Digital Fragmentation

Digital Fragmentation

There has been a significant amount of consternation surrounding the recent activities of Epic Games…  which I still feel like I need to cram the Mega in there.  There are those that herald this as a new era in which Steam actually has proper competition.  There are others that signal this as the end times for PC Gaming because players will be fragmented across many platforms.  There are others still that are complaining largely because they don’t want to have to install the “Fortnite Client” to play their games.  For me however I am somewhat amused as I sit back and watch the events unfold  because it all has a sense of deja vu.

Epic is a company that had a game that was a big enough success… that they decided they were able to askew all of the traditional norms and funnel everyone through their own infrastructure.  If you removed the word “Epic” and replaced it with Valve the above statement would still be completely true.  Steam started out more or less as the digital distribution mechanism for Half-life 2, and a good number of us only got our steam accounts largely because of this.  Prior to Steam I had dabbled with a few services like Direct 2 Drive which was at the time a side project by IGN, in fact my original Mass Effect 2 copy was through it.  However round about 2008 I standardized on Steam as my platform of choice since it was clearing winning the early digital distribution battles.

Since around 2010 I made the decision to go entirely digital if possible, and that carried forward onto not only PC purchases but also with consoles as well…  which has lead me to swap out a few hard drives to upgrade them in the process.  The funny thing is… you accumulate a lot of digital games scattered across different platforms.  When I purchased a video card a few years back I got a copy of Witcher 3 for example…  but it was only redeemable on the GOG Galaxy client.  Each month as part of my Amazon Prime subscription, Twitch Prime gives me a slew of games…  that are only available through the Twitch client.

I just did some looking this morning and not counting single game clients…  I have the following Multi-Game Launchers installed on my system…

  • Battle.net
  • Bethesda.net
  • Epic Games Launcher
  • Glyph
  • GOG Galaxy
  • My.Com Game Center
  • Origin
  • Perfect World ARC
  • Steam
  • Twitch Client
  • Ubisoft UPlay
  • Wargaming.net Game Center
  • Windows Store

That is thirteen clients, not counting Discord who also seemingly wants to get in on the action but that I don’t have any games through.  So to the point of those being concerned about fragmentation…  what difference does one more store make giving that eleven of those clients I had installed prior to the launch of the Epic Games store.  This isn’t taking into account the three online stores that I also interact with on Microsoft Consoles, Sony Consoles and Nintendo Consoles.  The funny thing is…  I can think of a couple other clients that I no longer have installed that would have bumped that number up even higher.

Digital Fragmentation

What makes it even more disturbing is the number of games that I am accumulating that I will probably never actually play.  Originally this was just the realm of Humble Bundle… when I purchased a bundle deal because of one title that I wanted… and got fifteen more that I didn’t.  However since then there are Xbox Live Gold and Playstation Plus which I largely just consider to be the upkeep costs of owning a Microsoft or Sony console…  but that also give away games each month that I feel obligated to log into their respective store fronts and claim just in the off chance that I might want to play them at some point.  On top of that Origin gives away games on the regular… which I am admittedly less connected to regularly grabbing because Origin is hands down the worst client.  But now Epic Games is determined to start giving us new games every few weeks, and Twitch Prime offers up a deluge of new titles each month.  Ultimately I need some way of keeping track what I have on what platforms and the only real options I have found are completely manual.

Basically what I am saying is… we have been fragmented for a very long time and while I respect the notion that folks don’t want to sully their systems with yet another launcher I am also not that sort of a purist.  Disk space is cheap and I like the concept of having a lot of games “on tap” and ready to play when the mood hits me, and as a result I have all of these damned launchers scattered throughout my system doing whatever launchers do.  It is an unfortunate reality, but it is a reality I long ago accepted as something that I am going to have to deal with.  The only two clients that I really take issue with are Origin and the Windows Store, but one of those I can’t uninstall because it came with the operating system… and the other I am resigned to use because I still care about Bioware games.

When it comes to making game purchases however that is a completely different situation, and as it stands now…  I am not opposed to the concept of buying games on the Epic Games store.  The interface currently is way better for finding games than that of Steam… but that is only because it has a handful of games on it at the moment.  Steam is a victim of its own success and its generally hands off approach that they have had in attempting to manage their platform.  As such potential gems are embedded in among of shovelware asset flips, making it extremely hard to find those things that you maybe have not heard of yet… but probably should give a shot.  I guess time will tell how Epic decides to combat that with their own store front.  For the moment however I don’t think some sort of a PC Gaming Apocalypse is upon us…  nor do I really care about having to install another client.  I think things are going to move forward much the way they always have …  and by the end of next year I will probably be forced to install a few more vestigial clients in order to keep playing the things I want to play.

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