Skip to main content

Should Microsoft bring more games to Steam? Here are the pros and cons

Last week, Microsoft and THQ Nordic worked together to bring five Microsoft exclusive titles to Steam, Valve's PC gaming service. This has spawned a discussion in the gaming community about whether or not Microsoft should continue this direction with other titles. Here are the pros and cons of that happening.

Pros: Outreach, profit, and PC authority

If exclusives, especially popular ones like The Master Chief Collection or Gears of War 4 came to Steam, they would likely gain a lot of traction. Earlier this year. PC Gamer reported that Steam had 18 million players online at once, and Steam's own site advertises 100 million active accounts. Considering this is almost double the active user base of Xbox Live, bringing these games to Steam is a huge opportunity for franchise outreach.

Selling to this many people also opens the door for Microsoft to make a large profit, too. This is especially true for anything Halo related, as PC-only gamers have been waiting to play Halo 3 and beyond ever since the release of Halo 2 Vista in 2007. Lastly, moving exclusives to Steam could help Microsoft repair their damaged relationship with PC players, who, for good reason, have been extremely dissatisfied with the Microsoft Store.

Read: Mod support for Xbox could be coming

Cons: Royalties, weaker console authority

While the opportunity for profit is there for Microsoft, Valve does force publishers to give a portion of sales revenue to them, and that's a large factor. A legal case involving SEGA and THQ in 2013 revealed that the specific amount Valve takes is 30%. There's no information on whether or not that has changed, but there isn't reason to think it has.

Additionally, this would weaken Microsoft's authority in the console market. Xbox One is already losing the battle with PlayStation 4 in terms of exclusives, so bringing the ones it does have to Steam would effectively be making the issue worse. It could be argued that Xbox already does that with Xbox Play Anywhere, but mainstream knowledge of the Microsoft Store's existence is in short supply, and those that are aware of it, generally know how bad it is.

Read: Xbox can play the long game with exclusives, but not forever

Conclusion: Bring them to Steam down the line

Ultimately, I think Microsoft should bring exclusive titles to Steam a few years after they release on Xbox. While Valve's royalty fees are unfortunate for Redmond, exposing franchises to over 100 million active users is worth it in the long run, both financially and authoritatively. While it is true that more Steam releases will weaken the Xbox One's competitiveness, most games don't remain system sellers two or three years post-launch anyway.

Besides, Microsoft has been leaning towards a multiplatform focus for a while now. They should capitalize on the potential that Valve's service brings to the table.

Your thoughts

What do you think Microsoft should do in regards to Steam? Let me know in the comments.

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.

