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Direct2Drive Tussles With Valve By Declining To Sell Steamworks-Powered  MW2
Direct2Drive Tussles With Valve By Declining To Sell Steamworks-Powered MW2
November 6, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander

November 6, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander

IGN-owned digital game distributor Direct2Drive announced today it's refusing to sell Activision's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare on PC, protesting the game's integration with Valve's Steamworks.

"We don’t believe games should force the user to install a Trojan Horse," said the company -- referring to Steam, in a statement explaining its decision.

The company says its beef is not with publisher Activision -- in fact, Direct2Drive will offer a $5 coupon off of some of the Activision titles it sells as a compensation to its users.

Direct2Drive instead opposes MW2's Steamworks integration -- as an online storefront for digital download games, it competes directly with Valve's Steam service in some areas. In the highest-profile endorsement of Valve's digital tools to date, Infinity Ward will use the Steam client to update, support and authenticate the game.

The company says it told publisher partners earlier in the year that it would not sell titles that use Steam as a workaround for DRM, as it opposes the bundling of a storefront with a functionally free technology.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is considered by many measurement systems to be the holiday season's most anticipated title, and Activision has boldly stated it expects the "biggest entertainment launch of all time" for the game. Retailer GameStop agrees, having seen more preorders for the game than it's ever registered, and expecting the game to see the biggest launch in its history.

All PC copies of Modern Warfare 2 will ship with Steamworks support -- not just those sold on Steam itself. Beyond the Steamworks features themselves, one possible secondary benefit of that move means all copies of the game will be automatically updated the same way with the same patches.

Gamasutra has contacted Valve for comment on this story and will update with any we receive.

[UPDATE: Other major digital download sites have also joined this boycott, with GamersGate also not stocking MW2 on PC, and Stardock-owned Impulse confirming to website VE3D: "We share some of the same concerns as Direct2Drive over the bundling of the Steam client with the game. The most obvious issue is the forced inclusion of a competitor's store that blocks us from carrying the game."]

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Justin Kranzl
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Obviously Fox believes the GameSpy server browser client/software bundled with so many online multiplayer-able PC games in the past is immune to such accusations of trojan horseplay.

Frank Smith
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Yes, but GameSpy isn't a game play restriction mechanism.

Justin Kranzl
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You've never played a PC game which foisted the GameSpy browser on you as part of its installation? Lucky you.

Frank Smith
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"The company says it told publisher partners earlier in the year that it would not sell titles that use Steam as a workaround for DRM, as it opposes the bundling of a storefront with a functionally free technology."

How long has Game Spy been a DRM restriction application? And all games with the Game Spy program that I've played let me either opt-in or opt-out of the Game Spy install.

Justin Kranzl
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From D2D's own MW2 page:

"At Direct2Drive, we believe strongly that when you buy a game from us, you shouldn't be forced to install and run a 3rd party software client to be able to play the game you purchased."

And like I said previously, obviously you've been fortunate or selective to never have played a game which featured a GameSpy-powered server browser. They do exist.

Semantics aside my point is: D2D's problem with the game is likely less about campaigning in the end-user's interest (the angle they're taking on their own page) and more about the fact even if they do make a sale, a rival's shopfront is being made accessible from their customer's PC.

Donald McArthur
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I find D2D stance to be quite odd given that they already sell Defense Grid and Zeno Clash, two games that require Steam. I guess some VP felt that a line needed to be drawn in the sand. Oh well D2D is just making themselves more irrelevant.

Sean Chan
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Yes it really does seem like a really odd thing for D2D to do. If anything, they should understand the importance of a publishing platform staying agnostic about the kind of games it carries rather than specifically excluding titles from/related to certain companies.

What D2D needs to "believe strongly" in is being a shopfront that treats titles equally, not picking and choosing titles to carry according to their own agenda.

Frank Smith
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Long day huh? When's the last time you HAD to install a Game Spy CLIENT to play a game? Clearly some games use a Game Spy 'powered' server browser. But when have you HAD to launch a stand alone Game Spy CLIENT to play your game. Since when is a integrated server browser a 'client'. Most would consider it middleware. Yes I've played many games that use Game Spy server browsers, but never have I had to install a CLIENT and never has Game Spy server browsers that I've encountered been used as an online activation and restriction DRM. So before you go bashing software companies and there product, know what they actually are.

