Steam has a lot of games. Like, all the games. Well, minus a couple from EA and – now that we think about it – indie ultra-sensation Minecraft. Pretty weird, right? We wish we could just chalk the whole thing up to coincidence and get back to constructing a scale replica of the second Death Star, but – as is typically the case with Death Stars – it's not quite so easy.
There's an old saying that goes "You can't take it with you when you die," but we disagree. Sure, you might suffer an XP loss or have a nifty +3 bastard sword disappear from your inventory, but all in all, your belongings remain intact in the event of an untimely character death. The saying should be "You can't take it with you if you don't save your game data." We can't help with your lack of FPS skills, but we can help you transfer your game data to a new PC or hard drive.
You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you just know something's about to go horribly wrong? Like when someone says “This can't possibly go wrong!” or “Let's buy iPhones”? Well, that's how we felt when EA and Valve started taking their toothbrushes back from each others' houses. Obviously, Battlefield 3 wasn't going to benefit from the divorce. And so, predictably – but no less regrettably – here we are.
Is Valve's dominant digital platform the future? Or does it herald the end of PC gaming as we know it?
Steam. Publishers and rival digital distributors want to be it. Gamers and developers want to be with it. And animals lacking opposable thumbs want to learn how to use computers just to use it... or so Valve would have you believe. But all isn't as rosy in the land of PC gaming as all that, and as Valve's digital gaming platform has picked up more and more, well, steam, it's garnered its fair share of backlash as well. With Valve's recent tiffs with EA over their upstart Origin distribution platform, never before has the community been so polarized by Steam. Will Steam continue to dominate the PC gaming landscape? And if so, what does this mean for gamers?
First off, let's dispel the myth that Origin is a rival to Steam. Perhaps it will be in time, but as it stands now, EA's digital marketplace is just that - a digital store front for EA published titles. For the moment EA is content in simply bypassing Steam, in order to sell their products directly without losing revenue to a rival distributor.
So, no, Origin is NOT in direct competition with Steam, but neither are any of the other PC digital distributors. And I don't mean 'no competition' in the 'we're kicking your ass in marketshare' kind of way. No, I mean they're literally not selling competing products—they simply lack the depth and breadth of what Steam has to offer. Whereas Origin, Impulse, Direct2Drive, GoG, GamersGate and others are all perfectly valid online stores and distributors, they aren't what Steam is: a unified, managed gaming platform for the PC. And therein lies the true heart of the Steam debate: is the establishment of this type of system beneficial to the PC market?
Is Origin trying to snuff out Steam? EA's mouth says “no,” but things keep happening. Awfully suspicious things. First, Star Wars: The Old Republic went Origin-exclusive. Next, Crysis 2 disappeared. Then EA began luring gamers over to its big white van with Origin-exclusive content for games like Mass Effect 3. And now? Battlefield 3's taking to the digital battlefield by skipping Steam altogether.
Gamers love oppositions. PC versus console. Mario vs Sonic. Dude from Modern Warfare 3 vs Other Guy from Battlefield 3. And so on. So when gamers spotted EA lumbering toward the digital arena and even throwing around some fightin' words, they assumed things were about to get ugly. Bets were placed, dukes were put up, and... nope. According to EA's David DeMartini, it's all just a big misunderstanding. We're still keeping your bet money, though.
Sounds like EA's pretty serious about this whole “having its own digital platform” thing. How serious? Well, that's a silly question; didn't you read the headline? Oh, fine: it wants to take the crown for “worldwide leader in digital publishing.” Care to hazard a guess who's wearing that particular piece of royal bling right now? Let's just put it this way: it rhymes with... xalve?
First, a quick recap: A couple weeks ago, EA announced its brand new PC gaming download service, Origin. The publisher then took Origin to E3 and promoted it until our dreams began telling us to “download the rest of your innermost desires on Origin!” Days later, Crysis 2 went into invisibility mode and crept away from Steam's hallowed halls – permanently. Hell of way for EA to declare war, huh? Well, it would have been – you know, if EA had actually done anything.
Steam's penchant for spit-take-worthy sales is well-documented, but in the past, we've at least been given time between bouts of purchase lust to re-amass our fortunes so we can once again blow them on a million games we'll never get around to playing. Now, however, Valve's elected to add daily deals to the mix, ensuring that we'll perish poor, alone, and in possession of every game ever conceived. Oh well. Could be worse.
Let’s get one thing straight right away: Portal 2 is not Portal 1. Don’t get us wrong: Portal 2 is still completely brilliant—just in entirely different ways. If Portal 1 was an incredibly witty one-liner, then Portal 2 is a whole night of stand-up. That is to say, it’s still smart, subversive, and riotously funny, but it does manage to drag in a couple areas—if only briefly.