Steam is the king of the digital distribution castle right now but GamersGate CEO Theo Bergquist thinks it will have a hard time staying atop that hill in the future as the market broadens and other alternatives come online.
The undisputed king of the digital distribution jungle is Steam, the DRM and distribution service Valve rolled out in 2003. The selection is huge, the sales are great and let’s face it, the guys at Valve are pretty cool. But there are a number of other good, reliable digital distribution services available to PC gamers as well, like GOG, Direct2Drive, Impulse and GamersGate, and they’re coming on strong. GamersGate saw a 72 percent jump in sales over the holidays, which Bergquist attributed in part to gamers seeing it as a “better alternative” to Steam.
“To be honest, we’re not afraid of Steam. We think they are peaking now while the market is still very hardcore,” he told IndustryGamers. “In fact, we know from the feedback we receive from customers, one of the reasons we have such great growth is because many gamers out there don’t like Steam and see Gamersgate as a better alternative. Once digital sales are superior to physical sales, we believe Steam will have a harder time remaining number one.”
“We don’t have any market breakdown of the overall numbers. Some people say Steam has 50 percent of the market, some say 80 percent, but we don’t know,” he continued. “What we do know is that Steam’s marketshare will shrink in the future and that GamersGate is well positioned as one of the digital distribution platforms that has strong momentum to gain marketshare.”
There’s no doubt that Steam’s market share will decrease as the market widens and other services grow in popularity, but I find it hard to imagine it not being the big cheese, at least among core gamers. Bergquist’s remark about peaking while the market is still hardcore is interesting, however, because if anything is going to push Steam off its throne it will be services that cater to the casual demographic. The Steam client, with its integrated friends list, achievements and the like has obvious appeal to core gamers but may not ring the same bell with the mainstream market. Berquist touched on that point as well, saying that GamersGate’s “client-free experience, a robust reward program, and a DRM-friendly policy will appeal to the masses once they decide to go digital.”