A familiar stranglehold

Yesterday over at The Ancient Gaming Noob, Wilhelm posted a great blog entry about platforms challenging Steam, I really encourage you to go and give it a read as my post bounces off alot of the same themes and topics. https://tagn.wordpress.com/2018/12/06/challenging-steam/.

I did starting writing a comment on that post but found that I was rambling a bit so I though I’d type it up here instead.

Kicking things off

Valve got lucky, their game distribution service was never really a store front, it evolved into a platform that other games wanted to be released on.
By reducing the difficultly of online distribution for other non-valve products, it grew into something that now dominates the gaming landscape. 

Many platforms started off like Steam being a delivery solution for one publishers titles, we see that with Origin, BattleNet, Glyph, UPlay, Station and Arc.
This works for their needs but there is very little in the form of other games and titles, the branching out was never a direction that lasted any length of time.

That isn’t to say that new blood isn’t wanted, but any new contender has to fight a battle on two fronts, firstly getting the developers to want to use their platform, secondly convincing users that it’s a platform they should move to and invest in.

Drawing in Devs/Publishers

Epic has outlined how they hope to make their platform different enough to attract developers, with a lower revenue cut of 12% on sales which is a huge reduction compared to the 30% that Valve take via Steam.
That 18% revenue increase maybe enough to encourage more games to give the Epic Store a shot, most likely alongside other digital stores to still feed the player bases established on those platforms.

As a final perk for developers, games that use the Unreal Engine will have the licence charge waive by Epic for using the platform.

Interestingly Epic have suggested that there will be a 14 day 
no-questions-asked refund policy, which sounds great however when you consider the number of smaller titles where the full game can be completed in timescales smaller than 14 days (8 to 10 hours) there maybe some reasons for smaller game developers to avoid the platform.

Drawing in Users

New users with very few game purchases under their belt aren’t going to have any issues trying out a new platform. A percentage of their game are possibly Free to Play titles and they aren’t financially invested to heavily in a single platform.

As Wilhelm mentions, for some time Twitch has been dishing out monthly free games (for prime members) to encourage users to download their Twitch Desktop App.
Epic seem to be chasing a similar model to encourage users to adopt the platform as there digital home with one free game every fortnight.

However the biggest hurdle is that I, like many other gamers, have a huge investment in Steam, not only in my game library but in the auxiliary elements that have grown around it over the years.
These include such things as : Communities, Friends, Workshop items, Guides, Achievements,Wishlist and finally the ability to purchase real world store cards.

It terms of moving away from steam I enjoy Gog and have purchased a number of games on that platform when I don’t want to have to deal with steam, usually for modding reasons.
GoG connect has also allowed me to claim some of my titles on the DRM Free platform, additionally some of my Purchases via humble bundle have also included a DRM free copy of the game.
However none of these things go far enough to draw me away from Steam for long.

Swap Shop

Competition is healthy and anything to give players more choice is a good thing. It could help to drive down the revenue cut that other platforms are taking and result in a better landscape for developers and players.

There are so many additional launchers sitting on my hard drive until such a time as I need to use them, they aren’t loading on start up, they usually take an age to patch when I have to interact with them.
This is the reality of a gamers PC, we load those most important regularly but the others just gather dust as they were the chosen platform for that one game you really wanted.

On the Epic store that game is likely to be Rebel Galaxy Outlaw for me, as I really enjoyed the first game and I’d like to try and support the developers.

Only time is going to tell what impact Epic will have on the the gaming store scene, hopefully if nothing else it will shake things up a bit.

Backlog trimming

So I continue with my adventure into my Steam backlog, I had chance today to play three games that I haven’t touched before and I quite enjoyed scanning through titles I remember wishlisting a buying during sales.

So I played some games that were all a little different.

Unstoppable Gorg is a 2012 Tower Defense game from Futuremark, I found the mechanic of the game rather fun as it added a different dimension to the order and way you built towers. The game storyline is rather fun and fully embraces the B movie era with it’s video pieces.

 

I don’t know where to start with Dr. Langeskov, the game take traditional game tropes and twists them into something unexpected. I really enjoyed playing the game and it had me laughing at times, much like Stanley Parable.

 

Dear Esther :LE is the revamped version of the original game now in the Unity Engine instead of Source, the sound has been remastered.

