Retailers in the UK are balking at the idea of selling a rival inside their stores.
Insider sources are suggesting that the UK videogame retail sector is on the verge of a mutiny over the growing influence of Valve’s digital distribution platform, Steam. Two major retailers are said to be leaning on publishers to remove Steam from their games, or the stores will refuse to stock them.
The retailers are concerned that the prevalence of Steam – used in games like Call of Duty: Black Ops and Fallout: New Vegas – will cause players to look to the service for game purchases, cutting the retailers out of the loop entirely. Further complicating the situation are retailers who are setting their own digital distribution and are reluctant to stock games that essentially promote a rival. One source, allegedly the head of a well-known digital service provider, said that Steam’s digital distribution rivals have no choice but to stock Steam games at the moment, but suggested that if bricks-and-mortar retailers stopped stocking them then publishers would reconsider using Steam in the future.
The fear that Steam is in danger of becoming a monopoly is not a new one. In Issue 245 of The Escapist, M.S. Smith outlined the most salient points of the monopoly argument in his article, “Steam: A Monopoly in the Making,” which said that despite Valve’s good intentions, the integration of Steamworks and the Steam platform itself was still hedging out competitors. It seems though, that Steam’s market share – thought to be around 80% of all PC downloads – has grown sufficiently large that retailers are aggressively trying to curtail any further growth. It’s going to be interesting to watch how this develops, because while publishers need the support of videogame retailers, the retailers need the publishers just as much.