The other day I decided it would be pretty awesome to play Rebel Galaxy Outlaw on the big screen, with surround sound, leaning back on the couch. Since it’s built to be played with a gamepad, it’s one of those PC games that transitions seamlessly into the living room, thanks to Steam’s Big Picture mode and a Steam Link. So I booted up the Steam Link, set up a controller, opened Steam’s Big Picture, and started scrolling through my installed games. This was gonna be good.
As you’ve probably figured out, I didn’t find it. It’s not on Steam. It’s an Epic Games exclusive for a year. Which just goes to show how little I pay attention to which platform a game is on. It’s like caring about the theater I see a movie in. Frankly, the point of the theater is to not get in the way of me and my movie. If I forget about the theater, mission accomplished. I feel the same way about entertainment platforms. Just get out of the way. So I don’t really have a dog in the Steam vs. Epic Games fight. But if I did, it would be the dog that lets me play videogames in the living room.
There was a time it seemed videogames would break into two neat factions, each with their own territory: PCs in the office and consoles in the living room. Most games would do both, but many games would only do one or the other. That didn’t happen. Instead, there are two-and-a-half major players in the living room — Nintendo, Sony, and whatever Microsoft is doing — and profuse Balkanization under way in the office — Uplay, Origin, Steam, Epic Games. It’s all assholes and elbows. This is hardly unique to videogames, of course. Are you paying for Netflix on top of your cable bill, and how tempted are you going to be for CBS All Access when that Picard show starts up?
But sometimes a faint ray of hope shines through the roiling chaos of all these competing services. Sometimes a handful of companies come to an accord and something wonderful happens. That screenshot up there is my game of Divinity Original Sin 2 after about 20 hours on the PC. But it’s a screenshot from the Nintendo Switch. This week’s release of Divinity Original Sin 2 for the Nintendo Switch supports almost seamless cross-platform saves between Steam and the Switch. Which means some people from Valve, Nintendo, and Divinity publisher Larian had meetings, came to agreements, and did something in the service of their customers rather than their respective bottom lines.
As for my currently in-progress PC playthrough of Pillars of Eternity, also recently released on the Switch? Maybe when publisher Paradox finishes their umpeenth iteration of Stellaris, they’ll take a meeting with Nintendo and Valve. Until then, I’ll play the epic RPG that lets me range freely.