WB Play: Is Warner Bros. Secretly Developing a Steam Competitor?

WB Play: Is Warner Bros. Secretly Developing a Steam Competitor?

WB Play - Main

Is Warner Bros. preparing to go head to head with Steam and Origin?

Something is brewing over at Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. The publisher behind Batman: Arkham Origins, Injustice: Gods Among Us, Mortal Kombat, and a practically never-ending list of other titles might be preparing to launch its own distribution platform.

Last month, Warner Bros. filed a series of trademark applications for something called "WB Play." The filings cover things like "online retail store services," "audio and video broadcasting services," and "entertainment service." But the centerpiece of Warner's trademark goulash is the "downloadable virtual goods" application.

Here's what the trademark covers: "Downloadable virtual goods; downloadable electronic strategy and instructional guides for computer and video games; computer game software; video game software; audio and video recordings in the fields of computer and video games; downloadable multimedia files containing artwork, text, audio, video, games, and Internet Web links relating to computer and video"

Until now, Warner Bros. has always relied on platforms like Steam and Origin to distribute its games, but all of that could change very soon. In fact, there's a good chance that it'll launch before the end of the month.

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is set to launch on September 30th, and the game's website has already been slyly branded with the WB Play logo (check out the upper left-hand corner). Obviously, we don't know if WB Play will become the exclusive retailer of Warner Bros. games, and Shadows of Mordor is currently available for pre-order on Steam. So, exclusivity might not be an issue.

The folks at Warner Bros. have been keeping this a secret for quite some time. The domain name wbplay.com was registered back in back in 2013, but it's currently an empty hole in the Internet.

Perhaps the most interesting application in the bunch is the document that covers "audio and video broadcasting services." Here's the description:

"Providing access to computer, electronic and online databases; audio and video broadcasting services over the internet or other communication networks; providing access to websites by enabling users to log in through a universal username and password via the internet and other communication networks"

It's hard to tell what's going on from the language, but WB Play will definitely have some kind of audio and video component. Warner Bros. owns a record label and has billions of dollars wrapped up in its television production arm, so it wouldn't be surprising to see all of these rolled into one convenient storefront.

Again, we don't actually know how Warner Bros. intends to use these trademarks. However, the company is obviously putting together some kind of distribution platform. Though, it's hard to tell if it's a Steam-like service or some kind of online storefront.

We have reached out to Warner Bros. for a comment, and will continue to keep you updated as the story unfolds.

Source: USPTO, Trademarkia

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oh for fucks sake, what sort of diseased mind come up with this shit "it took a dedicated developer 10 years to create a good platfrom, we'll be able to do that in a week right?"

I sincerely hope it's not going to be another Origin/Uplay kind of thing! While Origin isn't the diseased thing it once used to be Uplay is a fucking cancer. I really don't want to sign up to multiple services just to play a game.

Hoplon:
oh for fucks sake, what sort of diseased mind come up with this shit "it took a dedicated developer 10 years to create a good platfrom, we'll be able to do that in a week right?"

I didn't see a single spot in there that mentions immediate perfection. In fact, they point out that this has been in development for years, with no release date yet.

I personally think this could be a good thing. While I don't like the idea of each publisher sectioning off their content from other marketplaces, I do like the idea of one platform containing both games, music, and movies. That sort of inclusivity could give WBPlay a good leg up once they get past the inevitable crashing, obtrusive DRM, and online vitriol. While there are already online retailers that sell all of these goods digitally, they typically just give codes for things like Steam.

This sounds like someone threw iTunes and Steam together in a room and they had a baby, which is a weird way to invision it but enticing none-the-less.

ANOTHER place for people to have to make ANOTHER login, this is getting stupid.

It's something a lot of companies seem to want to do; they want it to be so THEIR libraries can essentially be a service onto themselves. Eventually I wouldn't be surprised if they try to put their titles on a subscription so if you want access to them you have to pay a fee, even if a lot of them don't appeal to you.

