolled into the service in the following months.

I was also encouraged to download and backup anything I might want to play in the near future to avoid unnecessary inconvenience. Frankly, they gave me ample time to do so and were very upfront about the situation. What else could you ask of them? I'm sorry I just don't see the nightmarish vision of the future in that.

It's not an actual disaster so much as a preview of what one could look like; a realization that all the stuff in many digital libraries may one day go "poof."

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