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Digital Distribution, Steam, Epic Store And Co.
Hey, so with the fracas going on about Metro and Steam and other shenanigans I take this as an opportunity to have a fun discussion about the future game distribution.

I propose as a start :

Monolithic game distribution platforms like Steam, Epic store, Origin, GOG and so on are generally a bad idea and not necessary in their current form.

Why ? Any platform reaching a certain domination of the market will always be at a risk of turning to morally dubious practices in pursuit of profit.

Why is this a problem and why should anyone care, or rather who should be most concerned with this subject ?

These strong positions, such as the one Steam has, and whoever succeeds steam will have, allow them to set the terms of revenue sharing between devs.
I believe this to be more of a concern for smaller indie devs. Large publishers will always have their own weight to throw around and negotiate better deals (of course we can expect the better deal to be even more profitable to the publisher than the devs)

Yes, publishers are another can of worms but this is not what this is about.


So the meat of it and the fun part of dreaming of a better world for game devs and generally for content creators / creative professions ;)

What I would see a superior solution for small and indie devs would be a split of components allowing the same comforts Steam and co allow but cutting out opportunistic middle men through the setup of non-profit entities funded by a cut of every individual sale to run necessary infrastructure :

1) The "shop" A payment processing / "cd-key" (or whatever DRM unlock key) delivering platform - this would require cooperation with a 3rd party online bank / payment processor (unfortunate but necessary)
The non-profit entity would be in charge of the administration needed to setup virtual accounts for dev teams and provide a space for the dev to list and promote their software.

2) A separate low cost and non-centralized data distribution platform who's only function is to deliver the data itself to players (game itself, patches etc)
Technical solution abound for this to be done at a relatively low cost.

3) A low cost subscription(ideally) or ad-revenue based game service platform for extra features such as community content, server browser, game overlay.


Please feel free to contribute any other ideas, or generally discuss the evils and goods of platforms such as Steam, GOG etc, or simply to tell me "you're off your rocks Killes"
TL,DR: I Want To Steal Games... 
...and pull some pseudo-moral discourse out of my arse about it.

No offense Killes but as #tf's foremost warez monkey, gibbering anti-big-corp nut job and self-confessed crown prince of the mouth-frothing tin-hat brigade, I'm not sure you're optimally balanced for spearheading the great dev-pub-distributor-customer debate.

But I could be wrong... 
 
You're replacing one middle man with three. I'm not sure people are willing to run these services without a profit.

I agree that monopolies like steam can abuse their power, it's probably good for devs if there are multiple steam-like platforms competing with each other, though it does make more work for customers who end up needing an account on each platform to play the games they want. Comparing it to TV, I once just had netflix now I added hulu, hbo, amazon prime. 
 
Gaben is love.
Gaben is life.

Whatever Gaben touches
turns into wine. 
True, But.. 
Comparing it to TV, I once just had netflix now I added hulu, hbo, amazon prime.

Important difference there is that those are subscription packages while Steam is not (and hypothetical competitors would presumably have to follow suit). Multiple services would decrease convenience in exchange for a better marketplace, which is easier to argue for. 
 
"You're replacing one middle man with three. I'm not sure people are willing to run these services without a profit."

So, no profit does not mean no competitive paycheck for those running this. A non-profit can be setup so that once the necessary service is delivered, paychecks etc are paid, anything extra is returned in dividends back to the devs or reinvested in improvements in efficiency and cost reduction.

So, the system I am, maladroitly yes, trying to get at is 2 of these "middle men" (distribution and storefront) would be sanctioned and funded by the devs alliance themselves so to speak. Trying to see this as a form of shared infrastructure to benefit all devs and cut out the middle men preying on the fruits of their labor.

The 3rd, services around gaming, is I doubt difficult to implement this way and is indeed one of the areas where regular market competition could deliver the best. If one provider wins the market over the others in a large way it is less of a problem as they are not essential to the revenue and distribution for the devs but effectively decoupled from this.


@Shambler strictly - I am not sure where the steal games part is here ? I am strictly talking about brainstorming possible technical / organizational / business structures to allow more quality indie products and more revenue for such product creators.
I wish to see devs and good games prosper, not platforms like Steam prosper and devs struggle and waste time battling all sorts of bullshit. 
You Completely Ignored The Subject Of "exposure" 
Yes sure these big distribution platforms all want a cut, but in Steam, your game is visible to millions of people, so you're going to sell a lot hopefully because of all the exposure and advertising they are doing for you.

