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Atari’s back catalogue on Steam by June?

Mass import of fresh titles :: May 14th, 2006 :: New products :: 39 Responses (Feed)

Struggling publisher Atari’s new GamersFirst initiative seems set to push either a portion or all of their extensive PC back catalogue onto Steam and Direct2Drive as part of a new budget range (thanks Andy T).

Fahrenheit screenshot
Fahrenheit is a confirmed title…

GamersFirst will begin on June 1st at participating retailers and will include a new price point of $19.99 on all existing console titles…[and] all existing Windows titles (excluding the recently launched Dungeons & Dragons Online). Additionally, all Windows titles included in the program will be available for immediate download at Valve and Direct2Drive, also for $19.99.

Atari’s entire back catalogue going online seems unlikely, not only due to the storage requirements on Content Servers, which would surely stretch into the hundreds of gigabytes on each, but due to the varying license agreements with different developers. It is unlikely (but not impossible) that Epic would be happy with Unreal Tournament 2004 being sold through Steam, for example.

Gamasutra seem to have a proper list of titles, and mention Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy), Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure and Dragonball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi among others. I have requested a list from Atari and will post as much as I can when and if it arrives.

While storage and bandwidth might prove a headache for Valve, recent Steam technology will keep the workload down for Atari and their developers – crucial if a large number of games are to go online. It’s certain that the Steam Virtual Drive will be used to manage each game’s GCF and extracted content, and it is probably possible to feed Steam-generated CD Keys to multiplayer games, keeping their connectivity without requiring Steam integration. Needless to say though, games using this non-intrusive process won’t be protected by VAC. Neither will they stream, but we’re used to that by now.

Wasted opportunities?

Unreal Tournament 2004 screenshot
…but UT2004 is not.

In some ways, it is a shame to see Steam used as a simple download service (assuming of course that Atari don’t pull something wonderful from their hat). What sets Steam apart from Direct2Drive, GameTap and other such services is its residency and emphasis on communication between developers and their players, and players between themselves. Friends, the desktop server browser, VAC, content streaming, Update News and auto-patching are rarely used by developers other than Valve, and the new functionality of Steam 3.0 hasn’t even entered the equation yet.

This is not to lay the blame at the developers’ doorstep: of the third-party games on Steam today, most are largely or purely single-player, and only Red Orchestra and SiN Episodes were developed with Steam in mind. We also have Valve’s acceptance of back catalogues. None of these are ‘bad’ per se, but still, we have to wonder when third-party developers (those developing for Steam from the start, at least) will begin to make full use of the platform’s potential.


39 Responses to this post:

0 Comments

  1. Andy Simpson Says:

    The trend at the moment does seem to be towards games being retrofitted to support Steam rather than intending to use Steam from the get-go and so you get very superficial coupling to the underlying systems.

    It’s to Steam’s credit that it does offer the simple Virtual Drive method as well as a proper Steam API. Triton for example only offers the virtual drive method, which means that it’ll behave really badly if the game can’t stream fast enough i.e. the game will inexplicably grind to a halt when the game finds itself with an unresponsive filesystem. In a similar situation a Source/GoldSrc game would come to a stop, pop up a loading box, and tell you it’s updating Steam resources.

    Anyways, it’s in some ways quite easy to provide a platform (that’s kinda understating how hard it is, but yeh) and the hard part is to get people to use it properly. It is a chronic shame that even Valve themselves don’t use some of the smarts in the system. At least, the smarts I assume are supposed to still be in there…

    Anyways, I can’t see what Epic would be unhappy about. I’m not aware of them having a competing digital distribution service, and as long as they get their royalty, I can’t see how they lose out.

  2. Tom Edwards Says:

    In a similar situation a Source/GoldSrc game would come to a stop, pop up a loading box, and tell you it’s updating Steam resources.

    Well, some of the time. Mostly it would freeze up anyway. Just goes to reinforce your point really.

    Anyways, I can’t see what Epic would be unhappy about. I’m not aware of them having a competing digital distribution service, and as long as they get their royalty, I can’t see how they lose out.

    Valve are a competitor, with Source if not the games. They will also likely get less money per sale than they would at retail with the same price, as Valve’s cut is likely to be higher than any box manufacturer’s. This is a publisher selling, remember.

  3. ATimson Says:

    It’s possible that the games could be updated to support streaming or the server browser; they’re already making some modifications for the Direct2Drive versions, after all, to support its DRM technology. Though if the rumored reasons for this are true (that is, Atari’s looking for some quick cash because they’re basically broke), I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

    Well, some of the time. Mostly it would freeze up anyway.

