A lot of PC players tend to get pretty uppity about the fact that companies are trying to maximize their profits and keep closer control over their games by requiring the use of an exclusive launcher. For the most part, I don’t mind having to open a different executable to play my games, but some recent developments have made me shift my stance a little.
Looking at my desktop I have six different launchers for my various games. Steam, Origin, Uplay, Epic, Xbox, and the latest addition, Rockstar. But that isn’t even half of the available ways to buy and launch my games. It seems like it would be a lot to manage, but it really never presented itself as much of an issue to me. That is, until Red Dead Redemption 2 launched and required authentication through their launcher.
Here’s the series of events that transpires when I try to launch Red Dead Redemption 2, a game I know isn’t going to work properly:
I’ll click the desktop shortcut, only to be met with a fatal error because I had the audacity to try and use said shortcut. I’ll then open up the Rockstar Launcher and log in because it never remembers my credentials. I’ll click the big, “Play on Epic” button that appears, because I bought Red Dead Redemption 2 through the Epic Games Store. The focus shifts to Epic for a moment, then back to Rockstar, then a windows notification asking me if I’m truly certain I want to play the game.
Finally the game will launch, I’ll play for 5 minutes before the frame rate hitching becomes enough of a burden, and quit.
It’s like a 5 minute wind up to play a game that doesn’t work. These are two separate issues admittedly, but its enough to make me rethink this whole “everyone has a launcher business”.
I’m also not saying that Steam should be the de facto launcher and be the only player in town. Every publisher wants control over their product, and wants the biggest slice of profits they can get. Sure Epic is doing an 88/12 split on revenue, but if I bought a game available on the Epic store on the publisher’s storefront, that’s 100% of the take right there. The business behind launchers makes sense.
There are two main categories of launcher in my eyes. The first is the publisher specific ones like Uplay or Origin. Then the second are the storefronts like Steam and Epic. I know those last two make their own games, but the volume of third party games on them warrants the separation. So I decided it would be fun to list off every launcher I can think of, just to give you a visual idea of how many of these damn things there are.
- Uplay (Ubisoft)
- Origin (EA)
- Blizzard.net (Blizzard)
- Rockstar (Rockstar)
- Xbox Game Pass (Microsoft)
- Bethesda (Bethesda)
There’s definitely more of these that I can’t think of at the moment.
- Steam (Valve)
- Epic Games Store (Epic)
- Discord (Discord)
- Itch.io (Itch.io)
- GOG Galaxy (GOG)
- Windows Store (Microsoft)
- Twitch (Twitch)
Once again, there are more that I can’t think of at this moment.
But take a moment to consider the fact that there are now several different launchers for organizing your various games spread out across different launchers. Seriously, check out this list.
I’m not complaining about having to use different launchers to play different games. It usually requires me to click a different icon and nothing more. But in the case of Red Dead Redemption 2 and Rockstar, all it seems to have done is add more points of failure to the experience, and that’s my biggest fear with this stuff.
If I buy a game on Steam that needs to authorize through Uplay, but Uplay’s authentication servers are down, that’s a hassle. That’s my biggest issue with all of this. I just want to play my games as obstacle free as I can, but with this endless fragmentation of storefronts and publishers, I think we’re just going to have to get used to these hurdles for a while.