Digital distribution is widely hailed as the future of gaming and while it's been relatively smooth sailing for a while the system hit a few major snags on the PC this week. We've seen bumps in the past with Steam's early days (the Half Life 2
launch wasn't exactly painless for a lot of people) and Games For Windows has been one cluster after another but this is the first time we've seen problems that aren't specific to one service.
The first was all of the hurdles
users had to jump through to get Dragon Age:Origins
working correctly. Of course a lot of these issues were created because each entity along the way had their own pass mechanism which needed to be navigated to get the game working correctly. This is one of those nasty things that will eventually go away as companies figure out how to get their services working together better.
The second big bump was Impulse, Direct2Drive, and Gamersgate refusing to sell Call of Duty:Modern Warfare 2
on their services
because it includes a mandatory install of Steam for things like DRM and saved game management. This grants Steam a de facto monopoly on selling Modern Warfare 2
digitally on the PC. This will be a bit trickier to navigate as Valve has so tightly woven their Steamworks tools set with their online service and there's no way anyone is going to help their competitor sell more of their product. I don't see this really hurting sales of the game that much but it has to be a bit scary for those who don't want Steam to have a monopoly on the digital distribution market and will further the calls for Valve to start decoupling their various components.
It's not unexpected to see these kind of problems as a technology matures but it is a somewhat painful reminder that we are still in the early days of this new distribution mechanism. These won't be the last bumps we have but they do represent a small inflection point in the system.
What do you think? Are these big issues for you or should we just got ahead and welcome our new Steam overlords? Let us know in the comments.