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A response to users who wish that everyone would just use Steam
Published on February 9, 2009 By Frogboy In PC Gaming

One of the things I routinely see on-line when they hear about something new about Impulse is someone commenting “I wish they’d all just consolidate under Steam.”  In fact, as Impulse has become increasingly successful, the cry has gotten louder.

So strong is Steam’s fan base at this point that one of the most common comments about Impulse on third-party forums is the desire by some that it didn’t exist and that everything was just on Steam.

I admire Valve on two levels.  First, I admire their excellence in what they make. I like companies that strive for the highest quality possible in what they produce.  Second, I admire Valve’s business practices. They are incredibly effective, competent, and adaptive. In short, Valve is a fantastic company.

I’m a professional zealot. My tendency to get behind the best technology has led me to be, at various times, an OS/2 zealot, an OpenDoc zealot, and yes, even a Valve zealot (Source engine).

But I’ve also been around long enough to know that you don’t want one player calling all the shots.  The companies we love today may not be so loved later on.

People routinely give me a hard time because I like Electronic Arts a lot. How is that possible? Because to me, when I think of Electronic Arts I think of Archon, MULE, Seven Cities of Gold, Starflight, and Summer Games.

When I was an OS/2 zealot, the up and coming star was Microsoft. Its fans helped ensure that Windows, not OS/2, became the standard OS.  For many people today, it’s hard to imagine Microsoft as the fanboy favorite – the company that could do no wrong – the company that would never do anything “evil”.

Now, we live in an industry absolutely dominated by Microsoft and Electronic Arts.  Its fanboys got their way.  Is there anything wrong with that? You tell me.

Today, the pattern repeats itself. Steam is doing phenomenally well. It has fans that actively wish that competition would just go away in the name of “standards” (whatever that means).

And yet, even though Impulse is just an up-and-comer, the competition has already helped consumers.  Before the “Impulse Weekend Buys” it was relatively rare to see regular organized major sales on Steam. Now we get them every weekend. 

I would like to think that we’ve had some impact on people’s awareness that you don’t need nasty DRM to be successful. 

I think Impulse’s focus on trying to encourage one price, worldwide in local currency right out of the gate has made some impact too. 

I think Impulse's very fast download speeds have helped encourage competing services to keep increasing their bandwidth capacity.

At the very least, Impulse’s growing success, I think, is something most people can agree has been very beneficial to consumers.

Steam’s most successful venture yet, Steamworks, has helped Steam get an increasingly firmer hold on the market. In my opinion, Steamworks is 90% copy protection, 10% game-related features.  I know that publishers are looking at Steamworks as a replacement to SecuROM for protecting games.

The problem is that Steamworks requires the user to have a Steam account and Steam installed to use it – even if you buy it at retail or through a third party like Direct2Drive.  I think that’s the basic strategy for Steamworks -- give developers a bunch of “free” features that they used to have to pay for (copy protection, DRM, GameSpy type stuff) with the only catch is that the user has to become a Steam user and have Steam installed. As a result, something like Dawn of War 2, for instance, won’t be on Impulse. 

Even with the case of Steamworks, competition has helped here too though, since Stardock is producing Impulse Reactor to compete with Steamworks. Impulse Reactor doesn’t require Impulse (the client) to even be installed to work. 

Steamworks, obviously, has a head start and publishers have been following THQ’s lead by setting up with Steamworks even when it means they’re distributing a third party store with their game.  After all, right now, Steam has the numbers. 

Based on the #s I hear from publishers, Impulse, which has only been out for 6 months, has already become #2 in terms of actual units sold on a given title. But Steam still has a massive lead.  Obviously, if we can’t even carry certain big name titles because they've hooked in Steamworks, the competitive trend will reverse.

And while some people might very much like seeing there be only one option, especially if that option comes from such a cool company like Valve, they may not be considering the long term ramifications.

For example, last weekend, Steam and Impulse both had sales on Titan Quest.  Steam had it for $7.99, Impulse had it for $3.99. Neither I assume knew the other was going to have a sale on it.  But that sort of competition is good for consumers.

Competition is good for consumers. It’s also good for companies. I’m a Steam user. I enjoy watching it evolve and improve over time. But I am also thankful that there are still alternatives to it. Because as much as people love Valve today, I still remember how much everyone loved EA and Microsoft in their day too.  Competition keeps companies dynamic and consumer friendly.

Update:

Reading through the comments I see some people turning it into an Impulse vs. Steam discussion (i.e. Impulse rulez! No, Steam rockz!).

This isn't mean as a Steam vs. Impulse discussion. What it is supposed to be is to make people aware of the long history in which fans have rooted for the up-and-comer (whether it be EA in its day or Microsoft later and Google today) and how perceptions change when said companies dominate.

