Which gaming platform is the most popular

The best alternatives to the Steam gaming platform

By Marlene Polywka | February 18, 2021, 2:54 p.m.

FIFA, The Witcher, Elder Scrolls, Counter-Strike, Fortnite, Dota 2 - video games are enjoying increasing popularity. Game platforms such as Steam, Epic, Origin or Ubisoft Connect give access to thousands of games.

In the corona pandemic, many have more time for video games. With the gaming market, the business for game platforms is also booming, providing their users with a wide range of products from many developer studios. TECHBOOK compares the offer, user friendliness and performance of six major gaming platforms. Steam, the platform of the American developer studio Valve, has been the undisputed leader for many years. Around 62.6 million daily users (as of 2020 according to own Steam statistics), of which 24.8 million were gaming in parallel at peak times, confirm this. But what other providers are there on the gaming market and are there a real alternative to Top dog Steam?

Steam (Valve)

The Steam platform was launched back in 2003 - at that time exclusively to sell the first-person shooter "Half-Life 2" from the Valve developer. Since then, Valve's games such as the “Half-Life” series or the popular tactical shooter “Counter-Strike” have been offered and updated exclusively on Steam. The concept proved its worth, and games from other studios were also sold on the Steam platform from 2005 onwards. This is how Steam quickly became the market leader among gaming platforms and is still available with over 30,000 games to date.

The user can buy games on the platform and then download them. All purchased games are listed in a clearly arranged library, which also contains some additional content such as achievements for the game, comments from other players or various community guides. The Steam platform can not only be used for gaming: the players can also network in various groups, publicly or privately, via a friends list and the chat function.

As a Steam user, you create a public profile in which the community can see which games the user is playing and which achievements they have earned. Using an internal point system, you can achieve different ranks and badges over time, which you can also display on your profile if you want. For example, there are badges for the number of games purchased, for achievements earned and for participating in Steam events that take place several times a year. Steam users also benefit from the constant maintenance of the games by the developers; Updates and patches are rolled out promptly via the gaming platform.

The prerequisites for purchase and download are a Steam account and the so-called Steam client, a program that you load onto your PC or laptop. If the hard drive is full, games can be uninstalled again; the license remains with the user and the game remains in their library. However, most games are only compatible with Windows and cannot be installed on Apple computers.

What good are the alternatives?

For many players, Steam is an absolute must because of its extensive range. However, there are also alternatives that are usually made available by other large development studios such as Ubisoft or Electronic Arts. But can these really replace Steam or also supplement them sensibly? TECHBOOK took a closer look at five other gaming platforms.

Origin (Electronic Arts)

The Origin platform belongs to the Electronic Arts developer studio and emerged directly from the EA Store and EA Download Manager. Even at the start of the service, the goal was quite clear. It should be an EA-focused alternative to Steam. At that time, the company withdrew many titles from Steam and only offered them on Origin. The EA studio received the rights to the Origin brand as early as 1992; Origin System was one of the leading game developers worldwide with well-known titles such as "Ultima", "Wing Commander" and "Crusader".

In the so-called Origin Store, which works similarly to the Steam Shop, users can buy all titles from the developer studio. The offer is constantly being expanded to include games from other developers, but is still somewhat limited compared to the competition. Popular games such as "Assassin's Creed Odyssey" are not only sold via the Origin Store, but also, for example, on Steam. To download the purchased games, you need the Origin Client, which is included in the app's installation package. As with Steam, installation is free; the player only pays for the content actually selected.

Games subscription with EA-Play

With EA Play, formerly "Origin Access", you also have the option of taking out a subscription for either € 3.99 per month or € 24.99 per year, which gives you access to selected titles for a certain period of time (approx ) in the platform's media library. With an active subscription, there is also a 10 percent discount on all EA games. For just under 100 euros a year or 14.99 euros a month, there has also been a premium subscription since 2018: Origin Access Premier. There, players also receive special in-game rewards.

