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UK Games Retailers Threaten Boycott of Steam Games 443

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the but-we-like-it-our-way-better dept.
RogueyWon writes "Games industry trade site MCV is reporting that two major UK video games retailers are threatening to ban Steam-enabled PC games from their stores. The as-yet-unnamed retailers are apparently concerned that by selling Steam games, they are pointing their customers towards a competitor and will by trying to bring pressure upon publishers to strip Steam functionality from their games. This could prove an interesting test of where the real power lies at the retail end of PC gaming."
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UK Games Retailers Threaten Boycott of Steam Games

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  • Re:Okay... (Score:4, Informative)

    by chemicaldave (1776600) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @11:26AM (#34196566)

    More sales for Steam then?

    Sort of. Having worked at Gamestop in the past, I can say that their revenue comes from resale, not first time sales. If it wasn't for the face that broadband isn't accessible to everyone, there would be PC games sold in cases. The profit earned on new game sales is negligible. I'm assuming these companies work in a similar fashion so not selling PC games in the store isn't going hurt their bottom line very much. However, this will prevent some customers from ever entering the store which is one thing that helps drive sales.

  • Re:Unnamed..? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Sockatume (732728) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @11:36AM (#34196702)

    GameStation was bought by GAME a while ago, it's just a sub-brand of the same company now.

  • by BradleyUffner (103496) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @11:37AM (#34196708) Homepage

    They don't use Steam in their games anymore than they use Wal-Mart in their games.

    While this is true for most games, it's not true for all. New games like Just-Cause actually have steam programmed in to them. They won't work without steam, and you must install it as part of the installer. Once you install the game it's instantly linked to your steam account and you no longer need the disk. I think this is the type of steam integration they are complaining about.

  • by dr_d_19 (206418) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @11:58AM (#34196966)

    They don't use Steam in their games anymore than they use Wal-Mart in their games

    Uhm, yes they are. Call of Duty: Black Ops (released a few days ago) is sold in stores as a DVD that installs steam and then installs the game as if purchased online via steam. This has been true for many titles before this one.

    Basically, since users now has steam installed (and a steam account created) the barrier for further purchases over Steam has been lowered significantly.

    I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but I guess that's what they mean.

  • by Fozzyuw (950608) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @12:06PM (#34197080)

    They don't use Steam in their games anymore than they use Wal-Mart in their games.

    Actually, that's not true. The "use Steam" probably means having Steam enabled achievements, "cloud" storage for things like game saves, etc. Steam is more than just a content delivery method. You see, one could sell a box game at retail that has Steam support. The retails are complaining that selling such games will drive awareness of Steams sales channel.

    Now, I agree with the part that retails complaining about digital downloads and "banning" said games is like biting the hand that feeds you. Go ahead! Ban the games! You'll soon have nothing to sell in your stores and customers will *still* know how to get the game they want.

    What's next? Retails QQing about WoW: Cataclysm is being offered as a direct sale from Blizzard with the benefit of no-installation, retail per-order lines, etc? The only thing you miss is: a) CE editions and b) the "party" a store might throw.

    In other words, if a game store says "We're not going to sell Warcraft if you offer direct sales!" do you really think WoW players will notice? They'll get their game one way or another. The one thing game companies have done is offer company specific in-game times. To continue to use WoW as an example, they might offer a "Best Buy" or "Target" tabard if you pre-order the game through those stores. I've seen that before on some games. The "Wal-Mart" colored armor set, etc. To avoid the immersion perspective, it oftne times just translates into "an armor set unique to retail store X" which is usually the same as other stores but with a different color shade.

    That way, "fans" of said store can feel equally motivated to get it from them.

    Anyhow, I should disclaimer that I like Steam, I use Steam and I do enjoy very much their specials and convenience. I also had CATA pre-ordered, but just went and bought the digital update from Blizzard and canceled my pre-order. It will save me a trip to the store and generating packaging waste.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 11, 2010 @12:14PM (#34197176)

    Having used Direct2Drive off and on over some years, and even within the last couple months, I assure you that what will push D2D out of business will be D2D. Their install experience is an inconsistent frustrating mess, they do nothing to remove CD keys from the activation process, and then they add another key on top of it, and finding the ones that actually work for both of these activations is a unique little puzzle to solve for each game you download. Oh on top of it, the activation has to run as administrator or it simply doesn't work -- this information is only gradually bubbling up through their support pages. Their idea of support is to send you to the publisher who will of course have no idea exactly how D2D broke their game.

