Published on March 10, 2009 By Island Dog In PC Gaming

Recently, Edge-Online had an article featured called “The Age of Steam ”.  It takes a thorough look at the Steam platform, from beginning stages to its current form.

“What started as a way of administering updates has become a delivery platform so powerful that it has threatened to render even the big publishers‭’ ‬alternatives obsolete,‭ ‬an online community so well-supported that it sets standards even for those found on consoles,‭ ‬and a no-fiddling environment that allows your games,‭ ‬settings and saves to follow you from one PC to the next every time you log in.”

Brad Wardell, CEO of Stardock, which is behind the digital distribution platform, Impulse , gives his view on the subject.

“We're at the very beginning of digital distribution. Steam may indeed become the Facebook of digital distribution but there's just as much chance it could become the next Friendster.

When one of these services has 20 million active users per day, then I think we can say that they have reached a critical threshold. Right now, however, by Valve's own statistics, about half of Steam users use it for just Counterstrike -- not including all of Valve's other games.”

Read the full article at Edge-Online .


Comments (Page 1)
on Mar 10, 2009

This "Impulse vs Steam" war is going to be boring, honestly.

on Mar 10, 2009

"Services control the dominant distribution tool at any time."

- Gabe Newell

worth repeating

on Mar 10, 2009

"As new titles come out bundled with Steamworks, which requires a user to become a Steam user in order to play the game (something I would normally think that the press would raise alarm about if this were being done by say EA or Microsoft or even Google), the Steam user base has continued to increase."

Not just play the game. Even to INSTALL it!!! Very big nod to the comment about the press...

on Mar 10, 2009

So long as Valve continue to release high quality titles of their own over Steam, like Half-Life episodes, Team Fortress 2 updates, Left 4 Dead and others, Steam will continue to do well.

But so long as Steam requires itself to be running when you load a game - even if you've explicitly set it to Offline mode - there's more than ample wiggle room for other services to muscle in and grab a sustainable amount of the market.

Stardock have a similar advantage in this regard as Valve hold - both companies release good quality titles of their own and aren't relying on third parties to make publishing deals. Both obviously want more titles on their service, but so long as both continue to release good games (and other things, in Impulse's case) and continue releasing good updates for games, both will remain relevant.

I do have to wonder though how many of those "Steam Counter-Strike Users" are multiple accounts due to earlier ones getting their ID banned from various servers...

on Mar 10, 2009

The Major difference between the two is the background services offered to developers and distributors, for Impulse that does not come out until Phase 3 later this year.  When it does, I'll bet my future pension it blows away Steam in that regard, and in the long term that will be the deciding factor.  Fans go where they can get their Game. If its only one place, thats where they will go - reluctant or not.  The up front functionality is important - of course, that should go without saying.  However, its primarily the attachment of Games Houses to the whole distribution concept that will make or break in the long term.

It will do so because despite arguments over front of house problems/differences, the clincher to a Publisher is how easily and cheaply distribution can be done with the right platform.  Of course that platform has to work properly for the users, thats a given, but the driver behind the whole genre is the issues Publishers have distributing their games, its costly and complex without digital distribution.  The Clammer to go online distribution with the wholesale slaughter of costs is driving all Publishing houses.  They just want to oversee game Production, if someone else can distribute more efficiently and cheaper - then they are up for it, no business wants the complexity of carrying out non core activities unless its forced to.

Stardocks common sense Policy in development, focusing on need, not the next way to screw more revenue, will win the day, because Publishing Houses self interest means they are better off using a platform that is developed for their problems, not just merely just another revenue generation exercise.  These Platforms are not just about simplistic download, and comparisons along those lines always miss the real drivers and the enormous potential for realigning social network Forums around common interests like those on the Platforms.  The latter opens many other possibilities in the long term.

Set against that overall picture, continued tirades about some minor aspect of the platform front end, receed to the background.  These platforms are not just about downloads and updates ....  I am looking forward to seeing Impulse Version 3 develop as time goes on from later this year.  I reckon it will be an eye opener for many in the Publishing world.

Regards
Zy

on Mar 10, 2009

I bought Dawn of War II hving no idea about steam. When it would not even let me change the emblems on my units shoulders/flags without logging on, I got annoyed right there.  Then you have to log in to just play a game solo vs the AI too.  And then there's GFWL to add to the top of the pile if you actually want to play with anyone.  I hugged my SoaSE box after that. . .

on Mar 10, 2009

if someone else can distribute more efficiently and cheaper - then they are up for it, no business wants the complexity of carrying out non core activities unless its forced to.