Please, no. Steam is fine. I already hate Uplay and Origin enough, I don't want a 3rd.

"splintering the playerbase was a great idea the first time and everybody involved is totally not losing money from it, let's keep doing it"

Jim called it, maybe he is God?

I dream of a glorious future where every publisher has their own obnoxious and required distribution platform. Dozens of Uplays, Battle.nets and Origins, my hard drive cluttered with those beautiful programs. All of them calling out to launch at startup. All of them magnificently unnecessary steps between me and playing my games.

Please don't let me down Warner. Throw your shitty platform out there for gamers to (forcibly) enjoy. Make my desktop swell with more crappy icons for programs I'd never run except by sheer necessity of playing games.

I would gladly accept this if it fulfilled only 2 conditions.
1. It will offer games from all publisher sames as Steam does
2. They won't pull their games from Steam/Origin/Other sites just to force people to use their distribution system (looking at you EA. Main reason I hate Origin)

Competition is a great thing, until it forces me to have 20 installed clients which I wouldn't use even 1 if I wasn't forced to.
Worst of all, using the same password for all clients which have my CC info saved is one of the worst things you could do which would force me to have a million passwords all of which must have at least 1 upper case, 1 number and 8 total character. No, I don't want it that way.
Be competition but compete by offering better prices and service and not by taking hostages. But we all know what will happen.

Digital distribution seems fantastic until you have to install a half-dozen 3rd party stoftware DRM just to play games you buy.

I like a lot of Ubisoft games but the fact I had to sign up and launch through their shit annoys me.
I only have Origin and Uplay because I /had/ to. But Steam is the only client I load up when I start my computer up. I like looking at the new sales (Which are different on a daily basis).

Hoplon:
oh for fucks sake, what sort of diseased mind come up with this shit "it took a dedicated developer 10 years to create a good platfrom, we'll be able to do that in a week right?"

Yeah, even EA had the good sense to get in with Valve and see how it all worked before they replicated Steam.

BiH-Kira:
I would gladly accept this if it fulfilled only 2 conditions.
1. It will offer games from all publisher sames as Steam does
2. They won't pull their games from Steam/Origin/Other sites just to force people to use their distribution system (looking at you EA. Main reason I hate Origin)

I dont really see the first happening. Since the trademarks make it sound like a platform for distributing all WB media, but with a primary focus on movies and TV, the things that make up the overwhelming majority of WBros publishing portfolio.

They certainly could carry other publishers games, but why would we go to WBros? Chances are they already publish on Steam.

And the second, well it didnt exactly win people to Origin in a hurry. It basically took Battlefield 3 to get actual PC players to Origin. WBros would probably use the trojan route Ubisoft took with uPlay.

And for the record, EA only stopped releasing new titles on Steam. I think they only pulled one game, and i dont really care enough to remember which.

Well it looks like I won't be bothering with future batman games (and whatever else they publish), I don't like them enough to deal with another steam clone.

(This is assuming they go the Uplay/Origin route, the possibility that it will be decent exists, but I am not optimistic)

This...this is not a good sign. I already have 4 fucking platforms running why the fuck do I need yet another? Because a big company thinks so? Like somebody above said, Jim fucking called it. He is God and I do thank him for himself! Now if he could fucking do away with these platforms I'd be happy.

I think this is more likely to be an app or mobile store front and maybe even a windows 8+ tile app of some kind rather than a PC launcher just for games, just about everyone that makes/publishes movies/music/games seems to be determined to have a presence in the mobile sector with apps that try to funnel their content to you every possible second. If they could hook you up to an IV with a built in portable card transaction processor that charged you by the minute they would do.

So far WB doesn't have anything like that when many of the other big names like Sony do.

My computer is just being filled up with all this third party junk, it's so frustrating...

gigastar:
And for the record, EA only stopped releasing new titles on Steam. I think they only pulled one game, and i dont really care enough to remember which.

They pulled the Dragon Age games and Mass Effect series entirely. mostly over a what feels now like an artificial DLC disagreement. Since origin seemed to launch mere moments later.

