Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by bit-tech, 26 Apr 2019.
While I agree that 30% is an excessive cut for a digital store, I don't believe the claim from Sweeney that he would put a halt to keeping games hostage for one second.
To be honest, I hope that they continue with 'exclusives'*, and so continue to effectively dump money on developers (not so keen on doing it with publisher-produced games, as developer front-funding is the only reasons publishers have to exist in the first place anymore). The Steam monopoly's back needs to be broken, and forcible separation of game sales & distirbution - give money, receive executable - and ancillary services - matchmaking, in-game chat, modding (which should not be a bloody service in the first place!) is long overdue.
*If it's installed on your PC, it's as 'exclusive' as being unwilling to double-click a different shortcut. If a slight redirection of your mouse cursor is too much to deal with (or adding that shortcut to the Steam library if you insist on jumping through that hoop), I will play you a sad chiptune on the world's smallest MIDI synth.
Steam doesn't have a monopoly, though, does it? There are a number of other platforms on which games are released - Origin, Uplay, Epic, GOG... And you can buy your Steam keys from a multitude of vendors and redeem them on Steam quite happily.
And wishing for more exclusives is pretty bizarre: what I want is to be able to buy my games from wherever I like, so that vendors will compete on price and those savings are passed on directly to me, the customer. If games are only available from a single vendor (even if that exclusivity is time-limited) then where's the incentive to keep prices low?
While the idea of actual indie devs being able to pick up funding somewhere (for example a store or crowdfunding) sounds nice in theory, it falls flat on its face when you consider software like We Happy Few which went from unfinished indie game to unfinished (but released anyway) AAA sludge overnight.
Do you think those who had funded it before Gearbox turned up to poach the corpse had any recourse? Of course not and the exact same thing will apply if a developer funded by Epic pulls shady stuff.
Steam doesn't have a monopoly: EA, Ubisoft, Blizzard and many others have both their own stores and distribution systems.
Plus even when games are available on Steam, that doesn't necessitate giving Valve a single penny, you can buy the game in whatever Store the developer gave keys to.
Further to the above, it is utterly hypocritical to moan about Steam offering an all in solution covering store, distribution and ancillary services.
What do you think Origin is?
What do you think the Epic store is?
What do you think the Blizzard thingamjig is?
Guess what, the answer to all three questions is the same as they are all in one solutions covering Store, Distribution and ancillary services just like Steam.
And no, them being inferior to Steam does not absolve them of their desire to be all in one solutions.
Either way: For being in favour of the gross anti-consumer practice of exclusives, welcome to the ignore list.
Ask any developer whether Steam has a de-facto monopoly of the PC gaming market, and you'll get an emphatic yes. Unless you are already a mega-star AAA franchise publisher with millions to dump on advertising, if you're not on Steam you don't get sales.
1) There is 0 chance of that happening organically with the current status quo
2) That would require an across-the-board switch to a wholesale + markup model for digital distribution, rather than the current sale-price-percentage-split model. Again, not something that is going to happen organically with the status quo.
And even that does not guarantee sale price competition, as evidenced by the lack thereof from brick & mortar stores on game releases. Even Amazon with their much lower overheads generally only shave £1-2 off on new release prices, if that.
That's already the case with Steam's de-facto monopoly. Valve has the sales volume clout that if someone wants to set the base sale price on another store lower than on Steam, Valve can reply "either don't do that, or lower the Steam price to match, or we'll delist your game" ('Price Parity' clause) and be confidant of compliance. Once that model is broken, and one vendor does not hold control of the supermajority of the market, then developers and publishers have the ability to pushback against incumbents with a reduced risk of total loss of sales.
Alternatively, if you're on Steam and you aren't a AAA game or have millions to spend on advertising you don't get sales because you have to fight your way to the top of the store page. Along the way you have to compete with
1) AAA anything
3) The other games
4) The **** that's also on Steam
for space on the front of the store.
Being on the Epic store (or any other store) isn't much of a fix for that problem in the long term.
We've been there done that with a PC games store where every game was guaranteed visibility, that store was Steam.
And look at what happened next, the developers who where not on Steam cried and whined about missing out on the money they falsely believed to be entitled to, until Valve decided to throw open the doors, then they started crying about too much competition.
Yep, Steam is either front page ('Discovery Queue'), or naff all. Which isn't great when algorithm changes can suddenly drop you from the Discovery Queue. Devs are not happy:
Maybe Valve should offer a tiered system.
Offer the devs low cost access and just give them basic digital delivery minus the trading cards, minus marketplace, minus workshop access, minus dev/pub showcase pages, minus discussions, minus ... erm, other stuff.
While that may be valuable for developers, that would be an anti-feature for Valve: cards/badges/pins/achievements/chat/workshop/matchmaking/etc are all 'lock in' features that serve to keep customers within the Steam ecosystem. Removing them means lower revenue (and for things like trading cards, a direct revenue hit due to Valve's cut of all transactions).
That might be too complex and unworkable, best way around it for Steam that I can think off would be to use some of the their mountains of money to fund promotion of good new games, say for example if Valve paid to put ads for good games on sites like Bit-tech.
That would not only be a tacit admission that Steam's algorithmic discovery technique is critically flawed (without addressing the problem), but also would be more expensive than Steam returning to manual frontpage curation (as was the case for many years).
Yes, the algorithms are deeply flawed (I'll just disregard people like myself who have put in the legwork to figure out ways to game the algorithm to make them work), but everyone already knows that... so Valve admitting it wouldn't change all that much.
As for it costing money, would it really? Because if they picked the right games to advertise externally it would increase sales (of which Valve takes an overly generous cut), which would keep the cost fairly minimal or even increase income.
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