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Steam vs. GOG Galaxy: Which is better for PC gamers?

Steam GOG
Steam GOG

Steam has dominated the PC game market for many years, but with Valve sitting back and enjoying the rewards that come with owning the most popular PC storefront, there's strong competition brewing on the outer rim. Cue CD Projekt, the company behind not only the massively successful The Witcher series of games but also GOG Galaxy, a storefront competitor to Steam that lets you purchase and enjoy a wide catalog of titles.

GOG has been around since 2008, though the Galaxy client was only released as a beta in July 2015, and Steam has been around since 2003, so Valve has had a head start of around 14 years in the software department and five in selling PC games as a whole. That said, Steam hasn't really changed much over the years aside from the introduction of a few new features like a revamped social system. Because of the sheer number of years it has been around, the Steam catalog of games is vastly larger than that on GOG.

Here's how both services stack up, and the comparison should help when it comes to deciding which platform to support.

At a glance

The two platforms aren't vastly different when it comes to features. There are only a few areas where either storefront comes out on top, but overall it's a fairly even playing field, excluding the massive game deficit of GOG.

CategorySteamGOG
Games126,0002,500
DRMYesNo
RefundsYesYes
AchievementsYesYes
SocialYesYes
Game updatesOptionalOptional
DealsYesYes
Offline playLimitedYes
Regional pricing2NoYes
Cross-platformYesYes
In-game overlayYesYes
Cloud savingYesYes
Mod supportYesNo
Classic supportLimitedYes
Import libraryNoLimited
Activate keysYesYes

1Game counts were accurate (ish) at the time of publication. Sources: Steam and GOG.

2Regional pricing as in the store will refund any differences.

Not out of Steam yet

Steam

Steam

If you want to purchase a game, it'll more than likely be available on Steam. The platform has more than 10,000 games available, which may not sound like a high number for 14 years, but it's a vast collection of PC games and one that leads to many having more games in their libraries then they know what to do with. The client itself does a good job of providing access to the store, the available deals, and everything that is installed or ready for download.

Steam is well known for having some killer deals, and it often partners up with developers and publishers to offer discounts across an entire series of games. It's also incredibly easy to communicate with friends, hop into a game together and enjoy a seamless experience. This is what has helped the platform enjoy having a monopoly on the PC market. That, and the sheer lack of competition.

But things aren't all rosy in the Steam garden. Valve isn't often praised for having solid communication with customers, nor does it seem to actively engage with the community or truly understand the needs and requirements of PC gamers. There have been a number of instances where Steam has come under fire, including a situation surrounding paid mods and, more notably Greenlight (opening the gates of cash-grabs, clones, and asset flips), an issue that Valve has finally started to address.

Steam

Steam

Another problem is the store, which has become a confusing mess to navigate thanks to the number of games that are being added. More and more games are being added each year — and that's a major problem for anyone looking to get past hundreds of listings to find gems. However, that hasn't stopped many gamers from looking up to Valve Founder Gabe Newell as a religious figure within the PC gaming community.

If you're a gamer who wants to build a large collection of games, it's probably worth considering Steam for its massive catalog. The added benefit of built-in modding support, achievements, cross-platform support, social integration, and more make it a well-rounded and established experience.

Pros:

  • Amazing game catalog.
  • Fantastic sales.
  • Massive community.
  • Baked-in mod support.

Cons:

  • Store can be difficult to navigate.
  • DRM.
  • Questionable moves by Valve.
  • Client is awful old.

Visit Steam

GOG, the new kid on the block

GOG

GOG

For those who prefer quality over quantity, GOG has you covered. With only a few thousand games available on the storefront, it's possible to hit a wall where you find that GOG doesn't have any games you wish to purchase. Games like Outlast 2, Ashes of the Singularity, Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series, and Pillars of Eternity are all listed. But should you want Grand Theft Auto V, Cities: Skylines, Skyrim, Fallout 4, and H1Z1, you're out of luck because they are not currently available.

This is hopefully set to change as GOG forms new partnerships and more publishers and developers bring new titles to the table without requiring intrusive DRM protection. The beauty of GOG, however, is vintage gaming. Take the original Ceaser and Ceaser 2, two superb strategic titles. You can make the purchase and download with the knowledge that the fine folks over at GOG have gone the extra mile to ensure these two games will run without issue.

The community is also engaged in discussions on the official forum, and the new client is starting to take shape. A recent update, which bumped the platform up to version 1.2, was rolled out to introduce new features such as an in-game overlay, screenshots, cloud saves, and more. There's still a lot of ground to cover for GOG if it wishes to tackle Steam for the No. 1 spot in terms of numbers, but the service appears to have its own place to offer a unique experience.

