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Analysis: Why Steam isn't DRM

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The whole discussion started because Cynic rightfully highlighted that there's no inherent reason to have steam games not requiring steam open when opened.

 

And it's not like I'd want to play devils's advocate.. though the notion of "freely offering your games to one or more friends" (while still maintaining the ownership after all) could be both legally and morally interpreted as piracy

Could you also elaborate better what "unfit for purpose" means?

 

If you were trying to imply that having Steam running for everything you buy that uses it in some way is perfectly fine, you're displaying part of the reason why I let my account linger since 2012 and have yet to buy a game that requires Steam. This strange mindset that some gamers have that client dependency, in the case of Steam, is perfectly fine and few, if any, PC gamers should question it or refuse it.

 

Otherwise, the way that second sentence was worded...that was a poor attempt at devil's advocacy; "Have you considered the idea that doing such a thing could be seen as piracy?" That's devil's advocacy. Asking questions to test the strength of an argument/point, not depending on subjective suggestions as a response.

 

Still, I'll elaborate: I used that example because, sans GOG purchases, most of my PC gaming library is made up of disk-based games that can be installed on multiple PCs, and handed to friends/colleagues of mine to do likewise if they ask me to try them. (Part of being raised in the late-90's/early-00's gaming period, and being a tabletop gamer as well.) The games I own thanks to GOG are looked at the same way, and I don't consider it "piracy" to treat those purchases the same way I do my disk library. It is only seen as piracy now because of how easy that word is to toss around in relation to poor sales (I'm reminded of Greenheart Games' 'piracy experiment' every time that word comes up), how big gaming budgets have become and how dogmatic some companies are with stopping reselling, trading and borrowing versus occasionaly looking at themselves for answers why their products are not selling as well as they want, or only selling well during deep price-cut periods.

 

As for 'unfit for purpose', to me that is when the netcode is very poor, at launch or otherwise, to the point of making the game unplayable via multiplayer (Rome II: Total War and Battlefield 4), the single-player/main game is excessivly buggy, unstable or so lacking in features that it feels unfinished (Rome II and Battlefield 4 again, and Skyrim on both the PC and PS3), or the installed/required DRM blocks you from playing the game or starts messing with your computer in harmful ways. (Alpha Protocol and Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory)

 

1. It's not a technical requirement for games on Steam to require Steam to be open. It's the developer's choice whether the client is required or not. You're trying to compare DRM-free games with games that may be encumbered with DRM or lazy developers using Steamworks. I'm talking about platforms, where Steam does not intrinsically serve as DRM.

2. Same as point 1. If you've downloaded a DRM-free game off of Steam, then it doesn't require logging in.

3. Let's consider Steam games to not have installers. In fact, most games don't even need installers. As for storing data offline, well, when you've downloaded your data, you're storing it. Steam does not pose any restrictions on what you can do with the data, so you're free to archive and restore it whenever you want. If you want to make an installer with the data, you're free to do so.

 

 

I agree with adding a field for distribution method. At least with the current table, those games that have Steam in the DRM column imply that the game requires Steam to play, even though the executables may not be DRM encumbered. Maybe add a few icons, for Steam DRM, CEG, and Steamworks in the case where one of those technologies forces you to have the Steam client open. It would also make tabulating DRM-free games on Steam and games with 3rd party DRM on Steam easier.

 

You're ignoring a difference between GOG's installer system and Steam's. The former only needs the installer and the data packets, and sometimes patches, to be downloaded from the site; after you're done with them, save them to an external drive for later access. (All my purchases are backed-up this way.) The latter, sans making your own offline installer after you're done, requires client installation and account access to get and, from what I've tried, place the data every time a new install is requested.

 

If it didn't serve as DRM by itself, then there would be no instances of games where, no matter how you buy it, disk-based and IndieBox included, you must use it to access your game. (I was a subscriber to IndieBox before I found out most of their game offerings require Steam to install. Even MouseCraft, which has a GOG variant.) 

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You're ignoring a difference between GOG's installer system and Steam's. The former only needs the installer and the data packets, and sometimes patches, to be downloaded from the site; after you're done with them, save them to an external drive for later access. (All my purchases are backed-up this way.) The latter, sans making your own offline installer after you're done, requires client installation and account access to get and, from what I've tried, place the data every time a new install is requested.

