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Can Galaxy Replace Steam?

By elethio05-09-2015

GOG’s gaming client, Galaxy has been gradually gaining momentum over the last year. Since their humble beginnings in 1994 as CDProjekt the game importer, the GOG team have learnt to understand the gaming market and spot good quality and classic games, and in their own words: “We know the sort of games our customers like.”

In 2008 CD Projekt launched GOG.com (Good Old Games) with the mission of reintroducing classic old games to new gamers, but they went many steps further than distributing abandonware games, they sought out the owners and original copies of the best old games then revamped them to work on modern machines, repackaged them with extra goodies, skins, artwork, books, etc, and still sold them digitally without DRM to a market that was hungry for exactly this.

Since then, Good Old Games officially became just GOG in 2010 when they upgraded and relaunched their website. But they haven’t rested on their laurels they have continued to innovate and reinvent themselves in ways that shows extraordinary insight and respect for their customers. There have branched into films, backing and promoting select indie games, and they’ve managed to work with the industry giants too like EA and Ubisoft, and even obtain the Witcher 3 to sell from their store and on Galaxy earlier this year.

Galaxy is of course GOG’s latest idea, a game client to compete with Steam, but using as few DRM practices as possible. Some people claim that GOG is completely DRM free, but that is a fallacy. You can download games from GOG or Galaxy to use on any machine, with no requirement to be online while you play, and no monitoring of your when you play or what you do to your files (unless you specifically request Galaxy to monitor these things.) But that login is a basic (and acceptable) form of control and monitoring. So really to say GOG and Galaxy use minimal forms of DRM, is more accurate. Never the less, many gamers are rebelling against the DRM systems used by Steam, and indeed the even more draconian systems used by other clients such as Uplay, Battlenet and Origin etc. So once again GOG have predicted the market accurately and have offered another gamer friendly solution to those needs. Indeed currently Steam are receiving much praise for the new returns policy, that allows customers a refund without question as long as they have owned the game for less than 2 weeks, and played it for less than 2 hours. GOG however have gone one better and said refund are available for up to 30 days after purchase, and we already know they don’t monitor how long you play for either.

It's worth pointing out that GOG as a company is not in this race alone, Valve obviously, have shown time and again that they know how to judge market trends, first with their games then with their platform, and in recent years they’ve also been spot on (or close to the mark) with Greenlight, and Early Access systems. EA, Blizzard, Sony, and Ubisoft, are all companies that also know how to make good business decisions, as gamers we may not always like the decisions they make, but they wouldn’t be where they are today if they couldn’t divine the gaming market to some degree.

Back to the question though, Can GOG Replace Steam? Well Steam is not the only competition GOG have to deal with, there are many other game clients available, and despite Steam, some of them have carved out respectable niches in the game market.

Some of these platforms are like Overwolf and rather than centre around selling games instead they offer game enhancement features such as; game replays, recordings, even dedicated VOIP systems. Others platforms like Origin rely instead on their exclusive game titles to gain customers, Origin reportedly have very good customer support, but this still isn’t enough to stop some players resenting the need to install it to play their favourite games.

Achievement Unlocked: Good distribution platform!

Achievement Unlocked: Good distribution platform!

Here are some of the more popular games clients available, in no particular order:

  • Steam, (DRM) obviously.
  • Desura, (mostly DRM free) specialises in indie games and mod management.
  • Origin, (DRM) hosts many big name EA games, and reportedly has good customer service.
  • Battle.net, (DRM) like Origin but with blizzard only games.
  • Uplay, (DRM) also host some big name games from Ubisoft but unlike EA, will also market them on Steam.
  • Overwolf, (No DRM) a client that tries hard, it relies you linking your games to this system, will still work with Steam games or any other, has an extremely large range of game enhancing features including some for specific games, also awards points for gameplay time and other achievements that can be exchanged for bonus features in many games.
  • Galaxy, (mostly DRM free) offers most of the GOG catalogue of games, Including classic, Indie and some modern AAA titles, offers limited features but developing rapidly notably includes automatic for specific updates, a feature never seen before
    All of these systems also offer game monitoring and social features too.

Galaxy’s latest update (1.1) has added the “rollback” feature. This allows you to select and install any specific versions of a game, and allows you to opt out of any further updates too.

This is great news for modders, it's very annoying to lose your carefully built mod collection because of an update, but being able to select specific versions means that if support ends for particular mods, it will never become obsolete.