Oh, this is rich. I'm sure nothing will go wrong with this.

You know...except everything.

Well, I looked at the Mordor site, and it had a register button beside WB Play, in there lies a link for "What is WB play" And it seems to be something like Ubisofts current Uplay, where its bonus exclusive content and social services. Looks like it will sell it as well, but likely it will just be steam keys or something. Curious. Maybe the article could do with an update.

Darth Sea Bass:
I sincerely hope it's not going to be another Origin/Uplay kind of thing! While Origin isn't the diseased thing it once used to be Uplay is a fucking cancer. I really don't want to sign up to multiple services just to play a game.

what else could it be?

I mean I would never say never but creating an "actual" competitor to steam is more than just selling games, people like all their shit to be in the once place, not just games but profiles and freinds and such

all thease things can be is DRM

People are already sick of these services. GFWL may be dead but U-Play is pretty much the same bullshit. Why can't steamworks just be enough? Steamworks is still DRM but at least it gives you access to some positive features and isn't too intrusive, linking your game with a service you probably already use and want to use. I'm tired, I'm tired of unnecessary layers upon layers of DRM. We live in a wold where EVERYTHING is eventually cracked. I don't want to have to install U-Play and Origin and Steam and WB-Play and god knows what else running in the background monitoring my processes.

Even if this isn't an extra layer like U-Play that's arguably worse. I don't want to see another petty monopoly publisher throw their toys out of the pram because they have to complete. Origin isn't extra competition for steam, lets make that clear, Origin and EA are anti competition and use the exclusive status of their games to inflate prices and enact unreasonable cost to DLC. This is the opposite of a healthy Digital Distribution market, it will end up with a series of greedy companies slicing up and killing a market by holding 'exclusive' games hostage.

And that's not even counting what a bag of shite Warner is in general. Lest we forget Time Warner Cable, the worst company in America. It seems like a trend for worst companies is starting Digital Dist platforms because they are a link to the consumer so they can screw them over directly.

You know what this whole thing will do when people can no longer get games at reasonable prices with reasonable levels of DRM? This is simply drive up piracy. "Fuck you! I'm not paying £50 and downloading two entire services just to play your game when there is a pre-luanch cracked version available for free that takes out the "Always on" requirement you lied was essential". When a pirated product is far more convenient, works better, does not run a background service, does not require additional software and multiple accounts and is avilable for free YOU ARE GOING TO LOSE.

gigastar:

BiH-Kira:
snip

I dont really see the first happening. Since the trademarks make it sound like a platform for distributing all WB media, but with a primary focus on movies and TV, the things that make up the overwhelming majority of WBros publishing portfolio.

They certainly could carry other publishers games, but why would we go to WBros? Chances are they already publish on Steam.

And the second, well it didnt exactly win people to Origin in a hurry. It basically took Battlefield 3 to get actual PC players to Origin. WBros would probably use the trojan route Ubisoft took with uPlay.

And for the record, EA only stopped releasing new titles on Steam. I think they only pulled one game, and i dont really care enough to remember which.

I know that the first isn't likely happening, but if the first condition isn't fulfilled, the second one can't be neither. If they don't allow all publisher and they don't pull their games from Steam, I don't see anyone using WB Play. Why would you make a new account just so that you can play games which you could have played on your steam account which you probably have if you're a PC gamer.

As for EA pulling games, yeah, them not releasing new games is my problem. Not that they released anything I'm really interested in enough to make a Origin account if they were on Steam and on sales, I might have gotten some of them.

XenoScifi:
Like somebody above said, Jim fucking called it.

Pretty much everyone who put any thoughts into digital distribution called it. I remember all the slippery-slope arguments against Origin saying that if Origin is successful all big publisher will start releasing their own platforms and pulling the support from other.

While it is technically a logical fallacy, it still have grounded roots which are starting to show.

Hoplon:

gigastar:
I think they only pulled one game, and i dont really care enough to remember which.

They pulled the Dragon Age games and Mass Effect series entirely.

