It seems like each week we have a blockbuster news article to discuss. Well, here we go. As many of those familiar with WikiGameGuides know, YouTube has become incredibly difficult to monetize because of the new copyright system which switched from a blacklist to whitelist, which is why John now has shifted his focus to daily Happy Hour livestreams. Essentially, everything is guilty of copyright violation until proven otherwise. Now, could we be seeing the media lobby want to get their hands on what has until now been a relatively free enterprise? The alternative is that Google doesn't want to totally alienate an entire demographic, and Twitch becomes the relatively more free gaming arm of YouTube.
If this report is true, then I think we might be in for a bumpy ride. A REALLY bumpy ride. Given last year's massive scandal that was YouTube's content ID claims, I'm not convinced that this acquisition will be beneficial for the long run, especially considering that YouTube has been very cold towards the gaming community. Another thing that makes YouTube a pain, is that anyone can abuse the flagging system on content. Anyone can go onto a video and say, "this content is 'mine', so I'll take it down", when the content is clearly not theirs. My biggest fear is that if Twitch becomes the new YouTube, video game let's plays will suffer horrifically.
This purchase, if nothing else, shows how much money is in eSports and gaming entertainment beyond just traditional game sales. Live streamers and eAthletes (?) are giving a second revenue stream to video games and the growing importance this second avenue is getting. Hopefully, with the focus of this service being live streams of video games and not just any kind of video, we can see a more nuanced and practical system of copyright compliance without destroying the service. Given how much money Google is spending here (through YouTube) you have to think they want to keep the already incredibly popular service going just as strong, meaning I think might get just that.
If that's not a conclusive indictment on the Steam Machine model, I don't know what is. Alienware is a respected and long-time player in the gaming PC market, and their words should be believed. For all the supposed hype of the Steam Machines, it's taking far too long for them to come to market. Right now, despite the current console race, they are both making it harder and harder for Steam Machines to have an open audience to capture. Thus, manufacturers will have to take margins that are slim to none just in order to have a competitive price. But as we see from Microsoft's move last week in dropping the Kinect, it will be a long fight all the way.
Strong words from one of the most revered gaming PC companies in the market. I've said this once, and I'll say it again: there's nothing compelling about the Steam Machines. There's nothing unique about them to begin with—they're just gaming PCs with the Steam OS built into them instead of the Windows OS. It's quite the tell when one of the largest competitors in the PC gaming market says that one of their newest systems will be the least profitable system in their history of existence. Whether this bodes a similar response with other companies like Maingear, Nvidia, AMD, etc., only time will tell.
After reading this, I cannot help but ask myself the same question I always ask after hearing about the Steam machine: why? Why make it when Steam is already a free program to download on a computer? Why make a custom gaming PC for a console gamer who most likely won't take advantage of its upgradability? Why would Valve try and shift their focus away from their very loyal, very successful PC market to a console market where they have no history and no factor making them unique? Why would a hardware company like Alienware even agree to make this when they won't be making anything back on the games sold to run on it? Why why why? Nothing about the Steam Machine adds up and the longer we have to wait for any sort of answer to these questions, the more likely the answer will be, as it has been for me for quite a while, that no one cares.
GameStop isn't really known for its digital PC gaming service, playing a distant third fiddle to Steam and even Origin. Steam built a name for itself and is now synonymous with flash and regular deals that are often somewhere between 66 and 89 percent off. I've always argued that XBLA and PSN should adopt this model to really help digital sales gain traction, but monopolies being what they are, they can still charge $20 for Call of Duty 2 while I can buy it for literally pennies online. GameStop doesn't have that luxury at all, and to remain competitive in the post-physical media realm, this is a necessary step.
You can do what you want, GameStop, but Steam is still on top when it comes to digital PC releases. Valve has, through the course of an entire generation, made Steam a landmark of digital PC gaming. Nothing comes close to it. Origin, GoG, and many others have tried to surpass it, but Steam is still the purveyor of PC gaming, and continues to be that way. I'm not in any way convinced that this change will help GameStop in any way.
This is definitely a good move for GameStop and an even better move for gamers. With all the stores available online, the last thing I want is another program that I have to manage my games through. I have purchased one digital game through GameStop's software and never planned to do so again. Not because the service was bad per se, more because it just seemed like a pointless knock off of Steam and I could find no compelling reason why I shouldn't just use the real thing. With their new setup I am far more likely to buy a PC game through GameStop and redeem it through Steam, and this works for everyone. I get a more streamlined process and GameStop increases online sales while also reducing the cost of having to maintain the servers necessary to run a Steam knockoff store. In the end everyone wins.
Speaking of moving more digital titles, this sets a great precedent. If you have the 360 or PS3 version of Minecraft, you can buy the graphically upgraded (?) version for just $5. Yeah, for as much as some Subway footlongs, a (nearly) infinite realm can be yours on the current-gen consoles. I think this is a phenomenal deal, and more importantly, should be something we see from more games moving forward. While Call of Duty can charge $60 for a new edition each year because there is such a loyal fanbase, new franchises could possibly offer loyalty discounts for people that own previous titles. Own more, and the savings add up. This would be virtually impossible to track with physical media, but when digital copies are tied to your account, it can act as a verification. That sounds like something I can get on board with.
I completely agree with Simon that an upgrade process based on previous digital purchases sounds like a great setup, and a very nice way to try and promote and improve digital sales, something Simon and I both want very much. Also, one of the most exciting things about this, for me, is that saves are transferable between the old gen (Xbox 360/PS3) and the current gen (Xbox One/PS4). This, along with the cheaper upgrade price, is a continuation of Notch's, Mojang's, and 4J's commitment to supporting their fans, something which is not as common as it should be and that I think deserves praise. Additionally, the fact that they are able to import the saves from the previous consoles, despite the very different hardware internals that have previously prevented any sort of cross-gen interaction, makes me wonder if we will see more "upgrades" or cross-gen transferable data between iterations of games in the months and years to come.