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Is iTunes the best for digital distribution?

Posted on 22nd Apr 2009 at 09:07 by Clive Webster with 17 comments

Clive Webster
Yesterday Joe wrote a story about iTunes being the best digital distribution system. How laughable - as if iTunes can rival Steam!

True, Steam has its flaws. I re-installed Windows over the weekend and tried to move my save games - why I had to do this manually despite asking Steam to backup all game data I don't really know. It saw me trawling through forums and FAQs to find out where the hell Empire: Total War kept its save games. They were in the always useful, hidden folder C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\Application Data\The Creative Assembly\Save_games (or the weird Roaming folder if you're using Vista). Useful.

Games distributed purely via Steam at least save games in the Steam\<Steam Account>\Saves folder which is much more logical. Although you still have to move these manually. A back up save games option wouldn't go amiss, Valve.

Is iTunes the best for digital distribution? iTunes is best at digital distribution?

Then there's the high prices of Steam games - typically games are much cheaper on Play or Amazon despite these shops having to post something to you. I appreciate that part of the point of Steam is to generate better royalties for games developers, and would be happy to pay a little extra for the smug feeling of directly supporting developers, but £15 extra is too much.

And there's obviously the conspiracy nuts that'll rant about Valve being able to steal all your information and pillage your credit card and kill your mother purely by the power of interweb. Or is that overstating things?

There are many other irritations with Steam too - that it wants to update itself before letting you do anything, and then wants to update games rather than just letting you play them... I'm sure there are more annoyances, but that's what a comments thread is for.

Anyway, with all its problems, and the fact that Steam was originally merely a DRM enforcer and patching service (which is still is), it's infinitely better than iTunes. My main frustration is that the iTunes interface is incredibly laggy; it's an iTunes problem as I run a 3GHz Core 2 Quad Q6600 with 2GB of memory and XP - a perfectly fast PC.

Is iTunes the best for digital distribution? iTunes is best at digital distribution?

Open iTunes and you have to wait while Genius loads. Click the App Store and you have to wait while it loads. Click Back on a page and you have to wait for the App Store to update even though you've just come from there - has Apple not heard of caching? I've spent more time waiting for pages of iTunes to load than I have done actually buying things from it. And I often get lost in the layout too - the main pages are too cluttered for my liking and navigating through the screens requires too many clicks (and pauses while the new page loads). iTunes isn't bad, but it's hardly the best.

Steam's a lot smoother than iTunes to use, and has the added bonus of not paying the insufferably smug Apple and validating the even more smug Macolytes. "Oo, a large multinational company has released an update of a product that I already have that's a bit shinier looking, thus forcing me to needlessly upgrade or else feel like a pauper or a chav," they all squeal. Seriously, whooping and cheering just because Apple has launched a new MP3 player is just slightly ridiculous - a polite clap is surely sufficient, possibly joined by a pat on the back and well done. And then tea and cake. (you can never forget the cake - Ed.)

You'd think that proving Apple fanboys wrong alone might be sufficient to prefer Steam over iTunes, but Games for Windows Live doesn't pay Jobs' wage either and that's a horror-show to use.

Anyway, the point is that I disagree that iTunes is the perfect digital distribution application - Steam is better. Do you agree?

17 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
ch424 22nd April 2009, 10:22 Quote
I now have zero apple software on my computer, so I would agree, that steam is the best, yes. You could also have pointed out that steam doesn't download Safari and set it as the default browser without asking you (I know it doesn't do this any more, but it certainly used to) along with quicktime which eats your default file settings, and a few 'iPod helper' services.
Quote:
And there's obviously the conspiracy nuts that'll rant about Valve being able to steal all your information and pillage your credit card and kill your mother purely by the power of interweb. Or is that overstating things?
I know this was a joke, but surely any online service with DRM (eg iTunes) could take your credit card or retract your rights to the data you bought?
Spiny 22nd April 2009, 10:35 Quote
You store documents & games on C:? Hahahah :)

Seriously though. Move your documents folder to another partition (Right click, properties and go to the location tab)
Install games on another partition too.

I reinstalled Windows last week. All I had to do was download the steam client and install it to the same location. It picked up all my installed games and saves right away. Just had to re-enter the cd key for a couple of games like UT as I presume these are stored in the registry somewhere.
Slaughter 22nd April 2009, 10:53 Quote
Well the only thing I see in this review is personal preference. I use iTunes as my default player since I bought my trusty little iPod (3 years ago) never actually did anything without asking (as some said) i just pressed no when it ask me if I want Safari to my system... (doh, that easy) Its doing to more than 3 sec to open and load on normal usage... IF i need the store well It will take a couple of seconds but thats it everything else is hella responsive...

However, Steam is quite fast too but have you ever pressed Store or Community it does the same time to open as Apple store does ? It also upgrades things on its own even it self, without asking that is... but it has a big variety of games in CHEAP prices, i dont know why you find them expensive.

Both of them are online shops but iTunes is not only that, its a media player and if you need it then you need the extension of quicktime which has never failed or messed my pc once... it opens when its needed. On the other hand steam is only an online shop, maybe an organizer of the games, it has flaws as itunes.

