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7 Alternative Services Similar To Steam
Other Places to Purchase Digital PC Games
Steam is one of the largest digital distribution services for PC games, with over 54 million active accounts and an expansive catalog of PC games. While there are some who may disagree with having third party Digital Right Management (DRM) associated with their games, one cannot deny that Steam has been beneficial to the PC gaming industry over the last 10 years. It offers a rich variety of games, from Indie to Triple-A and is well known to be the place to go to get cheap deals on PC games.
However, there are other digital stores similar to Steam. There's nothing like a bit of healthy competition. While it may be convenient having all your games in one library It's nice having the option of several platforms, either for exclusive games or better deals. You can save a lot of money just by picking out the best deals from the bunch. Some of these online PC gaming retailers even offer games not available on Steam.
Origin is an online PC game retailer from the publishers that brought you best sellers like Battlefield 3 and the Crysis series, just to name but a few. In 2011 Electronic Arts (EA) made their own attempt at holding a stake in the PC gaming market and released a proprietary client for Windows PC. It showcased similar features to Steam such as a game library, community integration, an in-game overlay allowing you to chat with friends and browse the store.
Initially Origin released only selling EA games (which is a huge collection in its own right), but later moved on to selling games from other publishers as well. One benefit is that a few games and DLC's are exclusively only available to Origin, and while you may find new releases from EA available to buy in other retailers the chances of being able to purchase from Steam is low (as was the case with Mass Effect 3).
Ultimately, Origin does well at providing a digital distribution service with a highly polished client and a wide selection of games. While it may not have as many games available than Steam does, there are a few perks to using Origin such as exclusive content, discounts and client features which includes an apt download manager.
Green Man Gaming launched in 2010 and has since grown in popularity particularly from those searching for great deals. Green Man Gaming are noted for their frequent discounts that they give on pre-order releases, often beating the prices of other retailers. As well as offering their own client it is not compulsory to use if you want to play a game you bought from their service. For those devout Steam users, Green Man Gaming also provide Steam Keys to many of their games allowing you to benefit from the great discounts and still play using your favourite client.
One unique feature to this service is they allow the user to trade in their digital games, to receive credit they can then use on future purchases. They do this by implementing an ingenious patent-protected method involving the deactivating the serial code required to play the game, which is then resold as a 'pre-owned' game.
Green Man Gaming is definitely worth checking out even just for their great deals.
GOG.com (formerly known as Good Old Games) is a service brought to you by CD Projekt RED. Launched in 2008 it specialises in offering games such as Baldur's Gate, Planetscape: Torment and many other classic games. As well as classic games, in 2012 they announced the service will also be offering newer titles, adding games like The Witcher 2 and the Assassin Creed series to their catalog.
Feature-wise GOG.com offers several appealing perks. One of which is providing one global price for the games on sale. While other retailers are culprits of regional pricing, GOG.com commits to one price which is converted into the currency of the buyers country (good news for Australians!).
Another small feature, is the extra bonuses included with the games you buy. Things like manuals, bonus artwork, maps, game soundtrack and other extras are all inclusive with the purchase of your game.
GOG.com is most notable for its DRM-Free philosophy. Unlike most other major digital distribution services, all 500+ games in its store are free of third party DRM software. These are applications usually implemented with the game to help prevent piracy, but which some gamers find intrusive and restrictive (for example: often only allowing limited activation keys to play the game).
GOG.com offers an autonomous way to buy and play games, a very to-the-point service which many gamers old and new enjoy.
Get Games, a clientless retailer from EuroGamer.net originally launched in 2010 as a UK only based indie games store. It later expanded globally with a rich selection of games available including all the latest PC releases. While it may not be facilitated with a client (which could be seen as a good thing to some) it does offer keys to redeem on your preferred client based PC gaming service, be it Steam, Origin or other.
Get Games offers a very reliable and quick service. Rather than competing with other retailers to get you to use their client, they simply offer you great deals and discounts. This is one more place to add to the list of places to check.
Gamefly are most commonly known for their rental service for consoles and handheld games. In 2011 they acquired the popular PC gaming digital distribution service Direct2Drive and included PC titles to their catalog.
The client is available for PC and Mac and gives you the ability to download your games directly to your PC, access your collection of games which you can sort and customize, as well as keep you in the know of the latest releases and special deals. In addition to everything else you can keep updated with the latest gaming news as you shop and play, with its integration to Shacknews.
A unique feature with Gamefly is it offers 'Unlimited PC Play', an optional subscription service. For a monthly fee you can have the benefit of being able to play from a selection of PC games on demand and at no extra cost, similar to how NetFlix is run but for games. Of course, you don't have to opt into this particular part of the service and can simply take advantage of the regular discounts and offers for PC games that they hold.
GamersGate gives you access to your online games from over 250 different publishers and modelling over 3000 PC games, both new and old.
Similar to GOG.com, Gamersgate doesn't require a client to play your games you purchased from them. Instead you can play your games facilitated by a micro-download which gives you access to the necessary installation files. This definitely provides a hassle free, bloat-less experience - from purchase to playing your game.
One well known feature of GamersGate is it's popular loyalty program. It rewards users with credit (or Blue Coins) the more active they are on the website. Making pre-orders and general purchases will award you with Blue Coins you can use towards your next purchase. You can even receive Blue Coins from submitting game reviews and rating them. A very appealing feature, specially for those looking for cheap games being rewarded for normal things they would do
Impulse is an online retailer for PC Games originally developed by Stardock. Now affiliated with Gamestop, the service provides an easily accessible gaming experience for gamers worldwide. The native client is supported by the GameStop App and contains all the bells and whistle available on most digital distribution platforms. Features like a user friendly library, blogging capabilities and integrated social networking system, Impulse does a fair job at giving their own polished version.
While all these different services have their pros and cons, its best to remember that competition is a good thing as it encourages each of the these retailers fight for our attention and money. Hopefully with this selection of digital distribution services in mind, you will fair much better during those seasonal digital sales periods. Instead of having one digital service to refer to, you now have a wide range of stores where you can pick out the best deals and save some cash, most likely to be spent on even more games...
Which is your favourite Digital Distribution Service?
Let us know about your favourite Online PC gaming retailer and why. Is there an online store missing from the list? Share it in the comments section below.