While video gameplay has shifted from installing games from hard copy CDs to the Internet, so too has game purchasing and downloading. Game downloading services allow you to purchase games through their website, often at a cheaper rate than buying hard copies, and then download them to your computer. Three such services are GamersGate, Steam, and GOG.
DRM, or digital rights management, is meant to limit the use of certain digital content and devices after they are purchased and thus inhibit any uses of the content that the content provider did not intend for the technology. Certain companies, such as Apple, AT&T, Amazon, Microsoft, Sony, and Electronic Arts, use DRM to protect their content.
DRM, however, would make downloading games more difficult after purchase—even legally with one of these services. Luckily for gamers, all three services offer no DRM policies, so you don’t have to worry about downloading, redownloading, or backing up your game purchases.
Image courtesy of GOG
Purchasing and Downloading Games
Purchasing games for these services is much like any other form of ecommerce. You can search for a specific title or browse the website’s selection by genre, recent, favorites, and so on.
After you have purchased your games, you then download them to your computer, either PC or Mac, and in the case of Steam, Linux. The download and installation processes between the services are fairly similar, except with the download client in the case of Steam.
You can download and install games for both PCs and Macs without having to download a separate client. The downloading instructions are simple, as a user only has to click Download next to the selected game to get started.
If you plan to run the game installer again, you may want to consider saving the temporary files after the download and installation are complete.
Image courtesy of GamersGate
As the virtual currency for GamersGate, Blue Coins can be used to purchase any product on the website, and they can be earned through various interactions with the website and its community.
You can earn Blue Coins on GamersGate by:
- Preordering a game (250+)
- Writing a game review (150)
- Writing a game’s first review (300)
- Rating a game (50)
- Being the first to rate a game (100)
- Answer questions via Game Tutor (500)
- Write a walkthrough (1,000)
- Purchase games (5% total purchase)
You can also purchase Blue Coins for $1 per 1000 Coins. Blue Coins you bought will not expire, but Blue Coins you earn will expire after 12 months if they are not used.
Image courtesy of GamersGate
Before you can download any games, you must first download and install the Steam application, which is unique to the three services. You can then create a new Steam account by pressing the “Create a New Account” button from the Steam login page and follow the instructions.
To download games to your PC, Mac, or Linux, you install the Steam application, log in to your account, and double-click the title of the game you wish to download from your purchased game library. With the client, the process has one extra step than the other two, but it is all still very user-friendly.
If you plan to run the game installer again, you may want to consider saving the temporary files once the download and installation are complete.
Image courtesy of Steam
To download games to your PC or Mac, you'll click on the download link next to your account's ordered games after your purchase. Then simply follow further instructions to download and install the game.
Image courtesy of GOG
Each of the three services allow you to redownload your purchased games on your account to any other computer you own with an Internet connection. These are not allowed to be installed on other people’s computers, only your own—for instance if you have both a laptop and a desktop. Simply log in to your account and select the previously installed game to install it again on your new device. There is no limit to the number of times you can redownload these games.
You can also make backups of your games either on an external hard drive or on a DVD. You can then use these to either save the game in case something happens to your computer or install them on a computer that does not have an Internet connection.
The selection of games varies between the three services:
GamersGate appears to have the largest selection and likely from the largest amount of game publishers, so serious gamers with a wide range of preferences should choose this service. Steam has a respectable amount of games as well, and its catalog of Linux-supported games is growing.
GOG has significantly less games than its two competitors, but it began as a service that delivered “classic” video games. In March 2012, the company began selling more recently-released games, so it is still slowly but surely building its library to match the other game download providers.
Image courtesy of Steam
Generally speaking, the newer the game, the more expensive it is to buy/download, unless there is a specific sale or promotion going on, no matter the service.
GOG, as a chief purveyor of older games, tends to have the least expensive selection of games overall. Most of their bestselling games average between $5.99 and $9.99, with the occasional $14.99 or $24.99 game.
Steam often runs special deals and sales which helps to take down its prices on newer and older games alike. GamersGate often has games available for presale at a discount¸ though they have their own sales and promotions. Their prices for most games, however, remain about the same.
Below is a comparison of various game pricing and availability between the services:
- Primal Fears, released on Jan. 8, 2013 was not available on GamersGate or GOG, and it is available for $8.99 on Steam.
- Assassin’s Creed III, released Nov. 20, 2012, was not available on GOG, but is available on Steam for $49.99 or GamersGate for $49.95 and $79.99 for the Deluxe Edition.
- Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two guide, released in September 2012, was not available on Steam or GOG, but it is $19.99 on GamersGate.
- Omerta – City of Gangsters, to be released on Jan. 31. 2013, is not available on GOG, is advertised but not available on Steam, and is available for presale on GamersGate at 15% off its original price, which is $33.95.
- Back to the Future, released Dec. 22, 2010, is available for GOG and Steam for $24.99 and on GamersGate for $24.95.
- Baldur’s Gate II Complete, released Sept. 24, 2000, is available for $9.99 on GOG, for $9.95 on GamersGate, and is not available for Steam.
- Creature’s Village, released Oct. 2, 2001, is available for $2.39 on GOG, but is not available on Steam or GamersGate.
Depending on the release date and publisher, the game selection varies significantly between the three services. For gamers who prefer classic games for cheaper, GOG is the place to go. For both new games and several older games, GamersGate has the biggest selection. And if you are solely looking for new games, but prefer the client system, Steam is the best choice. For any games available, all three services tend to have very similar prices, but only GamersGate appears to offer the best presale discounts for the newest games.
Manuals, walk-throughs, and extra material are often available for games. Depending on the title and service, they may be either free or paid.
Depending on which games you’re after, their release date, and their publisher, these three services have different selections to suit gamer’s widely varied tastes. Pricing appears to be very comparable once you take availability into consideration. All are free to join, but only Steam requires that you download a client to access their catalog. Take your gaming preferences into consideration when choosing any one of these services, though all three aim to please with their game availability, user-friendly downloads, and cheaper prices.