GOG releases plans for its new games client. Adam Smith compares it to the well established Steam platform.
Good Old Games recently released invitations to their beta client, GOG Galaxy, and it really is quite a sleek interface for an unfinished product, even if it isn’t particularly original. The client lets you browse your game library, install or uninstall games, check the GOG storefront and purchase items. However, unlike its competitors, Galaxy allows gamers to play their games offline, no strings attached, or download backup copies of your games to your PC so you can install them even if you lose access to your GOG account. For all these charms, this is not the main reason that I like the Galaxy client – it is not so much for what it does, but for the challenge it issues to the godfather of PC gaming: Steam.
Steam is currently the most popular PC gaming client available, partly due to it being maintained by Valve, the company behind the immensely popular Portal, Left 4 Dead, and Half Life games. However, as of relatively recently the Steam has been having some issues with its housekeeping; its introduction of payment methods for game mods was met with criticism that Steam and the publishers would receive 75% of the profits, and was swiftly abandoned after Gabe Newell’s AMA on Reddit. Steam’s difficulty in giving refunds, something that GOG prides itself on, has always been an issue for users; and the number of substandard games being sold on Early Access for high prices, and a copy of the Steam page for the game Octopus City Blues was found to be linking directly to malware.
Needless to say, Steam has problems. But since it has such a monopoly on gaming, consumers learn to live with it. And a monopoly on any industry is never good. With the development of the Galaxy Client, a second player has entered the game that might provide better solutions to the issues Steam apparently cannot deal with – thus forcing Valve to quit their elusive company methods and try to improve their product. And while Origin and Desura have clients already available, neither of the companies behind them have the goodwill behind them that GOG has managed to accumulate.
As for the effectiveness of this, only time will tell. But familiarity breeds contempt, and Steam has become much too familiar with being the only option for customers to digitally download their games. An extra competitor is only good news, and hopefully it can push some more innovation into the dull, stable world of gaming clients.
Adam Smith, Games Content Provider.