    Oh and if you're dumb enough to use Comrade (which they've been packing in as a drive-by install of some games not on D2D now) then it will "helpfully" find your other games, such as Steam, and offer to overwrite them with patches. Since Comrade can't install anything transparently, at least it isn't going to break your game automatically, yet. And all this, I've yet said nothing of Comrade's store, which pretty much just sends you to the web page -- but the fact that it might prevent you from buying a game off D2D makes me construe this lack as a feature.

    Now I do agree that Steam could still become an abusive monopoly, and does need competition to push them to continue to innovate and keep its quality high, but D2D doesn't exactly set a high bar. I could see Impulse being that competition, but not D2D: I will dance on Direct2Drive's grave when I'm done pissing on it.

  • by Gizzmonic (412910) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @12:15PM (#34197194) Homepage Journal

    You could, in theory, have a seperate Steam account for each game.

    That's against the Steam TOS and it could cause you to lose access to all your games. Don't forget, as with all DRM schemes, Steam is the true owner of all your games, and they could choose to boot you off for any reason. They are an awesome service so far, but who's to say if you'll actually be able to access your games in 10 years? If that's important to you, then you should probably go old-fashioned and get a disc.

  • by McKing (1017) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @12:18PM (#34197238) Homepage

    This is off topic, but thank you for the proper use of the "eat your cake" figure of speech. I hate when people say it backwards.

  • by asdf7890 (1518587) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @12:27PM (#34197346)

    You could, in theory, have a seperate Steam account for each game. Which would allow you to sell each game individually. But it would certainly be a hassle.

    Only in theory though, speaking in terms of the license you agree to when signing up.

    I've not read Steam's license in detail, but most systems like it make it a rule that you should not maintain multiple accounts and if multiple accounts for one person are detected all are possibly subject to deletion.

    Also the terms of most services explicitly state that accounts are not transferable and if an account is detected as having been transferred it will be cancelled. This is required because if you transfer an account to me I would have access to the service without having agreed to the terms and conditions, creating an grey area.

  • by ikkonoishi (674762) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @12:34PM (#34197456) Journal

    Two nights ago you got some of the benefits.
    http://store.steampowered.com/news/4629/ [steampowered.com]

  • Re:Fair enough (Score:3, Informative)

    by icebraining (1313345) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @12:36PM (#34197480) Homepage

    "In information technology, a backup or the process of backing up refers to making copies of data so that these additional copies may be used to restore the original after a data loss event. "

    I don't like Steam because it depends on a central service. I still play dozens of 10+ year old games. Who knows if the Steam servers will still be online ten years from now? Or 15?
    Also, it's annoying to have to create a new Steam account for each game, and having to login/logout if I ever want to resell it. And yes, sometimes I do want to resell them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 11, 2010 @12:37PM (#34197488)

    you no longer need the disk

    Uh... the what? I'm sorry, you'll have to remind me. It's been a while. A long while.

    For the GP's benefit or anyone else a bit thrown by the parent's response: DISC/DISK [wsu.edu].

  • Re:Okay... (Score:5, Informative)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Thursday November 11, 2010 @12:45PM (#34197588) Journal

    But on the other hand things like Steam (or worse AC2 style online "activation") are killing the used PC game market for ALL of us not just Gamestop. And don't forget this is DRM folks, which means you play THEIR game by THEIR rules, because YOU never own it! Want to mod it? Not allowed unless they say so. Want to sell it? Not allowed. I don't see how this is ANY different from the Apple walled garden approach, since they have all the rights to do as they please AFTER the sale.

    So while I think Gamestop can be serious asses, let us not forget that ultimately all these Steam style distribution methods make for a great run around our first sale rights, and make every "purchase" nothing more than a really expensive rental. They can pull your account, take your games away from you, they have ALL the control in their walled garden while you have none. That is why I have been putting my money where my mouth is and been shopping at Good Old Games [gog.com] where at least I OWN what I pay for.

