The PCG Q&A
Find all previous editions of the PCG Q&A here. Below are some highlights:
- What's the funniest thing that's happened to you in a game?
- When did you know you were playing a game way too much?
- How would you change Steam?
The news that Fallout 76 isn't launching on Steam later this year naturally provoked a lot of discussion this week, with over 900 comments on our news piece and counting. How likely are you to play a game if it's not released on Steam? That's the subject of our midweek PCG Q&A.
While our answers vary a lot, we mostly don't mind buying games away from Steam as long as we're offered a good experience. In some cases, we prefer it. But we want to know what you think. Tell us in the comments below.
Wes Fenlon: Very likely—as long as it's not the Windows Store
I'm always running Steam, but I play plenty of games now and then that don't run Steam, and for the most part I'm fine with those secondary launchers. I always have the Dolphin emulator installed, for when I have a hankering to play an old GameCube game in 4K. I don't play much Overwatch, but I have no problem with Battle.net. For months I would regularly open the GOG client to play The Witcher 3. I'll grumble a bit when an Ubisoft game launches UPlay, but that's mainly because I play them so rarely I have to look up the password. The most esoteric way I play is probably using Putty to telnet into nethack.alt.org.
All of Steam's competing clients are totally usable these days, with the one big exception of the Windows Store. I wish it was better, but there are just so many problems there. Managing your games and downloads is frustrating, downloads are super slow, and those problems are greatly compounded by the massive filesizes of cross-platform Xbox games. Throw in the pain of grouping with friends via the Xbox app, and, well, I still want to play Forza Horizon 3, but it's just such a pain in the ass
James Davenport: I consciously avoid Steam now
The more money I pour into Steam in the decade-plus I've had my account, the more worried I get about the future. Anchoring so much money and time to one digital storefront for the right to play games I've paid for feels like a worse idea the bigger my library gets. I'm sure these questions have been discussed, maybe answers, but what happens if Valve sinks? Where do my games go? Are they even my games? DRM-free is my jam these days, the only safe way to archive digital media. Anyway, I rarely use Steam chat anymore thanks to Discord, the library management tools are garbage, and when it comes to big games tied to bespoke launchers, I'd rather keep them tied to Uplay or Origin or wherever rather than open a client to open a client. Steam was great when it was my TF2 and indie game launcher. Now it's a rights problem that buries good games beneath piles of asset-flipped garbage.
But seriously, the Windows Store is an abomination.
Samuel Roberts: Extremely likely, depending on the storefront
I still prefer buying games on Steam, but I don't mind buying games from other stores, if those stores offer a good experience. Origin doesn't bother me too much these days, even if I sometimes find the price of expansions for The Sims 4 to be a little eye-watering. I have a mighty GOG library, and I like that living separately from my Steam games in Galaxy, since I consider that a sub-category of games. The Windows Store is still terrible, even if the Xbox app is simple enough to use for matchmaking. Plus the prices are always about ten pounds more than I'm willing to spend—£50 for Sea of Thieves is too much for me. I can't see myself ever buying a game through the Windows Store as it stands. I do care about compatibility for my current and future hardware, which is why I prefer to buy older games through GOG. I always want my copy of Jedi Knight to work.
There's probably a limit to how many bespoke launchers I want on my PC, though, and that limit is 15, I guess.
Jody Macgregor: I prefer itch.io
I like to get games from itch.io, both because the creators get to decide how to split their cut with the storefront and so usually earn more than they would elsewhere, and because there are plenty of games there you can't find on Steam. Lately I've been enjoying Extreme Meatpunks Forever, and it's where I go to find the weird text adventures I love. You can check out our collection for a ton of games we recommend of all genres. I'll fire up Origin whenever a new BioWare game comes out, but with its library of DRM-free indie games and optional desktop app I've never actually used, itch is my preference.
Andy Chalk: Like everyone else, extremely likely, with strong reservations about the Windows Store
I indulge in Steam shenanigans, like chasing cheevos and trading Steam cards, but at the end of the day it's really just a place to buy games. That meant more when it was effectively the only store in town, but competing platforms have really stepped it up in recent years. GOG is great, Origin is perfectly good, Battle.net is fine, Uplay is still kind of a pain in the ass but generally worth the hassle—it's all good, really, except for the Windows Store, and I think we've wailed on that horse enough for one day. Sure, Steam does lots of other stuff, like chat and mod support and the market, but so what? As a digital storefront/launcher, Steam is one of many these days, and if a game I want is only available elsewhere, that's where I'll go.
Philippa Warr: Very likely as long as it's not the Windows Store
I tend to use itch.io to binge on smaller, weirder projects, some paid and some free-of-charge—I'd actually say it's my favourite way of picking up games. Origin is where my various weird Sims 4 neighbourhoods live and I don't remember having any specific issues with it. I have just managed to get my Uplay access restored and that's fine, although the security system of copy-pasting and then saving six security codes for years in case anything ever goes wrong with the Google authenticator on your phone strikes me as Not Great, and is why I was locked out in the first place. Battle.net (or whatever it's currently branded as) is fine. The League of Legends launcher is fine...
The Windows Store stands as a lone trash fire in this landscape of things which are broadly fine and broadly functional.
Tom Senior: Quite likely, but less likely to play a game not on Steam
I'm quite likely to buy a game I want if it's not on the Steam store. As others have said, Steam's competitors are gradually improving. I'm less likely to play a game that's not on Steam, however.
When I start my PC I don't tend to launch every game launcher, I habitually launch Steam, because most of my games live there and the interface means they are easy to access. You can manually add games from other clients to Steam, but I forget to do that all the time, and I'm lazy. I wish there was a grand unifying interface that pulled in all my games from all my clients and gave me a single program to launch on boot.