A Comparison Guide: Direct2Drive vs. Steam

I used to reprove of any kind of digital distribution. But when I was forced to buy a digital game through Steam, after being snowed in last winter, my opinions of it have drastically changed. I must admit that getting games this way has made my life a bit easier. I don't have to waste gas, space and time anymore. Now, most of my games are acquired electronically.

There are plenty of digital game distributors online, including the EA store and GameStop. But two of the largest distributors right now are definitely Steam and Direct2Drive (D2D). I have used both services to buy my games online and I'm generally pleased with them. While both services have their own pros and cons, I have a much better experience using one of them. So which one do I think is better? Is it Steam or Direct2Drive? Read on.


User Interface
Steam have a better interface than D2D, hands down. Its downloadable client have a lot of nice features such as gameplay stats, leaderboards and an achievements system that will enhance your gaming experience. A friends list is also available and it allows you to keep track of what your friends are playing or if they're online. The only thing I don't like about the client is that it's a bit of a resource hog (it's eating up 25 Mb of memory while I'm writing this post).

On the other hand, D2D only have a download manager. While it's not a resource hog like the Steam client, it is also featureless and as flat as a board. D2D, however, has a much better organization of their games catalog. Not only you can browse by genre, like Steam, but you can also browse by price -a nice thing for frugal gamers. Games with recently dropped prices are also highlighted on their website.

When it comes to pricing, I think both services are tied. I've used both Steam and Direct2Drive and have bought games from either services. They always have some insane deals going on, cutting the prices of their games up to 50% off or even 75% off. Depending on the deals, sometimes a game would be much cheaper in Steam than D2D and vice versa. They also carry cheap bundle deals, which I really like a lot. So I suggest visiting both sites to compare prices before buying a game.

Having been in the digital distribution gig for 5 years, D2D definitely have a slight advantage over Steam when it comes to a larger catalog. In addition to its huge library of PC games, D2D also carries Mac games, game guides by Prima and the ever popular Girls of Gaming magazine. But that doesn't mean Steam have an unimpressive games library. In fact, some games that I wanted to buy are only exclusive on Steam (Valve games such as Portal, Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2). As far as I know, the only games available on D2D that I couldn't find on Steam are World of Warcraft, Ultima Online, Neverwinter Nights 2, pre-order of Champions Online and some rated A (adult) games.

I've never had any problems getting games from Steam and D2D since both services have a speedy and reliable checkout process. As for downloading the games, I have a much better experience with Direct2Drive than Steam. I always have a steady speed that averages at 2 Mb/sec on Direct2Drive. However, my Steam download speed only averages at 1 Mb/sec. I've even seen speeds as slow as 300 Kb/sec. But after downloading, you get to play the game right away on Steam. Using D2D, you have yet to install the game before you can even play it.

With all said and done, I prefer using Steam over Direct2Drive. It maybe a resource hog or even download games slower than D2D. But my experience with its features have been really enjoyable and outweighs its misgivings. While I will continue to use D2D, I will always go to Steam first to check out if the game is available, if it includes a "Steam Achievements" feature (like with Empire: Total War and Defense Grid) or if it's much cheaper. As for the games library, with the continuing support of publishers, I don't doubt that Steam will overtake D2D sometime soon.

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Anonymous said...

Interesting post, but I dont really see how a 25 meg memory footprint matters in this day and age. Relative to cost and typical memory sizes it's insignificant. Steam includes a full web browser (based of IE I think) and a Instant messaging client. I also think you under-emphasized some of steams best features like the in game overlay that lets you browse the web even in games that normally don't like being switched out of full screen.