Only Dragon Age 2...

BiH-Kira:

Pretty much everyone who put any thoughts into digital distribution called it. I remember all the slippery-slope arguments against Origin saying that if Origin is successful all big publisher will start releasing their own platforms and pulling the support from other.

While it is technically a logical fallacy, it still have grounded roots which are starting to show.

Well, this is what happens when these companies don't try to manage their finances better or prepare for the future properly. I really don't get why these guys just don't manage their budgets better and slow down a bit. It seems to me the majority of big name publishers and developers turned stupid and narcissistic and due to having three gens of wanting for nothing when they hit any sort of problem they push it onto gamers. I'll just wait until companies stop being to wasteful and incompetent.

Hoplon:

They pulled the Dragon Age games and Mass Effect series entirely. mostly over a what feels now like an artificial DLC disagreement. Since origin seemed to launch mere moments later.

Odd... I can still buy Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age: Awakenings, Mass Effect 1, and Mass Effect 2 on Steam. Dragon Age 2 was pulled because EA released new DLC for it and it didn't abide by the "new DLC policy" that Valve instituted, so to me both companies are at fault.

I personally welcome more competition to the marketplace for then maybe Steam will start changing their anti-consumer practices they have been implementing recently, at least with Origin I can get a refund on any EA published game and I don't have to sort through all the new releases that are unfinished Early Access games that probably won't ever be done.

Oh fucking yay! Another company making yet another content distribution platform which will inevitably piss me off and be terrible because it will most likely sell only one companies products. It will also have teething problems for ages (as is to be expected) and may or may not get better. Whoop-dee-doo.

It's stupid and unnecessary.

Origin got every so slightly better recently, yet it's still terrible and I only have it installed because I have to for a couple of games and Uplay is just terrible with no redeeming qualities. There's no way *if this really is a WB content distribution service* that it will also be terrible, right?

Competition to Steam is good. this wont be one though. this will be more like Origin - holding content hostage to sign in. and surely it will be plagued like Uplay with messages "Thank you for choosing Uplay". no, not choosing, being forced to.

That beiing said, WB knows shit about anything that isnt 20th century moeygrubbing so this will definatelly be a bad idea.

Evil Smurf:
Jim called it, maybe he is God?

Jim is love. Jim is life.

Ohhh, god... another one?

And this is from a publisher that likes to hold offline content hostage for pre-orders and day one sales, and makes dozens of retailers exclusive DLC. If you thought EA and Ubisoft weren't bad enough...

This is getting really crowded. Last Ubisoft game I played from Steam actually installed uplay, and not the game launches uplay instead of the actual game. Needless to say, it was a cumbersome and awful experience just getting it to run...

Why is competition to Steam even a needed thing? They're not Time Warner or Comcast. They haven't pulled an evil monopoly on us. Gabe is still alive and spending his money on hats instead of Dr.Evil-style world domination plots, so we're not screwed just yet.

I agree with what that other guy said. No new service to come out all of a sudden is going to be as good or better than Steam with its 10 years of iteration.

First time I fired up Farcry 3 I got off the Steam sale, I saw some Uplay advertisements splash on my screen instead, and I thought to myself "A whole new set of advertisements and hustle-ware from the same people who made the game I haven't even played yet, but am currently trying to; inspired. Oh look at that, my achievements are going to be unlocked on this Uplay shit that neither I nor anybody else are ever going to look at, instead of on Steam where everything else is, fantastic. These are the qualities I look for in my videogame distribution services, thank you."

I like to think of these companies like robots in suits trying to imitate people. They see Steven McSteam going about making big fistfulls of cash, and since their stockholdercompliance.exe files tell them to imitate the same behavior, they start their day by eating a breakfast and chugging orange juice but soon after start short-circuiting, and fall to the floor emitting sputtering noises and smells of burnt toast.

My problem with single company run distribution centers is that there is no means to think that they're trustworthy. Why risk bad reviews on Steam when you can wall your supply in your backyard and kick out anyone who even remotely speaks ill of it?

