Recent outburst by Gabe Newell, owner of Valve – the company behind Steam digital publishing platform for PC and Mac, against Windows 8 and its closed Marketplace model, prompts one to think about the need for a second marketplace. You can read the original article at VentureBeat.
Steam is a success story and it proves that digital distribution is a growing business. All sorts of games thrive, whether they are 60$ AAA games or small indie games for a dollar. And when you consider regular discounts up to 75%, it is no wonder that Windows 8 without Steam is a bleak future for Valve. But what about consumers, will they lose anything in the process?
If a game studio wants to be successful, it must explore all options for distributing games. This means that in the future, a publisher will publish game to both Windows 8 Marketplace and Steam. This way it will cover as much audience as possible. Steam will run fine on Windows 8 for desktop, but the tablet version, Windows RT, cannot have Steam. Simply put, there is only place for one digital distribution channel in town. And with XBox integration, the built in store seems a better idea than Steam.
However, this limits choice. If I paid for the game once, and I want to play it again on WinRT, prohibiting Steam will prevent people from playing games they already own. And since games are mostly native and use DirectX, porting them to Win8 presents lesser problem than the general availability.
Which returns us to the problem – if users cannot transfer their experience to new, and yet the same, platform, they might either leave the entire Windows platform or just Steam. In either case Steam loses. If somehow it would be possible to have multiple digital content distribution platforms on a single OS, would that be a big plus for all of us? Or vendor lock-in is the only future without the important thing – choice.
It is easier to simply forbid another ecosystem running on your OS than to allow choice. And if Microsoft allows bringing in another ecosystems, should they do the same? Should we be able to run Steam on iPhone or have XBLA on Android? What about Amazon? Simply close the doors and let consumers choose where they want to be locked in today.