Report: Steam Has a Monopoly Over PC Gaming

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?

  • 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.
  • Dekasav
    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.
  • ern88
    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 :-)
  • klavis
    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.
  • eklipz330
    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
  • rage machine
    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.
  • rjkucia
    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. :
  • intelliclint
    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.
  • nielnield
    It's sad that companies failing to create something as good as steam client have the mediocrity to say that valve has a monopoly.
  • duckmanx88
    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 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.