Yes, but why would they turn to Impulse? Steam:

1: Is far better established. Has been around since 2004, and all of the bugs have been worked out.

2: Has shipping games using its backend. No worries about games breaking due to poor-quality foreign code in their games.

3: Has a more stable distribution platform.

4: Has more intrusive DRM (for publishers, this is a plus).

Phase 3 provides Impulse with precious little that Steam and Steamworks doesn't already have. The only thing that might be worthwhile is the simplicity of submitting file updates; of course, none of us here know what the Steam process is like. Then again, major publishers don't care about something minor like the submission process; they're going to be methodical about releases anyway.

Phase 3 is fine for indie developers and so forth; the streamlined interface will help with that. It won't help major publishers.

What's most likely to happen is that Steam will be the place to go for the big-ticket games, and Impulse will be for the lesser-known ones.

on Mar 10, 2009

Right now their is Impulse and Steam doing the on-line distro of PC games. An

basically controlling the lion share of it. Microsoft has the xbox360 on-line services

for the xbox360 console. I figure in the coming months the on-line services that

is connected to the xbox with spill over to the PC.

 

Microsoft could push its way to the top by using Windows 7 and it's deep pockets

to design a on-line service like Steam and Impulse ...  They got the money and

resources to get it done.

on Mar 10, 2009

Alfonse,

Steam has been around since 2003 and still has bugs. Just this afternoon I downloaded yet another client update for it.

Then there's the bugs with trying to download popular games at the time of release, plus then authenticating with their servers... It never goes well. It's a stable platform when there's no major release going on, but since major releases is when most people care about it being stable, it's kind of an issue that it isn't.

Stardock Central, Stardock's previous digital distribution client, started in 2001 and got its first big gaming workout when GalCiv was released. In 2003. Someone from Stardock correct me if those dates're wrong. Wiki-knowledge mixed with my own.

Stardock are not exactly new to this, though Impulse is still somewhat in its infancy.

GenBlood, Steam and Impulse are not the only ones in the market - Direct2Drive, Gamersgate, TryGames are all in it too and that's only off the top of my head. While they don't all have clients like Steam and Impulse there's many ways that games can be bought online nowadays.

And the XBOX 360 stuff is already onto the PC - you can buy and queue things for download via marketplace.xbox.com and have been able to do so for a while. It was one of the best things they added around the recent NXE update.

on Mar 10, 2009

Steam does have a fully functioning offline mode. However it does have one extreme flaw. You have to turn on the feature manually, that is to say you must turn on Steam and tell it to warm up offline mode. If you simply lose your internet connection then the offline mode is useless.

on Mar 10, 2009

Well, its like Impulse: learn to love it, it ain't going away.

on Mar 11, 2009

I would prefer a platform where we can play our games or download tools, if we need them, and use them, without having to be connected to use the software. Its fine for the house on a desktop, but what if we take a trip and im in the backseat with a laptop for 8 hours for three days to go visit my grandparents?

Or the parents are on the computer in the living room that is connected and im in the bedroom, with well, haha, not connected?  Anyway, i know there is wireless and all that, but still. Its way better to have a choice, instead of the ppl in the company deciding of course they want you connected ALL the time.  

No way,

just my opinion of course,

-Teal

 

on Mar 11, 2009

Alfonse

if someone else can distribute more efficiently and cheaper - then they are up for it, no business wants the complexity of carrying out non core activities unless its forced to.
Yes, but why would they turn to Impulse? Steam:

1: Is far better established. Has been around since 2004, and all of the bugs have been worked out.

2: Has shipping games using its backend. No worries about games breaking due to poor-quality foreign code in their games.

3: Has a more stable distribution platform.

4: Has more intrusive DRM (for publishers, this is a plus).

Phase 3 provides Impulse with precious little that Steam and Steamworks doesn't already have. The only thing that might be worthwhile is the simplicity of submitting file updates; of course, none of us here know what the Steam process is like. Then again, major publishers don't care about something minor like the submission process; they're going to be methodical about releases anyway.

Phase 3 is fine for indie developers and so forth; the streamlined interface will help with that. It won't help major publishers.

What's most likely to happen is that Steam will be the place to go for the big-ticket games, and Impulse will be for the lesser-known ones.