Product reviews become worthless, sales too. Pretty much nothing is gained by taking your ball and going home save maybe, MAYBE a more solid launch for your games. Maybe...

When I have to debate on loading a new digital distribution platform for a few games, I start to compare the games price and hassle to if I want to just wait it out till it's in a Humble Bundle. Few games are so important that I don't lean to the wait it out option..

It wouldn't surprise me in the least to find out that WB is planning on creating it's own digital distribution service. When it comes to any sort of electronic media, this is fast becoming the most popular method to buy games, music and movies. Now, I certainly support a free market and I think companies should have the liberty to sell their products how they see fit. On the other hand, I have to question if a trend of having multiple distribution services will be a good thing for the consumers.

On the up side, having multiple distributors means that the market can be competitive. Much like with physical merchendise, different companies can offer different deals to try and entice customers to use their service instead of others. On the -other- hand, it can also create a problem with video game developers, movie production companies and others witholding their digital products from other distributors, instead only distributing their products from their own distribution service. Arguably they could do this with physical merchendise too, but the catch there is they'd have to expend the time and money to build stores, hire and maintain the staff, and so on. The cost of creating and maintaining a digital distribution service, I have to imagine, is much less in comparison.

So why would this be a problems? Two reasons. One, it would create a pseudo-monopoly. While it's true if every developer or producer had their own service, it wouldn't mean you could only get games/movies/etc. from that one service, it WOULD mean you could only get those brands of games, movies, etc. from them. If you could only buy WB games from the WB service, then they can set whatever price they want on them, because nobody else is going to have WB games on their digital roster. Same goes for any company that produces their own digital products. So yes, you could buy a video game from someone else if you think Company A's prices are too high...but if Company A is the creator and owner of your favorite franchise, you're either going to have to find a new favorite franchise or bend over and brace yourself.

The other reason is that to access a digital distribution service, customers have to have an account and profile set up. If you think you have a lot of these things set up now, just imagine having to have not just a Steam and Origin account for games, but a WB account, a Bethesda account, a Capcom account, a Naughty Dog account, an Id Software account, an Eidos account, a Tripwire account, and so on. It would become a nightmare; you'd be tossing out your personal information to so many companies hackers could throw a dart at a wall to pick one of a dozen companies to try and crack to get at your credit card or bank account numbers. Admittedly it may be a bit late to start worrying about that. Between the existing digital services like Steam, Origin, Amazon.com, eBay, PayPal, and so on, there's already quite a few choices out there. But even taking that into consideration, do we really want to add to the problem with individual companies taking away the convenience of one stop shopping from us?

I guess the summary of these concerns is that when the developer becomes the distributor, you run the risk of the company abusing that position. I think this was one of the initial (and likely ongoing) complaints about Origin; EA charges full price for a lot of various digitally available titles, even though cutting out the need for physical media and packaging has to provide for at least SOME savings. Given the behavior of a lot of game devleopers - and when you stop and think about it, movie producers too - their attitude towards their customers can be rather dubious at best, parituclarly the "mainstream" ones. And they're the ones that will have the money to spend on getting programmers to create a digital media service as well as maintain administration staff for it.

I don't want to get behind GameStop with its childish whining about the growth of digital sales of games, especially when - as Jim Sterling has pointed out - they get right in bed with the companies that take part in digital sales by making deals with them to offer exclusive pre-order features available only at GameStop outlets. However, there is a grain of truth to some of the complaints. While I think digital distribution services are a great boon to buying digital media, it wouldn't take much to make the whole system blow up in the consumers' faces. I think the key here is to continue suppording second party digital distributors like Steam. When more than one distributor offers the same products, that's when we get more competitive pricing and more effort in customer service in order for the distributor to maintain our patronage. Granted it's not a perfect system, but it's better than the risk caused by leaving it all in the hands of the game developers and movie producers that, as of late, have shown a lack of regard for their customers through their questionable business practices and products made with a distinct lack of effort or quality control.

 

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