How many people are going to be looking at your non-profit indie-game distribution site compared to Steam? 
Honestly, I Have No Real Viewpoint. 
Except the metro stunt is a dick move - customer restricting, not customer choice. 
Itch.io 
1) Doesn't mention being non-profit anywhere, so I surmise it's a for-profit platform.

2) Has been running for nearly 6 years now, so I surmise it's not been a total money burning disaster.

And yet:

It’s a platform that enables anyone to sell the content they've created. As a seller you’re in charge of how it’s done: you set the price, you run sales, and you design your pages. It’s never necessary to get votes, likes, or follows to get your content approved, and you can make changes to how you distribute your work as frequently as you like.

(...)

Since March 2015, itch.io has an open revenue sharing model. Sellers can now apply the pay what you want model towards itch.io: the revenue split between the seller and itch.io is configurable by the seller. Set it to 10%, 30%, or even 0%.

The developer has near total control of distributing their games and the sales from it. You'd be hard pressed to find any AAA titles on Itch, but isn't this pretty much the dream platform that Killez is describing?

As for exposure: it registered nearly 20 million unique hits in July 2018. A fraction of what Steam gets, but obviously not peanuts... 
Exactly 
I've never heard of Itch.io, doesn't look like Killes has heard of Itch.io either.

Pretty much how I imagined this to pan out then. 
Kinn 
I say this with due respect and all, but fuck that smug reactionary "Exactly" up its arse.

10% of Steam's traffic isn't nothing, it's still a huge amount, and people are making decent money out of it. 
 
I think really Killes, this wonderful idea is only going to take off if the big platforms like Steam decide to call it a day, take up llama wool farming instead or whatever.

If you want your turnips to sell, you want Tescos to be flogging them, not just Aunty Gertie's Veggie Shack. 
 
otp: what cut do steam take exactly?

I just want to do the maths here. 
 
Google it, you ivory tower fuck. 
Wow 
otp's jimmies status: successfully rustled!

I must be onto something then. 
 
It's everything black and white with you, isn't it?

Never any reasonable middle ground, just one extreme vs another.

And of course there's always a lot of floral descriptions, because the more words you use, the more right you think you are.

Can't wait to read your next post about how the developers using Itch (aka the 10 million customer grocery shack) are struggling to eat more than Darfur orphans, or whatever you think of saying. Also using lots of Victorian euphemisms for that extra tea-boy-whipping flavor. 
Sorry 
20 million, not 10 million.

A mistake, and not "evidence" of "moving the goal posts backwards" like a "spotty plonker shrivelling like a shrimp during Aberdeenshire winter" (look, I can type this way too!). 
 
Kinn - steam does no external advertising / exposure, only on their platform, you need to go to Steam to be exposed to the promotion.

The shop part 1) could fulfill this function in the same way. Yes it is a question of critical mass

To be clear until this shop component would become massively popular, if it ever did, and therefore generates its own exposure, this is a platform that would be directed to smaller indie devs -
Where certainly receiving 18USD out of a 20USD pricepoint instead of 10USD on the 20USD matters far more for a 1 to 4 member large dev team which sell 5000 to 20'000 copies

So itch.io is interesting and definitely a move in that direction.
I would like to know more about how it works behind the curtains to see how efficient the system is and if it really provides the most value to devs it can.
Maybe they are transparent and discuss this on their website/blog whatever, I will have a gander. 
 
It's everything black and white with you, isn't it?

Never any reasonable middle ground, just one extreme vs another.


Lol otp, it's actually just an incredibly simple matter of numbers and simple common business sense. Like Killes says: Yes it is a question of critical mass

If Team A make an indie game, and put it on this non-profit, morally-pure, Fairtrade, 100% recyclable Itch.io or whatever, and sell N copies, and get 100% of the sales money, then great, wonderful, good for them.

But then if Team B have essentially the same game, put it on Steam, and flog 10 x N copies, but steam yoinks say 30% of the cut...

Well that may be so...but guess who's getting the fucking drinks in at the weekend? 
Itch.io 
...is run by what... 3 ppl? They are doing well enough and can only grow. I agree that it's really the best platform for indies as far as the economics. But there's more to it than that. They just need one huge hit for it to become mainstream. But can that happen realistically with their model? There's no way a AAA publisher is going to put their game on that platform so the marketing dollars rule in this case. 
The Epic Store 
#20 
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