Now your post can be considered false marketing, had it come from Valve, now; it's just false.

1: Nope, still got a load of bugs (several came into light with the recent releases of DoWII and Empires, such as f-ed up release date checks, downloading->patching->downloading (rinse and repeat) bug, etc. etc.) so Steam is faaar from bug free, and just about equal in that matter compared to several other digital distribution systems, such as Impulse.

2: You gotta be kidding me, sure Valve's own games are optimized for use with the Steam framework, but the fact that more than 75% of the games available on Steam are non-Valve games there is a lot of 3rd party code at work. (Also, take a look in the steamapps folder of your Steam installation folder, there you'll see that the file structure and workings of several of the games available via Steam is just like any other release, Steam is just used for DRM, downloading and patching of the game.

3: Stable distribution? Yeeeah right... With Steam servers crashing and extremely low speeds and halting downloads reported throughout the world on even the Empire: Total War DEMO release this is just not true.

4: Well yes, the Steam DRM system is intrusive, and this is of course both good and bad. It prevents pirating of games, to some degree, which is good. (While still not, in many cases anyway, screwing up your system, Starforce style.) Although there is a drawback to this; the Steam framework has to be running while running your game (as the Framework works today anyway), and no matter how you look at it; this requires system resources, more than would be used if Steam would just do a DRM check (like the discrete copy protections/DRM systems of today, such as SecuROM and Safedisc) at the launch of the game, and then turn itself off.

Steam is just one digital distribution system, with several drawbacks. And if those aren't attended there is a large chance that the market may see other equally successful alternatives coming up in the future.

on Mar 11, 2009

Steam...simply ridiculous! Can't even play Empire: Total War if I don't have my connection on! Come on I bought the bloody game when I could have downloaded it through torrent for free (though in 2 days instead of 10 minutes to get to the store) and now forcing me to connect to this lame-ass (excuse the word but really I can't find any other way to describe it) platform with horrible speed, disgusting interface in order ot enjoy what I rightfully bought.

It's like telling a kid he can have a candy but ONLY if he does homework at the same time. Who do they think they are..the Big Brother of the Internet, here to monitor everything we do.

Now what do we do if they have maintenance to do, or one of their servers crashes and needs few days of repairs, stuck with a blank screen with NO WAY to load our games since the platform is down. Not to mention (as stated before) the OFFLINE MODE that is only be activated if your ONLINE (hum...smart move on that one Steam! You're geniuses of the obvious all right).

Really..when you look at them! Impulse wins without a sweat. Ever since I downloaded it (August 2008...so I'm still "young" in this), I've managed to simply buy Sins, Entrenchment and the GalCiv Ultimate Bundle and enjoy them head-on. (not to mention installing them on all my households pc's (4)). I never noticed a bug of any kind on Impulse...sure one or two updates once in a while but that just shows you that the developers are still doing their best to offer you the best platform out there..but nothing more. Impulse is what a distribution channel should be: fast,easy,safe,reliable and then it leaves you alone to enjoy your product!

Just my two cents (probably not worth much) but its just to think that their "forcing" us to remain logged to THEIR platform in order to play makes me wonder how much further they can go in the future. They gonna install a new feature in a while that will disable Impulse automatically if you have Steam...they gonna add membership fees...I don't know! We already HAVE to stay logged on to them to play, whats stopping them from sending crap (adds for their games, promotions,etc...) or restrictions our way. And failure to comply would mean closing your account! Now woulndt that be a surprise if it were to happen. Gamers would have no choice but either abandon their beloved games or comply...I can assume most would tend to bend down to steam.

 

-ShadowMastiff2468- 

 

 

on Mar 11, 2009

TucoBenedicto
This "Impulse vs Steam" war is going to be boring, honestly.

Fully agree...

Sins forums are already over spammed with crap posts like this...

"Are you sure you want Steam" "Are you sure Impulse isn't great" "Are you sure days aren't numbered" 

Loads of crap honestly...

Person who wants to use one or both will use it and person wont use any wont.

Steam offers much more titles and its been around for quite some time...

Impulse is new player in the game and it offers way less...

 

It is about what consumer can BUY and / or get from the service!!!!

 

I would never install Impulse if Sins was available from Steam for example - then again I will probably install Steam coz Empire isn't available from Impulse etc...

 

End of story.

Full stop.

Yawn...

 

Next please!