Restoring a Steam game was, and still is quite easy. Back up the game files and associated ACF file, and when you restore it Steam would recognize it, and the next time you launch it'll grab updates and what not. In the case of non-DRM-encumbered games you don't need to install the client to play if you have a backup. I've also heard that for certain retail games you can just drop the game files into the SteamApps folder and they would be recognized, though I have not verified this myself.

 

If it didn't serve as DRM by itself, then there would be no instances of games where, no matter how you buy it, disk-based and IndieBox included, you must use it to access your game. (I was a subscriber to IndieBox before I found out most of their game offerings require Steam to install. Even MouseCraft, which has a GOG variant.)

I'd like to remind you that my primary argument was that all of the things you are claiming is wrong with Steam (less refunds and reselling) are due to the decisions of developers and publishers rather than being intrinsically required by Steam (i.e. Valve is not trying to force Steam to be a DRM platform). I'll also reiterate that I consider distribution to be a minor factor for the end enjoyment of a game, that it does not matter how you've obtained a game so long as you are able to actually play the game.

 

If we were to argue about how distribution contributes to whether or not a platform is DRM, I'd argue GOG can be considered DRM, as you need to log in before you can download your games. As for installers, think of it this way: you need to download a program from GOG to install your game. You also need to download a program to install a game from Steam. Both deliver data, they just differ slightly in their approach. Both services require signing in, but GOG requires signing in before downloading and Steam requires so in the client. In the end, it's the exact same result for DRM-free games: you install your game, and you run your game executable. No more is required. Having Steam installed is a side effect, just as having an uninstaller created by the GOG installer is a side effect. Both do nothing to prevent you from enjoying your game. You can remove the Steam client if you wish after obtaining your DRM-free game. Having optional steps after installation does not turn a platform into DRM. Neither do the choices of developers and publishers. Yes, it may be annoying to require the installation of Steam even though you may have physical media to install from, but give me an instance where Valve told a publisher that unless they forced Steam on to their retail copies they may not put the game on Steam. It happens because developers and publishers choose so, might it be from their game using Steamworks (which naturally requires Steam for its intended functions, but of course implementing Steamworks is optional), or that it is easier to keep track of distribution with only one platform to tend to.

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One thing I would like for us to properly implement in our Availability table is the idea of the 'Install method' which I think is information people are looking for. [...] I feel like our Availability table should try to capture more of this information - perhaps we can introduce a 'Install method' column to help clarify.

 

This could be accomplished by adjusting the Steam indicator. I have made an example of this at User:Garrett/Availability/sandbox.

 

The Steam types link to what would be sections on the Steam page briefly explaining the behaviour of each type of DRM. CEG and Steam DRM currently use the same image in this example but are otherwise handled separately by the template.

 

Steam games with third-party DRM would still have that listed as usual.

 

Humble Store - some game have DRM-free standalone installers, some require Steam/Uplay, etc. to install and may/may not require Steam/Uplay to be active in order to play, some are DRM-free standalone but must have Steam/Uplay for multiplayer.

 

The DRM version does not act as an upgrade or unlock for the DRM-free installation, so this isn't a DRM issue.

 

Differences are already mentioned under availability when known.

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Restoring a Steam game was, and still is quite easy. Back up the game files and associated ACF file, and when you restore it Steam would recognize it, and the next time you launch it'll grab updates and what not. In the case of non-DRM-encumbered games you don't need to install the client to play if you have a backup. I've also heard that for certain retail games you can just drop the game files into the SteamApps folder and they would be recognized, though I have not verified this myself.

 

I'd like to remind you that my primary argument was that all of the things you are claiming is wrong with Steam (less refunds and reselling) are due to the decisions of developers and publishers rather than being intrinsically required by Steam (i.e. Valve is not trying to force Steam to be a DRM platform). I'll also reiterate that I consider distribution to be a minor factor for the end enjoyment of a game, that it does not matter how you've obtained a game so long as you are able to actually play the game.

