Is Steam your only choice for PC gaming?
Steam is back up and running without any known issues. As a result of a configuration change earlier today, a caching issue allowed some users to randomly see pages generated for other users for a period of less than an hour. This issue has since been resolved. We believe no unauthorized actions were allowed on accounts beyond the viewing of cached page information and no additional action is required by users.
Now, following this blunder and one could argue a breakdown in trust between retailer and consumer is there any other digital store available to PC gamers or does Valve have a monopoly on this distribution method? The answer is no, Valve does not have a monopoly of digital distribution. There are multiple alternative digital stores for people to use. These stores include GoG.com, GamersGate, Amazon, Origin, Green Man Gaming, and Uplay. So, while there are numerous alternatives, what are they like?
GOG.com is owned by CD Projekt Group, who are also the owners of developers CD Projekt RED, the company behind The Witcher series. Just like Steam, GOG has both a browser-based store and a client based store called GOG Galaxy, although GOG Galaxy is still in beta.
What makes GOG an interesting alternative to Steam? Well if you are a fan of classic PC games including 1997’s Dungeon Keeper and 1994’s Star Wars: Tie Fighter special edition, then GOG has you covered, also, GOG makes sure all the classic games they release work on modern computers. GOG also offer a DRM-free experience, which means no activation or online connection is required to play their games. If you are a fan of classic games and dislike DRM than GOG has you covered.
What are GOG’s disadvantages compared to Steam? The main disadvantage is down to its focuses on classic games over modern/recently released games. Yes, GOG does sell some new modern games such as The Witcher 3 and Divinity: Original Sin – Enhanced Edition, but the number of new modern games is far lower than Steams.
GamersGate is probably the least fancy store on this list, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Unlike GOG or Steam, GamersGate is a browser based only experience.
What makes GamersGate an interesting alternative to Steam? Well, GamersGate has all the latest video games, with new games added all the time, so in this regard in can keep up with Steam. GamersGate also offers a reward program called “Blue Coins”, this reward program offers users special coins for pre-ordering, reviewing, rating and helping fellow players with a problem, if you build up enough blue coins you can then use them to buy a game.
What are GamersGate’s disadvantages when compared to Steam? Well, one issue is that despite being a client-free store a lot of the games they offer require you to use third-party software like Steam, and as such GamersGate isn’t fully removing you from the Steam fold. Now, games that don’t require third-party software can be found via an easy to access library on the GamersGate website.
Next up is Amazon. Yes, the well known online retailer does dabble in the world of digital video games for PC and console. Just like the previously mentioned GamersGate, Amazon is a client-free experience.
What makes Amazon an interesting alternative to Steam? Honestly, that is a tough question. Well, Amazon offers video games as they are released, so when it comes to having an up to date catalog of games it can keep up with Steam, although Amazon seems to focus on selling games from established companies, which means no indie games.
What are Amazon’s disadvantages when compared to Steam? Well, just like GamersGate, a lot of the games purchased through Amazon require you to use third-party software like Steam to play the games. However like GamersGate some games don’t require third-party software and those that do not can be accessed via Amazon’s library upon purchase.
Next up is EA’s Origin. Origin like Steam and GOG offers both a client and browser based experience. Now, while Origin is an EA operated store, non-EA published games are available for purchase.
What makes Origin an interesting alternative to Steam? While Origin appears rather similar to Steam, Origin, in my opinion, appears more eye-catching with all the games standing out from the background, so from an aesthetic perspective, it makes for a better user experience. Origin also offers its users free games via its ‘On the house’ program. This program offers Origin users’ one particular free full version game on semi-regular basis. The ‘On the house’ program is an interesting and potentially powerful incentive for people to use EA’s store.
What are Origin’s disadvantages when compared to Steam? Well, despite the fact Origin does offer games from non-EA developers, the numbers are low and EA makes you do a bit of digging to find these games. Also in the past EA was accused of spying on Origin users, although EA has denied this, but after all the claims EA added the following to their EULA “Information about our customers is an important part of our business, and EA would never sell your personally identifiable information to anyone, nor would it ever use spyware or install spyware on users’ machines.”
Next on the list is Green Man Gaming. Like many stores on this list, Green Man Gaming offers both a browser and client based experience. Green Man Gaming’s client is powered by Playfire, which Green Man Gaming acquired in 2012.
What makes Green Man Gaming an interesting alternative to Steam? One of Green Man Gaming’s stand out features is the ability to trade in games you previously bought via the store. However, the trade-in system appears to be limited to a hand full of games on the store.
What are Green Man Gaming’s disadvantages when compared to Steam? Green Man Gaming has several disadvantages when compare to Steam. The most apparent is the client, which unfortunately doesn’t allow you to buy games as it appears to act as more of a digital library and social hub. Another disadvantage is the fact that the company has been accused by several publishers, including Activision and Ubisoft, of selling unauthorized game keys. Green Man Gaming has denied these charges, and as of November 2015, the company has placed information on each game’s store page identifying the source of the redemption keys.
Now we come to final store on the list, Ubisoft’s Uplay. Uplay offers both a browser and client based shopping experience. While Uplay is a Ubisoft operated store, non-Ubisoft published games are available for purchase.
What makes Uplay an interesting alternative to Steam? The most noticeable reason why Uplay is an interesting alternative is the fact the Uplay store doesn’t just cater to PC users only as Ubisoft allows you to purchase console versions of games via its store. Although the console games available are Ubisoft only games. Uplay also offers a reward system, which while only available for Ubisoft products, gives players special points for completing in-game tasks, these points can then, in turn, be used to purchase exclusive content such as wallpapers, cosmetic items, and small boost items.
What are Uplay’s disadvantages when compared to Steam? Well, Uplay does have a few disadvantages over steam, the chief disadvantage being that Uplay makes users have to work to find non-Ubisoft published titles. While it isn’t as bad as Origin when it comes to hiding other publishers’ games it is annoying. Uplay also has far fewer games than steam with Uplay’s full list of PC download titles coming to under 500 games.
So, in conclusion, are the above-mentioned alternatives better than steam? The answer is no. In terms of sheer volume of games steam has its competitors beaten, but with that said the above-mentioned stores all offer a selling point that makes it slightly superior to steam. For example, Origin’s ‘On the house’ program is a powerful incentive for new users, and I feel if more publishers began using it as a distribution platform it could easily bridge the gap to steam.
So, while steam doesn’t officially have a monopoly on the PC download market, the sheer number of games it offers gives it a major edge over any would-be challenger.
Author: Aaron Meehan
Hi, I’m the creator of SG Gaming Info. When I’m not working on my writing or creating content for this site’s YouTube channel, I like to relax and enjoy character driven story games.