Is GAME Pushing Publishers Off Steam?

Yesterday, we saw the US’ largest specialist games retailer take reprehensible steps against a digital service. US giants, GameStop have since instructed staff to remove the PC discs for Deus Ex from sale.

It has also been alleged that the UK’s largest games retailer might be trying to compete with GameStop in the reprehensible consumer-bashing stakes. If an investigation by a forum member over on facepunch.com is to be believed, GAME could be putting pressure on publishers to keep their games off Steam for a period after release.

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Quoted as evidence in the investigation is the fact that Space Marine doesn’t show up on Steam at all, if you search for it from the UK. Not even the demo (although that can be downloaded surreptitiously here). According to the forum member’s research, the first game affected by this was Brink (or possibly Metro: 2033), which was not available on Steam for a month after it was released at retail.

Upcoming games which seem to be missing or slow to get pre-order options up include Space Marine and Saints Row: The Third, both published by THQ and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, published by Bethesda (like Brink).

There is no solid evidence that GAME is directly responsible, this could possibly be some sort of UK licensing deal that Steam is unable to work out with Publishers. However, it has previously been reported that major UK retailers are increasingly bothered by Steam’s near-monopoly on download sales.

Bethesda has confirmed that Brink was unavailable on Steam, only in the UK, for a period of time but the Skyrim publisher points out that the game is currently available, along with all of its DLC. They won’t comment on the allegation that GAME is somehow involved in the delay though. Unsurprisingly, that’s classed as “rumour and speculation”.

THQ’s PR team got back to us to say that it’s impossible to comment because they genuinely don’t know the reason for Space Marine’s absence. They promise to let us know if they discover anything.

We’ve also contacted Valve and GAME Group PLC. for comment and will update this story with any statement they make.

Thanks, facepunch and YobRenoops

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14 Comments

  1. An investigation by a forum member is very sketchy at best, but if it’s true?
    It’s just timed exclusivity, no biggie.
    See the comparisons between Xbox Live Arcade and the Playstation Network Store. Microsoft aren’t exactly doing anything illegal there, are they?

    • oh yes, no allegation that anything illegal is going on, just a bit rough on consumers.
      Might be nothing to do with GAME, of course, although they have indicated their willingness to work against Steam in the past (as linked). We won’t know for sure until they comment.

  2. I had read about this earlier in the summer “Certain “bullying” UK retail chains ARE refusing to sell PC titles that come with a Steam client in the box” http://www.computerandvideogames.com/308337/bullying-retailers-reject-steam-enabled-pc-games/

    As far as I know this is referring to Game also.

  3. Hmmm, it’s a strange one.

    Over here, Space Marin is available to pre-order on Steam, so why it isn’t in the UK, I don’t know.

    Curiously, I don’t see how it could affect Skyrim. Skyrim has been confirmed to use Steamworks, meaning the PC version requires Steam to play. If the game isn’t unlocked on Steam, it can’t be played. This includes retail copies, which is something we’ve seen with people who received Deus Ex early on PC. So even if GAME did push publishers to not put their items on Steam, it wouldn’t matter as people who purchased a game with Steamworks at retail would have to wait the month too. It just wouldn’t work.

    I don’t know what the story is with Brink, but from what I can remember it was available on Steam originally, but was taken down for about a week at one point.

    Either way, it’s an interesting situation if true.

    • That Skyrim info is interesting… It’s listed on Steam in the UK but there’s no pre-order info yet, which seems od for such a massive title. I wonder if it can use Steamworks as a separate licensing deal but not initially be available from the Steam Store?

      Bethesda has confirmed to me that Brink was unavailable on UK Steam for an “initial period” after it’s launch.

      • Hmmm. I’m sure it’s technically feasible in some way, but would Valve let them do that? Surely Valve would be quite within their rights to tell them to get lost if they did. At the end of the day they are using Valve’s system and services, asking them to delay their launch on Steam for a game that uses their systems just because a retailer is throwing their toys out of the pram is bonkers. The publisher would need Valve more than Valve needs them.

  4. Since when does a major retailer dictate what a publisher can and can’t do with their games?

    If i was a publisher and a retailer demanded that i don’t put something in the box, i would threaten to withdraw their rights to sell any of my games.

    I can’t imagine publishers agree with retailers due to them not giving them a cut of preowned profits.

    I hope this is not true otherwise, i will have lost any respect i had for game. :(

    • You still have respect for Game?

      Walking into a Game store today is like taking a visit to CEX, pre-owned everywhere with a small selection of new games. Stores with ‘bare bone’ staffing who are programmed to push pre-owned, not to mention they sell used as new far too often for it to not be a coincidence.

      Sorry, as you can see I have no respect for Game.

      • I’ve never seen Game or anywhere else sell used as new to me or any of my friends.

      • Hmmm. From what I’ve seen and heard, GAME in the UK is a whole different beast compared to over here Colm.

  5. They really do like to piss gamers off these days.

  6. If it were for a while (eg. timed exclusive) I don’t think it’s that bad. Although I buy most of my games online (preordered), I do like to have game stores on the highstreet as, although they’re often more expensive, I get the occassional good deal (free £10 Move charging dock for buying a 99p Move golf club that I didn’t need; Borderlands GOTY for £12.99; and Move Racquet Sports preowned for £9.99). Of course GAME are likely to push preowned as it gives them more profit, same as stopping developers going to Steam on release day. With the online passes too, GAME are going to suffer (which they already have been). We can’t complain too much if we want the best of both – cheaper online shopping and the option of the spontanious purchase on the highstreet. Just look at HMV – £127M loss last year. The overheads that highstreet stores have is making their existance pretty hard at the moment, so I can’t blame GAME if they were discouraging developers to sell on Steam. Plus highstreet shops also create more jobs.

    Note: I do think it’s totally unethical to take something out of the game and not sell it, like GameStop did.

  7. If GAME or Gamestop (or any other retailer) has to try to manipulate the market in order to gain advantage instead of competing on a level playing field, like everyone else, then they deserve to go out of business, imo..

    The same also applies to the megacorps who try to stifle competition through patent trolling.

  8. I once worked for GameStop. Shady company that does very little for their employees. Large, ridiculous quotas with zero incentive. I’ve almost stopped shopping at them entirely. It would not surprise me if this turns out to be very true.

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