 

If we were to argue about how distribution contributes to whether or not a platform is DRM, I'd argue GOG can be considered DRM, as you need to log in before you can download your games. As for installers, think of it this way: you need to download a program from GOG to install your game. You also need to download a program to install a game from Steam. Both deliver data, they just differ slightly in their approach. Both services require signing in, but GOG requires signing in before downloading and Steam requires so in the client. In the end, it's the exact same result for DRM-free games: you install your game, and you run your game executable. No more is required. Having Steam installed is a side effect, just as having an uninstaller created by the GOG installer is a side effect. Both do nothing to prevent you from enjoying your game. You can remove the Steam client if you wish after obtaining your DRM-free game. Having optional steps after installation does not turn a platform into DRM. Neither do the choices of developers and publishers. Yes, it may be annoying to require the installation of Steam even though you may have physical media to install from, but give me an instance where Valve told a publisher that unless they forced Steam on to their retail copies they may not put the game on Steam. It happens because developers and publishers choose so, might it be from their game using Steamworks (which naturally requires Steam for its intended functions, but of course implementing Steamworks is optional), or that it is easier to keep track of distribution with only one platform to tend to.

 

This I disagree with, full-stop: "I'd like to remind you that my primary argument was that all of the things you are claiming is wrong with Steam (less refunds and reselling) are due to the decisions of developers and publishers rather than being intrinsically required by Steam (i.e. Valve is not trying to force Steam to be a DRM platform). I'll also reiterate that I consider distribution to be a minor factor for the end enjoyment of a game, that it does not matter how you've obtained a game so long as you are able to actually play the game."

 

Refunds are something Valve will have to allow in the future, given how many games are bought and sold digitally these days, especially with them; as a retailer, even one of digital media, what they allow to be sold on their storefront is their responsibility, along with the dev/publisher of that game. If a company allows something to be sold that turns out to be faulty, after they give a refund, they take those losses to the company that made the product and get their money back. That's how all retailers work; refusing refunds, for what logic I don't know, will only be allowable for as long Valve keeps their users occupied with other things. 

 

And that's what worries me about clients as big as Steam and the parent companies behind them when they refuse customer service practices like that. I remember Gabe talking about the chances of Steam being a self-publishing service, and speaking as a self-publishing author, that's only possible in the sense of how easy it is to get something on the client to sell. So long as Valve makes a profit on things that get sold/bought with the client they made and own, they have liabilities and obligations to their users. 

 

As for reselling, the ability to refuse the reselling of digital games does not lie with the publishers/devs who use Steam. Why? Because the client is not their property. Yes, they can choose what kinds of Steam-DRM to anchor their games with beyond the Steam default of account-locking, but they're using tools Valve made and offered. If Valve did allow key reselling between users, the only way I can see publishers stopping it is a full removal of the product from the storefront, which, given Steam's widespread use these days, would cost every legitimate future buyer, and current owner, access to the product. (See also: the removal of Fallout 1, 2 and Tactics from GOG and its current availability, for those who didn't get it there, only through Steam.)

 

On that note, here's a question: Because devs/publishers can make Steam the sole way of getting their game, what assurance is there that Steam will never become a client that is a necessity for gamers to use? What's stopping publishers from pulling their games from every other service and forcing users to go through Steam, like Bethesda seems to do currently? (Look up their ESAnthology release to see what I mean.)

 

You may consider distribution to be a minor factor here, but that means you're willing to ignore how dependent PC gaming is becoming on that client/service for game access, even when it's possible to not depend on it, and when alternatives for purchasing and owning those games are not offered or allowed. That kind of thing I consider problematic and more important to pay attention to as a PC gamer versus the "goodwill" of Valve, sales, or mods. (The latter two will always be around and the initial one is subjective in my view, given what I've stated already in these posts.)

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What's stopping publishers from pulling their games from every other service and forcing users to go through Steam, like Bethesda seems to do currently? (Look up their ESAnthology release to see what I mean.)

 

The Fallout games have returned to every service except GOG, all in the form of Steam keys (where some previously had DRM-free versions). The lack of a non-Steam Skyrim for The Elder Scrolls Anthology is disappointing but at least the other games in the Anthology don't require Steam.

 

This year saw a much worse example: GamersGate replaced DRM-free downloads with Steam keys for various titles, affecting customers' accounts retroactively. The official answer is that they were contractually obligated to do so. Some publishers have since restored their downloads (e.g. Viva Media).

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The Fallout games have returned to every service except GOG, all in the form of Steam keys (where some previously had DRM-free versions). The lack of a non-Steam Skyrim for The Elder Scrolls Anthology is disappointing but at least the other games in the Anthology don't require Steam.

