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Which popular game distribution platforms (e.g. Steam, Windows Live etc) handle user authentication and other related matters instead of the game developer, and which do not?
What is the current trend: to provide a platform that has a unified ID for every user, available to all games on that platform that he plays, or platforms that require to create a separate account for every game involved?

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closed as off-topic by OrigamiRobot, Unionhawk, kalina, 5pike, Frank Nov 12 '13 at 15:09

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Belongs on game developers? –  C. Ross Oct 14 '10 at 19:52

3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

The consoles tend to each have a unified platform: Xbox Live for the Xbox 360, PSN for the PSP and PS3. Nintendo's Wii and DSi also have a platform, but it doesn't really have an authentication system; it is only used for game purchases and matchmaking (to a limited extent).

PC and Mac, on the other hand, have fractured into several different platforms:

  • Steam (Windows and Mac) - Required by Steamworks games, which include all Valve games plus games like Modern Warfare 2 and Civilization 5. It is optional for some games purchased through the Steam store, but there is no easy way to check which ones prior to purchase. Can also launch non-Steam games with the Steam overlay.
  • Windows Live (Windows) - Required by specific games, such as Bioshock 2 and GTA4.
  • Battle.Net 2.0 (Windows and Mac) - Required for World of Warcraft and Starcraft 2. No other games use this service.
  • Impulse (Windows) - Optional for all games purchased through Impulse
  • Turbine (Windows) - Required for all Turbine MMOs.
  • NCSoft (Windows only?) - Required for all NCSoft MMOs, including Guild Wars (which is sometimes classified as a non-MMO)
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Steam is not just required by Valve games, also for many others like Modern Warfare 2. –  user56 Oct 13 '10 at 17:04
    
@Arda Xi: I reworded it. I thought it would be clear the way it's worded that only some game through Steam are Steam optional (i.e. running their executables won't launch Steam), but maybe not. –  user2974 Oct 13 '10 at 17:09
    
In other words, it is perfectly okay to provide a single sign-on and authentication mechanism for games based on a proposed platform (at least for some while)? –  dpq Oct 13 '10 at 17:56
    
@David: Pretty much. Although you can create separate accounts for each game on the PC services, it starts becoming a hassle, as almost all of them have integrated friends list and chat services. On the game consoles, the accounts are, as I recall, tied to the system they're on. –  user2974 Oct 13 '10 at 18:05

Sony Online Entertainment's Station service provides a common login and ID system for all their MMO (Everquest I and II, DC Universe Online, Star Wars Galaxies, Pirates of the Burning Sea, PlanetSide, etc) and casual games, similar to how Battle.Net is for Blizzards games.

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I didn't think of StationID... whoops. For that matter, NCSoft and Turbine have something similar for their games. –  user2974 Oct 14 '10 at 17:32

The simple answer is to ask yourself is "What am I logging into to play this game?" Consider Steam, Impulse (?) or Windows Live where you must login into them before you play a game such as Dragon Age, therefore some (if not all) user authentication is being completed by the platform. However consider Direct2Drive which you simply download the ISO and user authentication is handled by the developer. If you buy a game from the developer online such as from Ubisoft, the distribution and the authentication are both handled by the developer. Lest not forget the classic distribution platform of the DVD where all authentication is handled by the developer.

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