ELECTRONIC ARTS - ORIGIN CLIENT
The Origin client is the creation of Electronic Arts, a game developer, publisher and distibutor known for big titles such as Mass Effect, Battlefield, Dead Space, The Sims, and sports titles such as FIFA. In 2011, they were the
Mass Effect 2
world's third largest gaming company. Prior to Origin, EA games required an account with them to log in, which was implemented when you launched the game. In 2009, they began to move towards direct distribution and in 2011 created their own online store with digital downloads. When Origin was created, existing EA accounts were ported to their new client and some of their games could no longer be acquired on Steam. EA developed a bad reputation for buying up developer studios and drastically changing the nature of the IP franchises. When their overall game quality showed a downward trend, they began to make moves to be more innovative by acquiring Bioware and Pandemic studios. In 2012, EA games were ranked the highest according to Metacritic. However, due to some consumer unfriendly decisions, EA received the Golden Poo trophy as the Worst Company in America two years running, an award decided by a public poll on The Consumerist. A gross exaggeration, of course, but the fans were ticked off. Since then, they have made some customer friendly changes, such as a new refund policy, live support, an optional subscription based gaming service call EA Access, and an occasional free game from their back catalogue to Origin members. Origin is a much lighter client than Steam, but they do not have a huge selection of games. In my own experience, I have not had a single problem with it and I do like a lot of their titles. If you buy a game exclusive to EA, you will have to use the Origin client, which is really no different than buying a Steamworks game that requires the Steam client. If you buy an EA game that is not exclusive to using the Origin client, you will still have to sign in with an EA account. Some EA games you buy and play on Steam can also have the CD key registered to Origin so you basically have a backup.
UBISOFT - UPLAY CLIENT
Uplay is similar to Origin but is the creation of Ubisoft, a developer known for such franchises as Assassin's Creed, Far Cry, Watchdogs, Tom Clancy titles and Prince of Persia games. Prior to the existence of the client, once again you were required to create an
Far Cry 3
account to launch their games. Now it is called Uplay. Ubisoft, however, mostly develops for console with games being ported to the PC. Although the company has not recognized great success with optimization for PC, it has vowed to do better in the future as well as release PC versions at the same time as the console versions. Ubisoft also received very negative feedback due to their always online DRM policy requiring constant connection and is generally perceived to not care about PC gamers whether this is actually true or not. They have since removed the always online DRM requirement for some games, but it is still widely believed that Ubisoft downgrades their PC games to a standard more suitable for the console, which they deny. It seems they have a long way to go yet to gain the trust of the PC community. However, in regards to their client, I have never experienced any problem and I do like their games also, however, I'm not much liking their pricing models lately as they tend to remain high for longer periods of time. Once again, a Ubisoft game must have a Uplay account, although you can play in offline mode after registration. If you buy the Steam version of a Ubisoft game, you need both Steam and Uplay to run it. Their store is now selling competitors games as well and most of their games can be purchased elsewhere.
GOG (Good Old Games)
Gog is quite the phenomena and success story. I remember when I first started hearing about them when their name started to creep into a lot of Steam forum threads a few years ago. It started out in 2008 as a distributor of old games with the distinction of offering only
Drm-free games. They have since built up a highly successful enterprise, continually adding more Drm-free stock. This did, though, limit what they could sell as not all developers are onboard with that idea. However, gradually newer games have started to be added to their inventory, which in Aug of 2016, stands at 1650 titles. Games can be downloaded just using a simple download manager, or through their recently added client called Galaxy. They are promoting it as the Optional Client as it will never be required to play your games, but will offer the choice if you so wish to connect to other players. This allows them to bring more developers on-board. Gog has so far proven themselves to be very consumer friendly and have even reversed some decisions that most customers didn't agree with when asked. This is not so surprising as they are a wholly owned subsidiary of CD PROJEKT RED, the creators of The Witcher series and a developer who is openly against Drm technology and pro consumer.
