Steam Family Sharing Is Different From Xbox One

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | September 11, 2013 - 08:31 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, valve, steam

I know there will be some comparison between the recent Steam Family Sharing announcement and what Microsoft proposed, to a flock of airborne tomatoes I might add, for the Xbox One. Steam integrates some level of copy discouragement by accounts which identify a catalog of content with an individual. This account, user name and password, tends to be more precious to the licensee than a physical disk or a nondescript blob of bits.

The point is not to prevent unauthorized copying, however; the point is to increase sales.

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Account information is used, not just for authentication, but to add value to the service. If you log in to your account from a friend's computer, you have access to your content and it can be installed to their machine. This is slightly more convenient, given a fast internet connection, than carrying a DRM-free game on physical storage (unless, of course, paid licenses are revoked or something). Soon, authorized friends will also be able to borrow your library when you are not using it if their devices are authorized by your account.

Microsoft has a similar authentication system through Xbox Live. The Xbox One also proposed a sharing feature with the caveat that all devices would need a small, few kilobyte, internet connection once every 24 hours.

The general public went mental.

The debate (debacle?) between online sharing and online restrictions saw fans of the idea point to the PC platform and how Steam has similar restrictions. Sure, Steam has an offline mode, but it is otherwise just as restrictive; Valve gets away with it, Microsoft should too!

It is true, Microsoft has a more difficult time with public relations than Valve does with Steam. However, like EA and their troubles with Origin, they have shown themselves to be less reliable than Valve over time. When a purchase is made on Steam, it has been kept available to the best of their abilities. Microsoft, on the other hand, bricked the multiplayer and online features of each and every original Xbox title. Microsoft did a terrible job explaining how the policy benefits customers, and that is declared reason for the backlash, but had they acquired trust from their customers over the years then this might have just blown over. Even still, I find Steam Family Sharing to be a completely different situation from what we just experienced in the console space.

So then, apart from banked good faith, what is the actual difference?

Steam is not the only place to get PC games!

Games could be purchased at retail or competing online services such as GoG.com. Customers who disagree with the Xbox One license have nowhere else to go. In the event that a game is available only with restrictive DRM, which many are, the publisher and/or developer holds responsibility. There is little stopping a game from being released, like The Witcher 3, DRM-free at launch and trusting the user to be ethical with their bits.

Unfortunately for Xbox Division, controlling the point of sale is how they expect to recover the subsidized hardware. Their certification and retail policies cannot be circumvented because that is their business model: lose some money acquiring customers who then have no choice but to give you money in return.

This is not the case on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It is easy to confuse Steam with "PC Gaming", however, due to how common it is. They were early, they were compelling, but most of all they were consistent. Their trust was earned and, moreover, is not even required to enjoy the PC platform.

Source: Steam
September 12, 2013 | 08:02 AM - Posted by KasiorMC (not verified)

and in the mean time go ahead and get ourself a humble bundle

September 12, 2013 | 11:35 AM - Posted by Blah (not verified)

Makes you wonder why they are making us all dependent on being on the web. I think the new rally cry will be "Freedom to Disconnect!"

September 12, 2013 | 01:14 PM - Posted by brucek2

All true. Also, Steam games are routinely available at very steep discounts. The desire or even necessity of selling back a used game is a lot less potent if the game cost $5 vs $60 to begin with.

As you mentioned, I think there are few who are opposed to the steam model being an OPTION. There are many who are opposed to it being the ONLY WAY.

September 12, 2013 | 01:31 PM - Posted by praack

Brucek2 is correct- the steam model is a great one- the big thing is- it is the most prevalent one right now-. most other companies do not come close.

most have issues- GOG gets you the game- that's about it,

Origin is really just one companies way of e-publishing, so it has removed it's new games from steam but brings nothing of value to the table, just another interface.

Ubisoft provides additional hoops- but allows steam to sell the game- but you can buy from Ubi direct if inclined

but no-one is really even trying to meet Steam- just trying to break it. - such a strange scenario

September 12, 2013 | 02:10 PM - Posted by Branthog

The problem with all these digital outlets is that while they're all supposedly competing and "more options are better", it is actually neither of those things.

