Windows Store ... the biggest threat to Steam yet?

In 2004, Valve took a huge gamble by offering people a chance to purchase and download its long awaited first person shooter Half-Life 2 via a new service called Steam. The wild idea was that some gamers would rather sit at home to purchase the game rather than drive to a retail store and buy the game on a disk in a box. When it launched, Steam took more than a few knocks from critics who felt that the service was full of issues and bugs.

Rather than just abandon the project, Valve took the notes to heart and slowly Steam's features began to be improved. It later added more games from Valve's library of titles and in 2005 it added its first third party games to its storefront.

Fast forward to 2012. Steam now has well over 1,000 games in its download library with more being added every weekday. It has 40 million registered users and has had a total of 5 million concurrent users at one point this year. Valve's Steamworks tools, which add features like achievements, multiplayer leaderboards and anti-cheat measures, are also being used in hundreds of PC games.

More to the point, Steam has pretty much saved the PC game industry. Retail revenues have dried up as fewer and fewer stores sell physical boxed PC game products in favor of console games. Steam led the way for PC games to be sold primarily, and often exclusively, via digital download.  It has given a number of independent game developers a chance to reach a worldwide audience with their products without having to deal with traditional publishers.

Steam currently has a number of competitors to its business, including Gamefly's PC game download service (formerly Direct2Drive), Impulse (bought by GameStop in 2011), GamersGate and most recently Origin from Electronic Arts. While all of these services have had some degree of success, Steam is still the clear leader in terms of its massive number of users.

But is that leadership role going to change?

In December, Microsoft gave the first concrete details on Windows Store, the downloadable storefront that will be a part of all versions of Windows 8. Much like the iOS and Mac App Stores from Apple, Windows Store is designed to be an easy one stop shop for PC owners to purchase and download software, including games.

In a recent post on the Windows Store blog site, Microsoft gave some information on how developers could submit their apps to be published via the store front. Based on the information, the submission process seems pretty straightforward without a lot of hoops to jump through. As a result, we expect a lot of PC games, especially from independent developers, to use the service when Windows 8 officially launches, hopefully later this year,

The idea of a software download store in every PC that has Windows 8 installed almost certainly represents the biggest threat to Steam since its launch nearly eight years ago. It will take some time but a year after Windows 8 is launched we should see at least some of Steam's market share taken away by Windows Store.

There are two big reasons to make such an assumption. One is that Windows Store will be installed as part of Windows 8 while Steam and similar services all need third party client downloads. While current Steam owners will likely continue to use the service, we suspect that some, perhaps many, Windows 8 owners who have never used Steam won't bother to download Steam in favor of using the Windows Store. If major games are released on Windows Store such as, for example, the next Call of Duty game, non-Steam users could flock to Windows Store.

The other big reason is that the submission process for adding new games and programs to the Windows Store looks to be as seamless as possible. There is no such automatic game upload service on Steam; before a game is sold on Valve's service you have to convince the people running Steam at Valve to offer it. Windows Store has more of an automated process and as such we could see app developers gravitate to it.

Of course, this is not 100 percent certain; this is Microsoft we are talking about. The company's efforts to get PC developers to adopt Games for Windows Live over the years have not been all that successful. As a result, it has been overshadowed by Valve's Steamworks. There's also no guarantee that Windows 8 will be embraced by PC users. If Windows 8 fails to reach a mass audience, that bodes well for Steam, so the Windows Store could turn out to be harder to use by consumers than Microsoft thinks.

On top of that, Steam has other threats to deal with, such as the streaming game services OnLive and Gaikai. Why bother downloading a game to your hard drive when you can play it almost instantly? However, it may be a while before a large group of PC gamers embrace cloud gaming over downloading titles to their hard drives. In fact, we suspect many will never use streaming games due to several factors (poor broadband connection, game pixelation and the need to have an "always on" Internet connection to play a game).

Microsoft is scheduled to talk more about Windows 8 gaming at the Game Developers Conference in early March, and it's likely that Windows Store will be a major focus in the company's presentation to game developers. On the other hand, Valve might have some interesting tricks up its sleeve that will be revealed at GDC that we don't know about yet that will be included as new features for Steam.

While Steam may currently rule the roost of downloadable PC gaming, the Windows Store feature included in Windows 8 should be considered to be the biggest threat to Steam's audience (sorry EA and Origin). While there still are a number of unknown factors to be determined, we should get a lot more info very soon via the launch of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on February 29, followed by Microsoft's all day GDC developer event in early March.

