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Author Topic: Digital Game Stores  (Read 8801 times)
wraith808
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« on: August 04, 2009, 02:56:31 PM »

I've really gotten on board with the Digital Game Distribution concept (though the flap at GOG shook my confidence a bit), and figured that I'd post a review of the sites that I've used.  I'll post them a little at a time, and if someone has something to add, feel free to add to the thread, and I'll update this 'table of contents' post with a link to the review.

Section I: Game sites that carry a variety of publishers
ReviewSiteOwner/AffiliationDRMAdd. Software Req.
To Download/Play
YesSteamValveSteam DRM (+Publisher)Yes/Yes
YesGood Old GamesCD ProjektNoneNo/No
NoGamersGateParadox InteractiveVaries by PublisherYes/No
NoDirect2DriveIGN EntertainmentVaries by PublisherNo/No
NoImpulseStardockVaries by PublisherYes/No
NoBig Fish GamesUnknownUnknownUnknown
NoGameTapUnknownUnknownUnknown
NoGreenHouseUnknownUnknownUnknown

Section II: Game sites dedicated to one publisher
ReviewSiteOwner/AffiliationDRMAdd. Software Req.
To Download/Play
NoElectronic ArtsElectronic ArtsEA DLM + KeyYes/Yes
NoBlizzardActivision-BlizzardKeyNo/No
NoActivisionActivision-BlizzardUnknownUnknown

Section III: Other Digital Download related sites
ReviewSiteOwner/Affiliation
NoDidimaticIndependent
« Last Edit: December 29, 2009, 11:42:17 AM by wraith808 » Logged

wraith808
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« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2009, 03:22:21 PM »

Basic Info

App NameSteam
App URLhttp://www.steampowered.com
Supported OSesWindows
Support MethodsForum, e-mail
Pricing SchemeSteam itself is a free application; the games vary in price, and frequently are on sale.  There is usually a weekend sale every week, and other sales come into play quite often.




Intro:

According to the Steam webpage, Steam is a nexus for gaming, keeping you in touch with your gaming friends (and facilitating the act of finding games through the community), allowing you to download the newest and best games at any time, anywhere, as many times as you want, and keeping those games updated.  It also allows you to keep track of steam achievements, and backup your games so that you can have a local copy.

To be fair, it does all of this.  But Steam is primarily a digital distribution and DRM platform.  Everything else dovetails onto this purpose.

Who is this app designed for:
This application is designed for the gamer that does not mind a little DRM in exchange for the convenience of not going to the store to purchase games, and not exchanging DVDs to play different games.  You also give up a bit of privacy, since the application knows when and how much you game, and keeps track of your purchasing habits.

The Good
Though Steam received it's fair share of criticism during the early days, and still does from privacy advocates and those who don't want DRM or any application between themselves and their game, it is now very mature, and does what it sets out to do well in most cases.  There is no denying the level of convenience it conveys, and a lot of the features (the chat within games, the community, the achievements) help to build community and link you to friends.

The needs improvement section

Because of the fact that first and foremost Steam is beholden to its content providers, a lot of concessions have been made to DRM.  Most of these have been cleaned up; my worst criticism was the inability to play if you were suddenly disconnected from the internet, but I have had a chance to test this more, and as long as you've actually played the game, you can instantly go into offline mode and still play it.  You can also do the same to escape the intrusive update process as long as it hasn't started.  But you shouldn't have to go into a workaround mode to get around the application- IMO, the customer, not the content provider, is the key part of the service.
What is wrong with the app in its current state (the version being reviewed). Include bugs that might deter would-be users, any annoyances, etc.  Also, Steam DRM should be enough- the fact that some developers use their own DRM is very off-putting and layering DRM seems to inconvenience paying users more than pirates; I don't think that any cracked software has come from Steam, but retail versions of the software.  Customer service is also a bit lacking, and when things don't work right, you can be stuck without the game that you paid for for an untenable amount of time.


Why I think you should use this product
If you are tired of non-universal DRM, and having to swap DVDs and keep track of stacks of DVDs and dealing with scratched media, then Steam makes all of these go away for the most part.  The other aspects are just gravy- that's the primary use of the service.

How does it compare to similar apps
Of the other Digital Distribution services, Steam seems the most well thought out, and most integrated of them all.  The application is decently stable, and when everything works right, it's the best of the choices.  Customer service is a bit lacking though, and when things don't work right, you can be stuck without the game that you paid for for an untenable amount of time.

