Valve

Destiny 2 goes free to play and gains cross-saving on all platforms

Posted by | Bungie, destiny 2, game streaming, games as a service, Gaming, Google, google stadia, Microsoft, playstation, playstation 3, PS4, Sony, Steam, streaming, Valve, xbox, Xbox One | No Comments

Bungie aims to fortify the popular but flagging Destiny 2 with an expanded free-to-play plan and universal cross-platform saving, the company announced today. It’s an interesting and player-friendly evolution of the “games as a service” model, and other companies should take note.

The base game, which is to say the original campaign and the first year of updates, will be available on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Google Stadia. You can play as much as you want, and your progress will be synced to your account, so you can do some easy patrols on console and then switch to your PC’s mouse and keyboard for the more difficult raids.

The PS4 cross-save ability is a surprise, since Sony has resisted this sort of thing in the past and rumors had it before the announcement that they would be left out of the bargain. It’s heartening to see this level of cooperation, if that’s what it is, in the new gaming economy.

Confirmed! https://t.co/WKWtPZ7mtD

— PlayStation (@PlayStation) June 6, 2019

As part of Bungie’s separation from Activision, which published Destiny 2 to begin with, the game is now switching over to Steam on the PC. That’s probably a good thing for most, and you won’t lose any progress. It’s also being renamed “Destiny: New Light,” because why not?

Importantly, no platform will have any content advantage over another — no Xbox-specific guns or PC-specific levels. At a time when consoles are fighting one another on the basis of exclusives, this is a breath of fresh air.

The news was announced in a stream this morning, though players got a sneak peak when a publication I shall not name posted it slightly early. But we also learned more ahead of Bungie’s announcement when Google’s Stadia event showed the game coming to the streaming service in free form.

The developers at Bungie reveal Destiny 2: Shadowkeep.

A new chapter for Destiny 2 and the studio begins this September.

🌑 Watch the full ViDoc: https://t.co/A1dBgdxgMQ pic.twitter.com/nHbAW9CuYA

— Bungie (@Bungie) June 6, 2019

Destiny 2 came out two years ago and has had a number of expansions — and has also been free for limited times or platforms a handful of times. The base game was really a bit threadbare and honestly may not convince new players that it’s worth it to pay. But the price is right and if you like the basic gameplay the expansions, which improved considerably on the game and added a lot of contents, can be bought year by year.

The move is obviously meant to help Destiny 2 compete with other games-as-services, such as the constantly improving Warframe and youth-devouring Fortnite. And it’s a good test bed for the new cross-platform economy that gamers are beginning to demand. You’ll be able to test it out for yourself on September 17, when the switchover is set to take effect — more details should be available well ahead of the relaunch.

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Steam Link now lets you beam Steam games to your iOS devices

Posted by | Gaming, Steam, TC, Valve | No Comments

About a year ago, Valve announced that it was building an application called Steam Link. It’d let you play Steam games built for Mac/Windows/Linux on your iOS or Android devices through the magic of streaming, with a computer on your local network doing all the actual heavy lifting.

Then Valve submitted it to the iOS App Store and… Apple rejected it. At the time, Valve said that Apple pinned the rejection on “business conflicts.”

A year later, it seems said conflicts have finally been resolved. Steam Link for iOS just hit the App Store.

Because there’s no way most PC games would be fun on a touchscreen, you’ll probably want a controller — Valve says that Made for iPhone-certified controllers should work, as will its own Steam-branded controller. The company also notes that for best performance, the computer doing the streaming should be hardwired to your router, and your iOS device should be running on your Wi-Fi network’s 5Ghz band.

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EU goes after Valve for ‘geo-blocking’ Steam activation codes

Posted by | eu, Gaming, Steam, TC, Valve | No Comments

Seemingly the sole government body policing tech platforms, the ol’ European Union, is now taking aim at desktop gaming’s biggest storefront, Steam, and its creator Valve.

The commission sent a “Statements of Objections” to Valve and five other video game publishers, raising a fuss over the companies’ habits of “geo-blocking” purchases, i.e. prohibiting users from using game activation codes purchased outside their country of residence.

Furthermore, the suit takes aim at Bandai Namco, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax for coming to agreements with game distributors, including Valve, that prevented consumers in some EU member states from being able to download titles that were available in other regions.

The commission claims these companies’ actions are in breach of EU antitrust rules. The letter comes after the EU opened an investigation more than two years ago.

