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It's hard to think of the PC game world without Steam, but what about beyond it?

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In the world of digital distribution on the PC platform, Steam is king. With over 15 million users and growing, Steam provides gamers with a robust selection of games they can pull down off the internet without leaving their chair. Add to this achievement awards, integrated server browsers, friend lists along with other community features and you have a service that has yet to be rivaled in the PC domain. With both independent and AAA developers clamouring to hop on-board the Steam train (yes, I went there), it seems Steam is the end all and be all of digitally distributed games (and possibly other entertainment as well) on the PC. It's hard to think of the PC game world without Steam, but what about beyond it? Here's a couple of options that could prove to be contenders in the near future:

Beyond Steam

Impulse

Impulse is Stardock's (Sins of the Solar Empire, Galactic Civilizations II) new digital distribution platform currently in beta. Impulse will not only serve as a digital hub for PC games but also serve desktop enhancements and other Windows utility programs, effectively collating all of Stardock's products into one place. Those who want to test drive the new digital storefront can do so by downloading the latest beta preview of Impulse. Given Stardock's success on the aforementioned titles — both without the use of aggravating DRM technologies — and keen business acumen contrary to the cries of many other developers, it will be interesting to see how they integrate their own Secure Software Delivery technology.

Beyond Steam

Greenhouse

Greenhouse is another digital distribution platform in beta that's the brainchild of Vancouver-based Hothead Games and the guys behind the popular webcomic Penny Arcade. While partnering together in the development of their game, On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, they realized the need for their own platform to distribution their game on, says Mike Krahulik (Gabe) of Penny Arcade,

We developed Greenhouse along with Hothead originally because we needed a way to deliver our game to you guys. What we needed was a platform agnostic digital [distribution] portal. Once it was done we realised that it could actually be super useful to other independent developers. At first Greenhouse will be the place to get our game but eventually we'd like to use it as a way of promoting great independent games that might otherwise slide under the radar.

Precipice will be the first game featured on the service and all other subsequent games are to be hand-picked Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins of Penny Arcade. This service could prove to give small, independent developers a commercial foothold while at the same time promoting the the diversity and creative flair that independent projects exhibit.

Overall, it's great to have a service like Steam spearheading the movement to digital distribution for PC games. It's my hope though, that some healthy competition is introduced to keep the guys at Valve honest because as great as Steam is - if no one else comes along - it's only a matter of time until they want a bigger piece of the pie (*ahem*).

Comments  (0 - 50 of 62)
BadgerDeluxe
BadgerDeluxe

This is good news, but I'm afraid that the coming of these new platforms will make other dull-minded developers want to make their "own version of Steam," and then we'll have tons of freaking digital distribution programs on our hard drives just because different games will begin spreading out to all of them.

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--ares--
--ares--

good point look at music, napster, Itunes , aol music ect
I like it when its nice and simple

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DrSmiles
DrSmiles

I don't think computability will become a huge issue. There will probably be a handful of Digital Distribution Platforms (DDPs), and they'll probably play decently friendly with each other.

EA has their own DDP. I believe it's called "EA Downloadeder" (amazing, huh?). But even if you've heard of it, I doubt you're using it. Steam is the reigning champion because it offers the most to both developers and consumers. If this shifts, then it shifts.

It's kind of like Search Engines. There are a few of the kingpings (mainly Google, then Yahoo, then MSN). There are also smaller ones, but they're mainly not of importance, and only a select few use them. I can't see the amount of DDPs going past 3 or so main ones.

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warll
warll

"believe it's called "EA Downloadeder" (amazing, huh?)"
Well for a time it was, then EA Link and now its EA Store. Really I wouldn't have minded the name changes had EA not lost my account and my purchases along with it. I have since gone to another DDP system, aka Bittorrent for my future EA Game needs.

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TehSpock
TehSpock

Google runs the Yahoo search engine.

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Lucífer
Lucífer

Steam will take them away in the end.
Steam is God
the rest are like Mortals.