 

This year saw a much worse example: GamersGate replaced DRM-free downloads with Steam keys for various titles, affecting customers' accounts retroactively. The official answer is that they were contractually obligated to do so. Some publishers have since restored their downloads (e.g. Viva Media).

Don't require it, but they give a key for them anyway. (The Divinity Anthology also did that.) Never understood that logic, but it helps showcase what Steam keys are really worth. What goaded about the ES release though was they printed the floppy version of Arena to the disk versus the CD-ROM version, and the Daggerfall disk contained the DaggerfallSetup installer that someone outside the company made, likely for no profit.

 

As for the GamersGate situation, that was why I brought up that idea of companies taking away versions of games and making Steam the only option afterward. My copy of Medieval II: Total War was affected that way, so I got the UK disk instead. Well worth it, I say.

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You may consider distribution to be a minor factor here, but that means you're willing to ignore how dependent PC gaming is becoming on that client/service for game access, even when it's possible to not depend on it, and when alternatives for purchasing and owning those games are not offered or allowed. That kind of thing I consider problematic and more important to pay attention to as a PC gamer versus the "goodwill" of Valve, sales, or mods. (The latter two will always be around and the initial one is subjective in my view, given what I've stated already in these posts.)

 

Refunds and reselling is a policy problem, not a technical one. Per Wikipedia, the definition of DRM is "a class of technologies that are used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders, and individuals with the intent to control the use of digital content and devices after sale". By the time you get to refunds and resale, usage is already possible, and isn't restricted by the lack of refunds or resale. While they may affect customer experience, they don't factor into whether a platform is intrinsically DRM.

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Indeed. Though outside of CEG you do have those edge cases that actually scan your drive for steam or use the broken hard link to steam.dll method et al.. Would be interesting to note here anyway.

 

Scan your drive for steam.. this seems worrying.. Do you have any example?

 

If you were trying to imply that having Steam running for everything you buy that uses it in some way is perfectly fine, you're displaying part of the reason why I let my account linger since 2012 and have yet to buy a game that requires Steam. This strange mindset that some gamers have that client dependency, in the case of Steam, is perfectly fine and few, if any, PC gamers should question it or refuse it.

I'm not implying that. Even though I don't really hate Steam (I appreciate some of its services) I know how bitching it can be.

For example I have this computer at school, without internet access and I'd really love to play civilization V demo.. if only it wasn't only on steam..

Still, I'll elaborate: I used that example because, sans GOG purchases, most of my PC gaming library is made up of disk-based games that can be installed on multiple PCs, and handed to friends/colleagues of mine to do likewise if they ask me to try them. (Part of being raised in the late-90's/early-00's gaming period, and being a tabletop gamer as well.) The games I own thanks to GOG are looked at the same way, and I don't consider it "piracy" to treat those purchases the same way I do my disk library. It is only seen as piracy now because of how easy that word is to toss around in relation to poor sales (I'm reminded of Greenheart Games' 'piracy experiment' every time that word comes up), how big gaming budgets have become and how dogmatic some companies are with stopping reselling, trading and borrowing versus occasionaly looking at themselves for answers why their products are not selling as well as they want, or only selling well during deep price-cut periods.

Ok, I really understand your points.

And as I said it's not like I trust companies. And even less I believe to their biased "piracy reports".

Though not being able to play the same game simultaneously by different people is not between the rights I consider fair. And I'm not talking of judjes and law. Just ideally and morally.

As for 'unfit for purpose', to me that is when the netcode is very poor, at launch or otherwise, to the point of making the game unplayable via multiplayer (Rome II: Total War and Battlefield 4), the single-player/main game is excessivly buggy, unstable or so lacking in features that it feels unfinished (Rome II and Battlefield 4 again, and Skyrim on both the PC and PS3), or the installed/required DRM blocks you from playing the game or starts messing with your computer in harmful ways. (Alpha Protocol and Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory)

Oh, this is certainly something I wish to have. You can't even imagine how I felt cheated with both CoD 6 (MW2 for common people) and BF3...

 

And if there really was a problem (which even GOG has though) is this. I want to be able to resell my games, just like the good old times. And I don't have to provide reasons (even though I'd have many with those crappy examples). Money to buy other games/things is already itself a valid reason.

