Since I’ve decided not to buy games from Steam, I need to find other sources. Many of them are actually worse than Steam itself. Ubisoft’s store is baffling and full of annoying DRM. Electronic Art’s Origin service is more functional and less distracting, but worse than Steam overall. And Gamestop has done an excellent job of ruining the Impulse service since it bought it from Stardock.
What’s a gamer to do? There are many games that are simply not available from a DRM free source. If you’re willing to pick and choose, however, there are some alternatives.
Formerly known as Good Old Games, this site re-branded itself as GOG and now sells a variety of DRM-free game titles both new and old. It offers a large catalog that includes some of the best titles ever released for PC, and while many are old, some newer games have come to the site. You can buy Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry 2 and Alan Wake from the site – as well as notable indie games like Legend of Grimrock and Symphony.
Like most digital retailers, the pricing on GOG is reasonable. The majority of titles are available for $9.99 or less and only a few games are sold for more than $19.99. Games can be downloaded directly or via GOG’s download app.
The Humble Bundle is a recurring, limited-time sale of indie games. It gained popularity because it uses a name-your-price scheme. Users input how much they want to pay, which means it’s possible to obtain a chunk of good games for five bucks. People love a good deal.
But the Humble Indie Bundle is also notable because it offers the games free of DRM. It also provides games across multiple platforms, when possible, so you don’t have to buy multiple versions of the game to run it on different operating systems.
So far there have been five different bundles for PC, two bundles for Android and a number of other smaller bundles that focused on specific indie developers. I suggest signing up for their email alerts, which will tell you when a new bundle is launched.
The Humble Bundle’s success has spawned an imitator, the Indie Royale. It works the same way. You to name your price (though there is a minimum) and you gain bonus content if you pay a greater amount.
As with the Humble Bundle, the games are generally DRM free and cross platform. There have been games sold in the bundle which require Steam to use, but this is not generally the case. Games that require Steam are listed as such in the bundle.
Desura is a recently released digital distribution service which lets gamers buy titles via their website or client. If you want to use the client, you can, and you gain some community features by doing so. But it’s not forced on you.
Desura is DRM agnostic, which means that the service itself does not have any particular restrictions or requirements. Developers could include DRM if they want, but most are embracing it as a DRM-free alternative to Steam.
You can also participate in alpha-funding, which is the service’s equivalent to Kickstarter. You pay for a game in development and receive an alpha version as well as future updates. This is awesome for gamers who like to play ambitious indie games before they’re old news.
If you don’t mind waiting awhile for the full release, or playing an alpha version immediately, Kickstarter is not a bad place to find DRM free games. There’s a wide variety of indie projects listed on the service and virtually all of them promise their games free of DRM.
You’ve probably already heard of the most successful Kickstarters, such as Double Fine’s adventure game and Wasteland 2. But there are a lot of other cool projects still in need of funding such as The Other Brothers and Shadow Remnants.
Buy DirectDigital distribution platforms are the preferred method for many developers because they are simple and provide widespread exposure. The dev doesn’t have to worry about managing transactions or an online store.
However, some indie developers choose to provide a direct download option. Examples include 2×2 Games, Spiderweb Software and Introversion.
Spend a few seconds with Google before you buy an indie game. It may be available direct from the source. This sometimes costs more than if you’d bought the game elsewhere, but all of your funds will be going directly to the people who made the game.
ConclusionFinding DRM-free games is not easy today, but these options provide a wide variety of titles both new and old – more than enough to satisfy the average gamer.
And, since the titles are DRM free, they will be with you for as long as you back them up. That’s an important distinction. Games protected from DRM may eventually become unusable if the DRM system is taken out of service, a problem that could erase entire games.
Do you know of a source of DRM free games that is not included here? Tell us about it in the comments.