Rahul is a video game addict who can't get enough of stealth games like "Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory" and "MGS 5."
Steam: The Gaming Industry Giant
Many people regard Steam as the be-all and end-all of digital video game stores, and for good reason. The well-renowned store boasts user account figures of over 1 billion and over 100 million active monthly users, accompanied by an impressive catalog of over 50,000 games.
Despite that, many companies are unfazed by the staggering popularity of the platform and wish to compete against it. Some of these competitors arguably provide a better overall package and offer unique features and exclusive titles in an effort to step up to the industry-leading giant.
Steam initially started as a launcher for Valve’s early titles like Half-Life and Counter-Strike. Thus, who is to say another service couldn’t achieve the same feat.
So, for the purpose of trying to unearth the next potential big competitor to Steam, I've compiled a list of the best Steam alternatives worthy of a look.
Alternatives to Steam
- Epic Games Store
- Game Jolt
- Humble Bundle
- Green Man Gaming
- Microsoft Store
- Xbox App
1. Epic Games Store
Although the Epic Games Store started as a mere launcher for Epic titles such as Fortnite, they quickly capitalized on the astounding popularity of their game and initiated their venture. In their bid to compete with Steam, Epic started nicking several exclusives before the full-fledged version of the store had even been released, effectively making it the talking point of many headlines and gaming spaces.
Criticized for its lackluster features and seemingly rushed user interface, it seemed at the time as if they were way over their heads, with their new business venture doing more harm than good. However, as time went on, Epic made some massive overhauls to the platform, mixing in more exclusive titles, hard-to-ignore sales offers, weekly free games, and promotional campaigns.
With how things are going, it would be no surprise to see the Epic Games Store boasting similar numbers to those of Steam in the near future. After all, the two platforms had a very similar beginning. History does repeat itself, albeit seldomly.
I think we’ve all heard of GOG at least a few times. Whether it was during your hunt for some retro games or when the news surfaced that CD Projekt acquired the rights to the platform, it’s no wonder that GOG is included in this list. Originally founded with the purpose of giving gamers an easy outlet to purchase older DRM-free titles, the platform has since expanded its reach and now boasts a diverse catalog of both modern and retro games.
Unfortunately, the platform being DRM-free means that many publishers like EA, Ubisoft, and 2K will never consider partnering with GOG, at least for their latest blockbuster entries. Don’t expect to find any modern titles from any of them on GOG.
Nevertheless, GOG is now looking to expand its reach even further with its very own desktop client by the name of Galaxy, which removes the need for the player to install every single launcher by integrating every game from all of your libraries into GOG Galaxy. Many other features have been promised in the hopes that it would allow them to compete more with other stores. It would be remiss not to keep a keen eye on its progression.
It’s no shocker that with modern AAA titles feeling rushed and incomplete with an ungodly amount of in-game purchases and microtransactions, a lot of gamers feel more inclined to play games that were made by gamers alike.
Itch.io offers just that. Millions of indie developers upload their work onto itch.io for others to play and enjoy, many of which are completely free, with some making it to the mainstream platforms. Not to mention the Game Jams hosted on the website, where indie developers make games from scratch within a limited time frame in an effort to win a monetary prize. The potential for itch.io is limitless, and with some of their initiatives, such as their desktop client, they’ll only continue to increase their user count.
Speaking of their desktop client, it promises to tackle many of the issues currently present in the web version of the store, such as the mess that can occur when you frequently download games from the website. Seeing as the games come in the form of either executables or zip files, you can clutter your pc with useless installers that serve to only hamper your user experience. With the client, however, the experience is seamless.
The amount of ‘shovelware’ present on the site can really have you spend hours upon hours browsing and installing games until you find something of value, but the client promises to decrease as much of that as possible.
4. Game Jolt
The mainstream gaming scene is often criticized for being too predatory and profit-focused. That’s where sites like Itch.io and Game Jolt come into play. Seeing as we’ve already delved into the former, we’ll now discuss the latter.
Game Jolt is home to a vast number of indie games, neatly organized into separate categories, such as horror, action, RPG, platformer, and a peculiar category dedicated exclusively to FNaF style games.
