Call Me a Madman, But I Don’t Mind Monopolies

Today, I received a brief message from a friend on Steam.

“Wanna play some Overwatch?” He asked.

“Sure.” I said.

I quit out of Skyrim, closed Steam, and opened the Battle.net client. I waited for my friend to come online through Battle.net, and then I waited some more. I went to message him through Battle.net, but he wasn’t online yet. Okay, seems I should go back to Steam and see what the hold up is.

Turns out I missed his second message.

“Discord?” He asked.

Right. I guess he wants me to join voice comms before starting to play. Makes sense. I opened Discord, scrolled through my friends list until I found his name, and clicked the icon to begin a call.

That’s weird. He was offline on Discord and offline on Battle.net, but still online on Steam. I flipped back to Steam’s IM window, and responded.

“Yea.”

“Okay.” He replied, immediately.

Just like that, he appeared online on Discord and also on Battle.net shortly thereafter. I stared at the screen, confused. This was just an error in communication.

Was I at fault for assuming that he would have opened Discord without waiting for my response? Should he have known that I already opened Discord, since we’ve had similar conversations like this in the past? Should I have just skipped these media platforms entirely and sent him a text message on his phone?

If there were a service that could serve as a game library for every game, while doubling as an instant messaging platform that also offered voice communication, it would take the world by storm. To an extent, I suppose that it already has. Steam is by far the world’s largest digital distributor of games, and it continues to engulf indie titles and smaller developers left and right as they struggle to provide a convenient platform of their own.

Steam makes everything easier. Organizing your games, remembering login information, interacting with your friends, and doing almost everything except voice chat is simple and easy thanks to Steam. But, it’s not all-encompassing, and it can’t be used for everything. Voice communication is still dominated by Ventrilo, TeamSpeak, Skype, and most recently, Discord. Big-name companies that don’t want to fork over a share of their revenue to Valve, such as Blizzard and EA, flaunt their rebelliousness with their own game hubs such as Battle.net and Origin, respectively.

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Image courtesy of lellonet.com.

Call it a first-world problem, but I’m a simple man with poor organizational skills. Managing a dozen different gaming platforms, memorizing a dozen different usernames and passwords, and remembering which games belong to which, is a pain in the ass.

Monopoly isn’t a perfect solution, but it makes things pretty damn easy for the consumer. Everyone likes to reminisce about mom n’ pop shops down the street, but plenty of those still exist, and they all suffer from the same major problem. They don’t consolidate consumer needs.

The average person going shopping might need all sorts of crap: food, clothing, electronics, etc. Malls and stores like Walmart solve all of these needs and many more – that’s the whole reason why they’re popular. The products aren’t much different from a mom n’ pop store, but the commute is a hell of a lot easier and most of the items are cheaper since they’ve been bought in bulk. As much as the word “monopoly” brings with it disgust and disdain, you don’t see people crusading against Walmart just because it’s a monopoly. Business practices aside, monopolies bring far more benefit to the consumer than they take away.

Call the title clickbait, but I don’t always like monopolies (except the board game Monopoly, which is, ironically, available on Steam for only ten bucks). Sure, I may not mind monopolies like Walmart or Steam, but there are plenty of industries where this parallel doesn’t transfer.

Take banana suppliers for instance; it’s not ideal if we get all of our bananas from a single grower. If that grower uses the exact same breed of banana and they have a monopoly over the entire banana industry, a catastrophic disease could wipe out the banana population and cause banana shortages across the globe as smaller growers rush to fill the sudden vacuum with their genetically non-homologous strains of the world’s favorite phallic fruit.

Oh, the horror!

At the end of the day, I want something simple, but fair. When Steam takes 30% of the money from each sale, it hurts big-name developers and drives them to create their own platforms. If the entire industry could get behind a single platform and contribute a much, much smaller percentage of their income to maintain and improve that platform, they could satisfy consumers, retain more of their profits, and simplify the entire PC gaming process.
How awesome would it be if you could buy literally everything in one place?


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