Showdown in the Play Store: Steam Vs GOG Galaxy
Steam has more or less dominated the PC gaming market for the past decade, but finally we have a worthy contender – the GOG Galaxy. Here’s how they fit together and, more importantly, what that means for PC gamers in general.
For years Steam was the only game in town to buy games and manage your library. However, last year GOG introduced its own library client called GOG Galaxy. Both platforms aim to be a universal library with multiple publishers and their surrounding community.
- Steam : With a huge community and huge store, Steam has changed the way PC gamers buy games. You can manage all your games in one place, update them, track achievements and play with friends through the game overlay.
- GOG Galaxy : If you hate DRM, you should visit GOG. None of the games on the GOG store are copy protected, which means you always have complete control over your games. The new GOG Galaxy platform also adds achievements, chat with friends, and a library app that keeps your games up to date.
These platforms overlap in many areas. We won’t spend too much time discussing the areas where they overlap (achievements are achievements, no matter who is tracking them). Instead, here are a few ways in which they differ significantly, which may affect where you decide to buy your games.
Steam has a large library, but GOG has some gems
Let’s get this straight first: Steam has the best choice. This is an inevitable fact. This is in part due to the fact that GOG does not use DRM in any of its games, so any publisher who wants DRM for their games (read: almost all major ones) are disabled immediately. All other comparisons aside, this puts GOG at a rather disadvantageous position. Plus, as the de facto # 1 selling PC game, Steam has almost every game you could want in its library (with notable exceptions, exclusive merchandise from branded stores from publishers such as Origin or Blizzard from EA).
That “almost” is where GOG has an edge. GOG started out as a store called Good Old Games (hence the name) that focused on old games that the rest of the industry had forgotten about. If there is no older game on Steam, you will likely find it on GOG and maybe even patch it to work with newer platforms. In my opinion, this single-handedly saved Dungeon Keeper 2 from the ravages of history.
As for the platform that has the best prices, it can vary depending on the wind . If your only concern is price, we suggest using services such as IsThereAnyDeal or CheapShark to check and track prices for various services . While you can shop for the best price, your big problem may be how you decide to manage your library.
Steam app is more informative than GOG Galaxy
When it comes to managing a huge library of PC games, Steam is already the best. You can buy games from other retailers like Amazon and activate them on Steam to download them as many times as you like. You can also add non-Steam games so you can easily organize and launch games from a single app. You won’t be able to download non-Steam games from Steam, but it does make it easier to organize.
Meanwhile, the GOG Galaxy is very limited. You can only manage games purchased or activated from GOG. There are ways to trick a client into adding non-GOG games to the list , and one GOG user even made a tool to help with this , but this is much more complicated than Steam. Unfortunately, this means that if you want to buy games from someone other than GOG, you will have to use two different library apps to manage your games. It sucks, but if you’ve ever bought a game from Origin or Blizzard, you’re probably used to using multiple launchers. This is an inconvenience, but not the end of the world.
GOG is completely DRM-free, but Steam’s DRM isn’t terrible (until it breaks)
The biggest argument in favor of GOG is the complete lack of DRM for every single game in its library. This means you can download or copy your games as many times as you want on any number of supported platforms, and GOG will never block you from playing it. This is especially good news for all older games that no longer receive much support. The only major drawback is that this means that GOG will never have full library parity with Steam.
It is also worth mentioning that DRM vapor is not so bad. Basically, the GOG system is better for customers, but in practice, Steam’s DRM rarely gets in the way. The offline mode just got better . If you have launched the game once, you can play it without an Internet connection. As the saying goes, DRM does its job well.
The only exception is when something goes wrong. If your account is hacked or banned for any reason, Steam customer support is not the best (which we will come back to), so you may end up blocking games that you paid for and installed because something is at the end of Steam went wrong. … There is a little gamble anyway. You may be able to deal with the slight day-to-day inconveniences of the GOG system, or you may run the risk of encountering rare but serious Steam DRM issues.
GOG’s return policy is more generous, but only for technical issues.
While Steam’s return policy is not without its fair share of controversy , it is more welcome than none. However, it is rather limited. You can only return the game if it was purchased within the last fourteen days and if you have played it for less than two hours. For large AAA games, this can be a frustratingly short window when you include introductory cutscenes and tutorial levels. On the other hand, for shorter games, you can go through the entire game and still get a refund (although this is a rather ridiculous move for developers ). Steam made an exception to this policy when the PC port of Arkham Knight completely sucks. The company extended this window by two months , no matter how much you played it. In one case study, we saw the reason why a refund system was needed and also demonstrated the flaws in the Steam implementation.
On the other hand, GOG’s money back policy allows you to return the game within thirty days of purchase, no matter how long you’ve played it. The catch is that GOG only compensates for technical problems. According to the company’s FAQ page , you’ll have to spend at least some level of troubleshooting to even qualify for a refund. If you just didn’t like the game, out of luck. This makes sense for a DRM-free store, and a longer window is fine, but worth keeping in mind if you just want to try out the game.
Steam cannot stand aside from controversy
Being the largest distributor of games means Steam will eventually take a few controversial moves, no matter what it does. However, Valve seems to have an insane knack for pissing off their customers in loud, headline-screaming ways.
In some cases, developers are concerned that the two-hour window for refunds is ripe for abuse . Steam’s crowdsourced review and tagging system can be easily managed without much oversight . The company introduced paid mods – the move so despised by all Steam removed this feature after just four days . On Christmas last year, due to a technical problem, users saw accounts of random strangers , affecting about 34,000 user accounts. Valve didn’t even publicly admit that it happened, only five days later . The company pulled out the overkill simulator from its Greenlight service ( arguably enough on its own ) with little explanation . Valve co-founder and big boss Gabe Newell stepped in to bring him back the next day .
Steam is also causing anger with its Greenlight and Early Access programs. Greenlight has a problem with horrible games being leaked to the service , so in 2014 Steam announced that it would kill the program . So far this has not happened, but his replacement has already arrived. Steam Early Access is a little more carefully selected than Greenlight (where anyone can submit a substandard game), but you still buy unfinished games, which can often lead to customer dissatisfaction.
GOG customer support is better than Steam, which isn’t too difficult
It’s no secret that Steam has been widely criticized in the past for poor customer service. The Better Business Bureau ranks the company in the top five for its lack of customer support . While the BBB itself is not without controversy , it is still not the best view. Even Valve itself admitted last year that its customer support is in need of repairs , although little has changed on that front .
Meanwhile, GOG’s customer support is hugely popular. GOG offers a fair price policy that ensures international customers pay the same price overseas or get store credit for the difference, and response times are generally faster. While some of the discrepancy may be due to the fact that Steam has more customers, there is enough research to suggest that if you want good customer service, GOG is more likely to make you happy.
Bottom line: you should probably just use both
Comparing Steam and GOG is a fun exercise to find out what works and what doesn’t on a gaming platform. Fortunately, there is no choice. You can buy cheap DRM-free games on GOG, use Steam for anything GOG doesn’t, and launch them from whatever store you bought them from. If you want to organize all your games in one library, you can simply add shortcuts to your GOG games on Steam.
GOG Galaxy offers enough basic features that buying a game from its store won’t leave you at a disadvantage. You can still track your progress, get regular game updates, and you can even play some games with your friends on Steam. It is enough that you should check back from time to time before heading off to your next Steam sale .