Valve are very keen on not forcing anything on developers and that is in itself admirable** ***, but what they’re not achieving with sticks they are doing with carrots and sheer market dominance. The end result for customers is not all that different - if you want to game on PC you’re going to have to deal with Steam or cut off a huge swathe of available gaming experiences.
At the end of the day I don’t think Valve are evil but I also don’t want them to be the spider at the centre of all things PC gaming, taking 30% of everything that passes its tendrils ******. Monopolies, eggs, baskets, and so on.
***** Up to a point; It would be nice if they’d actually demand some customer friendly stuff now and then.
****** Yet another reason why Steam breaking open the paid mods can-of-worms is so unappealing.
I’ll just quote my reply to trjp from above.
You have “cloud backup” for your games on GOG as well; it’s not as if there’s a limited number of downloads from your library. Or did you mean Steam’s cloud saves and screenshots and whatnot? As for “nothing more than an installer” - Steam doesn’t even give you that.
From my perspective, a comparison would look more like:
+Lots of games available.
+(Often) Easy multiplayer functionality for the few games where I use it.
-No DRM-free backups.
-Sometimes even 3rd party DRM bundled with your games.
-Games are chained to the client, at least during installation and most likely during play as well.
-The client my games are chained to is a bit of a mess.
-Awful and slow customer support (both in my personal experience and what seems like the general consensus).
-No refund or returns policy.
-Expects its own customers to do all of the support legwork for the things they sell.
-Offline mode is still not a sure thing if you have connection troubles (personal experience).
-(Usually) automatic updates whether I want them or not.
-Someone pressing the wrong button can wipe out my entire Steam account.
+Everything is DRM free.
+No-strings installer you can copy and back up as you like.
+Actively works against regional pricing.
+Actively puts effort into the games they sell to ensure they function.
+Excellent and fast customer support (again both personal experience and general consensus).
+Will work directly with customers to give technical support.
+Liberal returns and refund policy.
+Games usually come with fun extras as optional free downloads.
+The ability to roll-back game versions should I wish, for mods or to not get stuck with patch bugs.
-Has fewer games available.
I was going to put down lack of central multiplayer functionality as a negative as well, but we’ll have to see how this works out with Galaxy and to what extent developers choose to implement cross-play with Steamworks.
I am of course entirely aware that a large number of possible pro/con things aren’t covered by that and if someone else’s priorities are different then more power to them, but from my perspective as someone who just wants to buy, download and play games I find the argument for Steam as a preferred platform incredibly shaky.