6 New Gaming Platforms Beyond Steam To Explore
Steam is the video game industry’s leading gaming platform, providing a one-stop shop for new games, subscription services, streaming, social features and more. The service was launched in 2003 by developer Valve to make it easy to release and update its own games, like “Half-Life,” “Counter-Strike” and “Portal,” but over time it has become the de facto storefront for games on the internet. Gamers prefer Steam because it enables interaction with other players, offers deals on games, has a huge selection and makes it possible to rack up and display in-game achievements.
In the past several years, new challengers have arisen to address some of Steam’s perceived flaws. Issues include Steam’s 30% commission on games sold through the platform, the company’s uncurated approach to its store, difficulty finding your stored games, poor customer service and a failure to protect customers from shady developers.
Check out these six alternatives to the Steam gaming platform:
GOG (Good Old Games) is a gaming platform by CD Projekt, the outlet behind the “Witcher” franchise and “Cyberpunk 2077.” Games sold through GOG are not protected by digital rights management (DRM), meaning, as Jaleo puts it, you could burn them onto CDs and have them forever. GOG doesn’t carry many new games, but it boasts a catalog of many older titles, including ones reconfigured to run on modern systems. Perhaps the best news is that games on the platform aren’t very expensive, often coming in at $10 or even $5.
2. Epic Games
Of all the gaming platforms in this list, Epic Games, by the folks behind “Fortnite,” is the one most positioning itself as a mainstream alternative to Steam. The Epic store offers free-to-play games, like the online multiplayer soccer game “Rocket League,” as well as discounts and day-one exclusives. Similar to GOG, Epic does not add DRM to games sold through its store, although publishers are able to add their own. PCMag notes that many of the quality-of-life bells and whistles gamers have come to expect from Steam are absent here, which makes sense given Valve’s 15-year head start. Hopefully, many of those community and search features will make it to the platform eventually. Finally, selling on Epic Games is more favorable for developers: Epic’s 12% commission is much smaller than Steam’s 30%.
Itch.io has a focus on games by independent developers. You can find games that are more inventive than today’s blockbusters. Indie developers take more risks, as they’re small, nimble and lack million-dollar marketing budgets. The platform has seen successful launches like indie darling mental health platformer “Celeste.” You may have to dig, but there are great—and inexpensive—options here.
4. Green Man Gaming
Green Man Gaming is another Steam alternative that’s perhaps better seen as a Steam supplement. The service offers frequent sales, including new releases, as well as gaming keys that can be redeemed at online stores like Steam.
Origin is a gaming platform run by EA. The site’s pro membership includes day-one access to new titles and a 10% discount on EA titles. It’s worth noting that many customers have reported various complaints, including download slowness and interface problems.
6. Ubisoft Connect
Formerly Uplay, Ubisoft Connect is another gaming platform built by a prominent developer, this time of the popular “Assassin’s Creed,” “Just Dance” and “Far Cry” series. As the name implies, the platform allows gamers to connect with each other cross-device, including PC, Android and iOS. It also provides access to discounts on the Ubisoft Store.
What’s coming next?
Some trends are clear: Gaming hardware will continue to get more powerful, more gaming will move to the cloud and vendors will continue to experiment with launching their own first-party platforms.
Over the coming years, developers will continue to challenge Steam’s dominance with first-party online stores, before the market consolidates into two poles: Offerings from heavily resourced companies (like Steam, Epic Games and the Microsoft Store) on one end, and indie or specialized offerings on the other end. Until then, the market could look like the current video streaming market, with individual publishers trying to juice sign-ups for their own monthly subscriptions by offering day-one exclusives. For some time, the best gaming platform for PC may be the one that has the game that you want to play. This may subside in due course as companies with the funds acquire and merge those services into their own.
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Game features and availability may have changed and are subject to change. Games may require a subscription or an additional fee.