Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Report: Steam Has a Monopoly Over PC Gaming

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 128 comments

The eventual release of Steam for Mac has apparently stirred up a little controversy.

The idea of Steam launching on Apple iMacs this month apparently has conspiracy theorists all in an uproar. After all, Valve Software's beloved PC gaming client has been around for ages, however the move to Mac has caused many to question its overall presence in the PC gaming scene. Namely, there's indication that an unfair monopoly over PC gaming is in play, and fingers are all pointing to Steam.

But various voices are coming to Steam's defense, saying that the service dominates the market because no other company has offered gamers anything better in terms of value. "The fact that Valve was there waiting for the switch [to digital downloads] isn't their fault--it shows they are savvy," said MCV's Michael French.

Naturally, rival services are quick to swoop in and cry anti-competitive. One unnamed source told TechRadar that the matchmaking system isn't open and thus feeds people back to Steam. "Even [Valve] being a developer and a publisher at the same time means that other developers feel like they could be second-rate citizens (or at best, on the same level as all the indie games on the service)," the unnamed source said.

TechRadar's entire article offers many different views on Steam, some of which point to its early entry into the market with Counter-Strike and Half-Life at hand. There's also an analysis on why Games for Windows failed, with EDGE magazine blaming the failure on the company's need to tackle piracy by locking saved games to online accounts.

Does Valve really have a monopoly on the PC market? Probably not. Eventually it boils down to content, presentation, and accessibility. Valve has spent many years perfecting the service, has amassed a wide user-base since its launch seven years ago. Of course, its popularity may be as simple as familiarity: PC gamers are familiar with Left 4 Dead 2, Half-Life, and the Valve brand. Will that still hold true ten years from now? Maybe not.

Does Steam have an unfair monopoly of digital distribution?

Display 128 Comments.
This thread is closed for comments
Top Comments
  • 29 Hide
    Dekasav , April 8, 2010 1:14 AM
    Well... it's *really* obvious why Games for Windows failed, it's because it does nothing for the consumer and just plain sucks.

    Second, Steam is a very useful tool to use for digital distribution and management. It has a nice interface, good download speeds, awesome deals. And while at launch it's prices are generally just MSRP, with no ~$10 sales you get at Best Buy or some other places, their weekend and midweek deals are often amazing. My backlog of games has tripled since I started using Steam (near exclusively, now).

    I don't think they have an unfair monopoly, and even if they do, it's completely the result of no one else stepping up to the plate. Granted, I think Impulse will take off in a few years (which'll be great), it's just not on the same level as Steam (yet).

    Oh, and Direct2Drive lost my interest completely since I can't use my Oblivion mods with it.
  • 23 Hide
    eklipz330 , April 8, 2010 1:17 AM
    STEAM offers fair prices, and is great to their customers. I don't care if they have a monopoly, they certainly aren't acting like one
  • 22 Hide
    ern88 , April 8, 2010 1:14 AM
    I have been using steam for years now. And I have had a great experience thus far. I don't know how many times I have looked for older games I have bought like BF2, and can't find it (my stupidity I Know). So, now I know where my games and CD keys are now...On Steam :-)
Other Comments
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , April 8, 2010 12:55 AM
    I don't think so, there are others services. those are popular and everybody focus againt Valve for their success with the digital distribution. Others companies focus in digital distribution have their exclusives and their unique way to address piracy and to manage community. First EA and Gamestop you have to pay a fee for theirs to keep your game more time. D2D doesn't have a community and their service its for download only. Impulse needs to implement others thing to bring more people to their service.
  • 29 Hide
    Dekasav , April 8, 2010 1:14 AM
    Well... it's *really* obvious why Games for Windows failed, it's because it does nothing for the consumer and just plain sucks.

    Second, Steam is a very useful tool to use for digital distribution and management. It has a nice interface, good download speeds, awesome deals. And while at launch it's prices are generally just MSRP, with no ~$10 sales you get at Best Buy or some other places, their weekend and midweek deals are often amazing. My backlog of games has tripled since I started using Steam (near exclusively, now).