“In a true Digital Single Market, European consumers should have the right to buy and play video games of their choice regardless of where they live in the EU. Consumers should not be prevented from shopping around between Member States to find the best available deal. Valve and the five PC video game publishers now have the chance to respond to our concerns,” Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

As Valve’s multitude of online defenders have noted, there are some reasons why “geo-blocking” might make sense. Pushing regional sales can help game developers find audiences in new markets while keeping bread-and-butter markets paying full price to subsidize the rest. Keeping prices uniform across the globe can leave developers in a tricky position when it comes to finding the ideal price point.

It seems likely that these companies will look to make nice with the EU and keep their practice moving along elsewhere.

We have reached out to Valve for comment.

h/t: Owen Williams

 

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Valve lets you stream Steam games from anywhere

Posted by | Gadgets, Gaming, Steam, Steam Link, Steam Link Anywhere, Valve | No Comments

Valve doesn’t want to miss the cloud gaming bandwagon. As PC Gamer spotted, the company quietly released a beta version of Steam Link Anywhere. As the name suggests, it lets you turn your gaming PC into a cloud gaming server and stream games from… anywhere.

The company’s strategy is a bit puzzling here as Valve recently discontinued its hardware set-top box, the Steam Link. While Valve might be done on the hardware side, the company is still iterating on Steam Link apps.

You can now download the Steam Link app on an Android phone, an Android TV device or a Raspberry Pi. Unfortunately, Valve still hasn’t found a way to release its Steam Link app on the App Store for iOS devices and the Apple TV. You can start Steam on your computer and play demanding PC games on other screens.

Steam Link works fine on a local network, especially if you use Ethernet cables between all your devices. With Steam Link Anywhere, your performance will vary depending on your home internet connection. If you don’t have a fiber connection at home, the latency might simply be too high to play any game.

Now let’s see if Valve plans to flip the switch and let you run Steam games on a server in a data center near you. That would turn Steam Link Anywhere into a Shadow competitor.

Microsoft recently showed off Forza Horizon 4 running on an Android phone thanks to Project xCloud. Google also has been teasing its Game Developers Conference to learn more about its gaming projects. It’s clear that everybody wants to turn 2019 into the year of cloud gaming.

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Discord announces 90/10 revenue split for self-published titles on upcoming games store

Posted by | discord, epic games, Gaming, Valve | No Comments

After gaming chat app startup Discord announced in August that they were building out a games store, today, they’ve detailed that they’ll be pursuing a very competitive 90/10 revenue split for self-published titles in 2019. In addition, the company revealed that they now have 200 million active users on their chat app, up from 130 million users in May.

The announcement follows a storefront launch from Epic Games last week with an 88/12 revenue split. Valve’s Steam store had typically offered a constant 70/30 revenue split for all developers regardless of the revenues they were pulling in. The company recently announced that Steam would give a more favorable split to devs pulling in more revenue.

Discord called up some of their thinking in a company blog post:

Why does it cost 30% to distribute games? Is this the only reason developers are building their own stores and launchers to distribute games? Turns out, it does not cost 30% to distribute games in 2018.

Steam’s efforts are largely focused on holding onto big developers, but indie devs now have to balance what advantages they’re earning by establishing their central home on a platform filled with tons of titles that’s also taking a more substantial cut.

This leaves some room for Discord to attract the self-publishing indies, though it’s still an uphill battle for the company that’s up against some big competitors.

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Fortnite-maker aims for Steam’s head with Epic Games Store

Posted by | epic games, fortnite, Gaming, Steam, Valve | No Comments

Fortnite-maker Epic Games is capping off their insanely successful 2018 with an even more ambitious product launch: a desktop games store built to take on Valve’s Steam Store.

The store, which is “launching soon” on PC and Mac, is going to be an attractive proposition to game developers with a revenue split that leaves them taking 88 percent of revenues on the store.

“As a developer ourselves, we have always wanted a platform with great economics that connects us directly with our players,” Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney said in an emailed statement. “Thanks to the success of Fortnite, we now have this and are ready to share it with other developers.”

Valve’s Steam Store is by far the most dominant presence in online PC game sales; they’ve enjoyed years of prosperity with rather light rivalry from competing stores that haven’t been able to match the scale of Steam. Valve, in a very conveniently timed announcement yesterday, announced that it was rehashing its revenue split with developers in a bid that they hope will keep higher-earning developers on the platform. While Valve will continue to take an App Store-like 30 percent from sales of game makers with less than 10 million in revenue, that figure drops to 25 percent until they hit 50 million revenue, from which point the slice drops to 20 percent.