Read more: The craziest simulation games on Steam

In general, the use is very intuitive and all games are easy to find, the offer can be easily filtered. For example, with its own "Battlefield" series, EA also has the exclusive rights to a very large and popular game series that is not available on Steam. For this, the overall selection is of course significantly limited and in comparison, your own player profile is also less structured.

Game highlightspositivenegative
Battlefield, FIFA, The Sims, Madden, Anthem, Need for Speed, Star Wars Battlefront, Star Wars: The Old Republic- Good price sorting in the shop
- great offers (especially on own products)
- Top games like the Battlefield franchise
- Subscription option
- Little game selection
- restricted user profiles

Ubisoft Connect

The official start date of Ubisoft Connect as a sales platform is July 2012. However, when "Assassin's Creed II" was released in 2009, the operator Ubisoft started a network that players could connect to. At that time, the service was still called "UPlay", which was not replaced by Ubisoft Connect until 2020. This was primarily due to the great success of the first part of the series, released in 2007. The series is now one of the most successful in the world, has been filmed (semi-successful, but with Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons prominently) and includes eleven games in the main series alone (as of 2019). If it seemed logical for any gaming franchise to create an alternative to Steam, it would be this one. Players could network, communicate with each other and be rewarded for different actions in the game with so-called UPlay units. With these units you can then buy rewards - now even across games.

In addition to the "Assassin's Creed" series, Ubisoft now offers other in-house games on the platform. Prominent representatives are, for example, the development strategy games "Anno", the action-adventure game "Far Cry" or "Prince of Persia".

Games subscription with Ubisoft +

With Ubisoft +, there has also been a paid subscription for 14.99 a month since 2019, which gives access to over 100 games. However, the offer only includes Ubisoft games and the entire platform software is geared and optimized for the in-house games. There are some titles on Steam, for example, but the adapted reward system and specially unlockable extras make UPlay very attractive for all fans of the games.

Game highlightspositivenegative
Assassin's Creed, Anno, Far Cry, Die Siedler, including Heroes of Might and Magic V, Tom Clancy’s- discount promotions
- special unlockable extras
- News
- PC guides
- Friends list and networking
- severely limited game selection
- Subscription a bit expensive for that

BattleNet (Blizzard)

BattleNet - or Battle.net - is Blizzard Entertainment's online gaming platform. In this case, the doorbell will most likely ring for players of all generations, because the developer studio is responsible for the very successful "Warcraft" series and thus of course for the groundbreaking massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) "World of Warcraft". Anyone who has not already roamed through Azeroth has at least heard of the game, which has been so successful since 2004 that it is still regularly supplied with expansions. In addition to the huge franchise, heavyweights like “Diablo” and Activision's “Call of Duty” are also on the BattleNet. And almost all of these games are only available online there. However, the offer is limited exclusively to these series, in total there are almost 20 games in the shop.

The functions are basically the same as those of Steam. The player can create his own profile, whereby it is positive how individually all areas can be managed. The community can network and coordinate well via the platform. In addition, Blizzard is known to severely punish cheating via BattleNet on irregular “Judgment Days”, which is certainly also to be rated positively for the vast majority of players. The individual series are usually booked through monthly subscriptions for “WoW Legion that's for example 12.99 euros a month - a proud, but reasonable price.

Game highlightspositivenegative
Diablo, StarCraft, Warcraft, World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Call of Duty- Good player support
- exclusive offers
- WoW exclusive
- Somewhat confusing subscriptions
- limited offer (only own series)

GoG (CD Project)

GoG stands for Good Old Games and belongs to the Polish developer CD Projekt Red and was launched in 2008. As the name suggests, it's primarily about older computer games. Many of them can no longer be bought in retail stores. In order to be able to play the particularly old games, some older operating systems have to be running on the respective computers. Only since the appearance of Windows 8 have at least the newly recorded games been adapted to this system. A big advantage as a Steam alternative is GoG, due to the DRM copy protection. So you don't have to be actively connected to the servers in order to be able to play the content in single mode after installation. However, this also severely restricts piracy protection, which means that some publishers do not offer their games on GoG.

