THE PCG Q&A
Find all previous editions of the PCG Q&A here. Some highlights for you:
- Who is your most hated game protagonist?
- What multiplayer games do you prefer to play solo?
- What's the jankiest PC fix you've ever made?
It's been eventful in the world of PC gaming storefronts. Valve reduced the revenue cut it takes from developers to 25% from 30% for sales over $10 million, and that cut decreases further to 20% following $50 million in sales. This led to a discussion around a Steam issue reportedly affecting indies. And, in the midst of this, Fortnite creator Epic announced its own store, one that pays a greater cut of sales to all developers.
On top of that, Epic is giving away free games to sweeten the deal. Good ones!
The idea of serious competition should make the next few years interesting for PC gaming. This weekend we decided to talk about how important Steam is to how we enjoy games, and whether we would be prepared to give it up. You'll find a whole variety of thoughts on the subject below—and we'd love to read your opinions in the comments.
Phil Savage: No, but I'll still use the Epic store
I feel like main gaming platform is a big ask now, given the sheer number of games I own through Steam. Even if I switched exclusively to the Epic Store for new games, it would take a long time before it overtook my Steam library. That said, I'll happily use the Epic Store too.
One of the main complaints I see about any Steam rival is that people prefer not to have multiple launchers on their PC, but I walked down from that hill a long time ago. I've already got GOG Galaxy, Origin, Uplay and Battle.net, and use all of them. What's the harm of adding another into the rotation? More broadly, I welcome more competition for Steam. As a platform it feels... complacent—a collection of ideas and iterations, some that work, others that are barely fit for purpose. It's so dependant on algorithms, and yet isn't very good at putting things I might want to play in front of me on the store page. Any pressure on Steam's de facto dominance has to be a good thing.
Philippa Warr: It isn't really my main platform now
In terms of my non-work gaming, Steam hasn't been my main gaming platform since I stopped playing Dota 2 regularly. I spend far more time on Itch.io with smaller games and game-ish projects. If Epic has games I'd like to play that Steam doesn't or seems to be offering better terms to devs I want to support then that platform will just slot into that landscape. The only limiting factor would be if I couldn't get it to work for some reason.
On the work side of things it's a bit different. Unless the game is from a publisher with their own platform like Origin or Uplay, we tend to get sent Steam code so I'm necessarily using Steam a lot for work. In that instance, whether I switch to Epic is entirely down to whether that's the platform developers/publishers/PRs opt for.
Wes Fenlon: Maybe one day
I think I'm with Phil here. I have too many games on it, and am too used to it, that it'll probably be my default library for as long as it exists, or as long as I'm playing PC games. It sort of feels like Windows in that way, to me. I had a Macbook Air for several years, I've dabbled a bit with Ubuntu and other devices, and maybe someday I'll have an iPad instead of a laptop. But Windows has been synonymous with computers for me since I was a kid clicking around Windows 3.1, and I don't see that changing.
Steam has been very convenient for a very long time, but there are only a few features I really care about in a PC launcher these days, and as long as Steam's competitors have them too, I'm happy to use them when I spot a deal or an exclusive I want to play. Honestly, I could probably boil it down to "cloud saves." If you have cloud saves, you've pretty much got me onboard.
Fraser Brown: Yes
I’ve got close to 1,000 games on Steam, many of them quite good, so I wouldn’t want to lose access to this huge library of games. Would I be happy to buy all my new games on another platform, however? Definitely. At least if it’s an improvement on Steam. It’s become overdesigned, and we’re seemingly just being dragged around by an algorithm.
Even though there are competitors and alternatives, Valve still has an effective monopoly, and that’s arguably not good for developers or players, so the competition from a newcomer like the Epic Games Store is very welcome. It might be a minor inconvenience, but I already have countless games on other platforms, and it really wasn’t that long ago that none of these conveniences existed.
Steven Messner: Yes
I'm with Fraser on this one. The only reason I continue to use Steam is because, over the years, I've invested so much into it that it'd be ridiculous to walk away from that. But if Steam actually let me own my games DRM free instead of just licensing them, I'd happily move to another platform. My personal attachment to Steam as a service is practically nonexistent. I don't have any Steam-only friends that I care about, I don't give a shit about any of the weird metagame stuff like trading cards or account levels or anything. And while I do find its guide section frequently helpful for a few games, it's nothing that I couldn't find elsewhere on the internet. Steam is really just that few extra steps it takes to either buy or run a game, and I wouldn't care all that much what platform occupies those extra steps.
Samuel Roberts: No
Steam is 100% the first thing I click on when I turn on my PC, either to check out what's on sale, play a game, or find out which update is rudely demanding 1GB of my hard-drive space. Other clients like Origin, GOG Galaxy and uPlay are pinned to my taskbar, but I never use them by default. It would require such a sea change to make things move in any other direction. Everything from press review keys and beta keys to third-party seller stock runs through Steam.
If, tomorrow, I lost access to my account and I could do nothing about it (this great Waypoint piece made me worry about that), I would be gutted. But until that happens, Steam isn't going anywhere for me. For how I play PC games, Steam does have everything I need.
Ultimately, though, I always go where the best deals are, and if I acclimatise to using Epic's store, I can see it becoming vital to how I buy PC games. I sure do like the idea of indies getting a better cut, and competition is good for Valve. Steam's leaderboards, friends lists, wishlists and everything else, though, feel so fundamental to how I play PC games that I can't see this changing.
James Davenport: Platforms, like borders, are imaginary
I've invested a lot of money into Steam and have plenty of great games on there I don't want to lose access to. I'll likely do the same on the Epic store over the years. Purchasing decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis (probably skewed towards the Epic store because you know they're gonna do Fortnite crossover skins). But hey, the PC is the platform. Let's stop pledging allegiance to storefronts like they're our buds, even if that's where our friends and the majority of our games live. If you're feeling hesitant, or upset that other storefronts exist, then Valve got you. It worked. Don't let it. Programs like Discord can bridge most of those gaps. If that's not enough, just remember that we don't need games. We don't need them at all, and we certainly don't need them to live under the one dumb corporate eye. I'll play games wherever it makes sense for me. If it doesn't make sense, I won't play them at all. Unless Tim makes me, that is.
Evan Lahti: No
The gravity of my "hours played" list is big, and I'm not sure that Epic or another launcher has the escape velocity to pull me off it permanently. It's the feeling that this list of time you've accumulated represents your gaming career, or something, and that splitting it up represents a distraction. As much as I dislike game systems that over-emphasize extrinsic rewards, I'm a sucker for stuff feeling quantified and tracked in an official way.
Tom Senior: No
Steam would have to break spectacularly for me to walk away from it. When new stores launch I'm reminded of how much I use Steam's social features. It's useful having a list of friends online that I can invite into a game with a couple of clicks. I've even used Steam reviews, largely as a way to check something isn't busted before buying games. Having said that, the client's ugly, and I'm not interested in Steam as a social network with community pages and badges. There are many more minor issues, but no killer blow. The size of the library is remarkable, and competitors are way, way behind when it comes to sales. Steam is here to stay.
Andy Chalk: In theory
Sure, why not? My loyalty to Steam exists solely as a function of the number of games it has, so all you have to do is put together a digital storefront that offers a better selection at the same or lower prices, and I'm there. Easy, right?
Just gimme a call when it happens.
Let us know what you think below.