More options would be "you can buy this game on any service". Telling me I can ONLY buy a particular game on one particular service is the opposite of more options.

Origin is janky and unnecessary, as are most of the other options that require me to use YET ANOTHER THING TO BE INSTALLED. At the moment, I have a Steam client. Also, a GOG, Desura, GreenManGaming, Origin, Impulse, and UBI's uPlay.

It requires me to have multiple lists of friends, when just my 300+ Steam ones would do. Worse, buying an UBI game (like Splinter Cell) on Steam is a complete pain, because I can't play with my Steam friends. Ubi launches its own service outside of Steam and requires a separate Ubi list of friends. Who in the hell has friends on the Ubi system? So, with 300+ Steam friends, I have nobody to play a Steam game I bought on Steam with.

What these asshats need to do is stop trying to compete on the exclusivity of being the only place to get a game and compete on other things. Thing about a grocery store. Do you have to go to Safeway to buy one brand? Do you have to go to Kingsoopers or Walmart for another? Do you have to go to Fred Meyers for another that you can ONLY get there? Of course not. You get almost the exact same variety and brands of products at every single store. They compete on appeal of the store, layout, customer service, price, and availability and geography.

Why can't we expect the same from digital distribution services? Steam and Origin and UBI can all have their own systems. And every system should have nearly every available game on the planet. The thing that determines who I buy a thing from should, then, be based on their competition between each other for ease of use, functionality, features, price, customer service, user interface, community, and brand reputation.

September 12, 2013 | 02:11 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Well, the model of GoG is specifically: be an effective store front and then get the heck out of the customer's way. Not for community features, not for DRM, and so forth.

That is a good thing.

Sometimes you want the added features that Steam brings, particularly for multiplayer/competitive games, and sometimes you want the user-control that GoG or other DRM-free storefronts brings. It really depends on whether the content you're looking for is social/entertainment-based or whether it's art/culture-based.

September 12, 2013 | 01:50 PM - Posted by Branthog

This offering from Steam is really minimal at best. As someone who spends a lot of money on Steam (I have about 2,100 games and 800 pieces of DLC), I want to have the capacity to lend any game to someone. One game per entire library being played at one time is a poor option. One game lent out at a time, while you can still play your entire library of games simultaneously (except for that lent title) would be better.

Lending out any number of games -- but only one instance of each owned title at a time -- would be the one with most parity to actual game "ownership". It would turn this from a "so what" into a "this is amazing and digital distribution has now become almost entirely on-par with physical - awesome!".

One game at a time and restricting me from using my account while it is being played is useless, to me. I live in a home with multiple people and multiple computers. I want the same benefits as a physical copy -- meaning only one instance of each game can be used at a time, but I can play any of my games while someone else can play any of my other games on another machine. This is what I expect.

September 12, 2013 | 06:52 PM - Posted by razor512

Steam is optional and requires no monthly fee like with xbox live.

There is no need to pay for multiplayer and since it is on the PC, there are many non company controlled servers so multiplayer will continue to work long after the company stops supporting it.

We don't have to use steam (I personally never spend more than $5 on a steam game and will get the game if similarly priced elsewhere. This is because I do not like the steam DRM. If steam's DRM servers die or if they decide to not run steam anymore then your games that you paid for will no longer work.

I will never buy a game with replayability that requires an online based DRM.

Steam offers more features than xbox live while being free (because there is no need to charge a monthly fee. the xbox live monthly fee is basically 100% profit for microsoft)

September 12, 2013 | 09:06 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

"The Xbox Live monthly fee is basically 100% profit for Microsoft"...

... it depends on how you look at it. It compensates for a loss they made elsewhere. In fact, it is not even clear whether the entire Xbox Division made money at all.

One thing that I kept hearing was, "Yeah but can you buy a comparable gaming PC (at launch) for 500$?" No, I can't really do that for $500. Neither can the console manufacturers, that is why they sell it for under parts and labor costs (not even considering research, development, and marketing). Even the WiiU, which is much closer to an Xbox 360 than a next-gen console, is sold at a loss.

The gouging happens later, like (as you noted) Xbox Live fees and inflated game prices. But... is it pure profit if it compensates for something else if that other thing is necessary for its existence?

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