You're ignoring a difference between GOG's installer system and Steam's. The former only needs the installer and the data packets, and sometimes patches, to be downloaded from the site; after you're done with them, save them to an external drive for later access. (All my purchases are backed-up this way.) The latter, sans making your own offline installer after you're done, requires client installation and account access to get and, from what I've tried, place the data every time a new install is requested.

 

If it didn't serve as DRM by itself, then there would be no instances of games where, no matter how you buy it, disk-based and IndieBox included, you must use it to access your game. (I was a subscriber to IndieBox before I found out most of their game offerings require Steam to install. Even MouseCraft, which has a GOG variant.)

Again. You seem to fly over this every time.

First of all, I hope at least you understood that there are games that doesn't require steam opened (they are not DRMed).

Then, since games themselves really cannot be condemned (you can't move them whereever you desire) I suppose you are attacking Steam as distribution platform, that indeed requires their client to do so.

But if we are looking for right managements techniques applied before even the game is ours (i.e. downloaded) the account must be considered as one (similarly to CD-key)

 

In this case, though, the problem is that neither GOG (which I myself find almost perfect) is flawless.

Thus, for ease's sake I'd just focus on DRM applied to the game

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Scan your drive for steam.. this seems worrying.. Do you have any example?

 

I don't have a "scan your drive" example, but an example of a hard link to Steam.dll is Uplink, where they have a separate DLL solely for the purpose of determining if you own the game, and does the check through Steam.dll. (Note this game was pre-Steamworks.)

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Refunds and reselling is a policy problem, not a technical one. Per Wikipedia, the definition of DRM is "a class of technologies that are used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders, and individuals with the intent to control the use of digital content and devices after sale". By the time you get to refunds and resale, usage is already possible, and isn't restricted by the lack of refunds or resale. While they may affect customer experience, they don't factor into whether a platform is intrinsically DRM.

 

The DRM tools Steam has were made by Valve, and are offered by them to whoever uses their service/client. The definition you used doesn't account for that, and it gives me the impression that you're implying Valve's approach to the DRM they make and offer should not be related to their client. If the Steam-DRM systems like CEG and Steamworks were made by a third-party that Valve had endorsed while solely operating their client service, you'd have a point by using that definition.

 

The '...after sale' part of that definition also holds true with Steam sans the DRM. If the client wasn't DRM by itself, it would never be necessary for any PCGamingWiki contributor to type the phrase "All versions require Steam" underneath the table showcasing where to buy these games digitally.

 

Lastly, if the platform is not DRM by itself, then what is preventing Valve, a very well-known middleman company that is profiting from games being sold on a service they own, operate, and produce tools for, from making refunds a company and client standard like GOG and Origin do? They will turn down games from going onto their service, as TechRaptor just revealed while I was typing this up -- http://techraptor.net/content/valve-removes-hatred-steam-greenlight -- so they have final say over what goes onto their service.

 

I'm not implying that. Even though I don't really hate Steam (I appreciate some of its services) I know how bitching it can be.

For example I have this computer at school, without internet access and I'd really love to play civilization V demo.. if only it wasn't only on steam..

 

----------------

 

Ok, I really understand your points.

And as I said it's not like I trust companies. And even less I believe to their biased "piracy reports".

Though not being able to play the same game simultaneously by different people is not between the rights I consider fair. And I'm not talking of judjes and law. Just ideally and morally.

 

--------------------

 

Oh, this is certainly something I wish to have. You can't even imagine how I felt cheated with both CoD 6 (MW2 for common people) and BF3...

 

And if there really was a problem (which even GOG has though) is this. I want to be able to resell my games, just like the good old times. And I don't have to provide reasons (even though I'd have many with those crappy examples). Money to buy other games/things is already itself a valid reason.

 

------------------

 

Again. You seem to fly over this every time.

First of all, I hope at least you understood that there are games that doesn't require steam opened (they are not DRMed).

Then, since games themselves really cannot be condemned (you can't move them whereever you desire) I suppose you are attacking Steam as distribution platform, that indeed requires their client to do so.

But if we are looking for right managements techniques applied before even the game is ours (i.e. downloaded) the account must be considered as one (similarly to CD-key)

 

--------------

 

In this case, though, the problem is that neither GOG (which I myself find almost perfect) is flawless.