    I don't think they have an unfair monopoly, and even if they do, it's completely the result of no one else stepping up to the plate. Granted, I think Impulse will take off in a few years (which'll be great), it's just not on the same level as Steam (yet).

    Oh, and Direct2Drive lost my interest completely since I can't use my Oblivion mods with it.
  • 22 Hide
    ern88 , April 8, 2010 1:14 AM
    I have been using steam for years now. And I have had a great experience thus far. I don't know how many times I have looked for older games I have bought like BF2, and can't find it (my stupidity I Know). So, now I know where my games and CD keys are now...On Steam :-)
  • 5 Hide
    klavis , April 8, 2010 1:15 AM
    As has mentioned there is Impulse, which I find to be better because it's much less intrusive. Heck you don't even have to have Impulse on to use one of the games you downloaded, it's amazing.
  • 23 Hide
    eklipz330 , April 8, 2010 1:17 AM
    STEAM offers fair prices, and is great to their customers. I don't care if they have a monopoly, they certainly aren't acting like one
  • 12 Hide
    rage machine , April 8, 2010 1:17 AM
    So because they chose a correct business model they are a monopoly?

    Most, if not all steam games being released come on CD as well if a user wishes to go to the store and get one. People buy games from steam because they download fast, have no securom, links up with current friends, can buy gifts for friends, etc. They aren't forcing anyone to install steam on hardly anything (orange box is possibly the exception). On top of that, they have killer deals over the holidays and there are specials nearly every week that someone wouldn't find on direct2drive or at the store. IMO, using the word "monopoly" implies they are using bad practice to get the advantage and they are not.
  • 3 Hide
    rjkucia , April 8, 2010 1:18 AM
    G4WL failed me. It had everything going for it - including backing by Microsoft, and an already present community thanks to XBL. But thanks to everyone pretty much ignoring it, and Microsoft not adding features that Steam had, they failed. :[
  • 6 Hide
    intelliclint , April 8, 2010 1:19 AM
    I'm not happy that Steam requires you to login and stay connected to play the games. They do track what you play, and how much you play it, whihc I'm not to happy with. I do like the accessablity, specials, and downloadable content. As far as I know valve has helped Indie games out, where no one else would touch them.
  • 9 Hide
    nielnield , April 8, 2010 1:19 AM
    It's sad that companies failing to create something as good as steam client have the mediocrity to say that valve has a monopoly.
  • 4 Hide
    duckmanx88 , April 8, 2010 1:20 AM
    does itunes have a monopoly on digital music? not necessarily, i see itunes and steam as the same. despite some issues, they're still the best content delivery system.

    "Even [Valve] being a developer and a publisher at the same time means that other developers feel like they could be second-rate citizens"

    only 2/10 of the top ten are valve games currently. thats the same kind of bs that the borderlands guy said yet his own game was on the top ten on steam for months and it was even on sale this past weekend!! like joel said. there's amazon, gamestop, D2D. you can purchase your games through retail or straight from the publisher.

    d2d could make a similar but better content delivery system. steam has a lot of issues. but they're just going to talk smack instead of improving their own service.

  • 19 Hide
    husker , April 8, 2010 1:21 AM
    Anti-competitive? Monopoly? No to both. Better products and services that people want do tend to fair better in the marketplace than crappy ones that people don't.
  • 13 Hide
    aspireonelover , April 8, 2010 1:32 AM
    steam ftw
  • 1 Hide
    skevil , April 8, 2010 1:36 AM
    "The fact that Valve was there waiting for the switch [to digital downloads] isn't their fault--it shows they are savvy."

    Pretty fail logic--for example, this doesn't mean they they aren't acting in a monopolistic and uncompetitive way and need to be split into two different companies to promote competition and drive prices down.