    The GoldSrc games, at least, stream perfectly in my experience. Source, not so much, but it looks like the reason they don’t work well is simply that Valve got lazy when building the reslists. I haven’t tried it, but Emergence‘s reslists seem fairly conservative, so that streaming should actually work with it too.

    They will also likely get less money per sale than they would at retail with the same price, as Valve’s cut is likely to be higher than any box manufacturer’s.

    Well, that depends on their original contract with Atari; while I know that book contracts are percentage-based, I don’t know whether video game contracts tend to be flat-fee or percentage-based. Regardless, it wouldn’t surprise me if Epic still retains the DD rights; the fact that when they walked away from Atari despite being with them since before the original Unreal, and that they took the IP with them, suggests that they had some fairly good contracts….

  4. Dwarden Says:

    i wonder if better of these games will be available for Cyber Cafes as time progress it seems Valve ignores CC owners (just take quick look into CC forums). And “IF” UT2004 ends on Steam it will be win for Epic ($ and more possible players => more fans for UT2007)

  5. Tom Edwards Says:

    Last I heard, all Steam games are automatically available for licensed cybercafes.

  6. DiSTuRbEd Says:

    This is actually very interesting, I hope Epic jumps onboard, if not I’ll make a trip to see CliffyB(only about 1 hour away from Epic) and force him to do it 😉

  7. Shens Says:

    Sin Episodes has not been released for cybercafes but the original Sin and its multiplayer have been.

    See this list of games for cybercafes.

  8. Cargo Cult Says:

    Yes, but it’s not the real Atari, anyway.

    * hugs his twenty-year-old Atari ST *

  9. Tom Edwards Says:

    Sin Episodes has not been released for cybercafes but the original Sin and its multiplayer have been.

    That’s not intentional.

  10. Bob Says:

    Your comment on your edit to Current Events on the VDC is pure comedy gold …

    Also, yay, Fahrenheit! I can never bring myself to pay full price for adventure games, but that is such an awesome deal for $20.

  11. Tom Edwards Says:

    Heh, thanks.

    Funny thing about Fahrenheit is that it already uses a virtual drive. It’ll be a virtual drive within a virtual drive unless they can merge its functions into Steam’s one.

  12. Dwarden Says:

    what Steam really needs are some big name titles or titles with huge fan base (like Armed Assault from Bohemia Interactive Studios , authors of Operation FlashPoint serie). They still seeking publisher so Steam can be option (but because Steam is still limited to only CreditCards i doubt that happen, i wonder what is taking Valve so long to support PayPal, MoneyBookers, Kagi or direct bank account2account transfers).

  13. Andy Simpson Says:

    I just had a look at the Emergence precache.lst, and it’s surprisingly appaling. The precache list should be the absolute minimum to get you to the menu screen, and possibly the first level, and it’s probably more than that. And if it was including the first level, a far better thing to do would to just reference the reslist of the first level.

    It’s a shame to see such good work wasted for the want of a little more.

  14. hahnchen Says:

    My money is that you’ll get a crappy cut American version of Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy).

  15. Dwarden Says:

    I starting to get worried about Valve approach to Steam. Let’s look e.g. at Xfire You can find 2 sections of forums where users suggest new games and services to be implemented, in moment certain “demand” threshold is reached game support is coded in but of course very popular games gets support automatic. So that give point one where Valve lacks. Steam forums should contain section where we write game names, developers or publishers we want to see and buy on Steam.

    Now i would like tons of older but great games to appear on Steam especially these which were hard to find on stores.
    Like HomePlanet GOLD english (GOLD english version (contain improved3D, multiplayer and HP datadisk) wasn’t yet released even publisher got it finished), NEURO , NEXUS The Jupiter Incident, A.I.M., and list can go on …

    Also i don’t get point why as games on Steam go older can’t price drops closer to 10USD price tag, why we can’t buy multiple games with discount (let say You buy 2 copies of ROO and get 4USD discount or 5 games and get 20 discount etc.).

    Maybe it’s just me but i gets feeling that Valve should be more flexible with Steam. IF they lag way too much MS or Google will drive over them in big style and in 5 years will be Steam just entry in online content delivery history.

  16. Andy Simpson Says:

    Armed Assault would be great. I loved Operation Flashpoint and I’m looking forward to seeing it with good graphics.

    Anyways, just credit cards is better than not getting published at all.

  17. Ulf Jälmbrant Says:

    What do you mean by only credit cards?

    In my experience any standard bank card with visa works.

