Recently Discord (by the way check out our server) has announced that they will finally be selling games on the platform. The move (a genius one at that) comes after Discord has spent years cultivating the PC gaming culture as the defacto VOIP and chat platform for PC gamers. If you play on a PC or even have a faint interest in gaming on one, you most likely have at one point or another have been exposed to Discord. For those with a little bit more history behind them, they may remember such VOIP services like Teamspeak and Ventrilo as the dominant service, but Discord has become the modern choice, and unlike those other programs, is looking to capitalize on its market and see if it can expand its offerings. Of course, for Discord to succeed, it will need to deal with the giant elephant in the room, Steam. Which no matter how much of a base you might have or cultivated, is most likely not enough to take the behemoth down.
But just because there isn’t a right time, doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a time, and Discord has one of the best chances as any to at least give Steam a run for some of its money, and we all should be in support of it.
When it comes to the PC gaming market, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, we have had an increasingly large amount of launchers and systems become popular as every developer that makes a game for the PC feels it needs some sort of system. While this can be beyond frustrating dealing with so many launchers, it does come with a benefit of increased competition. With many of them (as they are developer-specific) have no hopes of toppling Steam (or want to), they do still perform an extremely useful function, they create competition.
Steam as a platform has never been one to be at the forefront of development. In fact, when Steam first launched, it was seen largely as a huge burden and just as an excuse to implement DRM on Valve games. Eventually, the platform would improve and evolve into a form not too far off from what we see today, an all-encompassing PC gaming platform that allows buying and playing games digitally. Thankfully, Valve isn’t in the market to become the sole monopoly in the market, rather, Valve seems entirely content with setting up a system such as Steam and just continually (albeit slowly) updating it to stay competitive. After all, at this point, most own their games for PC on Steam, and once you are in the system it is a lot harder to leave.
Because Valve is poised to simply maintain rather than take over or grow, many in the PC gaming realm have not come to see Valve as a monolithic entity that is controlling the PC gaming market, rather Steam simply being the best means to an end at this time. But this is also the main issue with Valve and Steam, there is no push, no need to improve because they are simply at the top and have no signs of being moved from the top due to their long-standing dominance. It is what makes Steam such an intimidating company for competition and why there is no right time to compete with them, being better isn’t good enough to compete with Steam, it’s the starting line and need be able to build from there.
It is why we have seen companies as of late who are opting to start a new platform to sell PC games, be a platform that already exists in some capacity. Take Twitch for example, when it was bought from Amazon (who already sells digital games) one of the earlier features added to the platform was the ability to buy, purchase, and play games from the Twitch client. This has become especially most notable with Amazon’s monthly Twitch offers for existing Prime users for free in-game items and free games as well. If Twitch didn’t already have a large following, it would have never been able to compete with Steam on any meaningful level. If you as a consumer have everything already on Steam, with no ability to move them, and little reason to, why would you? You wouldn’t. But now, a competitor has come along, one that you are already invested in, and now starts offering games? Now that no turns at least into, a maybe.
Yes, this fractures the PC market even further and makes things more convoluted, but that chaos and confusion breed much-needed competition. Even if you had no intention of leaving Steam or are completely fine with the way it operates, having more companies enter into the market can only benefit the market greater. Either a company will provide much-needed pressure on Valve, or will become the next big platform that all of us will use. In both scenarios, we as consumers largely come out to be the victor. We should want more companies to give Steam some pressure, because Steam, and at large, the PC gaming market needs it to stay competitive.