In the meantime, feel free to continue to purchase and download games on Steam. It still is the most used and most popular service of its kind, and for good reason. But that doesn't mean that the service is invulnerable to threats and you can bet Valve knows it.

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I just want one platform to buy my games. I dont want all these programs running and using system resources. Steam, Games for windows live, Origin, or the several other game delivery systems that have to be running to play the game. I'm perfectly happy with having one central place to buy, download and launch my games.

I'm perfectly fine with the other services existing. Maybe one day they will be something I want to install because of their features. Them removing games from Steam and making them "Origin exclusive" does not make me want to give them my money. It makes me want the opposite to download the game and thumb my nose at them.

Yes I know Steam has exclusive games. Maybe now that their are other services they will make them available. They have been exclusive because there really wasn't another service like Steam until very recently.

I had a horrible experience with Origin with SW:TOR and won't be buying any more games from them. I didn't get to play The Old Republic until December 30th and I pre-ordered the day pre-orders started. I was going to get Battlefield 3 but they pulled it from Steam so they didn't get my money.

Steam could be better and I'm sure now that their is competition they will step up their game. But it's still far and away the best digital pc game store going. They are quick to fix things and their support is very good. Origin support is crap. They put you off on the game developer support, and then they tell you Origin has to fix it. Nobody ends up fixing the problem.

I doubt that they'll overtake Steam. But I would LOVE to see that happen. I HATE STEAM. I hate the whole stinking mess. And I depise Valve for it. Their games have all gone to crap ever since. I was a huge fan of the Half-Life series. But Steam turned the whole ecosystem to garbage. And I should have seen harbinger when they turned Fortress into the disgusting piece of junk it is now. I wasted no time in deleting that from my drive.

I'm rooting for Microsoft to bury Steam....but there are enough lemmings out there that I doubt it will happen.

Steam looks professional and functional.

Windows 8 and the store looks like a toddler has a box of pastels and was told not to draw outside the lines.

Steam is not only a store. It's an online service as good as XBox Live. It offers lot of features beyond the ability to buy games. People use steam for the friends list, community features, auto-update of games with good download speed, auto update of drivers if you own an ATI card, achivements are kind of cool too, the stats, etc ...

MS will not only needs to create a good store but bring the whole XBox Live experience to the PC. Games For Windows Live client is a turd when you compare it to Steam (same with origin client).

If you want to compete with the store section of Steam you need to compete with the other sections as well.

I'd rather have all my DRM-laced games in one place, I wouldn't switch now, and I'm guessing the vast majority of those 5 million active users would agree.

The company's efforts to get PC developers to adopt Games for Windows Live over the years have not been all that successful.

Understatement of the year for sure. Every time I play a game that "Supports Games for Windows Live", it's like Microsoft took a massive dump all over my gaming experience.

If the Windows Store does somehow kill Steam its out of the box presence will bring the accusations of foul play and get them in to trouble with regulators again.

Steam is great! cause of the prices i stopped pirating games and started buying them. I now own over 150 Games on steam!! And the only reason Origin has success, is cause of BF3 and not letting it sell on steam. Here in NZ games are way over priced, and alot of people i know would just pirated them, now they have moved to buying the game on sale with steam!

lflashl said,
Steam is great! cause of the prices i stopped pirating games and started buying them. I now own over 150 Games on steam!! And the only reason Origin has success, is cause of BF3 and not letting it sell on steam. Here in NZ games are way over priced, and alot of people i know would just pirated them, now they have moved to buying the game on sale with steam!

Same here man. I have over 200 games on Steam, all kinds. I have friends, the whole gaming hub is there. I don't need Windows Version of it to get there in any way and i don't care about integration with Xbox live cause it sucks on PC.

If Microsoft wants to make inroads into the casual gaming market, or even a reputation from the indies, they ought to have a look at concerns some XBLA devs have brought up.

That and I doubt MS can pull off large scale sale sprees like Valve can, getting people to buy games they won't ever play

And finally, Valve is heading in the right direction by promoting cross platform gaming. Sure they'll have competition from the Mac App Store and now Windows Store, but the freedom to play your games on any computer you want, or a different platform, is unbeatable.

I don't see this happening anytime soon. Maybe after 3-4 years, when probably we would have windows 9, would the platform be able to gain some maturity. That being said, their current marketplace design needs some work, like in windows phone.