  18. Ally Says:

    they dont use paypal and the like because its not secure enough for valve to want to use it

    and other companys have to approach steam aswell as them going to find games to publish

    and from what ive seen vavle only takes about 20% of profits while the big publishers like EA take 70%

  19. Dwarden Says:

    @Ulf this world is not just CC You know there are people who refuse to use CC or who don’t see point them as they expensive because of banks in theirs country or just not in reach at all …

    @Ally that’s why i named 3 online payment services and not just PayPal …
    anyway PayPal is for sure enough secure to finish cash transfer and that’s all what’s needed and if any of 3 named not enough then bank account2account should be supported as option for these w/o cards …
    why other companies should approach Valve hell Valve should act proactive too if not then my rating for them just dropped again …
    about % that’s for now strong point for Valve but in moment more services open this change …

  20. ATimson Says:

    PayPal may be secure for the user, but it’s not for Valve; there’s zero fraud protection unless physical goods are involved. Which, in the case of Steam, they aren’t.

  21. hahnchen Says:

    Paypal also take a larger cut of the money in comparison to “proper” banks.

    Steam should so accept Switch/Maestro though, it’s easily more popular than Visa Electron in Europe for debit card transactions. The only reason I still keep one of my accounts open is because I use the crappy card for Steam.

    It’s a shame we’re not seeing any new third party games for Steam. But I’m guessing that the publishers want to get a big as cut as possible in retail before dumping it onto the networks. I really hope that Steam doesn’t just turn into a backcatalogue of games that have stopped making money in retail.

  22. Tom Edwards Says:

    [Comment ID #885 Will Be Quoted Here]

    Lack of merchant protection is understandable, but corruption isn’t. Stay far far away…

  23. Sarkie Says:

    [Comment ID #873 Will Be Quoted Here]

    I had a talk to one of the Ritual guys about this Andy, they said in play testing that the testers could sometimes outrun the precache, so they just cached the first few levels, so it didnt.

    So no need to be worried, they seem to know the Source engine pretty well.

    Sarkie

  24. Dwarden Says:

    fine if PayPal is not “worthy” out why ignore others e.g. MoneyBookers.com (which allows me actually work not just with CC but can act as proxy between with my bank account and Valve bank account and that’s quite HARDER to steal or fake than CC) or Kagi etc.

    Moneybookers is already used for shopping for years. You can see names like Skype there too 🙂

  25. Bill Says:

    Third Party Devs can’t make use of Steam v3.0 until Valve provides the ability to. Right now Thrid Party can’t make there own news updates for there mod, can’t use content servers for media, can’t use content servers for their own personal updates. All 3.0 currently has done for Third Party would be icons and ability to add links to manual.

  26. Dwarden Says:

    in other words , 3rd party Devs should turn to use http://www.vapour-online.com/ , free Steam like mod online delivery system ….

  27. Tom Edwards Says:

    I should have seen this one coming…in this context, ‘third party’ is someone selling their game over Steam who is not Valve. Mods are a whole different ball game.

  28. hahnchen Says:

    I reckon Vapour’s business model is to attract x amount of users then go looking for some big company to take them over. I’m not sure it’s going to work, how many people actually use Vapour? And what does it offer? For me, it seemingly offers nothing.

  29. Dwarden Says:

    hahnchen it works quite fine for supported mods but show me better one working now… plus it’s usage is limited as not many mod developers know about it at all …
    anyway maybe You know that Xfire is looking into online distribution of not just demos or updates but also game mods / addons and maybe games itself too. Again i remember when Xfire started that everyone predicted they going down soon yet they settled lawsuit with Yahoo (or call it victory) and sold self to Viacom

  30. hahnchen Says:

    You’ve pretty much mirrored my post at CSNation when it was announced that XFire had managed to sell out for loads of money. Thing is, I always thought Xfire was going to succeed and thought it’d turn into another Steam-like system (which it inevitably will). I don’t see the same happening for Vapour, no way on the same scale as other GAMEY-like acquisitions.

    How does the vapour system work? Are the patches released and applied like Steam? Who supplies the bandwidth? It’s just that compared to competitors, it lacks the big names and games. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if BlackMesa:Source is Vapour only, kalashnikovo is on both teams.

  31. Kadayi Says:

    Fahrenheit, now there is a game that screamed out to be made using the Source engine…

    I hope that Valve come up with a decent interface solution to tackle the ever increasing number of games that are going to be available via steam,as it annoys me already that ‘my games’ features Buttons for demos of games I either own, or have no interest in.

  32. Tom Edwards Says:

    It shouldn’t be too long before we see a Demo tab. It’s not exactly a difficult change to make. 🙂

  33. Kadayi Says:

    My fear is that the stripped down Steam interface might well turn into one great big pile of bloatware unless Valve start tackling these issues fairly soon.

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