Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What iTunes could learn from Steam

I feel like to some, I might come off as a bit of a hypocrite, because I always say how much I detest DRM, but then I turn around and praise Steam (well, the content delivery....not the application). So here's my brief chance to explain.
It's weird because I've never liked buying digital music. There's something about owning a physical copy of something that gives me a sense of security. If my computer ever goes kapoot, I have all my CDs saving my music. Yeah, you can burn them yourself, but something is nice about having the authentic cover and the booklet and all that.
I'm getting sidetracked. Here's a laydown of how I viewed Steam and iTunes:
  • Product is cheaper than buying the physical copy
    In every online music store, buying the tracks is a few dollars cheaper than buying the CD. Steam has killer deals all the time so you can almost always get the game you want for a lower price than the hard copy, if you don't mind waiting a little while.
  • Product can only be used in one program
    Unfortunately, this is the case with both. It's a much, much larger problem with iTunes since music files have a range of uses and there are dozens of other media playing applications that could make use of them. Steam is a little less of a deal since you don't necessarily have many other choices.
  • Product must be registered online before being used
    Yup, both have this in common. You can't play games or listen to music until you've registered them. This is actually more of a deal for Steam than it is for iTunes.
It seems they are so alike! How can I ever defend my position? Well, here's the single, huge tipping point:
  • Product is credited to your account, meaning you can re-download whenever you want
    Does iTunes have this? I don't think so. See, with iTunes, you are paying for security, but it's not your security. It's Apple's, or the music industry's. You could buy $5000 worth of music on your account, your hard drive crashes, and Apple just says "tough luck." With Steam, I've already bought several hundred dollars worth of games, and if my hard drive ever explodes, I'm calm-cool-collect, cause it's all in the cloud.
    [UPDATE 10-26-10]
    Guess who has this? Amazon. Yes, if Amazon keeps track of all the MP3s you buy and let's you re-download them whenever you want, wherever you want. This is just one more reason people should use Amazon instead of iTunes.
That's basically what did it for me. With iTunes, I'm basically being tied down with DRM, with no benefit to me. With Steam, yeah, it's got DRM. But to balance it out, my DRMed games are always backed up. Now I realize that music companies hate the idea of always having music you payed for ( because that's really unreasonable, right? ) but honestly, who in their right mind is going to say "Man! I just lost 1 TB of DRMed music! I guess I better go buy it all again!" Hell no. If they're even in the slightest bit tech savvy, they are going to say "I bought this, I own it" and go pirate the music they had before. iTunes wouldn't lose any customers from storing records for their customers; they'd gain them. Why? Because I would use a service that backed up my music! (Even with this though, I would never use iTunes because iTunes still uses a low bitrate, and my distrust for Apple is proportional to Steve Job's ego.)
However, I feel like I should add this. One reason I hadn't accounted for before choosing Steam:
  • The Program sucks
    This is most definitely true for both, but probably more for Steam, as much as I hate to admit it. I hate iTunes because it's slow, intrusive, and resource intesive. But it does what it's meant to do (play music/videos). Steam has continually screwed me over when it comes to games being unplayable or not being able to connect me to a game. It's definitely something to take into consideration, and I'm damn well hoping that Valve puts on their big kid boots and starts actually making changes.
On an ending note, here's a message to both companies:
  • Apple: If you want to really get a good music store, give everyone a license to the songs they buy, so they can download them anywhere, anytime on authorized devices.
  • Valve: If you fixed your sucky client, you'd have the best system ever. In anything. Ever. Do it. Now.
PS - If you wonder why there's been so many whitespaces in my posts, it's not because I'm trying to add drama. Apparently both Blogpress and Zoundry go crazy with the returns.
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