You cant compare iTunes with Steam maybe Apple Shop with Steam and then again both shops think and act differently as they are talking to deferent audiences ;).
proxess 22nd April 2009, 11:39 Quote
Definitely. Had iTunes, have Steam. I used gtkpod for my iPod. Much cleaner and done exactly what I told it to.
Skiddywinks 22nd April 2009, 12:59 Quote
I have to agree that Steam is simply superior. May have to give this gtkpod a go. ITunes does nothing but irritate me.
Blademrk 22nd April 2009, 14:28 Quote
the other thing that Steam does better than iTunes is that any purchases can be re-downloaded without re-purchasing.

I've previously lost a couple of itunes tracks that I hadn't had a chance to back-up after a drive started corrupting files.

I also bought a track recently on iTunes ("The Truth" by Lacuna coil after playing it on GH:WT and not being able to get it out of my head) which I'm 99% positive was corrupted on download as just before the end of the song the volume fades out and theres a couple of strange noises before the song fades back in.
If I could re-download purchases (like we can with Steam) this wouldn't be a problem.
badders 22nd April 2009, 14:40 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blademrk
the other thing that Steam does better than iTunes is that any purchases can be re-downloaded without re-purchasing.

I've previously lost a couple of itunes tracks that I hadn't had a chance to back-up after a drive started corrupting files.

I also bought a track recently on iTunes ("The Truth" by Lacuna coil after playing it on GH:WT and not being able to get it out of my head) which I'm 99% positive was corrupted on download as just before the end of the song the volume fades out and theres a couple of strange noises before the song fades back in.
If I could re-download purchases (like we can with Steam) this wouldn't be a problem.

+1

This is my number one gripe with iTunes.
Skiddywinks 22nd April 2009, 16:30 Quote
Christ, I can't believe they get away with that. I have never used the store, but assumed they followed the same sort of guidelines as Steam in terms of redownloading.
wuyanxu 22nd April 2009, 19:33 Quote
although i totally agree Steam's system is the best known (to me at least) but wouldn't it be a better comparison to do iTunes vs Amazon? since after all, they both actually sells music.
Angleus 22nd April 2009, 22:08 Quote
I love steam! But I only realised this after moving to Windows 7 and realising I didn't need any disc to reinstall my games, now its awesome and I tend to buy most of the weekend deals
pizan 24th April 2009, 15:11 Quote
I <3 Steam for all the reasons stated above and also i like the way it evolved community wise. Friends works really well and i like that you can list 3rd party apps in friends so people know if I'm playing a non-Steam game. Also with Steam you can get all the SDKs and other stuff that i wouldn't have a clue where to get otherwise.
Spaceraver 25th April 2009, 18:15 Quote
For Digital distribution Steam is still king.. Tried Itunes and never liked it. I use Emusic.com instead for music.
For everything else there is the rest of the net.
Because I can't buy a lot of the things i want because they are not available here in europe.
Claave 25th April 2009, 18:50 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by ch424
I now have zero apple software on my computer, so I would agree, that steam is the best, yes. You could also have pointed out that steam doesn't download Safari and set it as the default browser without asking you (I know it doesn't do this any more, but it certainly used to) along with quicktime which eats your default file settings, and a few 'iPod helper' services.


I know this was a joke, but surely any online service with DRM (eg iTunes) could take your credit card or retract your rights to the data you bought?

Yes, I guess it could. But the backlash for doing so would make such action unlikely.
Claave 25th April 2009, 18:56 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spiny
You store documents & games on C:? Hahahah :)

Seriously though. Move your documents folder to another partition (Right click, properties and go to the location tab)
Install games on another partition too.

I reinstalled Windows last week. All I had to do was download the steam client and install it to the same location. It picked up all my installed games and saves right away. Just had to re-enter the cd key for a couple of games like UT as I presume these are stored in the registry somewhere.

Might want to back up your registry with regedit too then for a smooth transition. I did used to run separate partitions for Windows, docs and apps but got annoyed with it - too many programs would ignore Tweak UI and install to C: regardless. Or just refuse to work unless they were installed to C:, and then the C: drive would fill up too quickly. Maybe I'm just stingy and I should've got a bigger HDD! :D
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slaughter
Well the only thing I see in this review is personal preference.

Yep, blog=opinion piece, not a review. I was just making a point.

Oh, and multi-quote ftw!
ZERO <ibis> 27th April 2009, 22:58 Quote
When I got my imod(yes imod not ipod) I removed every last apple thing from it by: 1) putting rockbox on it and 2) even getting rid of there boot and dock logos

I have no apple software on my computer and will not go near it. If something requires apple software to work I will either not use it or install it in a shell only so that I can have it gone forever when I delete it.

Steam has caused some headaches especially for me being a very early adopter. But it is way way better than any apple program I have used even when steam was at its worse.
TrickSh0t 29th April 2009, 22:44 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blademrk

I also bought a track recently on iTunes ("The Truth" by Lacuna coil after playing it on GH:WT and not being able to get it out of my head) which I'm 99% positive was corrupted on download as just before the end of the song the volume fades out and theres a couple of strange noises before the song fades back in.

Blademrk, the song you're referring to is "Our Truth", and the fade out with radio station changing noises and then baseline fade in is the way the track was meant to sound. In GH:WT (and Rock Band for that matter), its cut out ... which is a shame because I actually like that part of the song. :)

Cheers!

Oh, yes, iTunes can be terminally slow in Windows, but its actually a lot faster in OS X. Conspiracy? Maybe.
Blademrk 30th April 2009, 11:37 Quote
Cheers, just thought it sounded odd. I tried listening to it through a few different streaming sites (youtube, lastfm, etc...) and didn't here the noises so I reported it through the iTunes link in the email reciept and they gave me a track credit.
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