39 Comments
  • Only with crossplay. Otherwise no.
  • That should be a given, but since everyone is for crossplay except Sony, that should not be an issue.
  • As far as I know crossplay between a Windows Store game and a Steam game is still not that easy. Just take a look at Halo Wars.
  • If Microsoft wants to compete with Steam it needs to either 1) Separate games from Windows Store into dedicated Xbox PC app. 2) Purchase a proxy which stands a better chance of competing against Steam like Discord which is now selling games. Of course the problem with the proxy method is that to avoid the MS kiss of death Discord would have to operate as a standalone entity in MS completing against the Windows Store & Skype. Now there is nothing wrong with bringing games to Steam a while later after they released on MS portals but it also reveals the weakness in MS's own position on the PC.
  • Put real effort into fixing the issues with the Store and provide unique benefits and promote the hell out of it. Good ideas can easily fail with lack of commitment from the company who created them. Sadly, that has been Microsoft's history, over and over, and I don't think they believe it. Microsoft seems to think that they wisely pulled the plug on things that weren't working, rather than recognizing that they weren't working because Microsoft never communicated confidence in them. That said, adding a game to Steam when it's no longer new (only in the MS Store when it is new) would be an acceptable compromise.
  • Microsoft should not forget GOG; why bring it to Steam and not to GOG as well. That is a huge oversight.
  • I agree. GOG is a great platform. They could bring to both.
  • I HIGHLY doubt Microsoft would utilise GoG due to its open nature.
  • All Microsoft published games are going to Gamepass. I don't see why they can't release on Steam as well at the same time. There's always going to be people who will never buy consoles this opens the door to get more people to make games because you have a choice
  • I don't what the article has to do with what you stated. Currently you can buy GoW on the Microsoft Store which is currently on the PC ecosystem. Why should they sell games on Steam?
  • Steam is an arrogant platform and shall have a slow death. Unlike Microsoft's low one-time fee Steam charges $100 per game!! That's absolutely absurd and will -hopefully- lead more and more developers to embrace the Windows 10 Store instead.
  • Arrogant? Slow death? $100 per game?? What are you talking about?
  • There’s a $100 fee to publish games on Steam.
  • Is that a lot of money?
  • Depends on how good their game is.
  • How much does Microsoft charge?
  • Don't know if it's the same as the app developer license but it should be free for a year.
  • The real question is, Should Microsoft bring more games FROM Steam…
  • I think they should continue to improve the Windows Store and the viability of Play Anywhere.
  • They haven’t done much improvement to begin with. It’s only marginally better than it was a year ago.
  • Microsoft should just buy Steam. Problem solved
  • That's how I feel too
  • Bad move. Major publishers are moving to their own launchers more and more and that means not having their games on Steam. EA is not on Steam (it has also added EA Origin Access Premier and EA Streaming coming soon). Bethesda is moving away from Steam. Ubisoft has their own game launcher and although still also sells on Steam, the question may be for how long? I see this trend continuing with other publishers. Why give 20 to 30% to a middleman when you can easily take that revenue yourself? It is not like Steam controls the OS it is on (like Apple with its store) and can force usage of the system. The trend is away from Steam/GOG not towards Steam/GOG for the big publishers. Steam will be made up of small (some medium) and indie games in five years time.
  • @Brad and @Avalanchian
    And how is this good for gaming and gamers?
    Isn't competition good for consumers?
    unless ofc you're not a consumer and your priority is MS.
  • 30% cut. Isn't that a standard amonst app stores? Apple's App Store, Android's Play Store, Microsoft Store, Steam... they all charge 30% which I personally think is a rip off. Hosting the app download doesn't cost that much...
  • It is, but in the context of this discussion it’s relevant because Microsoft doesn’t have to pay that fee on the MS Store. They can’t pay themselves royalties. But they would have to pay them to Steam.
  • I would love for Microsoft to take even just one series and make it truly only available on Xbox in order to incentivize people to buy their consoles, or even stagger game releases so that there’s a window where console gamers get it first, otherwise PC will always be the way to play, even for people who prefer consoles like myself.
  • Building a PC to play a game like GoW is going to cost you an arm and a leg in comparison to just buying a Xbox 1 S.
  • Steam have several benefits, however, I think the platform is to dominant considering it's also a store. I know several people refusing to buy if it's not on steam, and even if I see how nice it is to have all games in one library, I have begun buying outside the steam store or trough other launchers if possible. My wish is a launcher with game library not connected to one single store.
  • Pro for Steam: Remember Games for Windows Live? How many PC games are unusable because of that? Some publishers allowed you to transfer your keys to steam, but not everyone. Cons for steam: no play anywhere support. Granted, I love the ease of use with the Windows store. Also would love a single repository for my games, but like TV, everyone wants their own service now.
  • Different services are good though. Best hot have all your eggs in one basket. What if Steam were to shut down. You never know they could be found to have been breaking some law there and get their service shut down... Gabe could suddenly decide to shut it all down. It may be going strong right now but it's not guaranteed that it will always be running. Plenty of big businesses have fallen before because of silly things.
  • A few reasons why I never spend more than £20 dollars on a digital game. I more than happy to spend more than that on bundles providing I get atleast multiple games in that bundle or during sales i'll spend £15 but only with games I want to play and as many as I can get within £15. Last steam sale I got all classic fallout titles for less than £5. I have fallout 2 on a (soldout games) cd somewhere but it's not patched and there aren't many working links for fallout 1 or 2 editiors out there so I can't manually patch them myself.
  • While this would be great and think they need to. What I really want to see is the opposite. And even more than MS selling more games, more Steam and the Windows Store merging/integrating. This of course doesn't make business sense, but would be great for consumers and PC gaming. Even if MS makes near to nothing, seems their store and Windows need it. I can dream, right?
  • MY thoughts? Microsoft should bring more games to their store, more specifically more Play Anywhere games. Also bring more of these to Xbox Game Pass for PC subscriptors.
  • Like or not 100% microsoft store user use windows and most of steam user use windows as their main operating sustem too
  • To be honest. I think that most copies are sold through their own store. And there are going to be people that just won't buy from the MS store, either through the lack of knowledge that it's there, or those that refuse to upgrade to Windows 10 for whatever reason. Be it their hardware won't run Win10, or they have some wired anxiety about the "spying" that Win10 does... So it's smart for them to release on Steam right now. The wait is so long before that steam release anyway that they've pretty much made as much as they can from their own store. They only need to sell like 6 copies of a game to make a profit. All they also need to just undercut on their own store by 20% and it could draw a few more people over. All in all I don't see it as a bad thing, unless they were releasing things day one on Steam, then I would get worried. But lime someone else has said... Devs are slowly bringing their own stores to life.
  • I agree with your conclusion, Brendan in bringing the games to steam and gog later down the line. As that is the only viable alternative compared to losing massive console advantages overnight. I would say bring cross play titles to steam + gog, xbox exclusive games bring them to the Microsoft store only via xbox play anywhere and multiplatform titles will be multi-platforms already so there isn't much to do on that front other than bring them to Gog. In regards to xbox play anywhere I would love to buy a physical disk and play that on PC and my xbox or: -they could make it that once you have attached the disk to your gamer tag
    - then you can download the digital copy from the store on the console. However to prevent people from attaching the games to their gamer account and returning the disk for another game or refund so to run the game therefore you to play the game you will have to have the disk in the console - therefore effectively no different than how you normally use a game disk on a console. The other measure is to have a disk check - meaning once in a while you will have to run the game with a disk. Any other method of DRM is cumbersome and only affects gamers not pirates. The other alternative is to sell games via usb or a gamer key but that has soo many other issues with that methodology.
  • I'd be quite happy if PC went back to not having stores at all, but that's never going to happen.
  • As far as I can see, Microsoft is willing only to left games developed by second parties and a few smaller games, such as Spartan Assault, The former seems to be a nice way to help second party developers to increase their profits. The latter improve the awareness of their brands. However, to place a proper Halo or Gear of Wars would only decrease the value of Xbox and the Windows Store, which are strategic assets to Microsoft. What surprise me is how little Microsoft seems to push independent developers to place their game in the Windows store.