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Commissar1032
Commissar1032

dude you are so freaking right sure Steam has its major screw ups but its great and usually never fails and with something like "Impulse" Coming out it sounds like a cheep bitch imitation. If some one agrees with me just say XXXX <-(your name) agrees with Commisr1032

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DjozeR
DjozeR

Yeah, I'm not going to use hundreds of digital distribution platforms. I think it's better if there is only one. Otherwise it doesn't make sense if every developer got their own platform again. It would be the same like without any platform :P

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Dragonlord
Dragonlord

(buried)

Erm... Steam god send? ... okay, so what would be missing if steam is missing:

1) No more crashing at every click
2) Games you can finally "manually install" without having to totally reformat whenever the installer "fails for no reason"
3) Backups are the most important on a PC! yet steam prevents any sane form of backups
4) Update drama: incorrect updates, conflicting version and broken patching. The reason why manual updates rule
5) Online while playing? The most sick idea up to date and steam enforces it

finally Steam = Spyware. All the infos it collects about you about what you play, when, with whome... all this privacy infringements alone should make this software banned. So... still a god's gift?

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BadgerDeluxe
BadgerDeluxe

Well, you seem to be affected by the worst of it. Me and all of my friends use Steam and have no problems with it. It's a god send for us. :P

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Th3S1ckneSs
Th3S1ckneSs

Steam is a little annoying with the constant update but its really good when it comes to managing games and talking to friends.

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dinky
dinky

I really don't give a crap about info collection on my hardware while I play. Just as long as it doesn't crap out my performance

But I dislike Steam for my own reasons.

One big one is the big mess it is. If you want to mod a program on Steam, you basically have to modify AROUND Steam. It's a mess.

For starters the directory path is just irritating. Why does everything have to be installed at "C:/Program Files/Steam/Steamapps/blah/moreblah/"

I prefer gaming/modding without Steam.

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DrSmiles
DrSmiles

I don't see why you're complaining about backing up, as they already store it off-site for you.

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Dragonlord
Dragonlord

The principle of a backup is to store critical stuff ( hence stuff you can "not" restore from a "default installation" ) on a physically detached medium "not" on the same HD ( hd failure = everything including backups lost ). But the system is so entangled that doing manual backups is a pain ( and restoring an even bigger pain ).

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ehal256
ehal256

Do you not know how to copy and paste? Just copy the damn steamapps directory to your backup location. How is that "so entangled"?
Also, almost nothing is automatic in Steam, you can tell any piece of software installed in Steam to not update, if you wish. You can tell them not to survey your hardware, etc. You can run Steam in Offline mode, which precludes the need for internet access while running the software, which seems to be such a huge issue for you and others.

And what do you mean by "2) Games you can finally "manually install" without having to totally reformat whenever the installer "fails for no reason"."
Doesn't even make sense. If you need to reinstall a game with Steam, for whatever reason, just backup all your saves/data you need to keep, and delete the directory, then reinstall it. I don't know what you mean by "whenever the installer "fails for no reason" either because I've never once had a game install fail with Steam... Not with the SDK, not with any game's I've purchased through it.. Even if an installer "fails for no reason" (which, by the way, makes no sense, no software fails for no reason, there's obviously a problem which you have and no one else has, fix your own computer, don't complain about Steam) you can just use the extremely complicated copy+paste backup system which Steam forces you to use so you never have to reinstall any Steam software again. ^^

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Sallycin
Sallycin

With no offense intended, I believe you're not seeing the point people are attempting to make. That point being that Steam, at this point, works properly for the VAST MAJORITY of people. Just like any piece of software, it may have occasional errors with certain machines, but just because YOU are having those problems with it does not mean said problems are universal. Everyone I know who uses Steam enjoys it, and that seems to be a fair indication.

And I believe that the problems people are posting about on forums (that you mentioned) were largely posted when Steam was first coming out. Since then, the quantity of issues has dramatically improved, and only a small number of people post about errors on forums.

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Lucífer
Lucífer

Basically, Dragonlord is a lazy ignorant git who wants things to be done pretty much for him without him having to lift much of a finger.
Where he has had problems, probably because he's done something wrong.
He can't admit to that it's his fault and not steams.
Sorry Steam ****** you up so bad DL, but your crappy attempts to 'insult' people calling them steam fanboys is rather childish, anyone who defends steam is a fanboy?..they could be girls you never know XD
but anyway...dig dig dig

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Lucífer
Lucífer

actually.

1) Your computer must suck or YOU did something wrong because mine never crashes upon click.
2) reformat? what, delete the traces of that ONE game then download it again?..heck, you hardly even have to do that.
3) Just copy and paste where the games are and stick them somewhere, backups done.
4) Never really happened, stop thinking back to the years ago when Steam was roughly as bad as a beta, it's decent NOW.
5) Actually, if you cannot get onto the internet, you can play it offline. Guess you're to stupid to figure that out though.

