Game Development Reference
For the most part, Steam offers a classic premium download model for PC
and Mac gamers that provides fast, secure, appealing and convenient service.
Although some products offered on Steam may dabble in internal monetization
strategies, for the most part Steam functions as an effective marketplace for a
traditional retail sales model, just without the brick-and-mortar location (and
the overhead costs that go along with it).
Alternatives to Steam
There are a number of competitors to Steam. Some of these alternatives are
proprietary or cater to games made only by a particular company. Others spe-
cialize in deeply discounted software, indie games, or vintage software. None
of these services come anywhere near Steam in terms of popularity, but all pro-
vide viable marketplaces. Moreover, there are naturally some types of games for
which Steam is either prohibitively expensive or unavailable, so these alterna-
tive services can offer access to markets that might otherwise go untouched.
Electronic Arts has recently launched Origin, their online game retailer,
which seems to serve the function of an online marketplace without offering
any of the social features provided by Steam. North American users can order
games for their console or handheld devices, which are then shipped out via
FedEx or the U.S. postal service. Gamers can also directly download PC prod-
ucts (there are currently none offered for the Mac), and although all games
are published by EA, they have a sufficient back catalog of offerings to make
this an interesting tool to investigate, if only to see how a major publisher is
approaching direct digital sales on the PC.
Direct2Drive serves as another online marketplace where users can pick up
digital copies of games for both the PC and the Mac. The Direct2Drive catalog is
robust, but the download manager lacks the sophistication of Steam, and they
have yet to incorporate any concept of a community. Direct2Drive is a store, not
a social network; however, it is a good place for PC and Mac games to get expo-
sure to additional customers.
Good Old Games (GoG) has taken an old-school nerd's love of classic games
and turned it into a business model. GoG offers games no longer available from
retail or publisher frontline catalogs and allows users to directly download them
for the PC. Games like Fallout (the 2D version) and classics ranging from Alone
in the Dark to Zork fill out the shelves of this virtual storefront. Prices are sur-
prisingly steep for titles that almost assuredly aren't getting play anywhere else,
and community features are skinny at best, offering a few hundred forums
mostly dealing with game-specific discussion, but Good Old Games is keeping
great games of the past alive and selling, and for that they deserve accolades.
Good Old Games is still accepting new titles into their storehouse, and an enter-
prising social game developer could likely find a way to relaunch a classic IP
with a new social focus and sell it through GoG.