Greetings and welcome on this Friday to LusipurrCom! In today’s article, I shall be continuing my review of the action-packed Viewtiful Joe seri–OUCH! Wait, what was that?
Oh. Sorry. It appears that I have been assigned to do an editorial this week in an attempt to curb my action game binge, judging by this strange, shock-inducing ankle bracelet that has appeared on my leg overnight. In lieu of this, I suppose I shall muse on a topic that has been on my mind as of late.
I cannot say that I am a big fan of GameStop and its sister stores. Despite its convenient prices and numerous stores in any given high-population area, the franchise still tends to rub me the wrong way. Customers of GameStop have complained about aggressive pushing of buy-back policies, poor customer service, and unfairly-low trade-in values, while game developers have had their own problem with GameStop’s utter dominance of the used games market. And while I have no problem with gamers using GameStop as an outlet for finding the games they want to play and keeping the medium alive, I often wish there was a more competitive, developer friendly outlet for gamers to go to.
This, I believe, is where Steam comes in. When Steam was introduced back in 2003, it seemed unlikely that a solely-digital distribution method for gaming markets could even begin to compete on the level of retail electronics stores and specialty game buying and trading shops. But Steam has risen and become a monster in the industry, utterly dominating the digital market in a fashion similar to GameStop’s rule over the land of the physical. Thus, a question forms in my mind: Can Steam truly compete with the goliath that GameStop and its affiliates have become? After all, how can Steam compete with GameStop when the titles purchased and downloaded from it cannot be redeemed when the player no longer is interested in the game? Can Steam really compete with GameStop when the former offer titles exclusively over PC and Mac platforms, whereas GameStop’s primary market of console gamers is considerably bigger? While all of these challenges are significant hurdles for Valve and its affiliates to overcome, they are not impossible tasks. GameStop biggest strength (and possibly its biggest weakness) is its market model with regards to used games: they sell new games at full price, buy them back at only a small fraction of their worth, and resell the same games at a price only minimally less expensive than their brand new counterparts.
Steam, despite having virtually no way to cash in on game resales, has powerful advantages it could play to compete with this model. Steam, being a digital distributor, can offer games at a reduced price due to the fact that the price of the game no longer includes the costs of producing the physical components such as discs and casing, as well as shipping and logistical costs. In addition, Steam may find that it has an easier time building agreements with game developers both big and small, as the games that are being sold over Steam at these reduced prices still net a profit for everyone involved. And so while GameStop brags of its extra trade-in value specials and grand selection, Steam is building ties and offering a boon in value from the initial purchase of a game.
But while this model is fantastic for Steam’s PC and Mac distribution, the whole point in moot if GameStop still holds sway over the biggest slice of cake, that being the console market. As stated before, players on the PS3, 360, and Wii have their choices generally restricted in this regard: GameStop is, at this point in time, the most lucrative outlet for console gamers to obtain titles at the lowest possible value, save occasionally good deals over the platforms’ respective online markets (though these have been gaining serious financial momentum over the past few years as well).
How can Steam gain an edge? The answer came earlier this year when Valve introduced a version of Steam for the PS3 to be released in time for cross-system play of Portal 2. Despite Valve’s turbulent past with console games development, this idea seems to be the perfect solution to the second problem: give players the versatility of Steam, as well as the ability to use it over consoles. Give players access to cross-platform multiplayer on a level only previously dreamed of. The only problem with this strategy would be the getting Microsoft and Sony to cooperate with this build, to say nothing of Nintendo (given its own challenges with online capabilities).
So what do our readers think? I know that a great many of them utilize Steam nearly every day, as evidenced by the events Lusipurr regularly holds online. Do you think that Steam, or even just online distribution in general, can seriously compete with or even eventually topple the prevalent GameStop business model? I myself like to think that our medium is moving in the direction of purely-digital distribution, and that it seems inevitable as technology becomes more intuitive and user-friendly.
That is all for now. If you all will excuse me, I will be off to find some precision tools and/or a hammer to see if I can find a way out of this LusipurrCom Heavy-Duty Rehabilitation Band.