Apart from mods, sometimes game updates can introduce new bugs or even add features that make you save incompatible, thus losing your progress (this is rare but happens), on some games updates have even been known to remove content, but it’s good to know that this will never effect Galaxy games.

Pictured: Games on GOG

Pictured: Games on GOG

The fact that Galaxy doesn’t use excessive DRM by forcing players to use its system whenever they play a game, or insisting on recording hours spent with a game (although it has that option if you want it too), or force you to log into your account or be online every time you play either, all help make Galaxy a very attractive game client. But what’s the point of using it then? Simply this; it gives you the option to keep up with latest (or any) game updates, it gives you the means to install and uninstall games at will, and it gives you a way to keep track of your games and all their extras, without worrying about losing a CD.

Galaxy may not be heavy on extra features right now but it’s got its basics right, and it’s made itself very attractive to many gamers.

The area that Steam is most renowned for are its sales, summer sales, winter sales, daily and weekly sales, Steam is not always the cheapest place to buy games from, buts its one of the cheapest and the frequency of its sales mean that if you’re waiting for a specific game to go on sale, then it’s very likely to get a Steam sale before any other.

GOG of course have sales too, good sales, but not quite as large or as frequent as the Steam sales, so this may loose them some revenue compared to Steam but for a gamer who’s concerned about DRM, their not going to have to pay huge amount more to get their games from GOG, and for new releases the GOG discounts usually match Steam anyway.

Community is an important part of tools like Galaxy and Steam.

Community is an important part of tools like Galaxy and Steam.

DRM (digital rights management) is the term the keeps on cropping up in regards to games, its something that is important to gamers and publishers alike, but what does it mean?

DRM is really something a bit broader than many people assume, it is more than just a way for big brother to intrude in your life, it’s actually a system of ownership. Now here is where the contention lies, some companies would like to continue “owning” a product even after they sell it to you, in order for them to legally do this, they redefine their products as “services” then demand you give away some of your own property in order to provide you with these services.

What this means in practice, is that you can buy a game on Origin (or Steam - fairness Ed), but you never “own” that game. Instead EA sell you the game as a service but demand that you stay online whenever you play, and demand some intrusive access rights to the rest of your PC so they can monitor how you use their “service” and can alter that service any time they wish, up to and including removing parts or all of that service any time they want. Gamers who understand this don’t generally like it.

But GOG is NOT DRM free either, as I pointed out earlier GOG require you to log in to either Galaxy or their web site before they allow you to download a game, the big difference Between GOG and companies like Ubisoft or EA, is that once you’ve brought that software they treat one copy of that game as belonging to you, which you can then do with as you wish (with the exceptions of reverse engineering or reselling it). This small piece of DRM is essential, GOG are not using it as a means of controlling or extorting you, as other companies do, they are merely using it as a way to be paid a fair price for one copy of a game.

If our GOG libraries looked like this we'd never stop playing.

If our GOG libraries looked like this we'd never stop playing.

In addition to selling you a product, GOG are selling you a service too, in the form of allowing you to download games owned by your account at any future date for as long as there service runs. There is so much GOG does right here, they really do put bigger names to shame.

DRM does however have some advantages for gamers, Steam was originally created to support Valve's game Counterstrike. Counterstrike was a multiplayer phenomenon in the early 2000's it’s the granddaddy of all online shooters (DOOM2 and Quake disagree - facetious Ed), but because of its popularity Counterstrike was being struck continuously by hackers trying to get an advantage. I shouldn't need to tell you that hacking can and has ruined the best online games.

Released in 2003, Steam was Valve’s answer to this, a system to both deliver updates quickly to all players. and a way of restricting and monitoring every player's version of the game, it also became a method to chat and meet with other gamers, and eventually as we know, made Gamespy obsolete.

Galaxy's main selling feature is its lack of DRM, but as long as it keeps to this principle, it will never replace Steam entirely, which is probably a good thing, the market has room enough for them both. If GOG keep true to their principles, and if they continue to attract new AAA and Indies titles, and continue to refine and improve Galaxy’s features then we are left with not just an alternative to Steam, but a true competitor to Steam too.


Comments (3)
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Posts: 3290

There are even some Steam games that you can run without having Steam. Redshirt, [The Chronicles of Riddick[/i] and the first Full Throttle Space Hulk, for example, can all be launched directly via the executbale

Posts: 35

Your right, there are some games downloadable from Steam that don't require you to be logged in to use. But I haven't seen any way to tell one from another without using them.

Posts: 9

Steam itself isn't DRM, just the distribution platform.

SteamWORKS the DRM that developers can choose whether or not to use