It’s a more complicated revenue split that obviously benefits successful game makers more so than indies. For Valve, holding onto big-game publishers is mission critical. Epic Games already has the benefit of a close working relationship with many major PC game developers that are using the company’s Unreal Engine to build their titles.

Epic Games earns money with their Unreal Engine by taking a slice of revenues from game makers. Generally that share is 5 percent after the title is released, though Epic also does deals with developers for higher upfront costs with a lower royalty rate. Publishers like EA, Sony Interactive, Microsoft Studios, Activision and Nintendo have titles out that are built on the Unreal Engine.

A big sell for developers using Epic’s game engine is that the company says it will forego that Unreal revenue cut for any sales of the titles in the Epic Games Store. Depending on the early success of the game store, this could be a big threat to other game engines like Unity.

A 12 percent overall revenue slice for Epic Games is incredibly competitive and could have left a lot of big developers grumbling about the 30 percent cut they were missing out on because of Steam’s take.

Epic Games has notably eschewed storefront revenue splits on Fortnite wherever they can. The app isn’t on Steam for starters, but even on Android, users are forced to download it directly from the Epic Games site as well. This kind of highlights the sway that big studios hold in the market. This year that studio happens to be Epic Games, but in the future that will be some other studio and Valve likely doesn’t want the next blockbuster side-stepping their storefront.

Valve still has a lot going for them. Their store is a massive presence, and die-hard users already have a library of titles built up with little incentive to switch unless their favorite game makers are the ones to decide to shift their allegiances.

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Valve changes revenue-sharing tiers on Steam

Posted by | Gaming, Steam, Valve | No Comments

Valve announced new Steam rules over the weekend. It might sound like a small change, but it’s the first time the company is changing revenue-sharing tiers.

Before the change, Valve would keep 30 percent of all revenue on Steam, including full games, DLCs, etc. Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo also take similar cuts on their own consoles.

But the PC is a different market. You can install any app you want and you’re not limited to Steam for your digital games. While Steam is still the dominant platform, there are now many alternatives, such as GOG, Discord’s store and more. Game publishers also have their own stores, such as EA’s Origin, Activision Blizzard’s Battle.net and Ubisoft’s Uplay.

In other words, Valve is now facing competition from other companies and game publishers themselves. Some big titles aren’t available on Steam (Fortnite, Overwatch, League of Legends…) and game publishers increasingly feel like they don’t get much out of Steam.

That’s why Steam now takes a 30 percent cut on sales under $10 million, then a 25 percent cut on sales between $10 million and $50 million, then a 20 percent cut on sales above $50 million. Valve wants to show big-game publishers that it is willing to give them a bigger cut if they list their popular games on Steam.

Of course, independent developers will think that the rich are getting richer with this move. And they’re right that it won’t change anything for small games. This is a message for big video game companies.

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Valve is discontinuing the Steam Link, at least the hardware part

Posted by | Gadgets, Gaming, TC, Valve | No Comments

Valve has quietly updated the Steam page for the Steam Link. The message says that Valve is discontinuing the Steam Link. The device will become unavailable once all units have been sold.

When Valve introduced the Steam Link in 2015, your TV setup was completely different. Google, Amazon and Apple had just released Android TV, the Fire TV and tvOS. Smart TVs weren’t so smart. In other words, you had no way to install an app and run it on your TV.

The Steam Link was a tiny box with an HDMI port, USB ports, an Ethernet port, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and more. It could only do one thing — you could connect the Steam Link to a Steam client running on a powerful computer and play games on a different screen. Even before the Nintendo Switch, companies were thinking about ways to play the same game in multiple ways.

And if you were wondering why the Steam Link has yet to receive an update, you now have the answer. The company is switching to a software strategy.

“The supply of physical Steam Link hardware devices is sold out. Moving forward, Valve intends to continue supporting the existing Steam Link hardware as well as distribution of the software versions of Steam Link, available for many leading smart phones, tablets and televisions,” the company says on the store page.

You can still find devices on third-party retailers, but they’ll soon be all gone.

Going forward, you’ll be able to install the Steam Link app on your phone or Android TV device (including on the Fire TV if you side-load the app). You can then launch a Steam game on your PC and play it on your TV.