  • by ifrag (984323) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @12:53PM (#34197688)

    Impulse still falls short of Steam in my use. There are some serious problems with their backup system. A backup can only be restored to an matching OS install for some reason, which makes no sense. I tried to backup all my games in Impulse when going from XP to Win 7, only to find out the backups were entirely useless. Of course I could still get my games back through downloads, but 50 GB of downloads is nothing to sniff at even on broadband.

    Steam on the other hand was about as transparent and easy as it could get. Simply copy /steamapps folder somewhere safe, reinstall steam on the new OS, and copy /steamapps back in. Everything basically just works, and I'm saved the re-download hassle, fortunate considering I'm probably around 100 GB in steam at this point.

  • And as a final thought: How many games actually need to have Steam if they're being sold as physical copies? Wouldn't it be preferable for the gamers if the game disc just installed single player mode without requiring the user has Steam, with the understanding that they can register their key/install Steam for multiplayer?

    They can't do that, because they're using Steam's DRM instead of licensing DRM from another party. Yes, yes, we're all prefer no DRM, but that's not going to happen.

    And DRM licensing isn't free. It would cost them money to have the game able to use 'Steam or Starforce', and it would be pretty tricky to do. (They'd probably have to swap executables.)

    Incidentally, in the past, games have done what you said. For example, Neverwinter Nights originally had some sort of CD-based DRM, but when they came out with the DVD including the expansion packs, not only did they remove DRM from that, but the online patching removed the DRM from older games.

    But to play online on various third party servers, you have to have separate product keys. IIRC, they used to be checked against some master server, but I think they patched that out, also, and now the only rule is 'can't use identical product keys on the same server'.

    Of course, they relaxed all those rules when the game was years old.

  • by Aceticon (140883) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @01:01PM (#34197786)

    No refunds on PC games (though they might reluctantly exchange a damaged disc)

    Actually they do refund non-functional games - I've gotten refunds myself from Game, twice. They will try to squirm out of it but all you have to say is that the game does not work in your system and is thus "Not fit for purpose" (this expression has a special meaning as per UK-consumer laws).

    Their hole deceitfull approach to making people believe that they can get no refunds at all is say that they will "Refund within 30 days if not open" making the buyer think that (that's the deceitfull part) they cannot get a refund at all if the package is open. In fact, as per UK consumer laws, you can get a refund at any time if the product is "Not fit for purpose" (i.e. does not work, does not do what it says it does, does not work as a "reasonable" person would expect) - what Game is offering is the possibility of getting a refund within 30 days without specific reason if unopened in addition to any refund you might be entitled under your consumer rights for a defective, non-functional or misrepresented product.

    I suggest you check the Trading Standards [tradingstandards.gov.uk] website to learn more about your rights as a consumer. You'll find that there are a lot of rights that you have as a buyer, which of course, sellers will never tell you about.

    PS: I learned all of this because at some point I had my own company selling products online - so I read all about the rights my customers had ... and about the rights I had as a seller.

  • Re:Okay... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 11, 2010 @01:06PM (#34197846)
    It is idiotic to say publishers get no value from used markets. That myth has been disproven over and over. People buy with the idea that when they are finished with a good, they can recoup some of their loss when they are done with it in the secondary market. It has been proven that people are MORE willing to buy when there is a secondary market for the item. In short, a healthy secondary market for a good actually increases the primary market for that same good. The auto industry would sell a lot less cars if people were unable to resell them when they were in the market for ANOTHER new car.
  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @01:17PM (#34197990)

    So as a user, Steam offers some value:

    1) You don't have to worry about losing your DVD. Once registered with Steam, the game is on your account and can always be redownloaded. If you lose the DVD, no problem, just download it again (Steam will also allow you to create a new backup DVD, if you wish).

    2) For games with an online component that make use of Steam's services properly, Steam can handle aspects of match making, such as allowing you to join a server your friends are playing on. The game has to be designed to use it, of course, but the service is provided. Also in all games it provides IM communication with your friends, that functions as an overlay that does not interfere with the game.

    3) Likewise Steam allows for small amounts of data to be saved to the Steam Cloud. Things like save games, keyboard mapping, and so on can be saved meaning that when you go to another computer, that all follows you.

    4) Steam provides globally viewable achievements. Maybe you think that is silly, but people love achievements. It provides and easy interface so games can grant them, and people can see and share them. Achievements are a massively popular part of XBL, and Steam is a way to get that on PCs.