There are plenty of people out there that with that everything would just "standardize" on iPods and iTunes. And even as an iPod and iTunes user, I am glad there's Amazon.com selling MP3s.

For the record, I use Steam every day. I like it a lot. The question isn't which is better (right now, if I had to choose one client, I'd use Steam because of its superior community features and game library -- how many CEOs would say that publicly about the "competition"?). The objective is to remind users that competition is always a good thing even when you love a particular vendor (whether it be Valve, Stardock, whoever).  

It's never a good idea to explicitly wish for a single source. Some people in the comments area have said "Of course no one wants a monopoly". But I can assure them that yes, there are lots of people and companies who would like just that because a single source is seen to streamline things.

We expect Impulse to exceed 1 million users before Demigod even ships. So suffice to say, it is doing well. It's nowhere near Steam's user base but then again, Impulse has only been out 6 months.  

The point is, Impulse's existence and success shouldn't be seen as an "inconvenience" to consumers but rather as a way to ensure that consumers continue to have choices.

 

Steam and Impulse at a glance:

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www.steampowered.com

 

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www.impulsedriven.com

Related articles:

Stardock mentioned by name by the Michigan governor in the state of the State address

Impulse Phase 3 preview

Stardock prepares to open up second game studio

Stardock's Sins of a Solar Empire top selling PC strategy game of 2008


Comments (Page 1)
on Feb 09, 2009

At the very least, Impulse’s growing success, I think, is something most people can agree has been very beneficial to consumers.

 

Well as a new Stardock customer that has been a very happy steam customer I say so far so good. And I hope a little upstart company gives Impulse a run for it's money just to keep you all competative.

on Feb 09, 2009

I doubt there is a single gamer out there who can successfully argue that having both Steam and Impulse is worse than either or none. I still prefer Steam for two reasons. Programs installed to Steam will survive an OS crash and can be transferred to any other Steam install by dragging over a single folder. Currently Impulse is not capable of this, but it would be nice to see something to that effect in the future. The second reason is that simply put, all my friends are already on Steam. I actually added Sins to the Steam launcher so that I could use the overlay and chat features with my existing set of contacts.

In my mind nothing bad can come of a little competition. While Steam might be a shooting star, you have to remember that even the brightest star will eventually fall to earth and become a cold rock if it doesn't have a reason to fly ever higher.

on Feb 09, 2009

I personally like impulse's power to let me play my games when the net is down.   When I have an outage in my area, it makes me cry because I have to find something to do that isn't playing a game online, stream movies from netflix, browse wikipedia, troll forum.elementalgame.com, or find new music videos.    Thanks to impulse being not-stream, I can at least play offline games I already have downloaded.

on Feb 09, 2009

Hopefully Impulse and Gamersgate (now client free) will force Steam to fix its pitiful offline mode. Gamersgate and Impulse should target the European market (lots of PC gamers there) since Valve decided to screw them over with the euro = dollar pricing scheme.

I agree: competition is good for the consumer.

Steamworks is just a way of distributing a storefront to millions of PCs, which kinda sucks. I liked it better when Steam was a choice (except for Valve games). But even if you buy a Steamworks game at retail, you'll still have to use the Steam client (which is good for those who'd use Steam in the first place [retail is usually cheaper] but bad for those who don't care for it).

on Feb 09, 2009

Under no circumstance would I want just one supplier of online games. Not only would it be extremely bad for gamers, it would also be catastrophic for producers.

Stuff like this is what happens when you "dedicate" yourself to one service. You lose sight of the customer.

on Feb 09, 2009

I'm all for competition Brad, but the only thing I see with Steamworks is that they're trying to solidify their piece of the market share.

 

This is a serious question and not a "jab" at you.  If there was a new skinning application that was cheaper (since it' would be the new guy on the block) and can use windowblinds formatted skins, would you allow that to continue or would you try to change the format in a way that makes it more difficult for the new application to use windowblinds skin in order to maintain your market share?

on Feb 09, 2009

This is a serious question and not a "jab" at you. If there was a new skinning application that was cheaper (since it' would be the new guy on the block) and can use windowblinds formatted skins, would you allow that to continue or would you try to change the format in a way that makes it more difficult for the new application to use windowblinds skin in order to maintain your market share?

That's really not a valid analogy.   

There's nothing stopping someone from making a skinning application (there are other skinning applications) to compete with say WindowBlinds.

 

 

on Feb 09, 2009

I'm not a fan of the on-line distribution/control schemes, whether it be Steam, Impulse, or something else. That being said, I broke down and installed Steam solely to play Mass Effect when it finally appeared without that idiotic DRM attached to it. (Of course, Steam is DRM is its own right).