Thus, for ease's sake I'd just focus on DRM applied to the game

 

Me, I don't trust one company, irrespective of how others may interpret things, becoming a majority distributor of so much media in one entertainment sector. (The Civ V demo caught me by surprise too, but I've played enough to not want any of Firaxis's new stuff, and Valve having such control over so much gaming data...what assurance is there that their users are not at risk of being burned en-masse by something they chose to do?)

 

As I've pointed out already, the DRM being applied to many Steam games, beyond the user account alone, are Valve's own creations. As such, I don't consider publisher/dev choice about whether to use Steam DRM or not to be an excusal of the Steam client itself as not DRM. If it never was DRM by its lonesome, buyers would have a choice about where to download games they buy on other sites and there would be no reason for PCGamingWiki to have to display the phrase "All versions require Steam" underneath the Availability charts.

 

That phrase is there because the respective publisher/dev make the choice to make buyers dependent on Steam, despite the many other options available for distribution, DRM-free or not.

 

As for reselling, as much as companies would like to say otherwise, the less ability consumers have to sell off/get credit for things they don't want anymore, the less, on average, we'll be willing to spend on these things because there's more risk involved in buying things you can't ever resell, much less get refunded for. And let's not forget how common digital distribution is becoming in gaming, so if these two things continue to conflict like this, well, we'll continue to see more homogenization and yearly releases.

 

On that note, I find it very unsettling that the gaming industry is one where it's normal among major game makers/sellers to think that the idea of allowing reselling, something which has been allowed for decades in gaming, will harm them. It will if they're offering products that don't work or have poor value to many of their potential buyers. That's how competition works in the free market system of New versus Used/Second-Hand.

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The DRM tools Steam has were made by Valve, and are offered by them to whoever uses their service/client. The definition you used doesn't account for that, and it gives me the impression that you're implying Valve's approach to the DRM they make and offer should not be related to their client. If the Steam-DRM systems like CEG and Steamworks were made by a third-party that Valve had endorsed while solely operating their client service, you'd have a point by using that definition.

That is what I am claiming. Imagine that no one chose to use Steam DRM, CEG, and third party DRM, and all those who integrate Steamworks does so such that the games will still function fully without Steam. In this case, how would Steam differ from GOG? There is nothing in the client that forces programs to run under it.

 

The '...after sale' part of that definition also holds true with Steam sans the DRM. If the client wasn't DRM by itself, it would never be necessary for any PCGamingWiki contributor to type the phrase "All versions require Steam" underneath the table showcasing where to buy these games digitally.

OK. So what if a game was only downloadable via GOG, and no matter where you've bought it you only get a GOG key? Does that make GOG DRM? Or maybe a developer only wanted you to download a game from their website, regardless of where you bought it from, but once you've downloaded it you can do whatever you want with the game. Does that make the developer's site DRM? The Steam client is part of the delivery process, just like the website you try to download a game from. How a game is distributed is the choice of the publisher. In fact, Valve has explicitly stated that they do not require exclusive distribution rights:

 

Steamworks - Frequently Asked Questions

8. Do you require exclusivity for titles you sell on Steam?

We think you should get your game in front of as many people as you can, therefore we do not require exclusivity on titles.

 

Lastly, if the platform is not DRM by itself, then what is preventing Valve, a very well-known middleman company that is profiting from games being sold on a service they own, operate, and produce tools for, from making refunds a company and client standard like GOG and Origin do? They will turn down games from going onto their service, as TechRaptor just revealed while I was typing this up -- http://techraptor.net/content/valve-removes-hatred-steam-greenlight -- so they have final say over what goes onto their service.

 

If you look at retail stores and their policies regarding returns of software products, many of them will have the condition that such products may only be returned if unopened, and if opened, only exchangeable for the same product. You can't return games once you potentially had access to the data. Would you say the store is levying DRM on you? Again, it's more of a policy issue than a technological one. A distributor has every right to determine what they will and will not distribute, just as a store can choose to not carry certain products. Which games Steam carries is unrelated to whether it is DRM.

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That is what I am claiming. Imagine that no one chose to use Steam DRM, CEG, and third party DRM, and all those who integrate Steamworks does so such that the games will still function fully without Steam. In this case, how would Steam differ from GOG? There is nothing in the client that forces programs to run under it.

 

And yet in a majority of cases, including DRM-free games like Crusader Kings II, you're funneled to the service to get what you paid for. Until that changes, Valve's client is very much DRM by itself.

