Stadia Adds Cutting Edge Quality of Life Features
It is no easy thing to launch a new online service. So many of the features that users of more mature platforms take for grated have to be developed from scratch, else be licensed at a cost. Consumers may grow accustomed to luxury features such as search bars on established services like Steam, but who could reasonably demand that fledgling start-up companies (like Google’s Stadia service) must utilise technically cutting-edge features like search bars from the very outset? Google is not made of search bars, guys!
Well, Google Stadia has had seventeen months – over a year – to mature since its November 2019 release date, and so now cutting edge features like search bars are being implemented. This is great! It is almost as though Google Stadia has transcended its role as a mere game platform, and is now a game platform + search engine hybrid service!
But what good is there in having a search engine incorporated into a gaming platform, one may well ask? After all, if a gamer wished to utilise a searching engine in order to display a selection of websites based on search-term relevance, then they would surely turn to an industry-leading dedicated service such as Microsoft’s Bing engine instead of using an experimental combination gaming platform + search engine like Google’s Stadia. Well, ingeniously, it turns out that the same technology which powers search engines to display website results based on search-term relevance, is also able to do the same thing for sorting game results. This makes it far easier for users to locate specific game content to purchase when mature services – like Google’s Stadia – host many dozens of titles, and sifting through all available content can take upwards of five minutes!
If this were not enough, Google has now future proofed their Stadia platform by adding a sorting function! Previously games in user libraries were not sorted by alphabetical order, nor were they sorted by any other logic, and instead simply displayed according to the date of purchase. Now user libraries can be sorted by both ‘genre’ and by the order that they were ‘recently played’. This is like magic! No wonder Google Stadia is doing so well!
Humble Bundle Sues Steam
Humble Bundle is suing Steam because their free shit is not free enough! To be fair, this headline is a little clickbaity, but only barely. Humble Bundle was developed and initially administrated by Wolfire Games, before the team administering Humble Bundle were spun-off into their own company, meaning that The Humble Bundle Company is (or was) essentially a sister company to Wolfire Games. Jeffery Rosen, the founder of Humble Bundle, is also the President of Wolfire Games – and despite the fact that Humble Bundle was acquired by IGN’s parent company Ziff Davis back in 2017, it would seem that Jeffery Rosen is still on their payroll as an advisor. Wolfire Games is now suing Steam because apparently it is monopolistic of Steam to not allow companies to use Steam keys in order to undermine the Steam storefront by perpetually offering the Steam version of their games for a cheaper price on other competing online storefronts (Humble Bundle).
To understand the reasoning behind this lawsuit, one must first understand how Steam keys work. When a game is hosted on Steam, the game’s publisher is able to request an unlimited number of free Steam keys which they may sell offsite (on sites such as Humble Bundle) without giving Steam so much as one cent of the proceeds. Customers who purchase one of these Steam keys (such as through a Humble Bundle) are then able to unlock the game on Steam, and have access to it in their Steam library. Nowhere within this process does Steam benefit in any way, and the game’s publisher can earn as much as 100% of the proceeds, depending on how they decide to sell their keys. This is a pretty sweet deal. The only thing that Steam requires is that if the game’s publisher sells their Steam keys at a discount offsite, then they must offer the game at a Similar discount to Steam Customers within a reasonable timeframe. This is the point of contention. Wolfire Games is suing Steam for not allowing Humble Bundle to perpetually undercut the Steam storefront using their own infrastructure to do so!
One aspect of Valve’s “scheme,” the defendants said, is its Steam Key Price Parity Provision, which ensures that publishers won’t sell their game for a better price on another platform. As a result of these practices, other stores struggle to compete with Steam and developers and publishers reportedly have no choice but to continue selling on Valve’s storefront.
This is a lie. Publishers and developers are free to sell their games at whatever price they like on other platforms – just not when using Steam keys. If they want to be afforded the privilege of using Steam keys, then they are obliged to not harm Steam in the process, which requires that they reciprocate by offering their game at a similar discount on the Steam storefront. They are free to go through GOG, Epic, or Microsoft instead, and work within whatever limitations are set by those platform operators – but the games will not sell as well, because a lot of people would prefer to own their games on Steam.
Removing all doubts about its policing power, Valve also ‘reserves the right’ to ‘deny keys’ or ‘revoke key requesting privileges’ if they ‘disadvantage’ ‘Steam customers’. And while this language is couched in terms of protecting ‘Steam customers,’ this is a charade. Those customers are the same ones that can (and do) purchase Steam Keys on other storefronts besides the Steam Store. They are harmed when they cannot find games for lower prices elsewhere because Valve has restrained price competition through its Price Parity Provision.
Moreover, Valve explicitly instructs publishers that Valve enforces this provision to ‘avoid a situation where customers get a worse offer on the Steam store.’ Put another way, Valve uses this restriction to prevent customers from getting a better deal anywhere other than on the Steam Store. Thus, rival distributors have no meaningful way to attract publisher customers and take away share from Valve, because their efforts to compete on price (e.g., by charging lower commissions) are blocked by Valve’s price parity requirements.
Wolfire Games do have a point here. The whole ‘protecting customers’ language that Steam uses on the FAQ page is clear nonsense, as Valve obviously implemented the policy to prevent having their business ruined through use of their own Steam keys – but how is that unreasonable? And again, Wolfire Games accuse Steam and Valve of making it impossible to compete against Steam on other storefronts by limiting their ability to offer discounts – but that is only because they insist on only using Steam keys to unlock their games, and only because they do not want to put their game on sale on Steam because it will mean giving up 30% of revenue. They are free to sell their games on other storefronts using any number of alternate delivery methods, and are likely to earn a higher profit margin per game that way, yet they will sell fewer games in total that way because people want Steam keys.
There is no proof that Tim Sweeney has put Jeffery Rosen and Wolfire Games up to this. There is no proof that Epic Games is bankrolling this frivolous lawsuit. That being said, this fuckery absolutely reeks of Tim Sweeney, and, rightly or wrongly, a lot of people have picked up on this.
The Old PSN Store Is Still Accessible Through Firefox
When Sony shut down access to the old PC-browser based Playstation store on March 29th, they did so in the laziest possible way. Certain pieces of html code were added, deleted, and modified so that users are now diverted to the new PC store (sans access to the PSP, PS3, and Vita libraries), but Sony’s chihiro API is still there and fully functional for anyone who is able to access it.
A programmer by the name of SilicaAndPina discovered that the old API remained fully functional, and that access to it was only removed through the site coding. From there he was able to develop a Firefox extension titled ‘Valkyrie PS Store’, which allows users to browse the old Playstation store and make purchases. This means that we still have access to the full digital libraries of the PSP, PS3, and Vita – at least for the time being.
It is kind of crazy that this was able to happen, and it demonstrates that there was actually no reason at all as to why Sony removed access to these legacy systems, other than Sony of California wishing to kill off every vestige of Playstation’s legacy which predates their clique seizing control of the Playstation brand. Once this work-around is brought to the attention of a vengeful Sony, the Valkyrie PS Store extension will likely be living on borrowed time until Sony is able to perform some other fuckery to shut down access.