Most people agree that Microsoft’s original Games for Windows Live initiative was a bust: pushy, buggy, intel-grabby, hard to navigate, intrusive. It demanded information people didn’t want to give, it often simply didn’t work, and it seemed like a very sad attempt to glue online console functionality to the rip-roaring freedom of a PC. It did not go over well.
Well, next month they’re relaunching it – the online store side, for the most part – and claiming to ditch the bad in favor of the good. They want to compete with Steam. But just as Microsoft was completely unprepared for Google, Microsoft is completely unprepared for Steam. As I’ve said before, it is the new IBM: immense, but irrelevant.
To be honest I am a fan of Microsoft. I don’t like everything the company does, obviously, but as a person who works professionally with Adobe products, it’s recently been brought starkly to my attention how wise and generous Microsoft is compared to that other monolith. Adobe is literally pricing itself into piracy – its monopolistic greed is forcing the hands of even otherwise ethical customers. If you’re the kind of user who does a little of everything, you need the Adobe Creative Suite Master Collection.
If you’re able to get a student discount it drops to $899.
I don’t dispute that the programs within the CS are solid apps that took time and money to build. But if we’ve learned anything from Steam, it’s that price cuts, particularly massive ones, are the solution to unit sales and piracy. Valve has released statistics indicating that if you cut the price of a game by 75% you see an 18,000% increase in unit sales. Adobe can make vector art programs, but it clearly can’t do the fucking math.
Microsoft has never been egregious in its pricing. I mean, sure, I wish the stuff was cheaper, but I wish everything was cheaper. We all do. Reasonably, though, I can’t complain about the company’s pricing model. I bought the full version of Office in 2003, for… like… $199 I think. And I suppose it’s about time to go to Office 2010, for, like, $199 I think. Seven years. Adobe, meanwhile, is committed to releasing a new Creative Suite every 18 months, and is introducing backwards incompatibility so you essentially have to upgrade. And by “upgrade” I don’t mean “upgrade prices,” because Adobe seems to be phasing that out while Microsoft is still sticking to it; I mean “upgrade” like “bend over and take $2600 every 18 months.”
What does all this have to do with the GFW relaunch? Well…
It’s that I basically don’t oppose Microsoft. I think the company has failed in many glaring ways, and I think it’s quite obviously sabotaging PC gaming to support the Xbox, but I also think the company is doing what it can to accomplish its mission: “A computer in every room of every home, running Microsoft software.” Fair enough.
Here’s an odd thing to consider, though: Steam demands the same information from its users that GFW does. And unlike GFW, Steam Sniffers are constantly running in the background while we play our Steam games, quietly gathering usage statistics and hardware information to feed Valve’s data-hungry maw. You can opt out, of course, and you can play Steam games offline, but they don’t make either as easy as it could be. Why do we give Steam a free pass when we look so suspiciously at GFW?
Hey, don’t get me wrong. I’d marry Steam if such unions were legal in this country. My brother once said “if Steam sold breakfast, that’s where I’d order it,” and he’s right: I buy practically all my PC games from Steam these days. My Steam folder is something like 95GB. And I do willingly share my hardware and usage info with Valve, because the reports they produce from that information are fascinating. Why wouldn’t I share the same info with Microsoft? Because I wouldn’t. Assuming GFW bothered to ask, I would opt out from sharing that information first thing.
For at least a year after launch, Steam was basically a platform for Half Life 2. It was kind of a joke. There was nothing for sale but Half Life 2, none of the Friends stuff was available; it was stupid. A stupid pointless memory hog that people only ran when playing Half Life 2. Then things changed and Steam became THE marketplace. Hell, I’ve seen articles about indie or obscure games, felt interested, and thought “if it’s on Steam, I’ll buy it, otherwise I won’t bother.” I am an agent of The Man!
Part of it is because I’m comfortable with Steam and DO NOT want to run three memory hogging digital download clients on my system. I’m sure Stardock’s Impulse is glorious; no thanks. I manage enough friends lists as it is. And I suspect that Microsoft’s GFW relaunch will mean a lot of good stuff is included – after all, as we know, Microsoft tends to get it right starting around version 3, but never version 1 – but I still have no intention of using it. If a game I really want to play absolutely requires it, I’ll do two things:
- Blast said game here for being so shortsighted
- Buy the game because I’m weak
Microsoft’s new GFW relaunch even looks like Steam. It’s very clear they think they know who they’re competing with. And I still can’t satisfactorily explain why I don’t mind Steam when I freaking hate Ubisoft’s anti-piracy approach, don’t use Impulse, and will avoid the GFW relaunch for as long as I can (hopefully forever) when it arrives next month. It’s funny, these double standards.
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