GOG

GOG

There's also no DRM. That means you can install a game using the client and never log back into your account. There's even the option to download backup copies of a game for use on other PCs you own, or if for some reason GOG goes down and it's no longer possible to access servers to retrieve purchased titles. It's a strange feeling to know that you actually own a copy of a release, as opposed to a virtual license that requires some form of checks to ensure you're not doing anything naughty.

As I noted in my piece on why I'm switching from Steam to GOG for future purchases, the company seems to pay attention to its customers and works hard to offer a store with an even playfield. Should you be located in a market where pricing may differ from the U.S. once converted, GOG will make up the difference and provide store credit for a future purchase. It's those little things that make a big difference.

Pros:

  • Excellent levels of support.
  • Regional price matching.
  • No DRM.
  • Clean, user-friendly client and store.

Cons:

  • Not many "AAA" games.
  • Lacks some features, like modding.

Visit GOG

Best of both stores

If you're struggling to make a choice, it may be a good idea to use both platforms. You can check deals on both stores, compare pricing, features and other factors to see which client you'd wish to make that particular purchase with. GOG even offers a neat little tool that offers free copies of games you already have on Steam, depending on developer and publisher participation.

GOG isn't quite there yet, but once the community grows further and more big titles launch, I can see the company taking more painful jabs at Steam. There are also dedicated storefronts and clients managed by publishers, including Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft, and EA. It's difficult to not go about your business without using anywhere up to four or more platforms on PC.

Updated August 10, 2018: We refreshed this article with updated data and a few minor changes.

Rich Edmonds is a word conjurer at Windows Central, covering everything related to Windows, gaming, and hardware. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a device chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

