Our twelve year old loves Steam and Gametap, and for good reason.
He's a gamer.
He has a computer in his room. He also has three other computers at various family members' home that he frequently plays on. Steam allows him to buy the game once, and install the game, without the use of a disc, to as many computers as he pleases. No more lost CD's. No more damaged CD's. No more lost serial codes. He simply logs into Steam or GameTap, hits install, and a short time later the game is ready to play.
If you are unfamiliar with Steam, here's a quick rundown. Steam is home to popular games from several different developers. Call of Duty, Unreal, Half-life, Team-Fortress, Grand Theft Auto, and many other titles are available there. You can either buy a license for a game directly from Steam, or you can enter the serial number from a game into your account at Steam. In either case, once you "own" the game, you can access that title from any PC anywhere there is an internet connection.
Gametap is a similar service, although they offer a different type of product. Most of the games at Gametap are a little older, most at least a year or two. At Gametap, you pay one price (currently $9.99/mo.) and have unlimited access to the entire collection of games. Currently, the Gametap library consists of around 700 games, some admittedly better than others. You can install Gametap on as many computers as you like. It would be hard to argue that Gametap is not a true bargain.
Both services also offer matchmaking capabilities for the multiplayer games in their library. Steam makes sure to keep your titles patched with the latest updates also. No longer do you have to use a proprietary matchmaking service for each title you own.
You must have an active internet connection in order to play games at both services. This can be a drawback...if your internet connection is down, you are dead in the water. This is a necessary evil, however, and is what allows the services to make sure the games are not being played on two separate computers simultaneously.
This business model at Steam allows small developers to bring their games directly to market at a very low cost. Media, packaging materials, competitive retail space, and most of the marketing costs are eliminated altogether. With hundreds of thousands of users logging into Steam, there is a captive audience already in place when new titles are brought to market.
Older titles are marked down to very affordable prices, usually around $9.99. The newer games are anywhere between $30-$50, and usually a good bit cheaper than the retail box versions. A good deal when you consider that you don't have to go through the hassle of going to the store, or pay shipping costs. Many times, games are sold in 'value packs', where one new title is packaged with a ton of older titles for just a few more dollars.
For example, Unreal Tournament 3 is available at Best Buy for 49.99. At Steam, you can buy the Unreal Deal Pack, which includes:
- Unreal Tournament 3
- Unreal Tournament 2004
- Unreal Tournament
- Unreal 2
- Unreal Gold
The cost for the Unreal Deal Pack at Steam is 53.95. A substantial value, compared to the Best Buy price. If you'd rather, you can purchase UT3 by itself for 44.99.
The marketing model for both Steam and Gametap provide maximum flexibility and value for both the game publishers and consumers.
I'd like to see all publishers adopt this type of marketing model. Many companies are offering there software for download. Adobe, for example, offers most of there product line for direct download. While this is good, I'd like to be able to use the products I've purchased from any computer, anywhere. I'd like to be able to use my Microsoft applications, like MS Office, from any computer I'm at also.
Adobe currently lets you install two copies of their products per license - one on a desktop, one on a laptop. You are not supposed to use both at the same time, but I'm sure they have no way of verifying that you are not.
Publishers should let users install one "static" install of a game or application per title. This would be a registered licensed copy that uses a copyright protection schema similar to Windows. This copy could be run whether connected to an active internet connection or not. Also included would be the ability to run the software from internet-connected front ends similar to the Steam service.
I'd like to hear your thoughts on the next-generation of software licensing and delivery...