Is iTunes the best for digital distribution?
Posted on 22nd Apr 2009 at 09:07 by Clive Webster with 17 comments
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.
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.
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?