    Now from the publisher's perspective, Steam provides two benefits:

    1) Steam stops used game sales. Once a game is activated with a Steam account it may never be sold or transferred. So buying a game on Steam is forever. Once you enter the code for install, that game is yours now and you cannot sell it. Publishers dislike the used market, of course.

    2) Steam, or rather Steamworks, is a free, fairly effective, DRM. Steam allows you to use their DRM at no charge, only requirement being your game must be available through Steam. You can sell it other ways too, you just have to allow them to sell it on Steam. For that you get no cost DRM (most DRM solutions are rather expensive) that does a good job of stopping casual game sharing. A normal user can't just copy a game for a friend, it won't work. The warez groups still crack it, as with any DRM, but it stops the casual stuff just like other DRM and doesn't cost anything to do it. Also because Steamworks is a transparent part of Steam many users do not find it objectionable, since they like Steam.

    So there you go. Now please, please don't get all bitchy and whiny and point out that the publisher's stuff isn't a value to you. I know that. Like I said, what the value is depends on who you are talking about. I am showing you why they want Steam, why you might want Steam, and so on. I am not advocating it, I am just showing you the reasons that some players like it, and the reasons some publishers like it.

  • Re:Okay... (Score:3, Informative)

    by robpoe (578975) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @01:39PM (#34198286)
    But on the other hand things like Steam (or worse AC2 style online "activation") are killing the used PC game market for ALL of us not just Gamestop. And don't forget this is DRM folks

    I'm tired of invasive DRM. Steam handles DRM quite nicely. I'm not totally against DRM if it's not invasive.

    You don't want any DRM? Ok, so take a look at Crysis - probably (arguably) the most pirated PC exclusive FPS made. And let me tell you, that game was pretty damn good! Now, because of piracy, Crytek (the makers of Crysis) are never going to do a PC exclusive game. Meaning longer dev times, and maybe a lesser experience for PC's (since they can't just focus on one platform). At least they didn't give us all the middle finger and go out of business. Now, if it'd been offered in Steam and the DRM (which you cry so hard about) keeps the piracy numbers way down -- ultimately the company makes money and piracy is much lower.

    Also, Steam makes updates almost painless for the end user. Dev pushes a patch, game is patched. No waiting for Fileshack / etc to be able to get a download at 75k/sec.

  • by Halifax Samuels (1124719) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @01:47PM (#34198366)
    I don't see how this is a problem. Neither I nor any of my friends who have ever used Steam have had to manually forward any ports, or do ANY networking work to get it to function. Besides, if you have very strict network configurations you shouldn't bother complaining that you have to manually add in applications because you yourself set it to be that way. Steam even gives you all the information you need to get it set up and working at home ... and if you're talking about a strict company network then why are you playing games at work? ^_^

    And with 80% of the market of digital distributions (according to TFA), how are other digital deliverers gaining ground over Steam?
  • Stupid ruckus (Score:3, Informative)

    by MrNemesis (587188) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @01:55PM (#34198482) Homepage Journal

    The idiocy in this statement is strong, for reasons that alot of non-UK gamers might not be aware of.

    Backstory is that I bought the orange box in april this year (I'm not much of a gamer), so I could give portal a whirl as I'd heard nothing but good news about it, in full knowledge that I'd have to begrudgingly install steam. Ended up loving the whole bundle, and finding that steam was alot less painless than all my other CD/DVD-based games had ever been *.

    Most stuff sold via steam in the UK however, is often cheaper at retail, thanks to exchange rates, VAT, and some other things that I don't really understand - so if I'm going to pick up a game that needs steam, I'll almost always check retail before I buy it, as buying the DVD will often save me a few quid and mean I don't have to use bandwidth pulling down the initial 5GB of textures. So don't get me wrong - potentially I'm a strong contender for buying games as retail. But, as other posters have pointed out, the retail sector for games (especially PC games) have been doing plenty to actively keep me away from them.

