Game Distribution Platforms

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This article was written in June 2015, and last updated in February 2022. Given the volatile nature of this topic, expect that the content of this article is outdated after about two years time.

I am aware of the following online videogame distribution platforms.

These platforms allow you to create an account, buy a game, and keep track of it in your account. You can download it later, even after a few years, by logging in to your account. As such, they are different from an online-store, where you can only download it at the time you buy it, but not later.

Note that many platforms provide keys to download bought games on other platforms as well. In particular, many platforms provide Steam keys.

Name Platforms Number of mac OS titles DRM of own platform Distribution
Steam Windows, mac OS, Linux Most commercial games. 2000 titles in 2015, 11,000 titles in 2022. DRM Direct download
Apple App Store mac OS Commercial and individual developers. 7000 titles in 2015 DRM Direct download or subscription fee
Humble Bundle Windows, mac OS, Android Mostly Indie. 1100 titles (500 DRM-free) in 2015. 3800 titles (1100 DRM-free) in 2022. DRM-free Steam, Origin or direct-download
Gog Windows, mac OS, Linux Old and Indie. 500 titles in 2015. 1300 titles in 2022 (all DRM-free) DRM-free Direct download
Gamersgate Windows, mac OS, Linux, Android 1200 titles (500 DRM-free) in 2015 and 2022 DRM-free Steam, Uplay, Origin or direct-download
Epic Games store Windows, mac OS Did not exists in 2015, 300 titles in 2022 Left to publishers Direct-download
Origin / EA Desktop Windows, mac OS EA games only. 30 games in 2015, 16 titles in 2022 Strict DRM Direct-download or subscription fee
Microsoft store Windows, XBox N/A Unknown Direct-download or subscription fee
Uplay Windows, Console, iOS Ubisoft games only DRM Direct-download

Number of titles was measured in June 2015 and February 2022, by counting the number of Mac games, excluding downloadable content (DLC).

A few stores that are now defunct are removed: OUYA (open source console) is defunct since 2015; Desura went bankrupt in 2015 and 2020, and now contains free-to-play web games only. Shinyloot, GameFly Digital, and GamesRocket were smaller platforms that are now defunct. Gamestop was removed: they still seem to resell used games, but I don't know enough about their business to list them. In addition, Greenman Gaming was removed. It is a larger reseller, still operational (60 mac OS titles in 2015, 1400 titles in 2022), but is no distribution platform, but merely a reseller.

The DRM enforced by Steam is that you can only play a single game from your library at the same time, counting games played on other computers, or shared with family members. Origin has a similar DRM, but also enforces that this with the purchasing shop. This means you can't gift games to others, and if you purchased an EA game at Steam, both Origin and Steam launchers must be running, and are enforcing their DRM at the same time. Games in the Epic store may also have DRM, but that's enforced by the game, not by the Epic launcher.

Most distribution platforms take about 30% of the cost. Humble Bundle only keeps about 10%, although that excludes about 6% for transaction fees, and another 10% for charity. For a slightly more recent overview, Mana marketing blog posted a 15+ indie-friendly platforms guide. Apple is most expensive with 30% (15% for subscriptions after the first year) and $99/year. Steam requests a $100 up-front fee to prevent fake games submissions, which is re-imbursed after the game sells $1000 or more. Gog offers an option to pay royalties in advance to developers, in exchange for a fee of 40% instead of 30% (until the royalties have been paid of).

The prices of all platforms are usually the same, although in particular Steam often has deep discounts (up to 80%) during summer and Christmas season. Humble Bundle has weekly bundles which are 'pay what you want'.

Defunct Platforms

Impulse
merged into GameStop
Direct2Drive
merged into GameFly Digital
Playfire
merged into Green Man Gaming
Games for Windows Marketplace
merged into Xbox Live

Other Stores

Regular stores, like Amazon.com may also offer direct downloads.

Many publishers, like Telltale or Auran, offer their own digital download solutions.

G2A.com offers a marketplace, seemingly for second hand games (though I'm not clear how this works, it's not always possible to transfer the usages rights between accounts on game distribution platforms).