One thing that PC players have long held over the heads of console players is that their platform is not fragmented. As long as you could run the game, you could play it on any PC. In recent years, though, this has begun to change.
Now that there are multiple storefronts with multiple exclusives, you can't run all of your games from the same accounts. Figuring out which of these storefronts to support isn't necessarily a necessity, but most players try to concentrate their games in one place. As such, comparing the major storefronts makes a lot of sense.
Steam is, at least for the moment, still the undisputed king of the hill when it comes to the world of game stores. With a strong pedigree, a lengthy history of service, and a fantastic catalog, there's no denying that it would take quite a bit to unseat Steam from its current perch. While inertia has a certain kind of value, that doesn't mean that Steam gets to rest on its laurels. Instead, it's important to take a moment and look at both what makes Steam work and where it falls short in comparison to the other online gaming stores.
Steam has a few reasonably strong selling points. Perhaps the biggest for most gamers is the extensive selection available on the platform. While both Microsoft and Epic have been steadily growing their catalogs, they haven't come anywhere close to catching up with Steam. The number of games on Steam is increasing every day, and virtually every publisher has something up on the storefront.
Steam has the largest game catalog
Steam also excels in terms of the sheer number of features. From friends lists and chats to gaming clubs and community pages, Steam has it all. There is a marketplace for certain in-game items and cards, places to develop and download mods, and even several ways to keep track of news from your favorite developers or games. It's an incredibly robust system that isn't quite matched by anything else out there.
That is not, however, to say that Steam is perfect. The massive number of titles means that its hard to call Steam particularly well-curated, with as much junk available at any given time as there are good games. Steam also falls behind on metrics like offering free titles and exclusives - it often feels like Steam is coasting compared to the newer stores that are working hard to get more customers.
It might be fair to look at Steam as the store that is most likely to have everything that you want, but also as the store that's harder to look through when you're just browsing for a good game. It's a fine platform, but its weaknesses are becoming more apparent over time.
One of the biggest stories of the past year is the emergence of the Epic Games Store as an actual competitor to Steam. If you've ever played one of the games that Epic has published on the PC, you probably had the launcher prior to the 'official' launch of the store, but the current iteration of the store is more of a Steam competitor than almost anything else out there. Figuring out whether or not it's worth your time to try out the Epic store, though, does require taking a closer look at what it offers.
Epic has come strong out of the gate by offering several exclusive games. They've thrown a fair bit of money at some of the biggest publishers around, securing some big games as Epic exclusives. If you want to play these games, many of which are sequels to beloved AAA titles, you're not going to have any choice but to download the Epic store.
Even if you don't want the exclusive games, you'll probably appreciate the fact that the Epic Games Store is relatively consumer-friendly. Not only are the prices reasonably low, but the store offers free games every few weeks. Though most of the titles are older, they range between big releases and beloved indie games. Between the big sales, the free games, and the reasonably well-curated content, it's hard for many consumers to find a reason to skip using this store.
The downside to the Epic Games Store mainly comes from its relatively young age. There's not much of a library there yet, nor are there some of the features that players have come to expect from this type of platform. Though there have been claims that some of the more robust features that players have seen on platforms like Steam will be forthcoming, it's to justify waiting when there's an alternative already in play.
Epic Games Store is a good but growing store that is a little light on features but is great for many consumers. The exclusives and the free games may not last forever, though, so it's a good time to try this store out.
If you're a fan of the games published by Microsoft, you've probably encountered the Microsoft Game Store. Not nearly as big as Steam nor with the same kind of growing exclusive count as the Epic Games Store, Microsoft has slowly but surely built itself an impressive storefront by offering some things that its competition can't match. If you're already in the Microsoft ecosystem, you might want to check out what the Microsoft Store has to offer.
Most of what makes the Microsoft Store great is how it interacts with other Microsoft products. If you have an Xbox Live account, for example, you'll be happy to know that you'll still be able to the same general type of social features and even earn achievements on games you get from this store. You'll also get access to the excellent Microsoft Game Pass, a subscription service that gives you access to over a hundred games each month. This feature is perhaps the most significant selling point of the Microsoft Store right now, as its something that Epic and Steam just don't offer.
The downside here is that the Microsoft Store is fairly limited. It doesn't have the massive trove of indie games that you'll find on Steam, and it lacks a lot of the exclusives that you would find on the Epic Store. It's a reasonably basic storefront that doesn't do much special outside of Game Pass, though that might be enough for many users.
In short, the Microsoft Store is the storefront that offers a subscription service and great social features, but that is short on actual games. Microsoft has thrown a lot of support behind new studios recently, though, so this store might grow.
The truth is that all three of these stores have something to offer. If you're looking for the best combination of game choice and social features, Steam wins by a mile. If you're interested in free games and exclusives, you might want to try out the Epic Games Store. If you want to play around with Game Pass and get the benefits of Microsoft's services, though, the Microsoft Store is for you. It's always worth checking out each of the stores individually to figure out which one will suit your needs.