Clearly this is mainly a business decision, you don't want to refer you customers to you competitors or sale their products in house. Why would Wal Mart sale a Sears tool set, so Wal Mart customer will know to go to Sears next time they need tools? And its not an agenda, its a business. They're completely in the right to sell or not sell any product they want, just as the consumer is not to buy from a certain company. Maybe they are against DRM, I've not looked into their past actions, but I will into their future ones. If it serves their purposes why not take up the cause? And the kind of games they carry obviously has nothing to do with it, its about business.

Sean Chan
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I don't see how a retailer refusing to carry what is definitely going to be the best selling title for November could be construed as an intelligent business decision.

This isn't some penny packet release that D2D can afford to just ignore like that, its MW2! As consumers, it's in our interest to have good competition to Steam, it's really disappointing to see D2D playing ostrich and hiding their heads in a hole. In my opinion (which isn't backed up by any facts/numbers at all, though), D2D has nowhere near the kind of sales clout they would need to force developers to accept this policy. It would be a shame to watch them fall by the wayside.

Andrew Heywood
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There's really nothing to see here. The fact that D2D already carries Steam titles tells you exactly what the motiviation is here.

The potential financial gain from them stocking the biggest release of all time is going to be overwhelmingly outweighed by the fact that every one of their customers who buys it is going to be presented with the Steam storefront. This will cost them more in lost business than they could hope to make from selling MW2. As Donald says above - a line has been drawn. Possibly because they've observed a purchasing trend in customers who've bought an exisiting Steam title from them (i.e. they don't buy anything else).

So no great surprise imo. Nor is it surprising that they're trying to spin it from an angle that allies them with the anti-Steam blowhards (an extremely vocal minority). That way in every comment thread discussing this descision, they'll get support from a large section of the vocal, forum-posting population.

Sean Chan
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Kotaku is reposting news that Impulse and Gamersgate have followed suit.

Source is apparently here:

Andrew Heywood
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Interesting that Stardock are totally honest about the (obvious) reason why they aren't carrying the title.

Nathan Hill
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Doesn't Steam have like an 80% monopoly over digital distribution already? I mean the Steam price is ridiculous but point is I don't think the combined mass of all other digital distribution services will even phase Valve and certainly not Acti who signed on to Steam to ensure long term sales and combat retail piracy. By excluding all other services Acti is trying to make more money through lower rates of piracy. It will probably work too. This is not nor ever has been about what's healthy for the end consumer its about maximising profit.

Robert Walter
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Andrew makes an interesting point about the negatives of selling someone else's storefront to your own customers, but if Activision chose Steam's tech, doesn't this just mean D2D, Stardock, etc. need to work harder on improving their own storefront and DRM systems?

But even still, how does not selling the Steam version to your customer keep Steam out of the customer's hands when they are going to buy this game one way or another? Seems you might as well sell the Steam version and take your cut on the retail sale. Hell, you better get it while you can!

It's called business, and the only reason anyone should get into it is to make money. Not to be moral or fight injustice. And making money is what Steam and Activision are doing and will continue to do.

The decision by D2D and the others to "take a stand" is a horribly misguided business decision, as they are in effect deciding NOT to make money. But other than simply not making money on what seems to be "the single-biggest money-making opportunity in video-game history," what are these guys doing?

They are turning away past and future customers who surely care more about getting their hands on the game than such silly notions as distributor loyalty or taking some faux-moral stand on DRM. You really have to wonder how many D2D (etc.) users will create accounts at Steam later this month, never to return ...

(Meanwhile ... as much as I like to see games grow into large, hyped-up, cultural phenomenons, jeez ... IT'S JUST ANOTHER SHOOTER that's going to make you feel like an autonomic bug! Boy — this industry really need some fresh blood and ideas.)

Are Bee
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Steamworks was designed to allow developers who don't want to sell on steam still be able to leverage the platform functionality. It'll be interesting to see valve's response and if that's their true goal they'll likely have to split the store from the client.

(also Direct2Drive already sells a ton of DRM infested and even GFW and other steam titles, so this is clearly a business decision)

Phillip Baxter
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"Direct2Drive announced today it's refusing to sell Activision's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare on PC"

Should be "Modern Warfare 2".

