Games in the Platform Economy
Steam’s Tangled Markets

7: Economic Actors on the Steam Platform

In Chapter 4, I define markets as fields of strategic action based on Fligstein’s theoretical framework (2001). I point out that Fligstein offers a relevant approach to analysing the interplay between diverse actors in a market context. While Granovetter points out that economic actors are also social actors enmeshed in social networks (1985), Fligstein describes the ‘politics’ that are played out within and between firms on markets as fields of strategic action. These politics concern ‘intra-firm’ negotiations to settle on specific ‘conceptions of control’ that set the direction for said firms’ strategies in the market (2001: 35). They also concern the specific ‘market orders’ that emerge between companies in market contexts as a way of handling competition between them (2001: 16). Thus, Fligstein, along with Beckert, points out that competition does not represent an ideal state of affairs but rather a problem to be handled through various kinds of coordination. Indeed, the state of competition often heralded as the ideal in classic economics is a characteristic of emerging markets and is typically replaced with more stable orders where ‘incumbents’ divide the world between them to keep ‘challengers’ out as a market matures. In this chapter, I will analyse the way game titles and publishers are distributed across the different contexts of economic exchange offered on the Steam platform from this perspective.

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