Games On Demand vs Steam – Digital Distribution Wars


GFWL games on demand, a contender to knock steam off the podium?

GFWL games on demand, a contender to knock steam off the podium?

December the 15th 2009, the date Steam’s only possible contender is born? Games For Windows Live will extend its wing to digital distribution for PC games with its Games On Demand service, similar to the Xbox service launched not so long ago.

GFWL has been a touchy subject amongst PC gamers, personally I am all for the integration with Xbox. Increasing my Gamerscore when I play PC titles like Fallout 3 or GTAIV rather than having to slug through the Xbox slower and lower detail versions on a controller is a huge reason to play the title on mouse and keyboard. I will admit though, the GFWL software could do with a Steam makeover. Microsoft can learn masses from the Steam client, which has evolved with countless updates over the years.

Steam obviously already has the huge CS fanbase, as well as other Source engine Half Life & L4D franchise’s locked down, and now Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 it would appear to be a monopoly on digital distribution (seriously, who uses Direct2Drive?). I even made the move a few years ago to only purchase my games from Steam and thus unplugged my energy consuming DVD drive from my PC. Having all my titles in one place, stored for me in the cloud and integrated with my community of gamer friends, why else would I venture out into the cold and buy retail? I held off buying Mass Effect AND Mirrors Edge until late 2009 because they were not available on Steam, that is customer loyalty to the point of fanboy!

So Microsoft clearly have a lot of catching up to do, but what they do have is the money, power and Xbox experience to make this work. If I had the choice, if it meant extra Gamerscore I would definitely choose Games on Demand from Microsoft over Steam despite my years of loyalty. There is something about a large Gamerscore on my Xbox dashboard that keeps me coming back to games just for the achievements. And rightly so, some achievements make you explore a game in areas you might have missed, areas the developers spent forever and a day coding and crafting, rightly so these areas deserve to be explored even if it is for a mere 20G.

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