According to The Escapist and several other game journalist sites Steam is on the verge of a monopoly in the digital distribution of games. Consumers don’t want this, developers don’t want this, publishers don’t want this. In fact Valve is the only company who would enjoy it if they became the Walmart of digital game distribution, for a while at least.
The Walmart analogy doesn’t end there though. In the article they mention that Walmart has determined the size of PC game boxes. They refuse to stock them if they aren’t the dimensions that they have demanded, and this causes the gaming industry to meet their demands or lose billions.
Do you want to know another reason for which Steam is like Walmart? It’s because it’s the best out there for what it is. I can get almost anything at Walmart as long as I’m not worried about quality. Honestly I’m not a Q-Tip aficionado and I don’t care if there is a real quality $100 for 10 version, I just want some damn Q-Tips.
With Steam I can get any computer game I want, regardless of whether local stores have it “in stock” or not. I can get it at any time of the day or night, just like Walmart. Of course the same holds true for any digital distribution site, so why will I stick with Steam instead of trying out Direct2Drive or Impulse? The answer is simplicity and extras. With Steam I don’t have to load up my browser, go to their site, log in, look up what I want (if they haven’t decided not to carry it on principle *cough*Modern Warfare 2 *cough*) and then get it. I just click the little Steam icon and I am in a program where I can easily buy something OR launch my games.
The biggest thing for me though? Connecting with my friends and family. If I buy a game through steam I can IM people while in game, I can know if my friends are online, what they are playing and if they just bought a game I really like and if I should invite them to play it with me. And sure, Steam can load non-Steam games and allow some of that, but why would I not buy through Steam if their service is the best around? That’d be like refusing to buy a Mercedes because you can get a Honda Civic with an MP3 player, but the Mercedes costs the exact same in this case.
If Impulse and Direct2Drive want to compete then they need to offer me the same enjoyment I get from Steam, complete with achievements, social networking, video game news, an easy to navigate store, and then add in something I’m not expecting but really want because at this point they are so far behind they need to not only match Steam, but exceed it in order to draw me away.
I hope Steam does NOT get a monopoly. I hope this because competition breeds improvement and I want the best gaming experience possible.