In a recent article, I questioned whether Steam needs quality control. Unsurprisingly, it was a resounding yes with a few ideas on how to change the dumpster fire that Steam has become, which included creating a competitor for Steam in order to challenge the gaming market. Well, Tencent, a gaming corporation giant in China is turning its attention to western gamers and could be that Steam competitor. Tencent currently has around 200 million users, and now wants to reinvent itself worldwide and provide their content in a single storefront called “WeGame”.Tencent’s many services include social network, web portals, e-commerce, mobile games and multiplayer online games. To give an idea of the force behind this company, Tencent currently holds 13% of the entire gaming market and are the world’s largest game company by revenue. When you look at this chart by Newzoo, it really puts things in perspective:
So this company is pretty massive, but what does this mean for Steam?
One of the main problems of the Steam market today is, frankly, that PC gamers are all too reliant on it. Valve was the first company to put out a reliable and consistent digital storefront, and it has since grown into a behemoth of a platform. Nothing else out there really exists like Steam, and if you’re the type of gamer who’s into indies, you are reliant on Steam to get your fix. I know I am. But, if there were another market out there like Steam where I could get reliable games without the need to sort through garbage, I might turn my attention elsewhere. With a big new competitor out there, it could mean that Steam might have to do some serious cleanup and remodeling to their storefront. But that could only happen if enough people stopped spending money on Steam and turned to another platform.
Could such a thing even happen? Hamish Black, through his YouTube Writing on Games, discusses the market problems of Steam and explains how Valve has a monopoly on the market in his video The Real Problem With Steam. Black discusses the idea of multiple digital platforms out there, but for convenience sake, players want things as streamlined and condensed as possible. Ideally, consumers want one place for all media instead of a bunch of different software clogging up their PCs. This consolidation gives Steam too much control over their own market, and no real reason to improve since everyone is using it anyway. If there’s a bunch of terrible games selling for really cheap, they can still make as much money as a few quality games selling for more. I can see why Steam wouldn’t change. I’ve certainly fallen victim to scrolling through Steam Sales and picking up something terrible, that I KNOW is terrible, but convincing myself that idea of “hey, it’s only a buck or two, what’s there to lose?”. But I’ve done this so many times that I’ve probably spent more in total on terrible games than good ones on Steam. And that’s how they getcha.
There are changes already coming to Steam because of the input from the most vocal of Steam’s critics, Jim Sterling (The Jimquisition) and TotalBiscuit. After a meeting between Valve and the Youtubers in Seattle in early April, Valve announced the concept of “Steam Explorers”, essentially Steam users who voluntarily test games and flag them if they’re unfinished, glitchy, or in an unreleasable state. If a game is actually good, a set of algorithms will bring it to the top. As neat an idea as this may be, it actually puts the responsibility of shitty games on a niche subset of gamers, without Steam actually needing to do anything, meaning they can just continue to approve shit games. There’s also a plethora of other problems with this which are outlined well by Nathan Grayson in his Kotaku article on the recent Steam news.
Going back to Black and his video, he states that even though it’s really annoying to have multiple platforms on your PC, it’s a small price to pay as a player for better content overall. That to change Steam, like other markets, the consumer must spend money elsewhere. It’s up to those passionate players out there to shift focus and give attention to PC games outside of that Steam marketplace.
Tencent could be that large market competition to change Steam for real. Tencent already has a stake in some great publishers like Epic Games, Activision Blizzard, and Riot Games who makes League of Legends. The current platform has been downloaded over 4 billion times, and the global version WeGame should become available sooner rather than later. Ultimately, it’s up to the players to take control over the market and diversify the PC gaming experience as a whole. Money talks, and that’s how we change Steam.