Game and app developers have increasingly complained about the industry standard 30 percent cut that platforms like Steam and the iOS App Store charge to host their products and provide related services, and this year may be the tipping point.
You won't find juggernaut phenomenon Fortnite (Android, iOS) on the Google Play Store, as its maker Epic Games has chosen the "sideloading" route; and Twitch's free games provided to Amazon Prime customers every month can only be downloaded and launched from within the Twitch app (Android, iOS). What arguably began with Electronic Arts withdrawing from Steam in 2011 has maintained its momentum. Game developers and publishers want better terms and more options.
The cross-platform game-oriented chat service Discord (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac) began beta testing its own Windows game store in Canada a few months ago, and today it's expanded to the US, and you can access the store at its website and within the Windows desktop client.
Like the Twitch app, these games don't come with Steam keys. You buy and download directly from Discord.
And unlike competitor GOG Galaxy, the Discord game store is launching with cloud storage. With this feature, if your save games get deleted, misplaced, or corrupted, you can recover clean copies from the online copies kept by the store. Not every game supports this feature, though, so check the Features box on the product page if that's important to you.
The store doesn't currently provide a best-sellers chart, but each game page has a Metacritic score to help guide you, and the store's "front door" features a curated list of recommended titles. (Disclosure: Metacritic and Download.com are both subsidiaries of CBS Corp.)
What's perhaps even more interesting is the store's optional "Nitro" subscription service. For $10 a month, or $100 a year, you get all-you-can-eat access to a library of games akin to the Xbox Game Pass -- and it's actually a pretty respectable selection, especially for a service that's still finding its feet.
In fact, we'd place it moderately higher than the Game Pass, even when you count day-one access to Microsoft's own titles like Sea of Thieves and Forza Horizon 4. The company offers a free 14-day trial for you to judge for yourself, though, and it's offered 50 percent discounts for six-month subscriptions in the past, so there may be some Black Friday deals coming in a few weeks. Microsoft doesn't currently offer a discount for an annual subscription.
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Nitro offers a range of highly rated titles, including SOMA, Inside, Metro: Last Light Redux, Shadow Tactics, Kingdom: New Lands, This War of Mine, Guacamelee, FTL: Faster Than Light, and Risk of Rain. There's currently 60 games in all, so the selection isn't as large as Game Pass was when it launched.
But we'd argue that it's meaningfully better in terms of quality and recency. Shadow Tactics is still regularly priced at $40 when purchased separately, so it's a particularly interesting prize for Nitro.
Discord's library of individually purchased games is also quite respectable, though it remains to be seen how competitively they can price their titles against Steam and its growing competition. Discord's featured games include Subnautica, Dead Cells, Into the Breach, Frostpunk, Hollow Knight, and Pillars of Eternity II.
As with Nitro, it's largely indie titles, but they are all generally high quality. There are also fewer than 20 games for sale right now, but keep in mind that the store is still being beta tested.
- The Discord game chat platform has launched its own game purchase store in beta, plus a monthly subscription service akin to Netflix or Xbox Game Pass.
- Discord's subscription service, called Nitro, costs $10 a month, or $100 a year, and includes 60 titles -- and it's not dusty old bargain bin stuff, either.
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