One of the most popular independent games of all time is not available on Steam, the digital distribution platform that has come to be the standard for PC games.
That is, if you want the latest and greatest game for your computer, chances are you can download the Steam software and buy it there. You don’t have to go to a store or worry about downloading it from a shady site.
Because of its centralized nature and massive popularity, Steam is a heralded platform for most indie developers. Many of them push effortlessly to get their games listed.
But not Markus Persson. In fact, he could probably shoot an e-mail to Valve, the company that manages Steam, and have his innovative game Minecraft put up on the digital store in no time.
So why is the game not on Steam? Persson addressed the oft-asked question in a recent post on his official blog.
“Being on Steam limits a lot of what we’re allowed to do with the game, and how we’re allowed to talk to our users. We (probably?) wouldn’t be able to, say, sell capes or have a map market place on minecraft.net that works with steam customers in a way that keeps Valve happy. It would effectively split the Minecraft community into two parts, where only some of the players can access all of the weird content we want to add to the game,” he wrote.
Indeed, Valve restricts Steam in a way that’s quite similar to the way Apple does with the iTunes App Store. Because so many people covet being in the digital distribution platform – which has its own built-in audience, marketing and promotion, and transaction management – Valve is able to put a lot of controls on it.
Yet even the major publishers see huge value in Steam. If you go to the PC gaming section of Best Buy, chances are the majority of those games will also be available to download on Steam. But the major publishers just see a bottom line and don’t have the passion the way Persson does.
And so he’s in a unique position in that he doesn’t need Steam to spread awareness about his game, yet because he has such intimate ties with the game he’s able to control how it gets disseminated.