I have to say, after using it for MEPC, I really dislike Steam. In fact, I pretty much hate it. I don't mind Impulse though, but it's still a DRM scheme in my mind as well, although it's a damned sight better than Steam as far as I'm concerned. I think in the not too distant future, as Stardock keeps inmproving Impulse and gets more publishers and games on board, it will likely have a good shot at giving Steam a serious run for the money.

 

Competition and choice for the consumer is, indeed, a great thing.

on Feb 09, 2009

I still prefer Steam for two reasons. Programs installed to Steam will survive an OS crash and can be transferred to any other Steam install by dragging over a single folder. Currently Impulse is not capable of this, but it would be nice to see something to that effect in the future.

Sure it is - Archive the games and put them on a seperate drive. If you have a crash, you re-install them by unpacking the archive.

on Feb 09, 2009

Frogboy


That's really not a valid analogy.   
There's nothing stopping someone from making a skinning application (there are other skinning applications) to compete with say WindowBlinds.

Ah, yeah, I mean, I would assume there would be their own format too.  But imo, a major way to make a small dent in the skinning marketplace would be to make it compatible with Windowblinds skins since Windowblinds has the largest amount of content out there by far (from what I can see.  And I'm a windowblinds user).  Which is why I'm asking if an application did provide that kind of compatibility, I'd imagine it would be natural for Stardock to make changes to  keep SD's piece of the market share and not let the new guy come in and take away a piece of the pie.  Which one way would amount to making it more difficult or impossible for another program to use windowblinds's format.

 

Basically, what I'm saying is I see what Steam is doing is trying to get a foothold on their marketshare (not necessarily stopping new digital content providers from coming in but adding proprietary features to prevent people from switching to another) and I'd imagine that you would do the same Brad in the skinning arena.  If I'm wrong, then I think you are a really swell nice guy  (and I mean that genuinely and not as sarcasm).

 

On a separate note, I'm a windowsblinds user and I was under the impression that SD pretty much owns the entire market share on skinning for windows (while still keeping your prices pretty reasonable).  The only other skinning apps I've seen are the horrible buggy dll hacking.

on Feb 09, 2009

I have both Steam and Impulse on my computer, and I have to say I greatly prefer Impulse.  I currently live in South Korea, but all of my banking info (PayPal account, CC, etc...) has my residence in Canada.  Steam does not let me purchase games in their store because I am in one place and my money comes from another.  Impulse does.  Win for Impulse.

on Feb 09, 2009

Steam does not let me purchase games in their store because I am in one place and my money comes from another. Impulse does. Win for Impulse.

my nintendo Wii has that problem too.  Nintendo for the lose!

(bare in mind, I love* nintendo.  Until recently when they got on this region-locking kick am I upset with them.  They used to try their hardest to give US and europe what they could to compare with all the perks the Japanese get.  So they stood for free-world gaming to me.  But now my japanese DS won't even talk to my english wii, when the games in question are designed to be compatible.  again, modern nintendo for the lose)

on Feb 09, 2009

Honestly I love Impulse philosophy more, but still I think Steam at this moment is slightly better.

I have to agree with Frogboy about monopoly risks, anyway.

Even if I think wich your true "rising enemy" is Game for Windows Live, wich really sucks.

 

on Feb 09, 2009

I have Steam and Impulse Installed. I own, according to my steam profile, 48 games for the service.  While on Impulse I only have Sins of a Solar Empire and its expansion, and Galactic Civ 2 and its expansions. I already have Supreme Commander from retail, and theres just no other games from Impulse that I want to play. On the other hand, Steam is coming out with so many new games recently that I can't live without it. I totally prefer Steamworks DRM method to the one EA used which have limited activations. And its much more user friendly than CD checks.

Bad experience with the EA securom. I've had to call EA support 3 different times for various games that used up all of their activations arbitrarily from hardware upgrades. Funny enough, Spore wasn't one of them because I never tried to play it after my upgrade because it just sucks ass.

I was disapointed last year when I had to install third party software(impulse) when I installed Sins for the first time. Since then I have grown to accept it and like the feature to update my games rather easily, but not not force them automatically like steam does.  Right now though I have grown to trust both Steam and Impulse.  I've had nothing but positive experiences with both.

I've been a Steam user since before Half-Life 2 came out. Preloaded it a month in advance.

on Feb 09, 2009

Personally, if I could buy all my games on Impulse I would.  I have used Steam, Gamers Gate, direct2drive, and a few others...   In my mind the flexibility and non-intrusive nature of Impulse makes it the best option.   

 

I don't hate Steam, but I find that Impulse is a much better fit for my style of gaming and software purchasing. 

 

The bonus to all this is I get to support a software publisher/developer that makes games that I enjoy.

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