CEO of Michigan-based Stardock Systems defends Impulse digital distribution system as viable alternative to Steam

Stardock Systems, whose Michigan expansion Jennifer Granholm cited in last week's State of the State address, is at the forefront of digital software distribution and is giving Steam, Valve's online distribution platform, a run for its money.

In fact, only six months after it's launch, Stardock's CEO Bradwardell says Impulse is fast approaching 1 million users. By comparison, Steam, the industry titan, boasted 16 million users as of October 2008.

But some in the PC community aren't too happy about the competition in distribution platforms, wishing to instead have all their needs met in one handy location.

What's a digital distribution system anyways? Find out with this Impulse explanation video

Wardell, writing under the online moniker Frog Boy, recently addressed those concerns — and trumpeted the virtues of open competition — on his blog with a post titled "Do you really want Steam to be your only option? Are you sure?"

Skinning the Frog, Feb 9: But I've also been around long enough to know that you don't want one player calling all the shots. The companies we love today may not be so loved later on (referring to EA and Microsoft).

Today, the pattern repeats itself. Steam is doing phenomenally well. It has fans that actively wish that competition would just go away in the name of "standards" (whatever that means).

Wardell went on to discuss some of Impulse's features, and what they mean to digital distribution in the context of competition, most notably the platform's lack of crippling digital rights management (DRM).

And yet, even though Impulse is just an up-and-comer, the competition has already helped consumers. Before the "Impulse Weekend Buys" it was relatively rare to see regular organized major sales on Steam. Now we get them every weekend.

I would like to think that we've had some impact on people's awareness that you don't need nasty DRM to be successful.

I think Impulse's focus on trying to encourage one price, worldwide in local currency right out of the gate has made some impact too.

I think Impulse's very fast download speeds have helped encourage competing services to keep increasing their bandwidth capacity.

Steam's most successful venture yet, Steamworks, has helped Steam get an increasingly firmer hold on the market. In my opinion, Steamworks is 90% copy protection, 10% game-related features. I know that publishers are looking at Steamworks as a replacement to SecuROM for protecting games.

The problem is that Steamworks requires the user to have a Steam account and Steam installed to use it — even if you buy it at retail or through a third party like Direct2Drive. I think that's the basic strategy for Steamworks — give developers a bunch of "free" features that they used to have to pay for (copy protection, DRM, GameSpy type stuff) with the only catch is that the user has to become a Steam user and have Steam installed. As a result, something like Dawn of War 2, for instance, won't be on Impulse.

I'm not much of a PC gamer, but I've used Steam and found it frustrating. From the sounds of things, Stardock seems to improve on the digital distribution formula. via mlive

No comments: