Gabe Newell gets Steamed up over piracy discussions

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | February 20, 2012 - 08:08 PM |
Tagged: valve, piracy, Gabe Newell

Ben Kuchera of Penny Arcade caught an interview with Valve Software’s managing director and co-founder, Gabe Newell. The topics were quite typical for a Gabe Newell interview and involve working at Valve, the future of gaming, and DRM. Gabe also joined the beard club; welcome Gabe!

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Photo Credit: Giant Bomb

A little over halfway through the interview, Penny Arcade asked Gabe whether they believe that they sidestepped the problems of used games and piracy with Steam. Gabe instead responded to the premise of the question, rather than the question itself:

You know, I get fairly frustrated when I hear how the issue is framed in a lot of cases. To us it seems pretty obvious that people always want to treat it as a pricing issue, that people are doing this because they can get it for free and so we just need to create these draconian DRM systems or ani-piracy(sic) systems, and that just really doesn’t match up with the data.

This quote echoes a problem I have had with the piracy discussion for quite some time. The main problem with the concept of piracy is that people wish to frame it in a context that seems intuitive to them rather than experiment to discover what actually occurs. Piracy is seen as a problem which must be controlled. This logic is fundamentally flawed because piracy is not itself a problem but rather a measurement of potential problems.

Gabe continues with an anecdote of a discussion between a company who used third-party DRM for their title and himself:

Recently I was in a meeting and there’s a company that had a third party DRM solution and we showed them look, this is what happens, at this point in your life cycle your DRM got hacked, right? Now let’s look at the data, did your sales change at all? No, your sales didn’t change one bit. Right? So here’s before and after, here’s where you have DRM that annoys your customers and causing huge numbers of support calls and in theory you would think that you would see a huge drop off in sales after that got hacked, and instead there was absolutely no difference in sales before or after. You know, and then we tell them you actually probably lost a whole bunch of sales as near as we can tell, here’s how much money you lost by bundling that with your product.

Gabe highlights what a business should actually be concerned with: increasing your measurement of revenue and profits, rather than decreasing your measurement of piracy. You as a company could simply not develop products and completely kill piracy, but that would also entirely kill your revenue as you would have nothing to gain revenue from.

Before we begin to discuss piracy, the very first step is that we need to frame it as what it really is: a measurement. While violating terms of a license agreement is in fact wrong, if you focus your business on what is right or wrong you will go broke.

If you believe that there is value in preventing non-paying users from using your product then you will only hurt yourself (and if SOPA/PIPA taught us anything, innocent adjacent companies). It is possible that the factors which contribute to piracy also contribute to your revenue positively as well as potentially negatively. It is also entirely possible that increased piracy could be a measurement of a much bigger problem: your business practices.

You know, it’s a really bad idea to start off on the assumption that your customers are on the other side of some sort of battle with you. I really don’t think that is either accurate or a really good business strategy ((…)) we’ve run all of these experiments, you know, this has been going on for many years now and we all can look at what the outcomes are and there really isn’t – there are lots of compelling instances where making customers – you know, giving customers a great experience and thinking of ways to create value for them is way more important than making it incredibly hard for the customers to move their products from one machine to another.

Source: Penny Arcade

Steam Sees Huge Growth in Sales and Users

Subject: General Tech | January 9, 2012 - 01:39 AM |
Tagged: valve, steam, growth, gaming, game

Valve, the company behind the Steam digital (game) distribution service recently announced their 2011 growth data for Steam. Tech Power Up reports that Steam did exceptionally well last year and managed to grow its sales numbers and user base quite a bit.

Among the data, the service saw a more than 100% growth in year over year sales "for the seventh straight year." Further, the service boasted 5 million simultaneous players during the Steam Holiday Sale! Even more mind blowing is the amount of data the company served to users at 780 Petabytes of data (that's a lot of game downloads; about 89.35 million copies of Dirt 3 for example!).

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Steam, taking my money since HL2.

Also, Valve managed to bring more games into the Steamworks fold including Skyrim and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Since the program's inception, over 400 games have shipped with the Steam DRM and achievements. Quite a success! CEO Gabe Newell seems happy about the service's success and confident about the future. He was quoted by the site in stating "Looking forward, we are preparing for the launch of the Big Picture UI mode," and that Steam continues to evolve to meet customer and game developer demands for content. More information can be found here.  

I'm glad that Steam is continuing to grow.  On the other hand, my wallet is going to hate me come the Steam Summer Sale!

Now you’re thinking with Portals not cumbersome mod tools

Subject: General Tech | October 30, 2011 - 02:32 PM |
Tagged: valve, Portal 2, editor

Now do not get me wrong, I have no problems with complicated modding tools that give you nearly endless power over your creations: I just think this is cool. Valve has announced on their official Portal blog that they are soon releasing a simplified puzzle creator for their popular crate dating sim, “Portal 2”. Along with the new editor for the mod creators themselves, mod consumers will have an easier time acquiring the puzzles they desire through Valve’s Steam Cloud service. According to the screenshots released by Valve, the puzzle creator looks startlingly like something out of the Sims -- potentially introducing more people into videogame modifications as a whole.

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Be honest… how many of you will search the item repository for cake?

Image from Valve Software

This news comes on the heels of free DLC released for Portal 2’s co-op mode earlier this month. As a part of the Steam Cloud integration, community features will allow you to follow certain mod developers that you find make levels that speak to you (like the companion cube) and keep up to date with their works. Unfortunately, with Valve, the duration between announcement and release could be Half of your Life so there is no guarantee when we will see the tools and features. If only they could give us our personal Jonathan Coulton bundled with the editor.

Source: Valve

Valve Releasing Free Peer Review Portal 2 DLC On October 4th

Subject: General Tech | October 2, 2011 - 05:13 AM |
Tagged: valve, Portal 2, gaming, dlc

Although id Software’s RAGE and DICE’s upcoming shooter Battlefield 3 have been getting all the attention around the PC Per office lately, Portal 2 is about to receive some free DLC that just might hold gamers over while they wait impatiently for their Battlefield 3 and RAGE pre-orders! Dubbed “Peer Review,” the upcoming DLC has been delayed several times and missed its original “summer” release date; however, it is finally releasing and will be available on October 4th.

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The Peer Review DLC (download-able content) will be available on the PC, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360. According to Digital Trends, the free content will include new co-op modes for Atlas and P-Body in addition to new single play puzzles. Unfortunately, the single player puzzles will not extend the overall story of the Portal universe. Leader-boards and a new Challenge game mode will also be featured in the DLC.

One can be assured that GLaDOS is waiting. Whether gamers will finally get the promised cake is another matter, however.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, coming before HL2 Episode 3

Subject: General Tech | August 13, 2011 - 12:01 AM |
Tagged: valve, Counter-Strike

There exists a videogame software company up in Washington State known as Valve Corporation. There also exists a company from Washington State that produces steamy forum trolls and 4chan memes. The two companies are often times (VST) the same company; today is no different. Valve unleashed a Global Offensive when they announced a new upcoming continuation to their longstanding franchise that is not Half Life 2: Episode 3. The game will be a continuation of their long-standing modern-era franchise and will be titled, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

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Fans wonder if Valve actually thinks that they already released Episode 3.

(Update Aug 13th 2011 @ 4am: Replaced image to clarify joke 1am: They didn't announce Episode 3 yet... this is just yet another thing they announced before they announce it.)

Global Offensive is set to launch in Early 2012 which should always be taken with a grain of salt when it comes to Valve, Episode 3, but this time-frame looks about legitimate. The game will be available on Xbox Live Arcade, the Playstation Network, and Steam for PC and Mac. Judging by their target distribution model on the consoles it appears as if the release will not in fact be a full-fledged standalone game which makes sense due to Valve’s historical stance on how much content should be provided per dollar; there is even a joke that circulated briefly after the release of the Orange Box that Valve needs to round out the bottom of their second v. Valve promises that the game will contain both new and updated content with de_dust explicitly named as being in Global Offensive. No word on hats.

Source: Steam

Steam readies update to download system, just in (Valve) time

Subject: General Tech | July 16, 2011 - 12:30 PM |
Tagged: valve, steam, downloader

Steam is not known to be the most reliable when it comes to updating; this is particularly true during the launch of a high-profile game when network traffic is at a peak. One such of those times happened for the last week-or-so during Valve’s fairly epic summer sale. Valve has, as usual, promptly addressed the issue and will be rolling out this new system starting today with a new client update forthcoming to support this new infrastructure.

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If other people are any indication: complain profusely while browsing more discounted bundles.

One method that the update will utilize to improve your downloading experience is to switch to the standard HTTP protocol for data transfers. There are two main benefits of HTTP: In the event that you are in a particularly nasty firewall environment, HTTP is more readily permitted than other ports for users with sane network administrators. The second benefit of HTTP is that data that protocol is potentially cached, thus if you and another user share some stretch of the internet between you and Valve, it is possible that you will not need to fetch the data all the way from Valve as the other request brought a copy of the data closer already. Besides HTTP, the other method of improving performance is the ability to perform differential synchronization. If a 2GB file is edited by 4KB, you will soon only need to receive the 4KB difference.

Valve, not being able to resist a troll, closed by teasing that DOTA 2 will be delivered using Steam’s new delivery system. They also claim that if you want to try out the new system, download a 1280x720 trailer from the Steam store because they already rolled out the new update to that part of the system. Let us know what you think in the comments.

Source: Valve

Meet the Medic, Uber Update, and TF2 itself are freed

Subject: General Tech | June 23, 2011 - 11:13 PM |
Tagged: valve, tf2, free to play

All week long Valve has been teasing about their largest content update to date with 8 of the 9 classes getting one to three items each and a new map for the expanded mayhem to rage on. Their tease wrapped up today with the release of a 4 minute cinematic trailer for the game, “Meet the Medic”, which is the first released in over two years. Meet the Medic displays the gruesome and dark nature of the character and shows the historical inception of the Ubercharge to the Team Fortress universe. If you wish to experience the new content but do not own Team Fortress 2 you can simply fire up Steam and get it, forever; Valve has decided to release it for free.

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Fuhreeeeeeeeeeeeee?

Yes, it is. While Steam sales of days past have placed the price of the game as close to the free territory that a game could reasonably be, Valve has decided to outright waive the entry cost for the game in lieu of optional item micro-transactions. Last September during the Mann-Conomy Update, Valve inserted a system where users can purchase official and community-created content (the creators of each mod receive commission from said transactions) as an alternative of earning it through achievements or receiving them randomly in “drops” as an incentive to play the game. Valve decided that for the length of the game being on the market and for the volume of sales from the item purchase system that it would be no longer necessary to collect money from the game itself.

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But… shouldn’t he be holding two pistols?

So with the update today: load up your Steam, even if you never had purchased Team Fortress 2 before, and go practice medicine. Do go harm.