 

More so because, in cases like Crusader Kings II and Medieval II: Total War, the respective publishers have retroactively forced sellers to change the game listings to Steam-only, even though the games are DRM-free otherwise.

 

OK. So what if a game was only downloadable via GOG, and no matter where you've bought it you only get a GOG key? Does that make GOG DRM? Or maybe a developer only wanted you to download a game from their website, regardless of where you bought it from, but once you've downloaded it you can do whatever you want with the game. Does that make the developer's site DRM? The Steam client is part of the delivery process, just like the website you try to download a game from. How a game is distributed is the choice of the publisher. In fact, Valve has explicitly stated that they do not require exclusive distribution rights:

 

Steamworks - Frequently Asked Questions

 

Certainly not, like I said back here: http://community.pcgamingwiki.com/topic/1075-analysis-why-steam-isnt-drm/?p=4896 - " The account-locking alone is not enough to call something DRM in my view." It's when your choice of how to get what you buy is restricted to a single client, when the game is DRM-free otherwise. (The FAQs from Steam don't help your case here because the exclusivity is put in place by devs/publishers, hence they're making the Steam client, and your account, into DRM.)

 

I make that case for Steam and not for GOG precisely because GOG's installers and data can be stored offline, recovered at any time if stored this way, and access post-install is never limited by a client account log-in. Also posted back here was my reasoning for saying that: http://community.pcgamingwiki.com/topic/1075-analysis-why-steam-isnt-drm/?p=4910

 

If you look at retail stores and their policies regarding returns of software products, many of them will have the condition that such products may only be returned if unopened, and if opened, only exchangeable for the same product. You can't return games once you potentially had access to the data. Would you say the store is levying DRM on you? Again, it's more of a policy issue than a technological one. A distributor has every right to determine what they will and will not distribute, just as a store can choose to not carry certain products. Which games Steam carries is unrelated to whether it is DRM.

 

Considering I used to work for Gamestop, we made exceptions very rarely in terms of PC game returns, but I worked for them from 2008 onwards, when you could make that case about software returns more easily. Thing is, that was before Steam was a standard on PC game releases, and after we had stopped taking PC game trades. (They didn't sell very well, even if they only needed the CD Key, so we stopped taking trades of them.) 

 

As I've said multiple times already, if Steam is the only way to get access to what you buy in a majority of cases, regardless of how much DRM there is in the data you get, the client itself is DRM. It may not be Valve's doing, but it is someone's and that makes the client a form of DRM.

 

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Before you respond further, think about this: Let's say both Steam and GOG are to shut down in a week. Now, considering that, which service lets you keep the full installers of the games you bought from them somewhere offline? Not data packets. Installers. 

 

That distinction matters because when you are dependent on Steam, which loads data for you in specific locations as a form of installation, for a majority of your games, that means you're dependent on them for access to your legal purchases every time a new install is requested. If Steam were to shut down, it would be very difficult to move your games to another system, because the way you got them was with a piece of software Valve made that did the installs, not the installer that came with the game itself.

 

And I've yet to see them address that fact, which is very worrying with how much money they pull in with that service.

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The case I'm making is that the actions of developers and publishers make Steam appear DRM-like, but Steam itself does not intrinsically contain any DRM restrictions. Hence why I didn't factor in distribution, because that is still a publisher decision and not something required by Steam itself. If the Steam client itself actively prevents you from installing games purchased from non-Steam sources and also actively prevents you from attempting refunds or resale, then I'll factor those into DRM. Technically Steam is not DRM, and people should stop claiming it is. If someone has an issue with DRM or distribution, they should take it up with developers and publishers, because it was their choice.

 

Before you respond further, think about this: Let's say both Steam and GOG are to shut down in a week. Now, considering that, which service lets you keep the full installers of the games you bought from them somewhere offline? Not data packets. Installers. 

 

That distinction matters because when you are dependent on Steam, which loads data for you in specific locations as a form of installation, for a majority of your games, that means you're dependent on them for access to your legal purchases every time a new install is requested. If Steam were to shut down, it would be very difficult to move your games to another system, because the way you got them was with a piece of software Valve made that did the installs, not the installer that came with the game itself.

 

And I've yet to see them address that fact, which is very worrying with how much money they pull in with that service.