Stop looking back at how bad it was and how good it is now.

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purplehaze412
purplehaze412

Noooooo, I acidently hit the negative karma button!!! NO!!!@~!@~12

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Varsity
Varsity

I can't see either of those doing much to help mods. As far as I can see, they're just download clients/store fronts.

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stenchy Author
stenchy

This is more directed at options for independent commercial games and how we'll be able to obtain the other, AAA titles people might want to mod for on the future.

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kinesis916
kinesis916

It is good that things like this are turning up. I like to have a choice. Though I ave no experiance using such services.

I could see the possibility that while there are lots of services out there, many will powered by the a core few. Much like many search functions on many websites are powered by say Google. The initial front design may be different, but the underlying system is effectivley the same.

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FJS
FJS

Steam rules, I don't think any of the new plataforms will have more users than Steam...

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Undying_Zombie
Undying_Zombie

To be honest.. its not hard to think of the PC game world without steam.. personally I would rather not use steam but due to its the only way I can play specific games.. I use it.

Steam is a nice program, yes I will agree with you there. But is it a must for the PC game world? No.

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Undying_Zombie
Undying_Zombie

oops.. forgot.. sigh ( at times I hate not having a edit button )

As far as future programs like steam.. To be honest I don't really care as long as the majority of the games out there can be bought and played without having to use one or the other program.

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Knights
Knights

I personally think nothing will go beyond Steam. At least for now. Steam is very close to being "almost" perfect. Sure you could add desktop crap but I just want the program to work and play games on. I can finally say bye bye to cds!

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Henley Staff
Henley

I agree its a massive plus when i know i can always access my games no matter where i am. The only problem i have with steam is that most of the time i dont get the new games (cos im in Australia) so its like hmmm.

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NullSoldier
NullSoldier

I think these guys should just stop where they are. The article knows my main fear. That if there are more DDP's then more games will spread out. I hope steam attains every single game in the industry on it. Theres no reason not to. Just imagine all those console gamers that actually have to use Disks, and go to the store to buy their games! They are in the stone age like they always have.

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INtense! Staff
INtense!

Monopolies are never good - sure you may love steam, I love steam. They have ironed out the bugs over the past 5 years and it works a treat now. However to essentially control game distribution on the PC platform might lead to some messy consequences. Valve might have the purest of intentions, but you only have to look at the record industry monopoly (oligopoly to be technically correct) and the pressure they put on artists and their own consumers to realize this isn't the best thing. Competition encourages innovation - and that is essential.

Having said all this I'm not sure how successful these other endevours will be, since Valves focus has been and will always be game development - where with these competitors it is merely an after thought.

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Lucífer
Lucífer

lets hope someday other people dont try to start up mod sites in order to attempt to replicate this place.
of course, things that are community based always end up good with the originals so...*yay*
(meaning - Long Live ModDB)

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TheDebonairNomad
TheDebonairNomad

EA is the perfect example of this.

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formerlyknownasMrCP
formerlyknownasMrCP

Best thing about Star Dock is that you get the BOXED version of the game with the download version so you don't miss out on anything. Its really awesome for those "I want to play it now, not in a week after shipping" issues I have.

Impulse could absolutely kick steam's ***, especially if they don't enforce region only downloading (main problem with Steam.. that and the unrealistic mark ups. paid $65 for Sins + $5 for shipping.. definately cheaper than buying in the shops)

Valve can go suck balls, keep on marking up the prices guys, I dare you! Honestly I want to see Star Dock become bigger because they do a lot of good work for Indie developers (it does suck with that whole Introversion thing though with their publisher trying to screw them over). Its got a nice interface Impulse does. I'll use that more often assuming more companies catch on.

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ehal256
ehal256

I doubt Impulse is going to kic Steam's *** though for several reasons. 1) People already use Steam, it'll take a while before many people even know about Stardock's new DDP.
2) The most popular games are on Steam, and won't be cming to Impulse, for example, CS 1.6, CS:S, HL2, TF2, etc., which Impulse has Sins of a Solar Empire as it's main flagship title, and while it is a fantastic title, it's nature, as a strategy games, means that it will never be as popular as something like Counter-Strike.

