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What's the Difference Between Buying Apps on Stardock or Steam?

Article posted on 9/6/2022

Last month, we made both Fences 4 and Start11 available on Steam. The release of our software on Steam was the end of a long journey that required us to rework how our applications are updated; if you're wondering what’s the difference between buying an app on Steam or directly from Stardock, fear not: this post will answer that question.

The short answer is: not much. Practically speaking, apps on Steam and Stardock are identical to the end user, but under the hood there are some differences that may influence where you decide to purchase the application.

Apps on Stardock are wholly supported internally and serviced through our own software stack. Meaning that the software is downloaded, licensed, and supported directly by our team in Plymouth, Michigan.

Apps purchased on Steam are managed slightly differently. When we push an update for apps purchased on Stardock, you are downloading the bits directly from us. When you purchase an app on Steam, the updates are served from Steam and the license is managed via Steam as well. 

One question we are frequently asked is: if you buy an app via Steam, does Steam need to be open for it to run? The answer is no, but when the app needs to be updated Steam will need to be opened for that download to initiate.

One thing to keep in mind is that if you purchase an app on Steam, that license will not work with apps downloaded from Stardock. The inverse is true as well because both systems use different licensing mechanisms. If you want to return an app, you are limited to Steam's policies for returns, not Stardock's. Steam's terms are more restrictive than what we offer here at Stardock.

What it really boils down to is that you should buy the apps where it best suits your needs. If you purchase many of your applications or games via Steam, that is likely the best way to buy Start11 or Fences 4. But if you are not a heavy user of Steam, buying direct is the best path forward.