Additionally, Game Jolt enjoys a massive following that fuels its varied communities, ranging from Minecraft, FNaF to 3D art. It also facilitates interactions within the website via dedicated, well-maintained, community features, chat rooms, and forums.
In short, if you love indie games or want to dip your toes in something new and refreshing, Game Jolt is the place to go.
5. Humble Bundle
You’ve most likely heard of Humble Bundle before, be it for their great deals, their pay-what-you-want-system, or their charity work. They’ve created a name for themselves in the gaming sphere through years of operation.
As the name would suggest, they offer monthly themed bundles that include but are not limited to, games, eBooks, music, and software for very competitive prices, alongside standalone items, usually in the form of game keys or the occasional direct download.
Their membership system allegedly provides you with a total value of $171, consisting of discounts, free games, and many other perks, for the low price of $12 per month.
On the other hand, their subscription-based service, Humble Trove, bestows a collection of nearly 100 DRM-free titles for all subscribers. It may seem unlikely that Humble Bundle would compete with Steam, but I still think it’s worth visiting.
Much like Humble Bundle, Fanatical offers large collections of games bundled together and sold at astonishing prices. Initially starting with the name Bundle Stars, they later renamed their venture Fanatical in an effort to make the name more marketable and easier to remember.
Thankfully, the name change didn't bring about a business model reevaluation, as the store continued to dish out video game bundles for colossal discounts of up to 99% off the games’ original price.
Nevertheless, Fanatical is not limited to bundles. They also offer standalone games and DRM-free games at similarly steep discounts. On top of that, the store is also host to what they’ve named, a Star Deal, which consists of an especially procured game at a heavily discounted price.
On a minor note, Fanatical offers real-time price conversion. So you’ll know exactly how much you’re paying, irrespective of your currency.
G2A is more of a community-run marketplace than a video game store, but it still offers the same features you’d expect from your run-of-the-mill digital store. As you would imagine, G2A is primarily a video game marketplace, where users can sell, buy and trade game keys from all platforms, be it Steam, Uplay, Epic, or Origin.
G2A, like many mentioned on this list, offers extreme discounts quite often. However, the store’s huge popularity can be attributed to its more creative interpretation of what a marketplace could be. It attempts to set itself apart from other similar services with a plethora of features, with the most popular being Random Key Offers, where users can choose one or multiple steam keys at random.
Its G2A Goldmine Program offers you the chance to earn money while playing your favorite video games— a system in which you are rewarded for posting referral links on your social media.
G2A is far from limited to video games, offering an ocean of other products, both digital and physical. Gaming hardware, tabletop games, gift cards, subscriptions, collectibles, toys, apparel, and accessories are also up for grabs on their website.
8. Green Man Gaming
At a first glance, nothing strikes us as special about Green Man Gaming. It offers retail price video games with the odd discount here and there, holiday sales, cheap bundles, etc. You get the gist. Fetch a bit deeper and you’ll start to find Mac games alongside the usual PC games. A bit more and you’ll find early access games for some of the most anticipated titles.
Green Man Gaming also promotes an irresistible service for indie game lovers, providing a constantly changing line-up of best indie games on sale for up to 90% off their original retail price.
Green Man Gaming is looking to further expand its reach by founding a console-streaming platform. Though it's still not fully materialized. So, don’t expect it to be up and running any time soon.
9. Microsoft Store
Microsoft has ventured into one too many industries to count, all in an effort to retain their domination over the tech industry, and maximize their reach and profit. As the providers of the most popular operating system, with the most concurrent user, it comes as no surprise that they would attempt to overtake Steam in popularity.
Technically, Microsoft Store is the most popular digital store on Windows devices. However, that’s only due to said store coming pre-installed with every copy of Windows 8 and above. The story changes massively when you compare the store’s number of active monthly users to those of Steam and even other less popular stores.
Microsoft Store used to be a sluggish mess riddled with bloatware and nothing but low-effort mobile games in its library. In its current form, the store is a far cry from its early days, housing several AAA titles (most of which are owned by Microsoft) and a plethora of software and TV entertainment. With Microsft shifting its attention back to the PC gaming market in recent times, things are only looking bright for the Microsoft Store.