Open Letter from Marcin Iwiński, co-founder and Joint CEO of CD PROJEKT RED.
“We love games. We love collecting them, playing them, and everything connected to that experience. Every time we reach out for a new release, we expect to be taken care of. We expect support if we encounter any problems, we love updates constantly improving the experience, and we feel really special when we receive free content that gives us more than we initially paid for. It doesn’t have to be huge, it can be an awesome skin for a character, or an extra sword, or armor.
Unfortunately this treatment is quite rare these days. As gamers, we nowadays have to hold on tight to our wallets, as surprisingly right after release, lots of tiny pieces of tempting content materialize with a steep price tag attached. Haven't we just paid a lot of cash for a brand new game?
As CD PROJEKT RED, we strongly believe this is not the way it should work and, with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, we have decided to do it differently. Cutting to the chase, everyone who buys Wild Hunt will receive 16 specially prepared DLCs absolutely for free, regardless of platform. You don’t have to pre-order, you don’t have to buy any special edition to get them -- if you own a copy of Wild Hunt, they’re yours. This is our way of saying thank you for buying our game.”
UPDATE Dec 2015: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt won the coveted Game of the Year award for 2015
UPDATE Dec 2016: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Goty Edition was released on Aug 30th 2016
Gog staff are very good at personally communicating with their fan base and work hard at publicity. It seems they have been rewarded for their efforts. Occasionally, they too give away free games and lately, they have added Gog Connect, which allows you to import a backup copy of some Steam games to Gog, and introduced a highly curated Early Access program. Seems they are taking some lessons from Steam, but let's hope they don't adopt the bad decisions as well. Additionally, they offer a 30 day money-back guarantee if they can't help you to get a game working and a fair pricing policy with store credits for regional priced games that exceed the US pricing.
GREEN MAN GAMING
Green Man Gaming is another site that seemed to have come out of the blue. If anyone is giving Steam a run for their money, it's them. Green Man constantly offers discount codes and often has better pricing. Currently, it also has a simple downloader capsule
with SecuRom Drm or offers the customer Steam keys. Green Man Gaming, a British company serving globally, was formed in 2009 and launched in May of 2010 with 500 titles. It now has over 5000 and sells in 185 countries. It is unique in offering a digital trade system for credit on selected titles. In July of 2012, Green Man merged with Playfire, a social gaming networking site that tracks achievements, game history and friends. You can also earn credits towards other games. It's sort of the facebook of gamers. Playfire users who link their Steam ID to their Playfire account are also eligible to earn Playfire Rewards. In 2012, the company also started to offer console and boxed PC games to its UK customers with plans to expand this area of the business. The company's success has skyrocketed since it was established and Green Man Gaming has been named as one of the top 50 high growth companies in Britain. The word spread pretty fast that this was a legit and reliable alternative to other online distributors, and even though there have been one or two dust-ups in the media over keys, no users have actually reported any factual legitimacy problems.
Gamersgate doesn't seem to get a lot of user publicity around the forums although it's a perfectly reliable site and is one of the first in digital distribution. It's a Swedish based company and currently offers over 6000 titles. The idea of GamersGate
was originally conceived by Paradox Interactive in 2004, a company name you may recognize for publishing games such as Hearts of Iron, Europa Universalis, Magicka, and Crusader Kings. To facilitate cheap distribution of games to countries that did not offer them in physical stores, they developed a system called "Paradox on Demand" which later launched as GamersGate in 2006. Soon, other publishers requested distribution through them as well and a new company was formed. GamersGate has a simple download system and is a client-free service that does not require a log in to play the game, unless the game itself requires it. Under this system every game is associated with a small corresponding program that when downloaded will retrieve the install files for the customer's computer. Upon retrieval, the user installs the game and the downloader may then be removed from the computer. It's surprising to learn that many GamersGate games are Drm-free as this seems to be a little known fact.