Geoffrey Rowland
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I wonder if Randy Pitchford from Gearbox has anything to say about this

Sid Krishna
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I don't know the details of steamworks works but it should not require the user to install the Steam client (Store-front). The DRM and auto-updating check sould be done when the game is started up and the user interface should be within the game (or game startup dialog window) like other auto-updating systems (Far Cry 2 for e.g.). This is how steam works should work IMO. Otherwise Valve is indeed putting their foot in the door (store front) by means of the free steam works. Very clever on the part of Valve to increase its customer base but quite sneaky and does not leave me with a good feeling.

Peter Armstrong
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Unfortunately for people creating downloadable games there are too many distribution channels with too many required disparate policies. I look forward to the day when there is some basic type of unified and shared policies across all PC distribution portals to make it easier for games to be more widely distributed. In my opinion that would strengthen PCs as a gaming platform.

Langdon Oliver
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Sid, like you, I'm curious what the experience is installing a game from retail that uses Steamworks. I can't imagine the Steam client, as existing Steam users know it, will be installed. It must be some scaled down light version that is embedded into the game...

Can anyone, *who has experience*, let us know?

un important
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pot calling the kettle black...

that about sums up the situation... while i cant speak 100% for D2D/GamersGate

I CAN speak 100% for Impulse... ever heard of Demigod???(add 5 other games to this list as well that I OWN and HAVE to have IMPULSE INSTALLED for Updates/Online play) you can install and play LAN all you want, HOWEVER if you EVER want updates/ONLINE play... YOU HAVE TO INSTALL THE CRAPPY IMPULSE CLIENT (seeing as I had to deal with it personally and at a local LAN center I was contracted to assist with im pretty sure i can safely call it CRAPPY more for the professional side, but my personal experience was terrible as well)


on a side note I am a bit biased here, I have been with Steam since EARLY beta through thick and thin, hell and high water, helped with bugs and their solutions, ragequit (stopped using it), then came back again... and for the past 3 years haven't left since... (well cept Demigod and a few other games in which case I WAS AGAIN GIVEN NO CHOICE BUT TO USE IMPULSE)

Dan VanBogelen
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Ok im not sure how the comparisons are going. If you use Steam to run your software, you have to run Steam to actually play the game, THE WHOLE GAME, not just some multiplayer portion.

As a developer you allow Steam to sit on top of your game. you let steam advertise competition directly to your players each and every time they want to load and play your game.

Now that I think of it, Steam should be paying developers to put there games on there service, and just make revenue on advertising, but im sure they are raping developers both ways on that.

Derek Smart
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There's a lot more to it than just a simple "boycott" for whatever reason. I've just written a very lengthy piece about it:

Alan Wilson
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In terms of "pots" and "kettles", Gamer's Gate always amuses. Given the linkage between them and Paradox Interactive (same ownership), I always love the fact that GG refuses to touch Steam-based games, while Paradox embraces if and sells their games through Steam. Having your cake and eating it? Whenever possible, apparently.

And all of this just makes developer-publishers such as ourselves ever-more choosy about our future partners. We publish ourselves here in the US. The big retailers (Walmart, Bestbuy, Target) are all quite sensible enough to understand that the threat from digital distribution isn't really getting any bigger for them: they take our games and sell them quite succesfully thank you. The only exception is currently Gamestop, who are rather losing interest in PC games anyway, although are rumor-mongering on themselves entering the digital fray.

In Europe some, such as Iceberg and 1C, have got their smarts on and understand that retail and Steam can co-exist quite happily indeed. Even leveraging Steam to HELP sales in store. Others, like the aforementioned Paradox/GG, are trying to play some odd game of boycotting with one hand, while embracing with the other.

We've come down to working with a small number of partners: those who are professional, smart - and good business people. The rest? They'll find their own way - or not. Lets watch how the publisher/distributor market plays out over the next couple of years. Rounds of M&A, Chapter 11s and bankruptcy, anyone :) ?

Derek Smart
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In all fairness, Paradox spun off Gamers Gate and both companies operate as separate entities headed by different people.

Nevertheless, you have a valid point - and that point is exactly what I mentioned in my blog article that Valve spawning off Steam - or removing the shop from it - isn't going to do squat. There will always be some perceived and/or unavoidable conflict of interest somewhere along the chain as long as both entities are owned by the same corp.