 

I don't see why you make a distinction between an installer and installed game data. Most games these days don't require specific installers to be run before they can be played. As long as their files are available, they can be run. It is an unfair comparison to make between GOG and Steam because Steam does not use distinct installers. After a game has been downloaded (and in the case of GOG, installed), the files can be moved around freely unless the game depends on installed Registry entries or files in esoteric locations. In this case, where it is somewhat more difficult to find with a GOG installer, Steam has the necessary install script put alongside the game files in a human-readable form. You can easily move a game to another machine, read through the install script, and add whatever is necessary to make the game run. Steam does not prevent you from accessing your installed game files. In fact, there is a button in each game's properties box that takes you directly to the game files. If Steam was to shut down in a week, I'd download all of my games and archive them. If I want to play them, I'll find a Steam emulator to replace Steamworks' dependency on the Steam client. If the game was DRM free, I'd still be able to play it just fine, as if I got it from GOG (and for games with Steam DRM but not Steamworks, I've got a private solution for that).

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The case I'm making is that the actions of developers and publishers make Steam appear DRM-like, but Steam itself does not intrinsically contain any DRM restrictions. Hence why I didn't factor in distribution, because that is still a publisher decision and not something required by Steam itself. If the Steam client itself actively prevents you from installing games purchased from non-Steam sources and also actively prevents you from attempting refunds or resale, then I'll factor those into DRM. Technically Steam is not DRM, and people should stop claiming it is. If someone has an issue with DRM or distribution, they should take it up with developers and publishers, because it was their choice.

 

I prefer to simply not buy a game that forces me to use a service I'd rather not use. Games are not essential to own, and if refunds remain off the table in spite of numerous buggy releases, better to avoid spending the money at all, I say.

 

As for the rest of this part, if Valve was not the creator of the DRM-systems Steam is know for, and if Steam wasn't being used more and more as the sole place to get so much game access, despite some games being DRM-free otherwise, I'd agree with you. Until such time, I have to consider the service, which is software that must be installed on your PC, as much DRM as Origin and uPlay.

 

I don't see why you make a distinction between an installer and installed game data. Most games these days don't require specific installers to be run before they can be played. As long as their files are available, they can be run. It is an unfair comparison to make between GOG and Steam because Steam does not use distinct installers. After a game has been downloaded (and in the case of GOG, installed), the files can be moved around freely unless the game depends on installed Registry entries or files in esoteric locations. In this case, where it is somewhat more difficult to find with a GOG installer, Steam has the necessary install script put alongside the game files in a human-readable form. You can easily move a game to another machine, read through the install script, and add whatever is necessary to make the game run. Steam does not prevent you from accessing your installed game files. In fact, there is a button in each game's properties box that takes you directly to the game files. If Steam was to shut down in a week, I'd download all of my games and archive them. If I want to play them, I'll find a Steam emulator to replace Steamworks' dependency on the Steam client. If the game was DRM free, I'd still be able to play it just fine, as if I got it from GOG (and for games with Steam DRM but not Steamworks, I've got a private solution for that).

 

I make the distinction because there is one to be made, and it means the difference between depending on a client more than once versus downloading my purchases once and using them as I need offline; ignoring the install script possibility, specific installers are not used as much now due to widespread client use, and those software programs can be considered installers themselves.

 

What's the major distinction? Steam we don't own. GOG purchases? Those we own, and they're as close to disk-based purchases, without further tampering, as anyone can get in digital-only form.

 

Your mention of 'registry' files is another fair distinction between these two, as is the idea of having to 'emulate' Steam to allow playing a game. In the latter case, you're circumventing something that, without access to the emulator or the client, would leave your game unusable. (DOSBox, even though GOG games install it in many instances, I don't count in this regard because the extent of its use is to get old games running on modern systems.)

 

As for "Steam does not prevent you from accessing your installed game files," it never will have the capacity to do this unless Steam all-of-a-sudden allowed Valve to remotely restrict your control over those files, so it's a moot point to attempt to make.

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The case I'm making is that the actions of developers and publishers make Steam appear DRM-like, but Steam itself does not intrinsically contain any DRM restrictions.

 

You don't make something 'appear DRM-like'. Either it is or it isn't. And in this case, it is. If it's the choice of the developer or Valve (who created the service and respective tools) is completely irrelevant.

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