    That being said, although Steam may have a monopoly on the digital download market for games, they certainly haven't done anything unfair or anti-competitive--it's not like Steam has outrageous fees or something. If you want to complain about an unfair monopoly, look at Ticketmaster/Live Nation.
  • -1 Hide
    rocky1234 , April 8, 2010 1:41 AM
    Steam is both good & bad. The good is it gives users the choice on buying a fresh new game. It also has a lot to offer. The bad is I truely hated the fact that when I installed Modern ware 2 it forced me to use steam as the client. I can see this if I had downloaded it off of steam but this was the full retail version of the game that I installed from the DVD. I do not think steam should come into play unless the content that is going to be used comes from them & since this was a full DVD install I should not have seen the steam window come up at all. The thing that upset me was it took several tries to get into MW2 as it kept saying steam service not available right now try again later. That right there pissed me off to the point i almost boxed the game up & returned it to where i got it from because I wanted to play the new game but for some reason I was being forced to use steam. Another bad point is it takes forever to load MW2 well not the game itself after you get by the steam load up screens everything goes pretty quick. Another thing that totally pissed me off was after I was into the MW2 game for about 3 hours my screen down sized & a steam AD was on my screen trying to sell me some stupid game this got me killed & I had to restart the frickin mission that was totally a BS move on steams part.

    Another point about steam is when I was looking over the games I noticed that for the newer titles they pretty much were the same price as where I would buy a full boxed version with DVD media content. Ummm if you buy digital content with no media shouldn't the price be set somewhat lower I mean your not getting physical media just a file on your drive.

  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , April 8, 2010 1:43 AM
    There's nothing anti-competitive about it. If they are the only people who gamers turn to for digital media distribution, so be it. No foul play yet.
  • 3 Hide
    backin5 , April 8, 2010 1:45 AM
    Steam isn't perfect and has its share of problems, but Valve is being fair to developers, its customers and even mod developers, therefore they succeed where other competing digital distribution systems fail.

    If they were to abuse their stature, like some of the largest monopolies in the world (no need to name names now is there?), there would have been a reason to complain. But so far, Valve seems to play nice with everybody.

    In fact, I wish more companies tried to find a better balance between their basic aim (and need) to make money and fair business conduct.

    Speaking of digital distribution systems and playing nice, I like what GOG has done so far.
  • -2 Hide
    Franklin Hennersdorfer , April 8, 2010 1:45 AM
    Only reason I haven't done Steam is because when I buy a game, I expect if I have the hardware to run it on 20 or 30 years from now, I'll be able to do so. I'm not sold on that being the case with Steam. If they go away, so do the games you bought.

    I still play my old games. Even Starflight, Begins, and other ancient games. They all still work. That's how it should be.

    I fear you youngers may all have to learn a hard lesson in another decade, (or sooner), when you lose all your Steam games due to someone else overshadowing then crushing Steam. Hope I'm wrong...but you should be thinking about it.
  • -1 Hide
    Ramar , April 8, 2010 1:45 AM
    duckmanx88does itunes have a monopoly on digital music? not necessarily, i see itunes and steam as the same. despite some issues, they're still the best content delivery system.


    itunes =/= best. D:

    As for steam, screw it. Yes, steam will be/is synonymous with PC gaming at some/this point, but does anyone except rival companies really care? Monopolies are evil because they practice anti-competitive practices, are ultimately bad for the consumer, and treat their employees like ass. Steam does none of that.
  • 4 Hide
    hellswaters , April 8, 2010 1:47 AM
    I want to see them try to pin this on the pirates.

    But honestly. They stop selling games in stores in a boxed version, and are now complaining that there is not enough digital distribution services and the ones that do exist control the market. Guess what, that tends to happen when a company already has a client base. In order to prevent it, you need to offer something that the current services do not offer.
  • 4 Hide
    nforce4max , April 8, 2010 1:48 AM
    i wish there were more games for Linux and be able to port old openGL as well Glide games.
Display more comments