Stardock CEO: Steam holds 70% of digital game distribution market

By on November 23, 2009, 1:32 PM
Brad Wardell, Stardock CEO, recently stated that Steam is leaps and bounds ahead of competing digital distribution services -- including "Impulse", Stardock's own gaming content delivery service. In terms of dollars generated per month, Wardell estimates that Steam enjoys some 70% of the digital distribution market, while Impulse makes up about 10%. All other services combined account for the remaining 20%.

Wardell also noted that Valve is beginning to monopolize on its position by licensing Steamworks to major publishers as a DRM solution. If a game requires Steamworks, it is essentially cut off from Impulse and other services, thus limiting their content. Examples of this include THQ's Dawn of War II, Sega's Empire: Total War, and more recently Activision's Modern Warfare 2. Wardell says that it is impractical for his company to provide a game that requires the installation of a competitor's store and platform in order to play it.

Stardock is working to evolve Impulse by improving the user and community experience, in addition to reeling in more content.




User Comments: 22

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Xclusiveitalian Xclusiveitalian said:

I remember when I found out I had to install Steam in order to play empire total war really upset me, and definitely there monopoly is growing a bit to big. The reason we don't like monopolies is because once there isn't a competitor you can essentially do whatever you want including making PC games...idk $60 each?...$70... I like Steams offers and sales they give often which are some pretty hot deals but in the future when all there is left is steam then what?

mit2591 said:

Well monopoly in any form of business is bad for end-users,i don't want a Microsoft in here either.And what's with this new DRM steamworks?Another headache for the gamers who buy games i guess.

Staff
Per Hansson Per Hansson, TS Server Guru, said:

I also agree

I was very downturned about steam being a requirement for playing Modern Warfare 2, even when you buy the DVD retail

Don't get me wrong, Steam has some good services and I do buy games on Steam too, but they still scare me, like that they can terminate your account and all games that belong to it for example! (They say it is relevant only if you cheat or use cracks and stuff but what about false positives...?)

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

See, I like steam! when I got half-life 2 in store and installed it, i was with you guys and really hated steam, but now I own soo many games on steam! L4D(2) TF2 CS:S HL-2(EP1,2) Portal etc, and all my friends use it as well, so I can chat to them while playing, Voice included, i can join there games and the overlay is genius! I can facebook while killing zombies! it also loads up pretty quick too! and when I go to a frieds house, I can just login to my own steam account! I can see why people can hate it, but they need to give it more of a chance before saying they hate it!

gobbybobby said:

yer this is OLD news. I read this story last week. Keep up techspot. Anywooop I love steam, I am always losing product keys, disks, destroying them and such, so having steam I don't have to worry. I just wish the sims 3 was on there. only reason I have not bought it is becuase I lost Sims 2 TWICE.

the having yer account terminated and £100s worth of games gone is a scary thought! but that won't happen right!?

Staff
Matthew Matthew, TechSpot Staff, said:

@gobbybobby: I admittedly failed to notice that the sourced story had been published last Thursday, but it is still relevant material and I think calling it "OLD" is a bit of an exaggeration.

Guest said:

This is one of the reasons why I stopped buying Steam games. There are plenty of good games out there that don't need Steam. Just gotta go find them.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I find that I like Steam (and Impulse) more and more as I use them. I was pretty skeptical at first, but after multiple computer changes (including laptop acquisitions) I have come to love the simplicity of just selecting the games I want to install and letting it do its thing.

The whole retail DVD requirement to load Steam used to bother me, until I realized that all of the titles that I purchased did this in lieu of hardcore DRM, like requiring me to keep my DVD in the drive to play. The Steam license check did all the checking that was necessary to be sure I wasn't a filthy pirate, and voila!

As for the main topic of the story, Impulse has a nice chunk of the pie, and if they can do things like put together a great integration scheme to allow easy and quick contact between the users (including voice) like Steam has, then they will have leverage to get more companies wanting them to represent their products. Right now, Steam is the better platform of the 2, plain and simple, and Impulse is scrambling to catch up. Of course, Stardock's people conveniently leave out the fact that they introduced Impulse some 5 years after Steam, yet still whine that Steam is establishing a monopoly? They've had YEARS of a head start, and have been negotiating exclusives since Steam was first introduced. Just like MS and Sony and Nintendo negotiate exclusives for their consoles. It's business, big gaming business, get over it and get competitive, or get left in the dust. At the very least, if Stardock can manage to get a system together that provides the DRM security that Steam does, they should be able to negotiate with companies to provide the consumer with a choice of which digital content delivery system they want to use. But for now, Steam is superior, and Impulse has some catching up to do.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Oh, and yes, before some nitpickers jump in and throw out the fact that Stardock had Stardock Central before Impulse, and it was actually out before Steam, keep in mind this is Stardock's leadership directly comparing Impulse to Steam. Impulse is very new in relation to Steam, and Stardock Central never really seemed to catch on (mainly due to a lack of pushing the concept hard) - part of why they went to Impulse, kind of a "do over" to try to establish a foothold.

Funny how they had a jump on Valve, didn't capitalize on it properly, and now are whining that they are behind and Steam is massively dominating them, isn't it? Easier to blame others than take responsibility for your own actions (or inactions) sometimes.

