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 Minecraft 's Persson: It's 'dangerous' to allow Steam to own digital PC gaming market
Minecraft's Persson: It's 'dangerous' to allow Steam to own digital PC gaming market
March 16, 2012 | By Mike Rose

March 16, 2012 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing

Newsbrief: Minecraft developer Markus "Notch" Persson has said that it is "a bit dangerous" to allow digital distribution service Steam to own the PC game download space without competition.

Speaking to GameSpy, Persson stressed that, while he is a fan of Valve's service, he finds "the idea of one platform a bit scary." He noted that having competitors such as Origin, Desura and Impulse can only be a good thing.

"Origin does a couple things badly compared to Steam, which is impressive since they had eight years to study Steam," he quipped. "They should definitely have a chance to do their thing, but they might want to move away from titles that make people use it and show people why they should use it."

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Brian Pace
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Well with competition its a down right hassle when I have to go to multiple places to get the games I want like going to Blizzard to get Diablo and Origin to get Battlefield. I would rather have one central store. I also like the achievements portion of it too.

Langdon Oliver
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I made a similar comment yesterday when Diablo III was announced. I want to buy it on Steam, but no Blizzard games have ever been sold on Steam, so I'll try to buy a boxed copy.

Valve has done (in my eyes) everything right up until this point, and really earned my trust in the digital space. I can understand it might be dangerous to let one company own the market, but Valve might be the exception. I think as long as they remain a private company, they'll continue to "do the right thing" in the interest of the consumer.

Ian Uniacke
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Great idea. Lets outlaw every store except Walmart, that way we can all just go to the one store and life will be perfect. :)

Jim Perry
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I'm with Brian, especially when different places offer different discounts/specials on the same game. Nothing makes me more mad than to see the competition between places like Best Buy and GameStop offering different special bonuses for a game that I want.

Jimmy Briggs
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What makes this difficult to debate and to compete against is that Valve has really two applications merged into one. 1st is a Digital Distribution/DRM control and the second is a library management suite.

The Library/Game suite is very robust, you can even add in games not purchased from steam (like ones from Blizzard) that do not require being launched from a separate DRM controller (Origin ect).

Steam is "doing it best" and they deserve their share. Just like WoW is eating MMOs. If a company wants to think about competing with Valve they need to do two things really well, and one thing exceptionally well.

Make an attractive Store
Integrate it with a management suite

(I am against this next one but it must be done to compete with their market hold)
Offer integration services like achievements and (sigh) DRM features to developers.

Why the above will not work, is the same reason that Blizzard will always have a large base of mmo players. I've invested time and money into my steam account, I am not going to fully switch to another game management suite and re-add all my drm free titles while leaving behind all the jailed DRM ones. Whenever humans put time into something (external rewards aka achievements) it makes that something valuable to them. very valuable.

@Jim Perry This is the game retailers competing without compromising their and their AAA profit margins. What "should" happen in an ideal capitalistic market is that they would compete on service and price. However they have made deals to get exclusive content instead of competing on price and customer service. I imagine what happened is that a company, we will name them Best Game Halt wanted to draw customers from another, and did not want to lose a penny in sales. So they went to the developer who saw this as a greedy opportunity to both market and probably raise funds for their title.

This is a serious ethical issue. Should the traditional expected competitive edge of service and price be trumped with meaningless digital perk and vanity item exclusives?

Facebook is social, google+ is trying?
Google is search, bing is trying?
Wow is mmo, SWTOR is trying?
Steam is PC games, ???? is trying?

Tom Baird
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Of your examples, none see the animosity simply for existing that Origin sees.

People may complain google+ isn't popular enough, or bing isn't as intuitive, or SWTOR isn't as fun, but people complain about Origin simply because it's not accessed through Steam(among other, more legitimate reasons).

When there is competition, the consumer benefits, and it strikes me as unusual to take issue with a product simply because it's competition, rather than complaining about things it does wrong. The fact that Origin exists, promotes Steam to evolve, which promotes Origin and other competition to adapt and evolve as well, until just maybe one of these competitors could start to overtake Steam on usability on some fronts. The consumer should always promote competition over monopolies, even if the monopoly owner provides the services you prefer.

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Jack Everitt
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If Steam has no decent rivals, Valve has less incentive to improve and evolve. (As would any business like this.)

Patrick Davis
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Very true. No one has done anything significant enough to pull people from Steam. It will take something huge for it to happen at this point. I for one am against running another Steam like app in my background. I know I'm definitely not alone in this.

Who else didn't pick up Battlefield 3 since you HAVE to use Origin when playing it?

Kyle Redd
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In what way did Steam "own the PC game download space without competition"? That's a ridiculous statement. Before Origin came along there already was GamersGate, Impulse, Beamdog, Desura, Green Man Gaming, Direct2Drive/Gamefly, GameStop, GOG, DotEmu, and OnLive.

EA isn't blessing their customers by providing "competition" with Steam. They acted specifically to remove all EA-owned properties from every other Digital Distro service out there and force everyone to purchase them through Origin instead, and in the process compel everyone to accept their punitive EULA and Terms of Service. That's not competition at all, and it's certainly not beneficial to consumers.

Kyle Redd
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Anthony, the implication that Notch was making is that Valve had a monopoly on digital distribution before Origin came along to rescue all of us. That is silly. All of these services have existed (and in most cases succeeded) for years. Origin doesn't give gamers anything they didn't already have; all that has changed is that now there are a number of new concerns regarding privacy and ownership where there were none before.

Kyle Redd
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If you want to play any game made by a developer owned by EA (of which there are a very great number, exponentially more than Valve, Paradox, Stardock, or any other Digital Distro company has ever owned), then you are NOT getting "more options" or any benefit at all by Origin's existence.