I dont think microsoft store will make that much of an impact, maybe to causual gamers, but since they charge the same 30% as steam http://www.telegraph.co.uk/tec...ws-app-store-announced.html
They do not understand the pc gaming community. They shifted all their studios to focus on the xbox and completely abanboned making pc games. They dont know what pc gamers want, and they have no interest and passion in satisfying what pc gamers want. One of their biggest supports was Big huge games (now 38 studios), which developed their famed Rise of Nations, Age of empire game, and they just let it die by getting swallowed up and mismanaged by THQ.

It'll be interesting to see if they try and fix or improve the Games for Windows Live stuff and integrate it into the service in any meaningful way. Games for Windows Live is still a great idea, just very poorly implemented.

I will be really ****ed when i get a game from Steam if something new (former Game Live) gets in a ****ing way like it happens with some games.

Palpatine said,
Why would you want to play games on a server??

Depends on linux installation, it asks you which type you want to install: Desktop or Server... if you choose desktop, so you will use desktop without any server features.

If you choose server, it will install everything on it depends on your network and selections.

Some of them do not have options which means you choose a version from their website that they have separate linux versions, For example, redhatserver,exe redhatdesktop.exe

I have both on one installation disc allows me to pick before it starts installing.

simplezz said,
Valve, please bring steam to Linux! And port your games too

Supposedly they were working on a port but abandoned it for reasons unknown.

Denis W said,

Supposedly they were working on a port but abandoned it for reasons unknown.

I've seen it run on Wine but it is about as usable as an inflatable dartboard

The Windows Store might one day be a threat to Steam for casual games, but that's probably where it will end. Consider:
1. The Windows Store will be available for Windows 8 and greater only, while Steam is available for Windows XP and greater, as well as OS X.
2. Desktop programs/games can't be distributed via the Windows Store, only linked to.
3. Steam is a lot more than just a store.

wait wait wait, let me get this straight John, you're comparing a dedicated gaming service to an app store? how on earth does that make this article even valid in the first place?

FoxieFoxie said,
Windows 8: indie games
Steam: hardcore games
Article: invalid

Many XBLA games are for hardcore gamers (ikaruga for example).

Still, the article is invalid since steamworks offers a lot more features than MS solution for now.

If the Windows 8 store is anything like the Windows Phone's Market plate store, then Microsoft has a long way to go and I feel that Steam is safe for now.

On my Windows phone, I don't use the offical Market place, rather I use AppFlow and that has much better offerings of the same content. Microsoft should take note from these developers if they want to make their store a success.

Even the Zune software's store, and webpage are something to cringe at, and trying to find the store in the first instance is a pain in the neck in its own right due to the unambiguous name of 'Windows' prefix.

No doubt, Microsoft will be asked to provide a way for 3rd party apps to intergrate into any store offerings build directly into windows.. and that itself might be good enough for many, and even steam if the content users want still comes from Microsoft's store, even if the games do not. ie. Steam content listed in Windows 8 store in Windows (meh, too many windows this and that)...

sagum said,
If the Windows 8 store is anything like the Windows Phone's Market plate store, then Microsoft has a long way to go and I feel that Steam is safe for now.

On my Windows phone, I don't use the offical Market place, rather I use AppFlow and that has much better offerings of the same content. Microsoft should take note from these developers if they want to make their store a success.

Even the Zune software's store, and webpage are something to cringe at, and trying to find the store in the first instance is a pain in the neck in its own right due to the unambiguous name of 'Windows' prefix.

No doubt, Microsoft will be asked to provide a way for 3rd party apps to intergrate into any store offerings build directly into windows.. and that itself might be good enough for many, and even steam if the content users want still comes from Microsoft's store, even if the games do not. ie. Steam content listed in Windows 8 store in Windows (meh, too many windows this and that)...

Windows Store is a bull**** from PC point of view. It will be only there for MS to somehow gain Market Share with Windows Phone and Tablets, battle they lost long time ago to Android and iOS. It doesn't bring any value to PC cause PC is already such a rich platform that all this is nothing but another bloatware layer. Somehow with Windows 8 MS is trying to level out PC, Tablets and Phone risking to **** up PC platform greatly.

techguy77 said,
...
That makes no sense. How is providing a built-in store a bad thing? It doesn't cut off other channels. The mobile OS battle is not over, and will *never* be over. Just like Android has started to take over, so could any other OS.