10. Xbox App
With Microsoft already making its way into the industry with their Microsoft Store, it’s difficult to gauge where the Xbox App stands in terms of its long-term plan in the industry.
Having said that, it’s a very competent bit of software that was promoted simultaneously with the launch of the Xbox Game Pass for PC. It means that you’ll be greeted by the whole catalog of Xbox Game Pass games upon launching the store. Of course, there is always an option to buy standalone games outright without the need for a Game Pass subscription.
In its current form, it’s really no competition to Steam. Integrated with Microsoft Store and Game Pass, however, the Xbox store is a force to be reckoned with. The huge catalog of games on offer is insane.
With Microsoft acquiring studios like Activision and Zenimex Media, the App Store is only going to provide more bang for your buck in the near future.
When you hear the name Origin, you might recall memories of having to forcefully install the client in order to play FIFA, The Sims, or any other EA title. Back then, Origin had no unique functions and was anything but a valuable game store.
Still, with the rising number of users logging onto Origin to play their favorite EA game, they capitalized on the newly claimed fame and expanded on the store’s feature list, its game library, and its dreaded user interface.
Speaking of which, the clean, elegant look of the new and improved Origin store is nothing like its former self. The much-improved party rooms and chat features allow you to play with your friends without any need for third-party software.
Unsurprisingly, Origin is still largely dominated by EA games and continues to promote said games at any opportunity. Despite that, Origin is also home to many other AAA titles from several other developers and even houses some retro games.
Origin Access, their console-like subscription separates Origin from most other digital stores. For $4.99 a month, the ‘Basic’ version of the service grants you access to over 170 EA titles, making up nearly their entire catalog of games. Should you opt to go for the more expensive ‘Premier’ yearly subscription for $99.99, you’ll get all the benefits of the ‘Basic’ subscription, with the addition of owning recent releases and pre-releases on launch day.
On that front, Origin truly is unrivaled. Should they continue to expand and improve, it could easily find itself among the likes of Steam.
Ubisoft has recently come under heavy fire from gamers for their performance-killing store client in Uplay. The launcher has existed for years now, but only as a sort of double DRM.
Thankfully, Ubisoft has vastly improved its service in a bid to stay relevant, a far cry from its early days. Just like other big giants, Ubisoft has its own digital store. Unfortunately, it's too focused on social hub features. In essence, Uplay is a homogenous mix of community interaction, player rewards, and a video game store.
Uplay, compared to its counterparts, is nowhere near as elegant or attractive. However, its feature-stacked desktop client more than makes up for its aesthetic shortcomings. For instance, Ubisoft Club, one of the many store's offerings, is a play-to-earn initiative where you complete weekly in-game objectives and challenges to earn Club units— something that can then be redeemed for purchasing other games.
Ubisoft also offers Uplay+, a monthly subscription service for $14.99, allowing access to a surplus of 100 games, including new releases, retro games, early access to pre-release games, and much more. Their weekly Wednesday deals, paired up with their 20% club discount on your next purchase, are no slouch either.
Uplay is definitely worthy of a visit, especially if you’re looking to purchase any Ubisoft Studios titles, seeing as it’s painstakingly annoying to get them to run well on Steam.
Blizzard’s Battle.net finds the last spot in this list, and for good reason. The company has been reluctant to address many of the issues surrounding its product. They have only managed to further tarnish their public image, thanks to several accusations of toxic work culture and the predatory nature of their in-game gambling systems. It is very difficult to recommend a product from such a deplorable company. But despite that, it's difficult to overlook the platform.
Expanding massively since its early days after the release of Destiny 2, Battle.net is now home to Overwatch, Call of Duty (all releases), Starcraft, Diablo, and many more. The only downfall for Battle.net is its restricted game library, which is only limited to Blizzard and Activision games.
So, if you're looking to delve into exclusive Activision-Blizzard offerings, Battle.net is the perfect choice for you. Although expect all of the store's exclusive library of games to be available on other platforms like Stram and Microsoft Store along with Game Pass as well, thanks to the recent behemoth acquisition of Activision-Blizzard by Microsoft for 70 Billion dollars.
Did I miss out on any other good Steam alternatives? Please let me know in the comments section.