Digital Rights Management (DRM) relates to the ownership of digital assets. Initially, Steam was a major development in terms of digital rights for game developers, who could gain exposure to a wider audience without having to go to a large publishing company. These companies would typically take an unnecessary percentage of profits.
Traditionally, these developers have seen a tiny fraction of profits, the same way that performing artists often only receive a small percentage despite doing all the work. But even now, developers are still not getting what they should be getting, and Steam has some DRM issues.
Steam DRM issues
Steam provides an easy platform for smaller projects to get their games to a larger audience. It is the most integrated digital rights management service available in many respects, offering unlimited copies of games on unlimited machines, though only one player can use one account at a time.
But it does have a number of caveats which blockchain could help with. Gamers cannot use the account on more than one computer at a time, cannot rent activated games, cannot lend them to others, and cannot sell them. And if the platform is down, players cannot access their games. However, tying one account to one game is primarily how Steam enforces DRM in the first place.
Many developers are unhappy with Valve Corporation (Steam) from many angles. It has gotten more difficult to make a profit in recent years. With over 6,000 games launched in 2017 alone, the market is saturated, and only a small percentage of the 10,000 registered developers actually make a profit.
How could blockchain help Steam?
Blockchain can have many benefits to Steam, and not just in terms of DRM. Blockchain would diminish the risk of hacked accounts with its inherent security features. The gaming industry is worth billions of dollars, and customers purchase multiple in-game items. Statistics, scores, personal information, and leadership tables need to be securely maintained. Blockchain would help with the issue of user tradability, handing full ownership to customers, as well as and with all aspects of payment processing and digital rights management.
Blockchain can help developers to get more secure and regular payments. It would also resolve issues such as distribution and publishing fees, restrictions, and arbitrary selection. Blockchain has the capacity to empower developers, so they have more autonomy over their games.
Itch.io is an open marketplace for developers which focuses on independent games. The seller has complete autonomy over the sale of the game on the platform. Game creators are fully empowered. When itch.io launched, it took 0% of all transactions. Sellers have the option to contribute whatever they want to Itch when sales are made, even zero. Valve (Steam) takes a 30% cut, though there are customizable contracts.
Game Loot Network (GLN) is also attempting to replace Steam with a social gaming platform built on DLT and using a cryptocurrency-based reward system.
There is also a strong case for developers going DRM free. One company, Flying Wild Hog, abandoned DRM, focused on delivering an awesome game (Shadow Warriors 2) and quadrupled its sales. While this is an outlier, options are there.
Will Blockchain Replace Stream?
As opposed to asking why steam needs blockchain, it is possibly better to ask if blockchain will end up replacing Steam. After all, the whole purpose of blockchain, in every industry, is to remove middlemen of all kinds, especially when they take an excessive cut (bankers, lawyers, marketers, insurance companies, governments, accountants, etc).
If gamers are able to get their games to the market for free, then it will render Steam obsolete. Like all industries, Steam will have to adapt and integrate blockchain. It does not have a choice, and blockchain is the future of gaming.
Digital Nomad with an interest in Zen and Blockchain technology.
Law graduate with 3 years experience as a consultant in the capital markets industry and 4 years experience freelancing on UpWork as a Creative Writer.