It had been some time since I had played this title and I feel I’ve half remembered much of the game, it was nice to have a reminder of my first thoughts on the game. The story is still as gripping as it was the first time.

 

If the game Outrun and the film Crank had a child it would be Outdrive, a fairly straight forward game that needs you to drive and drift a vehicle but also manage the  power so it’s not going too fast or slow. It was tricky to get it right to start with but after a while it was second nature.

 

Last word is a fun little game that has a combat system that requires a little strategy in order to beat your opponent. The aim of the battles is to always have the last word. The artwork is very nice and the soundtrack was also rather pleasant.

I’m surprised that the game hasn’t made the leap into mobile platform as it could work quite well.

 

This puzzle game was a blast, Cubot slowly ramps up the difficulty as it introduces new mechanics for you to master (overcome). The first 4 sections I took in my stride then things got more difficult and I didn’t have the time to sit and work out the solutions, but I can see me going back to try and complete the game in full.

Still Alive

Hi folks I’m still here, I just renewed my hosting plan so I’d best get some value out of it by blogging.
I stupidly failed to remember that we had visitors coming last weekend, so I kind of just failed to do any blogging or plan any posts in advanced.

I know that I didn’t blog as much as I wanted in January however the 18 posts I managed I was rather pleased with. I think that I’m going to aim for a minimum of 3 posts a week, which I feel will give me a little breathing space when work and life get hectic.

So onto February, I have made a start on games I’ve not played in my Steam Backlog first up was the retro feeling Stories Untold from No Code Studio.

The game is comprised of 4 episodes and it is a blend of adventure and suspense, it also draws on other genres such as text based adventures from the 80’s (hell there is even 80’s hardware in there) plus the frustration of old school text adventures and the syntax needed to progress the story line.

I really enjoyed this game a lot, it took between 2 and 3 hours to complete and it was on the edge of my seat for much of it.
If you haven’t played it and like suspense/horror games that mess with your head, I really recommend this game.

This month I’m also preparing for GameBlast, so expect some information about that coming up more shortly.

Somewhere : the child of CYOA & ARG

I enjoy narrative stories, stories that make you think, that make you doubt your choices, that make you concerned and worried that you may have made the wrong decision. This enjoyment of course originates with the countless Choose your own Adventure books that I enjoyed growing up, I would often spend evenings being a spy, or a traveller among the stars, but mostly it was attempting to avoid a grizzly death.

At the end of 2017 I had the pleasure of playing the test version of an interactive game, the game is called SomeWhere and it’s kind of a mixture of Choose your own Adventure and an Alternate Reality Game, it takes place in in real time, but with an added twist that you get notifications on your Smart Device, some instantly during conversation, some later usually waiting for an event to conclude.

I have to be frank I wasn’t sure how engaging I would find the game but I was gripped almost immediately, keen to get another update to see how things had played out, the limited test version of the game left me wanting to learn more, I guess that I need to wait until the game launches fully. Then “Take my Money!”

 

The game is being developed by Norseman Interactive and uses the well loved tool used for Interactive stories Twinery, although the screenshots posted indicate the sheer number of routes and options the game will allow you to take. It’s far bigger than any twine game I’ve ever written. Nice feature about using Twinery is that the game doesn’t actually need an internet connection in order to notify you of updates,as it is all scripted into the game.

There is also a nice feature that allow you to explore all avenues of the game, you can track your steps back and make another choice ( yes like holding open that page in your Choose your own adventure books in case you died on page 172.

On Android the Beta Version of the game can be found here : https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tanuki.somewhere&hl=en

A New Challenger Appears

I have decided that in 2018 I would like to try and play some of those games sitting on my virtual Steam shelf that have been gathering virtual dust.

I am a Humble Bundle junkie, yes it’s for a good cause as I’m supporting charities, but my Steam Library is now bloated to a massive 800 games, almost 50% of them I have never installed or played.

Products by time played

12 or more hours 85
Less than 12 hours 48
Less than 6 hours 57
Less than 3 hours 34
Less than 2 hours 47
Less than 1 hours 138
Never played 390

* Data from steamdb.info
So starting of slowly my aim is to start chipping away at the list of games in February, I shall select Fourteen games that I have never played before and see how things go.

I hope to blog about some of them as the month progresses.