Unfortunately, Apple currently refuses to allow the Steam Link app on the App Store. I really hope that Apple is going to change its mind because it would be a pretty good gaming and entertainment system.

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Discord is launching a game store

Posted by | discord, Gaming, Steam, TC, Valve | No Comments

Just a few weeks back, Valve moved into Discord’s turf a bit with a dramatic overhaul of Steam’s chat system.

Today, Discord is returning the favor by playing with the idea of selling games through its namesake chat platform.

The company says it’ll launch a beta of the game store later today, though it’ll initially be limited to a small slice of its user base (which now sits at 150 million users). More specifically, the beta will roll out to just 50,000 users from Canada at first.

It’ll be dabbling in game sales on two fronts: they’ll directly sell some games, while other games will be added perks for its Discord Nitro subscription service.

Whereas Valve has massively increased the number of games on Steam over the last few years by opening up to third parties through things like Steam Greenlight or (more recently) Steam Direct, Discord is pitching this as a more “curated” offering with a slimmer number of options. At least at first, they say they’re aiming for something that feels more like “one of those cozy neighborhood book shops” — which, on day one of the beta, translates to 11 games.

The games it’ll sell first:

  • Dead Cells
  • Frostpunk
  • Omensight
  • Into the Breach
  • SpellForce 3
  • The Banner Saga 3
  • Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire
  • Hollow Knight
  • Moonlighter
  • This is the Police 2
  • Starbound

While 11 games may not seem like much, you can bet they’ll offer more than that in time. See that screenshot up top? You don’t dedicate an entire tab in some of your app’s most prime screen real estate unless you’re hoping to make it a key part of your business.

Taking things one more step forward, Discord is also getting into (temporary) exclusives — or, as it calls them, “First on Discord” games. While it doesn’t mention names and none will roll out with today’s beta, Discord says it’ll soon highlight select indie games that’ll be available only on Discord for the first 90 days-or-so after their respective launches.

Meanwhile, the company is also testing the idea of building up its premium subscription add-on, Discord Nitro, into a game subscription service. Whereas the $5-per-month service previously primarily got you a few mostly aesthetic perks like animated avatars, a special profile badge and bigger upload limits, the same 50,000 players mentioned above (or, at least, those on Windows) will get access to a rotating set of games.

The first games hitting the subscription beta:

  • Saints Row: The Third
  • Metro: Last Light Redux
  • Darksiders: Warmastered Edition
  • De Blob
  • Tormentor X Punisher
  • Dandara
  • Kathy Rain
  • GoNNER
  • Kingdom: New Lands
  • System Shock Enhanced Edition
  • Super Meat Boy

While many of those games aren’t exactly new (some of them are 5+ years old), a lot of them are really great games (I’ve lost days to Super Meat Boy) that not everyone has gotten around to playing. It’s a solid way to pique people’s interest in giving Discord a bit of money each month if the GIFs and badges weren’t quite enough.

Oh, and for good measure, Discord is making itself a launcher — that is, you’ll be able to sort and launch most of the games on your computer right from Discord, including games purchased elsewhere and even those, notes the company, that require another launcher to run. If that’s not a shot across the bow in Steam’s direction, I’m not sure what is.

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Valve’s answer to Discord is now live for everyone

Posted by | chat, discord, Gaming, Steam, TC, Valve | No Comments

Just a month ago, Valve announced Steam Chat — an overhaul to its aging chat system, and the company’s answer to rapidly growing competition from apps like Discord. At the time, it was a beta limited only to those who were granted access.

Today it’s opening up to all.

As Devin put it when the beta features rolled out, the previous chat system “may as well be ICQ.” It was useful for a quick chats, but it felt much too limited for anything beyond that.

The new Steam Chat, meanwhile, takes a huge step toward being a modern chat offering. It groups contacts by the game they’re playing, shows whether or not they’re currently in-game or in a match, offers easy access to your “favorite” contacts and allows for big group chats and persistent channels. It supports inline media (GIFs! SoundCloud! YouTube!), encrypted voice chat and has both a browser-based client and a client built into Steam.

Will it kill Discord? Probably not.

While it might stymie the losses of the more casual players who might otherwise find their way over to Discord, it’ll be tough to sway anyone who has already come to call Discord home. Many Discord gaming groups have deep roots, with many of them having elaborate channel setups and relying on bespoke customizations like bots that help them schedule matches or raids.

If you want to check out the new chat system and already have Steam installed, just pop into Steam and tap the “Friends and Chat” button in the bottom right.

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