I do excitedly anticipate Impulse's release this month (or next month :P) because I love a lot of the games totalgaming.net has.

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TheHappyFriar
TheHappyFriar

(buried)

It's hard to think of the PC game world without Steam


HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.... just like it's hard to think of a world without lawyers! Or AIDS, prostate cancer/ breast cancer, heart attacks, stupid lawsuits, etc. (for those who don't get the joke, steam = lawyer, lawyers = good butt of jokes & people not like lawyers, lawyers muck things up, etc. )

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Henley Staff
Henley

when did this turn into a vent your hate at steam topic

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stenchy Author
stenchy

I have no idea, the idea of the article was just to focus on the possible alternatives to Steam that are in the works. Whether or not people commenting on the article like Steam doesn't even relate to its success and viability as a platform - which is the only thing I stated in the article.

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Da_maniaC
Da_maniaC

The only thing i hope steam will ever change is the fact that i can use the keys/serials of retail games which i bought before they were offered on steam, so i can add those games without having to buy them again.
Alternatively i think they should set up a system/database that can detect whether you got the game before it was offered on STEAM or not.

Sure you can say, you can add custom games nowadays but thats still totally different because it will not blend in with your STEAM account in the sense that you can see your friends joining servers for that specific game etc etc.

Next to that i do think that STEAM doesn't really need much competition. The community around it is terribly huge nowadays and with their latest addition of being able to create community groups etc its very easy to keep track of specific sub-communities or people.

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Tatsur0
Tatsur0

Steam was something popular to hate, and while it has led to numerous issues over the years (not to long ago in fact) it is a WIP (while not in beta it is still being improved on). I'm grateful to Valve and Steam and i've long since forgiven them/it heh and continue working through the issues to play/create games that I and many others enjoy.

I am however definitely for multiple DDPs as this means a chance at playing more games I love and benefiting and seeing how things grow from competition. I can't tell you how lucky I am to have services like these made available to me here in Japan (though region locks are still no fun).

Tats...

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Gongong
Gongong

Steam is a great DDP, very different from the other DDP I've used, the EA Downloader/EA Link or whatever it's called nowdays.
I'm used to it and Valve has a tendency to not be a pain in the ***.

On the other hand, nobody like monopolies, Steam could easily become the new Windows...
Also the fact that you need to be online at least once when playing a game isn't that great for people w/o any other reason to connect to the Internet.

About the spying: As far as I know, Steam actually asks if it may upload you computer specs. It also tracks you stats in eg. TF2 but all this you can prevent, unless I missed something...
And they also allow anyone to share the statistics. At least It isn't like EA Link, that actually spies on your whole network!
Luckily, when getting Northern Strike, I only had to d/l EA Link once, and then put the installer on a CD, and uninstall EA Link (hopefully) forever. :)

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noyart
noyart

One thing that I hate with steam is when the database crash you will lose everygame that you have on you acc! and if you can't log on with steam you can't play online.

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Lucífer
Lucífer

You can still login, in offline mode though.

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Tatsur0
Tatsur0

You can't play online if you're in offline mode. His concern is when steam is having another of its problems he's unable to login which makes online play impossible till steams problem is resolved.

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Lucífer
Lucífer

yea, but now thats a rare occurence...and I'm sure a few hours out of the ones 10 hour streak isn't that bad...
Always have an alternative game that isn't on steam and you'll be fine...or when it goes down, do something else. :P

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Lordofthelargepants
Lordofthelargepants

I'd love the PC gaming world without steam, screw downloading games. I love my bookcase without books but with a LOT of games!

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Tatsur0
Tatsur0

Steam doesn't affect your collection. So why would it matter?

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Lucífer
Lucífer

The only thing about this is that you can bet your *** that EA Games will eventually get onto the idea of making a DDP for their games.
that my friends is an Apocalypse waiting to happen. :|

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Tatsur0
Tatsur0

EA Launched EA Link their DDP back in 2006.

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Lucífer
Lucífer

well it hasn't done well so thats good :D

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Tymathee
Tymathee

They forgot about Crosus which is an excellent free platform (www.isotx.com) you can download a bunch of free games, mods and maps for lots of the most popular games :D

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leilei
leilei

Does the subtitle of this article imply that all mod playing gamers are valve cronies that played their first video game in their life on steam?

There has been a gaming world without Steam in the past and it rocked.

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