    It's next to impossible for me to pick up PC games at your stores (thanks to being relegated to a couple of shelves, one of which is the PC top 10 and the other one being a bunch of "edutainment" games marketed to parents for kids, or "100 classic card games on one DVD!" bullshit compilations), and despite being an affluent professional in his 30's you seem to train all your staff to think that all their customers are priapic teenagers that are prepared to put up with your short-back-and-smarm "well why don't you pre-order it?!?!?!?!?!?!" fucknozzle attitude if for some inexplicable reason I'm not interested in a wide range of used console beat 'em ups and footie games at the low low price of £5 below what a brand new copy costs. And even if you did have more than three interesting games in the building, how in fucking tardwarks am I meant to browse when I have one of your "can I interest you in our store-encompassing selection of shitty s/h games" mantras engaging in a futile impression to charm me every five minutes? If anything is keeping me away from your stores, it's you. The only place I've ever gotten a halfway decent selection is in the larger outlets of HMV, which are big enough to not give a crap about s/h sales anyway. 99% of the time I just buy the game from amazon, and that's cheaper still than steam or the high street.

    So in the immortal words of the heavy: cry some more, little babies! Boycott steam games and you'll just make yourself more irrelevant to people who already detest the way you do business.

    On top of that, steam makes a big thing about promoting all kinds of little known/indie games, both by selling them in dirt cheap bundles or by letting people play them for free for a weekend; 95% of my steam purchases so far have been these cool little indie titles, often with quirkily brilliant game mechanics. Something the high street stores do absolutely nothing to promote, therefore helping perpetuate the sausage machine of identikit FPS games. Most of the fun I've had gaming over the last year that wasn't TF2 or portal has been darwinia, defcon, braid and defence grid, none of which I'd have heard about if not for steam promoting them (inoffensively, I might add).

    * Yes, I'm aware that it's "for as long as steam keeps working!". I don't pick steam games because they're the best solution, they're just the least worst for those of us that don't like to pick up gloriously non-DRM'd games off P2P. Steam is a system made by a business for gamers, GFWL is made by a business that maybe drove past the iD offices once.

  • by Chelloveck (14643) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:11PM (#34198630) Homepage

    Impulse still falls short of Steam in my use.

    I use both, and I agree with you. I've had consistently better luck with Steam. I think the marketplace is big enough for both, and I hope Impulse does well -- competition is good, and all that. But for now I'll choose Steam if a game is available both places.

    The fact that Steam supports my Mac and Impulse doesn't is another big incentive for me to use Steam. I love how you can buy a game once on Steam and, if it's available for both Mac and Windows, play it on either one.

  • by DeadTOm (671865) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:12PM (#34198646) Homepage Journal
    I've played steam games over a LAN with no internet connection, it can be done very easily.
  • Re:Okay... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:18PM (#34198716)

    Want to mod it? Not allowed unless they say so.

    Do please point out a game that people want to mod but cannot because Steam prevents them.

    Oh, wait, Steam goes out of its way to ensure that games remain moddable, and some mods are even distributed officially on Steam. Never mind then. I guess you're just spewing scaremongering bullshit like every other Steam hater.

  • Re:Okay... (Score:3, Informative)

    by cenice (42933) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:22PM (#34198778)

    And are you sure gog.com doesn't include any DRM whatsoever? That shocks me. And technically you never own software. You license it.

    Check out point three on their about page [gog.com] for a pleasant surprise.

  • by hardboiled.tequila (986536) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @10:44PM (#34203436)

    I've yet to see the value added proposition that Steam brings to New Vegas.

    New Vegas brings value to Steam. Never the other way around. This applies to all Steam games.

    You're a bit of a special case: someone who does not yet have Steam and bought a game that requires it. We all went through this back with Half-Life 2.

    Nowadays, Steam is pervasive enough to require it.

    Just think, though: if you ever lose your install discs, you will still be able to download it legitimately, and off a reasonably fast server.

    Disclosure: I've accumulated a large library of PC games via Steam sales. Set your limit to $10 and you will amass a similarly huge collection of games. Here's a quick list of games I've bought on sale, and not yet had time to play properly (because of all the other Steam games I'm playing at the moment): Bioshock, SW:KOTOR, Street Fighter IV, Monkey Island, Mass Effect, Company of Heroes Opposing Fronts, L4D2, SW Empire at War,Deus Ex 2,Psychonauts, Stalker and the list goes on and on.

    My point is, Steam can be a very low cost form of obtaining a lot of big-name games if you wait for the sales.

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