Conclusions

I'd give Steam an 8 out of 10.  I was very much against Steam when it was first released, but this service, more than any other, has made me buy the digital download concept.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2009, 03:24:02 PM by wraith808 » Logged

gexecuter
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« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2009, 09:47:00 AM »

Pretty cool that you are doing this, i am sure this guide will be handy for people that are looking to buy games digitally. I have only tried Steam, GOG, Gamersgate and Impulse and my favorite by far is GOG, buying a game and installing it is so simple even a monkey could do it. The contest for free game codes that they regularly make over there are also another reason why i prefer GOG first. Steam would be second since i don't particulary like their client but they have great deals. Impulse would be third because their client app is not intrusive IMO and i only have used it once to download Galactic Civilizations II.Gamersgate would be last because i don't use them very much tough they also have great deals ocasionally plus they don't have a client which you have to use to download games.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2009, 11:56:18 AM by gexecuter » Logged

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wraith808
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« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2009, 01:01:22 PM »

Basic Info

App NameGood Old Games (GOG)
App URLhttp://www.gog.com
Supported OSesWindows
Support MethodsForum, e-mail
Pricing SchemeThe games vary in price from 5.99 to 9.99.  They frequently have sales that reduce these prices by as much as 50%



Intro:

Good Old Games (more commonly known as GOG) is a digital distribution website for games that is different than any other- none of their games have DRM.  As implied by the name of the site, most of the games are older games, but have been fully updated and tweaked (sometimes with the help of DOSBox) to make them XP/Vista compatible.

Who is this app designed for:
GOG is designed for the gamer who wants to play older games on modern operating systems without worrying about tweaking or the game just not working.  The lack of DRM is also a selling point to some gamers.



The Good
Many older games no longer work on modern operating systems.  DOSBox helps to an extent with DOS Based games, but it is a lot easier to install a game and run it from your favorite program launcher.  That's where GOG comes in.  Their games are guaranteed to work with newer operating systems, and they provide top notch support via e-mail and a thriving community.  Another thing going in their favor is the fact that their games have no DRM, though some of them do require codes/keys in order to play online, which are provided by means of a quick e-mail to GOG support.  GOG also has additional content in the way of manuals, wallpapers, avatars, soundtracks, etc that might have been provided with the original boxed product- or may be completely new.  A downloader is not required to get the game, though one is provided for those who wish to use it.  The games are also usually segmented to make downloading games easy.  You also have a virtual game shelf, which allows you to re-download the games as much as you want (though see the bad section below).  The prices are also very good- almost criminal when the games are on sale.  The interface of the website is also very easy to use, and the community is helpful and thriving.



The needs improvement section
GOG is a small company, and as such, doesn't have the weight of some of the bigger players to throw around.  Though the intent is that you can re-download the game as much as possible, sometimes contracts or other influences have made this not be so.  GOG also does not have many newer titles because of the lack of DRM and the pricing, but this is more a function of the aim of the site rather than a true drawback.

Why I think you should use this product
If you are tired of non-universal DRM, and having to swap DVDs and keep track of stacks of DVDs and dealing with scratched media, then Steam makes all of these go away for the most part.  The other aspects are just gravy- that's the primary use of the service.

How does it compare to similar apps
The lack of DRM is a big selling point.  When compared to some of the other digital stores, the rate at which software is added is very slow, and the range of titles very scattered.  However, the service is very non-intrusive like some others, which fits since they are selling software, and not a service per se.



Conclusions
If you're looking for older titles that just work on your modern system, GOG is the first choice.  The lack of DRM really sets them apart, and the ease of use of the website is a definite plus.  As a service I'd give GOG a 9 out of 10.
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wraith808
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« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2009, 01:04:05 PM »

Pretty cool that you are doing this, i am sure this guide will be handy for people that are looking to buy games digitally. I have only tried Steam, GOG, Gamersgate and Impulse and my favorite by far is GOG, buying a game and installing it is so simple even a monkey could do it. The contest for free game codes that they regularly make over there are also another reason why i prefer GOG first. Steam would be second since i don't particulary like their client but they have great deals. Impulse would be third because their client app is not intrusive IMO and i only have used it once to download Galactic Civilizations II.Gamersgate would be last because i don't use them very much tough they also have great deals ocasionally plus they don't have a client which you have to use to download games.

I hope that it is a help- I know that when I originally started downloading games, I wasn't aware that anything existed other than Steam.  And even when I did find out, I wasn't sure how much to trust them, or where their loyalties really laid.  It made me pretty skeptical of the whole thing.  But perhaps hearing from other users will help someone past that obstacle.
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stylecrime
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« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2009, 07:32:12 AM »

Thanks, wraith, a nice little article!

Just to give my own perspective:

I am a customer of three of these sites: Steam, GOG and Big Fish.
For me, Steam wins the day, for several reasons.

Firstly, it has the widest range of games.  GOG and BFG are somewhat limited in the games offered: GOG only has older games and BFG specialises in casual games, whereas Steam has both of these as well as the latest releases.

Second, Steam has good prices, particularly its weekly specials.  I generally do not buy full-price new releases.  I generally buy slightly older games that have come down in price (I only bought Valve's Orange Box a few months ago, for example), some indie games and some casual games.  The specials that Steam have on their games are usually good - sometimes 50%-75%, which allows me to get a decent game for a good price.  It also means that I can sometimes get a fairly recent game for less than the cost of an older game from GOG.  The specials at GOG tend not to be as generous - usually 10%-25%.

