Stardock's Wardell: 'Age of Steam' May Not Last

Stardock CEO Brad Wardell recently took exception to a recent Edge editorial proclaiming the "Age of Steam," writing a stiff defense of competition in the digital distribution market.

Wardell's company maintains Impulse, a service similar to Valve's Steam that launched in 2008. And while Steam has taken a lead in the digital PC gaming marketplace, Wardell argues that it's still too early to name a clear winner.

"I must confess that I am surprised to see Edge, or anyone else for that matter, imply that Steam's early lead in digital distribution translates to permanent dominance," said Wardell, who quickly made the case that Valve's 20 million accounts and half-million daily visitors can partly be attributed to "shrewd business practices," such as acquiring Counter-Strike and its user base.

"As new titles come out bundled with Steamworks, which requires a user to become a Steam user in order to play the game (something I would normally think that the press would raise alarm about if this were being done by say EA or Microsoft or even Google), the Steam user base has continued to increase," he added.

Wardell concluded by pointing out Steam's lack of true competition, and predicted that its market share would drop in the coming years.

"Steam does a lot of things right," said Wardell. "But there's certainly room for improvement which viable competition encourages. After all, MySpace once looked unbeatable in the social networking world but such premature assumptions look quaint in 'the age of Facebook'."

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From The Chatty
  • reply
    March 10, 2009 7:07 PM

    Sounds like sour grapes, no?

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      March 10, 2009 7:10 PM

      Indeed. I applaud him on building a decent business model, but it's not like he's got the mainstream reach of Valve.

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        March 10, 2009 7:21 PM

        He's saying that Steam doesn't have a monopoly on digital distribution. Read his entire article... I think he makes some good points about how Steam's "user base" is a measure of how many people are playing games they purchased on Steam, not how many people are using it to purchase games. Like he says, 10 million people visit Gamespot each day... 1 million use Steam every day, and half of those are playing Counterstrike... that's pretty far from having "mainstream reach". There are A LOT of customers out there who aren't using Steam to make their purchases.

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          March 11, 2009 12:59 AM

          I'd be one of those people. But to be fair, i hate digital distribution all together and will buy retail if given the opportunity. If I have to use digital distribution I usually do purchase on Steam. For the most part, the games I own through Steam are only because they were 5 or 10 dollars on a specific weekend sale or something.

          I'd never pay full price for a new game via Steam or any other Digital Distribution service if its available in retail with a box, manual, and disks. But thats just me.

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      March 10, 2009 7:13 PM

      I gotta say I agree with most of what he says.

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      March 10, 2009 7:16 PM

      sounds like he is right

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        March 10, 2009 7:22 PM

        While competition is good for the consumer, I think they might be a tad late to the game. Time will tell I guess.

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          March 10, 2009 7:54 PM

          I agree they are a little late, but online video game distribution is relatively new. I love Steam. I love using it to buy my games, but it can definitely be improved. One thing I hope they do with Impulse is give more of a social networking feel. Steam community is nice, but it's nothing more than a friends list and a dedicated IRC room. There's so much more you can do with interaction with people, and if you sit down and think about it Steam is pretty basic in terms of features.

          I'm all for competition, but I think some are hoping for some sort of standard. At one point I wish it was just Steam and Steam only, but now I'm sort of rooting for Impulse to do something different. I just hope it doesn't become a Steam clone. I don't think they can compete with the titles and selection that Steam offers (At least not yet), but I hope they can do things that Steam currently doesn't.

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