Gaming Retailers Boiling over Steam's Expansion

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News Posted: Mon, Nov 15 2010 4:16 PM
Over the last few years, Valve's Steam service has become the go-to location for digital gaming. This transition has generally been viewed positively by PC gamers—mainstream gaming retailers, while scarcely thrilled, have devoted less and less space to PC titles as time has gone on. This positive trend is being bucked in the UK, where angry retailers are calling Steam an unfair, monopolistic service.

"If we have a digital service, then I don’t want to start selling a rival in-store,” the digital boss at one of the biggest UK games retailers told mcvuk.com. "Publishers are creating a monster ­– we are telling suppliers to stop using Steam in their games." Part of this hostility is driven by simple competition; lost sales are lost sales, no matter who you lose them to. Brick and mortars with their own online presence are also afraid that gamers, who've been overly conditioned to buy products from Steam, won't even think to shop elsewhere.

It's hard to feel sorry for retailers crying now when the digital distribution business was wide open for the taking for several years. When Valve linked Half Life 2's launch to a mandatory Steam activation process, Steam's servers were absolutely unable to handle the traffic and collapsed; it took Valve weeks to resolve the situation. Imagine marrying a woman with the social grace of Lindsey Lohan, the preternaturally vapid, bovine intelligence of Paris Hilton, and the dark, intense sexuality of Helen Thomas (pictured below). What you're feeling now is roughly equivalent to what gamers thought of Steam back then.


You know what sounds good? A McDorothy burger with a large scarecrow. Oh--and a side order of little dog, too.

That's part of what makes British retailers' protesting so daft. In 2004, offered the choice of trusting Steam or eating a Manhattan sewer rat, most gamers would've chosen the rat. Steam may have had Valve's library of popular games behind it but it was never the only way to purchase such titles.

Apparently multiple British retailers intend to take a firm stance against Steam and have told publishers that if certain titles are released on Steam, they (the retailer) will refuse to stock copies. According to a source at an unnamed digital distribution company: "At the moment the big digital distributors need to stock games with Steam. But the power resides with bricks and mortar retailers, they can refuse to stock these titles. Publishers are hesitant, but retail must put pressure on them."

We suppose it's possible that in Britain, game stores devoted to PC titles have flourished while ours tanked, but it sure doesn't seem likely. Wal-Mart and Best Buy still stock PC games, but once you skip past the budget $4.99 schlock and the random games from 2006-2008 clinging feebly to shelves, what's usually left is five copies of WoW and 12 Sims-themed titles. Since we're talking about Britain, we imagine these include titles like: Pimp My Pub, The Complete Chav Collection and our personal favorite language pack—Cockney Simlish

In an age of digital distribution, we can't see how this could possibly help retailers. Even if these stores managed to collectively impact a few titles, consumers will continue to prefer one-stop shopping for game titles and publishers will want to sell their games where it makes the most sense to stock them. 
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Inspector replied on Mon, Nov 15 2010 5:30 PM

Woaw, that picture scared me :(...

But steam is the man! How ever i sometimes rather go grab a hard copy of it so i don't have to wait hours downloading the files xD

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CD's...? for PC games?...people still do that? I was under that impression as well, heck I even bought the collectors edition of Fallout New Vegas. It's in my closet now, that's where all the crap goes eventually. What could be more versatile than a media library of all your video games combined with all the other features of Steam on all my computer's. Yup that useful .Glad Fallout uses Steam to run as well.

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I love steam I get 85mbs down speed with comcast so almost no waiting for games for me!

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realneil replied on Mon, Nov 15 2010 7:04 PM

I like steam because of the ability to D/L my games from anywhere.

Dogs are great judges of character, and if your dog doesn't like somebody being around, you shouldn't trust them.

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Marco C replied on Mon, Nov 15 2010 8:13 PM

Steam is a godsend for people like me.  I keep my steam install on an external drive and can move it from test machine to test machine for benchmarking purposes.

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I'm with you there Marco. I back up all my steam files to an external drive since it makes it very easy to put them on any machine. Why download for hours.

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realneil replied on Mon, Nov 15 2010 9:48 PM

Damn, that's a good idea and I'm gonna have to get my Shtuff together now,.....................DUH!

Dogs are great judges of character, and if your dog doesn't like somebody being around, you shouldn't trust them.

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Just copy over the whole folder, then install Steam to that folder Neil.  As soon as you launch Steam after that, everything will be there ready to go.

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realneil replied on Tue, Nov 16 2010 9:31 AM

Yeah, I downloaded a set of instructions last night and copied them onto a portable drive while I slept. Now they're backed up at least.

Dogs are great judges of character, and if your dog doesn't like somebody being around, you shouldn't trust them.

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SMcGinnis replied on Tue, Nov 16 2010 1:11 PM

Like someone else said, instead of using them and eventually putting them away for a long time, which takes up space; downloading Steam games will take up space, but when you're done, just delete the local files, and when you want to play with it again, re-download.

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realneil replied on Tue, Nov 16 2010 1:24 PM

SMcGinnis:
Steam games will take up space,

People seem to have tons of space these days. I put mine onto a 500GB external firewire drive and still have lots of room for other things too.

Dogs are great judges of character, and if your dog doesn't like somebody being around, you shouldn't trust them.

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rapid1 replied on Tue, Nov 16 2010 10:12 PM

This really to me just sounds like a last whine even if it is for retailers in a specific location. This will probably just hasten the transfer to internet retail from Brick and Mortar stores. I personally do almost all shopping online, and have done so for years, that is unless it is on something perishable such as groceries etc. Heck I even buy things from Walmart online as you can often find deals on things they don't have at a certain store. Then have it delivered to the closest store to your house with there site to store service which is free. Who lives more than 10-15 minutes from a Walmart? I have 3 in 5-10 minutes from my house maybe more.

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