In general, for most games - if available - additional, supplementary products such as the soundtrack or suitable desktop backgrounds are offered. In general, the platform has many international titles on offer, but English versions predominate. Overall, GoG complements every gamer household with its extensive and unusual offer, which despite its selection still holds over 3000 titles.

Game highlightspositivenegative
The Witcher, cyberpunk- Interesting and varied offer
- without DRM
- good prices
- Some of the major titles are not available
- sometimes language problems in German translation

Epic Games Store (Epic Games)

The Epic Games Store only went live on December 6, 2018. In comparison, it is one of the younger alternatives to Steam and is sometimes still struggling with initial difficulties. The offer of the "Fortnite-Macher can certainly be seen. It has to be explained that Epic demands significantly less percentage from the developers of the games that are represented on the platform than the market leader Steam. As a result, the number of games on Epic is growing very quickly, which also results in various special promotions and discounts. In order to land exclusive contracts, Epic offers a sales guarantee that is paid out of pocket if the number of users is not met.

Many gamers criticize what is celebrated on the developer side. On the one hand, many who have “stocked up” on several game platforms in the previous years do not want any further client software. On the other hand, the Epic Games Store does not offer various additional functions that Steam, which has been established for many years, does not offer. The achievement system, for example, is still a long way from being as extensive and mature as the competition. The VR and streaming support also leaves a lot to be desired; Improvements and enhancements have already been announced. However, there is also a persistent rumor that Tencent, the company behind Epic Games, is passing on user data to the Chinese government.

Lots of special offers

Nonetheless, the platform is rising - anything but slowly - to become a real Steam alternative. The numerous exclusive deals in particular make the offer extremely attractive for players. Epic has been giving away one or two games a week for more than a year. These often include real blockbusters like World War Z and Grand Theft Auto V. There is also the in-house blockbuster “Fortnite of course exclusively in the Epic Games Store.

Game highlightspositivenegative
Fortnite, Unreal series, Paragon, Rocket League, Infinity Blade
- Great offers
- Free games every week
- large selection
- Community
- great growth
- Some short-term exclusive contracts put the competition at a disadvantage
- limited functions

Conclusion

A comparison has shown that Steam is rightly the No. 1 game platform due to its extensive range and the technically well-developed platform. It owes its supremacy not least to the fact that it is a real veteran that has played a key role in shaping the industry since it was launched in 2003, true to the motto: "First come, first served". Nevertheless, there are now mature alternatives to the top dog Steam. Other big representatives like Origin and Ubisoft Connect offer great deals, especially for their own games. The exotic in the comparison round - which is not known for no reason - is GoG. The developers are rightly proud of their "handpicked offer", which now no longer only includes older classics and indie games, but with titles such as "The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt" or "Divinity: Original Sin 2 also has box office hits from the recent past.

More and more alternatives to Steam?

The Epic Games Store has also been revitalizing the competition since 2018. From the beginning, the advertised goal was to attack Steam's supremacy, and the gaming platform manages that well with numerous exclusive deals and special offers. The technical implementation and the expansion of the community leave a lot to be desired in comparison, but players could benefit from the breath of fresh air.

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Platforms more and more fragmented

If you play a lot and, above all, play a lot of different titles, it is unfortunately now difficult to get by with a single gaming platform. A Steam account covers a lot, but some big titles are sometimes available elsewhere at better conditions or are even limited to other platforms (including the co-op shooter "World War Z, which at least so far is only available in the Epic Games Store).

Since the distribution platforms are usually linked to a developer studio, it is only logical that there are special conditions and extended support for the players for their own games (such as the "Assassin's Creed“-Series from Ubisoft). For passionate gamers this usually means that you have to fall back on two or more platforms in order to be able to play everything, not least because big titles like “World of Warcraft or the complete “SimsSeries are offered exclusively through their own sales channels (in this case BattleNet and UPlay).

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