43 Comments
  • Typo in the title
  • also Pirce matching.
  • Ah blalls, my bda. Cheres fro brinnig tihs up! :-P
  • Interesting that Ars Technica published a GOG feature today and even gave way some codes to the original Witcher game. I am not sure if it was a coincidence but I hope it is more a result of GOG trying to reach out more customers. Personally, I allways try to buy a game in GOG before going to Steam but the recent released AAA scene is pretty limited.
  • The shilling is real!
  • I think these are articles are most likely due to the fact that the latest update for GOG Galaxy finally brought it out of beta (released 8 hours ago as of writing)
  • Cool! I'll check it out at home -- no luck acessing GOG at work.
  • Considering the fact that CDProjekt Red who own & develop the Witcher franchise as well as owning GOG.com, it's not at all surprising that the 2 entities are linked during 3rd party deals
  • GOG is cross-platform. I have it installed on my Mac as well as my PC. You can see the download link on the GOG page here - https://www.gog.com/galaxy?pp=2e2a30bb154779e00c75f6f710777bc9f68e33b7
  • Yeah he needs to correct this. They are also working on the Linux version of GOG Galaxy.
  • +1
  • Huh, shit. Had no idea. Cheers for clarification!
  • If you join the Gwent beta, they give out the complete Witcher package of the original game, making of videos, music, sound track, game guide, etc.
  • I thought all Steam games could be played offline.
  • I've been buying games from GOG for years now. I have never bought a game through Steam but I have played games through their client on their servers. I prefer GOG .
  • The client, community and all the other things don't matter to me at this point. DRM does. If a game is on both, I buy it from GOG. If a game comes out on GOG that I previously bought on Steam, I sometimes buy it again on GOG to be free of DRM. Unlike most people, I still believe I should actually own the things I pay for. Steam is great, I have over a hundred games through there but I am completely against DRM. I bet I have purchased about 25 of them again through GOG.
  • Use both... GOG for what they have, Steam for what GOG doesn't
  • Definitely agree with the sentiment about going to GOG first and Steam or somewhere else like Origin if what I want isn't on GOG.  Been using them for years.
  • I use both, but a few mistakes, GoG can be used across multiple platforms and you can disable auto updates on Steam. This had been there for years, but it's not a client wide setting, it's under each game setting and you can select to not allow updates, but what GoG has is the ability to go back updates so if a new update doesn't work you can rollback.
  • Yes you can disable auto-updates on Steam, but you can't play the game (while online) until you update so it's not nearly as good. On GOG you can disable updates and still play the game... online or offline.
  • Doesn't that depend on the game though? Often you just can't connect an older version game to a newer version server
  • Yes
  • Lol updates aren't forced on Steam, this is nonsense.
  • You can add it to not auto-updated, but many games will require it if you want to launch the game. I actually can't play fez right now because it requires an update but the update fails so when I launch it it keeps trying. No way around it. Going to have to re-install it.
  • Best for gamers is GOG. Best for games is steam.
  • GOG does not support anything other than USD.
  • Not true, I've been paying in euros for years. It's true that it's oftentimes more expensive in another currency than USD, but then again so it is with every other store (including Steam). At least GOG is upfront about this and even gives you store credit for the amount you pay more as a user of other currency, so you can use that as a discount with a next purchase.
  • Not true, I've been paying in euros for years. It's true that it's oftentimes more expensive in another currency than USD, but then again so it is with every other store (including Steam). At least GOG is upfront about this and even gives you store credit for the amount you pay more as a user of other currency, so you can use that as a discount with a next purchase.
  • That's incorrect. GOG, unlike Steam, provides games in $AUD. Not to mention their refund policy was in order whereas Valve had to be taken to court to start following the law. But I digress.
  • intresting i might have to look at gog. i still use steam primarily .
  • Isn't cd projekt the same company responsible for porting sr2 and after screwing it up they abandoned it? The steam drm doesn't bother me. Also take in mind that gog.com is way smaller than steam so of course they are going to help you quicker. Articles like these is why wc is going under. Windows phone is dying so all you can do is your supposed best of articles when in fact they aren't best of they are paid advertisements. You guys at wc need to go back to when you guys would have the best articles around. It's really sad watching you guys is like watching a sad kid kicking a can down the street cuz he doesn't know what to do with himself. Get back on your game and you never know windows phone can come back with your help
  • You are wrong on one thing: you claim GOG helps users because it's smaller. By that logic, when steam was smaller they should have been the same. And here's the thing, they never helped anyone, ever, even when valve was a small company and steam was just starting.   I have the feeling that you might be one of those people that call newell "lord" and see him as a saviour, and that's why the bias. I might be wrong but I have a feeling that, even when GOG grows and reaches the point steam is now, they will still help their users. It's not about company size, it's about the mindset of the people behind the company.
  • It's funny how much wrong info there is in this article. GOG Galaxy was released in 2015, but the storefront and most of the classic games have been around since at least 2009 (when I started using it). So Steam having a head-start of 15 years is grossly exaggerated! Another big difference: With GOG, the Galaxy-client is entirely optional. You can download your games using just a browser, install them offline and start playing them wherever you are in the world, whereas with Steam you have to have the client running and even have to log-in online from time to time to keep your games available. How may times I wasn't able to play Steam-games offline because the Offline Mode crapped out again... The fact that there aren't as many big AAA-titles on GOG has to do with two things: 1) They don't use DRM, which makes a lot of developers/publishers hesitant to release their games on the store 2) They mainly focused on making older games playable and purchaseable again, hence the name Good Old Games -> GOG. This has been changing ever so slightly since the release of Witcher 2 & 3.
  • I don't know where you got some of this information, but Steam most certainly has Regional Pricing.
  • Does Steam refund you the price difference between regions in store credit? No!
  • I only use Steam because I have no choice for the Football Manager series of games :( If it was on GOG I would be able to free myself and my PC from Steam.
  • This advertising article paid for and brought to you by GOG ..
  • Do you think newell doesn't pay for advertise? Oh, wait. Of course he doesn't. He has a legion of mindless drones like you doing it for free.
  • I just had a look at their site and they got some nice older games there cheap, so I may use them as well as steam. i am not a big games player, but I do not mind some of the older games.  
  • GoG.com member since 2008 here. As great as all the things CDProjekt are doing are, I still find the UI for Steam better than the UI for Galaxy. And in the end, it's the UI that I'm using more than anything else when I use Steam/GoG.
  • Even with the lack of new AAA games (they have AAA games, it's just they are old like Day of the Tentacle and Monkey Island) GOG is way superior in almost every aspect. Not only the platform is better but so is the community. You don't see people at GOG praising CD Projekt's CEO like it's some kind of God. And the CEO is not a liar and hypocrite full of himself who writes what's convenient to him on Reddit like valve's.   As a company, as a platform and as people, CD Projekt (and thus GOG) are far superior to steam, valve, newell and their fanatics. I myself never use steam. I don't support monopolies. If a game is not on GOG, I try it on consoles or the "alternative" (yarr!, if you know what I mean) Not saying CD Projekt and GOG are perfect. Nothing in this world is. But they are certanly much better than their main competitor.
  • I see no reason at all to borrow games from steam when I can buy games from GoG.
  • I use both, Origin and Uplay too.
    Steam has more games, GOG I use only for old games, Uplay is very bad, Origin is the worst of them.