Third up is Steam's usage policy, which allows me to install any or all of my Steam games on as many of our computers as I want (we have four in the house).  I have no strong opinions either way on DRM or copy protection: as long as I'm not overly inconvenienced, I don't mind.  Steam is great in that I don't have to keep original discs handy, nor do I need to keep lists of CD keys - it all just installs and works without any hassle.

Fourth, my ISP has its own Steam content server, which means that as long as my Steam installation uses that server to get its content from, it doesn't count against my monthly download quota.  This is a big plus for me!  It means that I can install a 4GB game on two computers and not lose the 8GB of download.  So not only do I have the convenience of not having to buy/use physical media, I don't even have to pay for the downloads.  Sweet!

There are good things to say about the other sites as well.

Big Fish changed their policies a few months ago and now allow unlimited installations of all games purchased (you do need the BFG installation manager installed on each PC, but that's no real hassle).  They recently dropped their prices to a standard US$6.99 per game, which is a big improvement.  They are also currently running a series of specials whereby they sell a different game each day for US$2.99.  At these prices, I don't mind so much that their games are typically not as deeply involving as most.  BFG's casual games range is somewhat limited in breadth (seriously, how many different ways are there to do a hidden object game?) but there are some real gems.  These games a great for the kids, too - quite simple to learn and control.

GOG I have the least experience with.  I've only bought one game from them so far.  I'm often tempted, but I just feel that considering the age of the games, they should be a bit cheaper.  And I know that sounds dumb, considering they're only US$5-10 but, as I said, I can often get games from BFG or Steam for less than that.

One more thing I like about Steam is the achivements.  Not ever game has them (most don't) but they are fun to try and complete.  I'm down to my last half dozen in Defense Grid and, unfortunately, when it comes to a choice between trying to knock another one of those off, or tidying the house, the housework comes in a sad second place!

Cheers,
Peter.
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« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2009, 06:39:45 AM »

nice write-up, wraith808. it is very useful and will definitely come in handy. thumbs up hopefully you can continue with other distributors when you have the time. btw, GoG.com is run by CD Projekt, known for their recent hit, The Witcherw.
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« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2009, 09:01:07 AM »

I have bought games on the top 5 on your list, as well as from trygames which you dont list. I love digital distribution, was on steam from day 1 and on Impulse when it was still called the Drengin Network. But I have noticed some areas where it falls far short from what it could be, and some of these issues are crippling:

* geographical limitations - a total absurdity left over from a 1980s model of publishing and distribution. They apply when you buy, but keep applying over time for reinstalls etc. - so if you move countries in the future you might suddenly be unable to reinstall your game (happened to me on steam, impulse and trygames), and if a platform loses a publisher for a country you might again not be able to install a game again (happened to me on trygames!). D2D is one of the worst for the geographical restrictions, you can forget about buying a game while you travel...

* price - at least in the UK many games can be found cheaper at retail, because the retailers have the option to change their price whenever they want. Steam, Impulse etc. cannot discount without publisher approval. For example right now steam has a well advertised sale, but even with 40 to 60% off most games can be found cheaper elsewhere

* no interoperability - most of these platforms are quite locked down, if you buy a game on steam you have to buy the expansions on steam, and if you want an expansion you must have the game on the same platform. And obviously if you want your friends to know you are playing a game you didnt buy on steam, you're out of luck. Stardock's partner matching system currently only works for Impulse game, although they intend to open it wider later.

* lockup and DRM - steam especially is very annoying with that - you have to be online to launch most games (offline mode is supposed to work but for me many games dont start in offline mode). Steam Downloads take forever but forget about having steam downloading a large game on one of your PCs while you play on another, not allowed. Impulse, GOG and gamersgate are more flexible on that front
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wraith808
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« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2009, 11:38:42 AM »

nice write-up, wraith808. it is very useful and will definitely come in handy. thumbs up hopefully you can continue with other distributors when you have the time. btw, GoG.com is run by CD Projekt, known for their recent hit, The Witcherw.

Thanks for the kind words, everyone!  If someone wants to take on one of these, feel free, and I'll link in the article to the post.  Right now, I just moved interstate, and started a new job, so I have my hands full just getting my NANY entry done!  I didn't know that about CD Projekt- I updated the entry.  Interesting that the Witcher is available on every platform but GoG...
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lanux128
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« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2009, 08:47:50 PM »

Right now, I just moved interstate, and started a new job, so I have my hands full just getting my NANY entry done!  I didn't know that about CD Projekt- I updated the entry.  Interesting that the Witcher is available on every platform but GoG.

good luck on the new job! incidentally Steam is the only digital distribution system that i am using actively. i looked through GoG's catalogue as well and found some oldies that i'd love to replay if and when i have the time.
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« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2009, 12:23:17 AM »

Why I think you should use this product
If you are tired of non-universal DRM, and having to swap DVDs and keep track of stacks of DVDs and dealing with scratched media, then Steam makes all of these go away for the most part.  The other aspects are just gravy- that's the primary use of the service.

Just thought I'd mention that this little tidbit is from the GoG review.

Thanks for the good info. It's a useful guide (so far).
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