Lance Rund
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"Monopoly". You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

In order for a monopoly to exist, ALL of the following must be met:

1. Single seller. The PRODUCER and SELLER of the goods must be the same, and it has to be on a whole-industry level. Definition FAIL. Just plain FAIL.

2. Market power. The ability to abuse pricing. Definition FAIL. If Steam were able to say "we want all games to cost $5000" and make it stick, well, yeah, this test would be met. But guess what? It doesn't and it can't. Any publisher who doesn't like Steam's policies can go to any other distributor, digital or otherwise.

3. High barriers to entry. Definition FAIL. All you need to get into digital distribution is a server farm, a web site, an authentication schema, and the ability to earn the trust of publishers. If someone can't get publishers to sign on, it's not because Steam sent Guido over with a baseball bat. It's because that "someone's" digital distribution business sucks, and so do they, and publishers and consumers know it.

Steam got where it is by having a superior product. And it will remain on top only as long as it continues to offer a superior product. It has many competitors eager to eat its lunch and who have their solutions available. And that, my friends, is the very opposite of a monopoly.

Bryan Warde
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"Sid, like you, I'm curious what the experience is installing a game from retail that uses Steamworks. I can't imagine the Steam client, as existing Steam users know it, will be installed. It must be some scaled down light version that is embedded into the game...

Can anyone, *who has experience*, let us know?"

Well, I know Half-Life 2 Retail installs a full version of the Steam client, but its a Valve game. I've never heard of a "light" version of Steam, so I don't think its any different for other games that depend on Steamworks. The multiplayer framework and everything, I just don't see a way for it being scaled down to a more behind the scenes kind of thing. Besides, if you're going to use Steamworks, you might as well go all the way. Aside from the storefront, there are plenty of value-add features to Steam, like community, IM, friends, achievements, client identification, etc.

D2D is pretty stupid to make this move. As a business, they just gave up all their potential sales of the most popular game this year to "make a point"; And its a point only the elite (ie, the minority, ie, not where the money is) are going to care about. Anyone who buys MW2 for PC, will be installing Steam to play it. D2D can cry, moan and boycott like a spoiled 2 year old all they want, that's not going to change. I guarantee Infintyward isn't losing any sleep about the minuscule distribution market D2D represents, along with being one that is easily replaced. This is a game that gamers will actively seek out and buy, and those who make it easiest to buy, will get the sale.

To call Steam a trojan is just a smear campaign. They're just jealous that Steam is light years ahead of them and is getting the big exclusives now. D2D would be doing the same if they were as big as Steam. Of course, being the underdog, they will claim otherwise to cater to the "too cool for mainstream" crowd.

Some end users may have a problem with being forced to have Steam verify their installs with a remote account every time a dependent game is launched, but in this age of piracy, the developers are quite pleased with this ability to prevent their hard work from being cracked and pirated so easily.

In summary, Valve/Steam: Smart. D2D/Others: Crybabies

Alan Wilson
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If you are using Steam as the DRM, the Steam client is installed and you need to sign up for a (free) account with Steam, in order to authenticate. After that, it will provide auto-updating for the game(s) you have purchased. You can turn off the stock Steam "news" and leave Steam running in background - the user never really needs to even know it is there. There is no "light" version. Hope that helps...

Philip Wilson
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@ Justin Kranzl:

When was the last time you installed a PC game? I assume the you are talking about GameSpy Arcade which often wrongly identified as "spyware" or a "trojan" by some antivirus and antispyware...which is something that is happens with other things.

As for GameSpy Arcade, that is a legacy product that was *retired* YEARS ago and was replaced by GameSpy Comrade which is always an optional install and its feature set is very similar to Xfire & also has elements of D2D in the latest release...which means it shares many similarities to Steam.

As for GameSpy TECHNOLOGY which is (as Frank Smith mentioned) middleware and is the technology that has powered HUNDREDS of PC, Mac, PSP, PS3, PS2, Wii and DS titles for *10 years*. GameSpy Technology is along the same realms as Quazal and Demonware so for you to make "Powered by GameSpy" games sound like its an external client shows your ignorance on the matter.

If you want to be taken as a serious "journalist" then you should go read up on the information in a story before commenting on them.