When it initially launched back in 2003, Valve’s Steam storefront was met with some hesitation. At the time, the physical sales industry was the only realistic way to engage, and forcing players to jump through unproven steps was seen as a pointless hurdle. Over time, as players got more accustomed to Steam, their attitudes began to change. Steam kept offering sales cheaper than what was seen in stores, and the lack of physical media meant you never had to worry about lost or broken disks. In fact, many players still have access to their very first Steam games, which could be nearly 20 years old at this point.
Yet, despite how loved Steam became, it was not beyond criticism. As what was the only name in the game for so many years, Steam essentially acted as a monopoly. Without competition, Valve could do whatever they wanted with the system, and customers would have no choice but to grin and bear it. Inefficient UI became a constant problem, and repeated bugs went unaddressed for years at a time. While Steam has slowly improved, it’s still rife with issues to this day, as Polygon reports. It was this attitude that led to competitors, and despite a bad reputation, in some ways, this competition is exactly what Steam needs.
An Outside Example
Before looking at video gaming, consider a much more open and competitive online entertainment environment, such as in online casinos. In this landscape, hundreds of casinos fight for player interest, and it’s this competition that pushes the websites to new heights. Take the Borgata Casino promo codes as an example. Offering a wide range of bonuses on different games, days, and VIP systems, such developments would have no reason to exist without competition. Instead, competition has forced this casino to push itself, and the customer is rewarded for this fact.
This industry has essentially not only set an example but set the standard for player expectation, emphasis on user experience, and retention. Relatively easy to take inspiration from and emulate across different forms of entertainment, it seems that the competition Steam now faces is pushing the store to attract players in increasingly innovative ways and offer more.
The Epic Solution
Arguably the most profound and ground-breaking competition for Steam’s dominance has been the Epic Games Store, launched in December of 2018. With Steam already 15 years established at this point, Epic had a hell of a fight ahead of it, but it also had an ace in its deck – Fortnite. Steam is incredibly profitable, sure, but Fortnite is a cultural revelation. Earning so much money, Fortnite allowed Epic to spend huge sums without going into the red, so that’s exactly what they did.
There have been two primary ways in which Epic has drawn customers into their store. The first is by paying developers and publishers for timed exclusivity. Through this approach, if players want in, they have no choice but to hop on Epic’s system. The second method Epic used was by offering free games. Noted by PC Gamer many of these games have been major AAA hits, such as Control, Rage 2, Alien Isolation, and the Batman Arkham games. Whenever a free game is claimed by a customer, Epic has to pay the developer, which costs them a lot over the long term. Then, thanks to Fortnite, they can afford it.
Though Epic only represents one piece of the puzzle, with other names like GoG, Bethesda, and the Ubisoft stores also playing a part, it represents the benefits that competition brings to customers. No longer under Valve’s thumb, the growing popularity of other systems will inevitably force Steam to up their game. For the sake of gamers, and those who love free fun, this is a very good thing. Ultimately, the cost of having to remember a bunch of new passwords is a small price to pay, and besides, it looks like GoG Galaxy could address that problem too.