If you want to play Plants vs. Zombies 2 or whatever PC title PopCap develops next, you will first have to sign away your legal rights and submit to computer scanning by EA before you may do so. This was never the case with any other Distro outlet before. So no, Origin has thus far not been a "good thing" for any consumer save for being able to buy a couple of games for a few dollars cheaper every once and a while.

The bottom line being that for EA-owned games, Origin only hurts consumers; at this point there is no benefit whatsoever. Competition is certainly a good thing, but Origin is not competition.

Ian Uniacke
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Kyle, it's your choice to purchase those games or not. It's not like there are no other games in the market. Your point has nothing to do with the distribution service and everything to do with "terms of service" in general...which isn't changed squat by digital distribution since you already were agreeing to a bunch of stuff like this when you traditionally use games anyway.

Kyle Redd
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Ian, of course it's always our choice whether or not to buy the games. Has anything I've said gave you the impression that I think we're being forced into buying anything? Notch and others have said Origin is good for consumers. I am saying that up to this point, without any question, it has been very bad. That's it.

As far as the Origin ToS, EULA, and Privacy Policy being the same as everything we've always had to agree with - not even close. No other service that I'm aware of has ever forced its users to submit to computer scanning without at least an option to opt out. No other company has ever deleted users' entire game libraries for petty crap like rude forum posts (that have absolutely nothing to do with the games themselves in the first place). There have been other services that require users to surrender their legal rights, like, but Steam certainly isn't one of them.

So yeah, unless I've missed something, I would say EA's behavior towards their users has been pretty contemptible thus far. And I don't see that as being "slavishly devoted to Valve" as Anthony seems to think; I see it as being slavishly devoted to basic consumer rights.

Jyri Jokinen
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I like Steam. I certainly plan to use it as my only purchase channel for PC games in the future. But I also think that there should be competition, although I genuinely have faith in Valve and Gabe Newell. He might actually think that he is rich enough already. I may be naive.

That being said, any competition for Steam needs to be publisher independent. I don't want to have one digital outlet for EA and another for Ubisoft and a third one for Call of Duty. Every publisher having their own distribution channel means less competition. EA has no incentive to improve Origin as long as it's effectively the only way to purchase Battlefield 3.

Yeah, I have no solutions to offer. I'll just stick to games I can buy from Steam.

k s
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I've reused and still refuse to support steam because I'm against monopolies and steam is a monopoly. I rarely hear about people saying they downloaded a game from the other digital PC distribution services, in fact I only know they exist because I frequent gaming blogs and they sometimes mention them.

Josh ua
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When Valve gets sold or goes public, that's when I start worrying. Gabe can't be around forever, and by chance a greedy POS takes over Valve and cashes in making millions selling to the wrong company, then we should be very worried.

John Tessin
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Steam is popular because they support and care for the developer. That platform makes their distribution system very appealing. Other large publishers may want to roll their own because they have their own system and the facilities to handle it and squeeze that much more profit from it. Game devs want to make games, not build a distribution infrastructure. Valve did it anyway because they perceived the need and were not pleased with what as already available. But making it open to others was genius. This is what Lucas did with Industrial Light and Magic. He made it available to other studios and filmmakers. The movie lovers benefited most because of the impact of quality facilities. Yes there will be competition for Steam when the market is ready but now, because of Steam, there are many more games out there than would have survived the retail brick and mortar gauntlet of greed.

Herbert Fowler
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First: I'm a huge supporter of Steam because they are doing so many things right. True there is a chance that in the future they could change and destroy the market, but so far they have done a wonderful job of looking out for, and taking care of, the customer.

Now let's not kid ourselves. Origin has NOTHING to do with competition. EA believes they can corner the market because they believe they have the best games. The only digital distribution channel for BF3 and SWTOR (and I think Mass Effect 3) is Origin, so guess who get's to set whatever price they see fit. EA has long been of the "squeeze as much money as possible out of the whelps while giving them the least possible" mentality.

A lot of people are ready to go digital only. I would regularly browse Steam and Direct2Drive for the best deal on the products I wanted. Which ever one had the best price wins that round. Doesn't matter how many store fronts there are, if you are forced to go to one store for the product they are monopolizing that product. Ours isn't a "any ol' product will do" industry. Best thing that could happen to our industry would be for the distribution and development arms to split completely.

Mark Harris
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Uh, the fact that they created the game automatically gives them a monopoly not only that game, but the distribution model as well.

Up until now EA has had to rely on retail or a 3rd party digital distributor, but they still had final say over how, where, and when their product was distributed.

Now they've chosen to distribute through their own digital portal. Their game, their choice.

David Schweighofer
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Imho, the biggest difference is that Valve understood they are in a business of distribution services and aim at support the gamer. They have value-add beyond the game you buy.

Games sales and especially pre-sales are based on beyond the game bonuses, links to social networks and ability to share-collaborate-fight with friends.

Steam has been developed with all that in mind. Many players have Steam automatically launched when the PC starts and use it for news feeds, chat, understanding what friends are playing right now and more. They are offering Cloud services and I can imagine that in the future we could even stream our steam-games to any device at any location.

I would guess that other distribution systems might be installed on a system, but are they used beyond the requirement of the editor ? There is a huge difference between a pure download/transaction site and gamer centric cloud services.

In the future, I could easily imagine that web professionals in content distribution or giants such as Amazon, could be far better competitors for Steam than Origin. Yet it is good to see Origin putting some pressure on Valve at least through negotiation with other partners.

Yet, the question is if gamer can choose from were they buy, would they buy from Steam or another solution ? EA can claim some degree of success, but is it not artificial due to exclusivity ? Is Origin really used ? Not sure,..