Razerblade said:

I wouldn't have installed Steam if I didn't have to, but because of Call of duty: Modern Warfare 2 I've had to! This helps them to get more and more of the market share as they are forcing people to use it if they are playing certain games!

ajickes said:

I had nothing but bad experience using Steam a couple of years back. But now I think I'm left with no choice since I'd want to get Modern Warfare 2 for the PC. With lots of people wanting to get this game, that puts them even at a better spot.

ET3D, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Steam might have an unfair advantage, but it's also a better store. The other online stores should learn from its strengths, and then they're likely to become more successful.

yorro said:

I love steam with their integrated services. I don't see how people are so iffy with the world going to TB phase.

Ithryl said:

I prefer buying boxed games myself and am not comfortable with logging on every time I want to play a certain game. What I love on Steam, though, are the weekend deals. Sometimes they are just irresistible

Afroaggie said:

From personal experiance I have come to notice that having the actual product in my hands has always been more satisfying than having the game linked to an account. Don't get me wrong I have steam and I have purchased several games from this source, but if I am going to pay full price especially I will be getting the actual game from the store. I remember that the only reason I got into the steam was because I could get HL2 e(1,2), portal, and TF2 all for the low price of 30 bucks. Also, thanks to techspot, I got my hands on the 5 dollar version of Assassins Creed, but all in all I use it as a method of purchasing games when I feel I am not getting jipped that enjoyment of opening the package and having my own hardcopy.

On the topic of monopoly, well I would have to say they might just fall into that category only because I can't say I have ever purchased any game from any other downloadable source, but I also still buy my hard copy games from the store as well. I feel they deserve the amount of market they have because they came out early in the game and capitalized by putting great games for reasonable prices and then making sure that their interface was accessible. I am sure that if any company had spent the time and the money when such an idea of purely downloadable games was preposterous then they too could be holding a good chunk of this market.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

This is what I just love about our society today... Valve has worked hard at making Steam effective, worked on getting good partnerships and exclusives with developers, and done everything they can to make the platform user-friendly and a good experience. But, due to short-sighted ineptitude and a lack of marketing push, others lag far behind them in their particular arena, so people start shouting foul and "monopoly" at them.

Seriously, how do you get labeled as monopolistic, when you are just the only ones doing a good job? Now, if you were actively squashing all competition, using unfair business practices to entice or strong-arm partners to prevent any other competition (intel anyone?), THEN the monopoly argument can apply. But if you are just using good business practices, and you have a far superior product that your customers flock to, I'd say you aren't a monopoly, you just have done a damn good job.

Docnoq said:

I've got to agree with Vrmithrax. Valve has done an outstanding job developing and polishing Steam into a very user-friendly environment, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with them using their well-established system to lure "exclusives" like MW2, DoW2, etc.

And all of the people that dislike having to install Steam to play MW2, I would have to say it's better than Punkbuster. The old CoD games all use Punkbuster for their anti-cheat mechanisms, and Punkbuster just causes a lot of hassles. I tried going back to MW1 a few months ago, only to get continuously kicked from every server after 5 minutes of gameplay due to a random Punkbuster error. After a lot of Googling and emails to Punkbuster's company, it was determined that Punkbuster did not like one of the programs I was running in the background of my computer and was kicking me because of it.

FoReWoRd said:

steam is too intrusive, i mean in GTA and dawn of war 2 you have GFWL and Steam which seems abit much steam isnt required for any part of the game, yet we must leave it running

yangly18 yangly18 said:

Reading all this doesn't amaze me at all. Steam has been a big player in online gaming for a time now, and with the ease of being able to sit at your computer, put in your card info and download an entire game right to your computer, what's there not to like? They are reliable, and if I was to download anymore games, I would use Steam again.

In responce to vrmithrax...although they might make a monopoly out of this, as long as they arn't boosting prices, what's the harm? In fact, when they notice games arn't selling quite like they used to they have discounts, just like any store you would go to.

klepto12 klepto12, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Steam is not that bad of a distribution system but in a since what happens to your games if say valve goes out of buisness there all stored on there servers so basically the users would be out of luck now the likely hood of that happening is really low but its something to think about you know?

lupinnktp said:

i definitely like the certain promotions going on in Steam once in a while and such, but who knows what's gonna come when they successfully monopolize the market.. i absolutely want some competition here, juz like Google. only healthy competition will drive the market and give companies initiatives to compete in terms of both quality and price. and to Hell with DRM.. it's retarded... why can't i install the same game on the same machine infinitely when i'm the kind of guy who reinstall OS pretty often?

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

yangly18 said:

In responce to vrmithrax...although they might make a monopoly out of this, as long as they arn't boosting prices, what's the harm? In fact, when they notice games arn't selling quite like they used to they have discounts, just like any store you would go to.

Oh, I'm not saying they're monopolistic at all. They are just good at their business. The Stardock CEO and others in the discussions here were complaining of monopoly, which I wholeheartedly disagree with. Stardock is just upset that they had a jump on Valve and totally dropped the ball, leaving them in the dust as far as the digital distribution and DRM scene goes.

But, for the record, Impulse is really improving. And we, the consumers, are making out like bandits on many of the sales and deals on both Steam and Impulse. Just bought the Sword of the Stars collection on Impulse today for $7.50. Seriously, that's a massive deal. And a larger chunk of that money goes back to the publisher than ever would have if it had been a box on a shelf in a store. At least, that's the theory behind digital distribution. Anyone know if they really do make more per sale?

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