Posted by: seanmalstrom | June 9, 2013

Email: The Difference Between Steam and Xbone

The main difference, currently, is the amount of investment into them. People -have- to defend steam if they’ve purchased games at anything beyond rental prices through it, whereas they can attack Xbone all they want as currently their investment into it is $0.00. They’ll likely start defending it once some game they value playing more than their principles comes along and causes an investment.

But, if you were to compare steam at launch to Xbone at launch I’d have to say the main difference would be how people viewed them/how they were framed, even if functionally they are basically identical. Steam seemed like console DRM on a PC. If you want to play this game, turn on this console, hope it still works, etc. It was still silly and more wrong/risky than just that, but people thought ‘okay, this is no worse than buying a game for a console, I guess’ and the rental price points eventually warmed more people up to it because, hey, at least the price points are true to you only renting the games rather than buying them and were friendly to people used to buying used games. It was also kinder and gentler than, say, securom.

With Xbone though? It now seems like console-style DRM on something that is already a console. To make sure a game works it DRM checks by needing a working, unaltered console and then it DRM checks -again- by needing an internet connection to check your account information ala steam. As I understand it, it’s fairly easy to hack up an xbox 360 to run homebrew, backup and pirated copies of games without fear of bricking it, so them beefing up DRM somehow is understandable from a business standpoint, but this isn’t being framed as “we need more DRM on a machine that is inherently DRM!” (they could just improve the security of the machine itself). Instead, it’s being framed in a way that hits right at the third party’s true intentions here: they want to get rid of used gaming early and enjoy a larger slice of pie. There will still be sales ala steam, I’d imagine, as their way of fishing up those who’d normally just buy used. 

That frame was just never applied to steam and I think that’s where Xbone is most offensive to steam’s defenders. Functionally? Steam is a DRM that’s been blocking used games since the beginning, but only on PCs where, at least going from my childhood memories, used gaming never was much of a thing thanks to retailers like funkoland or gamestop or whatever mom and pop shop you used not wanting to hassle with testing installs, cd keys and such (did they ever start doing this? or can you still not trade-in PC games at retail?). Either way, steam still blocks used games. The difference is that Xbone’s DRM is viewed as all about blocking used games and is blocking them on consoles, which have always allowed for easy trade-ins and used purchases.

Microsoft recognizes this and is trying to weasel around it by pointing out that it’s up to third party companies to decide the “essentially blocks used games” part of it, but, really, I doubt it’ll end up mattering. It’s not steam that’s giving you the sales you’re getting. It’s the third party companies -through steam-. Through steam DRM. So these same third party companies selling the same games they sell through steam are going to be giving you the same exact sales through Xbone’s DRM + DRM and, once they do, the hardcore steam defenders will magically stop complaining and start buying. So in the end the difference amounts to “people haven’t stopped complaining about Xbone because nobody has sold them anything on it yet”. Only way this hurts Microsoft is if people begin to use steam rather than Xbone after investing their would-be Xbone money into new graphics cards or processors, but I see that as unlikely since the average hardcore gamer is just too useless and lazy for such a thing. Maybe they’ll buy Scambox, I mean, Steambox instead hahahahahaha!

Ah, and on the topic of steam-like sales, Sony has been getting away with PSN from the beginning, a service through which they regularly let third party companies do steam-esque 75% off sales to promote buying digital rather than used. Even worse, they have a monthly membership thing that increases the sales! How has nobody complained about this when they’re complaining about Xbone now? Is it because they are competing fairly with used games rather than eliminating them from the equation? Perhaps, but it’s essentially the same thing and -does- severely hurt your ability to sell your games back. I can only say with some confidence that Nintendo won’t do anything like this because EA has already announced they have no plans for continuing to make WiiU games and I expect other third party companies to follow, which gives me hope for the next Nintendo console.

You bring up a great point that it is easy to bash the Xbone because everyone has $0 invested in it. The more money people have invested in Steam, the more likely they will defend it. And bringing up PS Plus is a great point. Hardcore love PS Plus. Hardcore love Steam. So they will learn to love the Xbone.

Nintendo is in an interesting situation for sure. There is Game Industry pressure for Nintendo to Xbone their systems. But why should Nintendo care what the Game Industry cares about? Which way does Nintendo go?

I think you are right on that as soon as people have money invested in the Xbone (once they purchase it and a game or two), the DRM drama will begin to reverse. They will begin defending their ‘investment’ and squeal how pleasurable the Xbone experience is (as they do with Steam).

The Xbone will demonstrate that the hardcore gamer has no intellectual integrity whatsoever. I expect places like NeoGaf to be pro-Xbone a year from now as more and more of them ‘jump in’.

If the hardcore really wish to stick it to Microsoft and the Game Industry, there is something they could do instead of ‘not buy’ the Xbone. Do you know what would really piss of the Game Industry? It would be buying the Wii U. Nintendo isn’t playing ball with the Xbone’s practice and how does the hardcore gamer reward Nintendo? By not buying the console. It reminds me how hardcore gamers treat GOG.

The hardcore say they don’t like DRM and all, but when it comes to the market the hardcore gamer easily slurps up DRM games and begs for more! After E3, expect a small number of the hardcore wish to be xboned.

The Red Ring of Death of the Xbox 360 and the issues of the original Xbox were worse than the Xbone and the hardcore just surrendered to Microsoft. Remember folks, the hardcore gamer is the lesser end of society. They don’t know how to stand up to anything in life. They are also easily manipulated. A year from now, everyone will forget all this just as they forgot about the Red Ring of Death.


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