Escapist Editorials

Escapist Editorials
Fighting for Second Place: An Interview With Brad Wardell

M.S. Smith | 9 Apr 2010 22:00
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MS: There is also a lot of speculation about how digital distribution will end up. Some think it has already taken over, and others think it will take 20 years before it is as important as retail ...

BW: I don't think it will ever completely take over. I think on the PC side it will go the way of music. Although only 30 percent of music is sold digitally, apparently 70 percent of music is still purchased the old fashioned way, even though I don't know anyone who still purchases music that way anymore.

MS: There is definitely a perception gap there. I don't know anyone who buys PC games in stores anymore. But when you look at the numbers, retail still seems to be doing very well.

BW: Even on our own stuff. We've had Impulse for years, and still two-thirds of our sales are retail.

MS: You announced Impulse Reactor, which is a competitor to Steamworks, at GDC last month. Can you tell me a bit about that?

BW: The first version of it, the only feature we made available was GOO [Game Object Obfuscation], which provided a less obnoxious DRM solution for developers. We did the Gamer's Bill of Rights, but then publishers came to us and said, "well, it is easy for you to say that." But the game publishers don't make DRM solutions, they license them, and the only options out there have been various types of draconian copy protection. So we said we need something that is effective but isn't obnoxious, and that's where GOO came from.

This year, with Impulse Reactor 2, we're hearing the same about Steamworks. If you're a developer and you want to add matchmaking and ladders and the like, your options are Steamworks, Gamespy or Games for Windows Live. Steamworks is free, Gamespy is not and Games for Windows Live comes with a lot of strings attached, because if you want to patch your game you have to go through their approval process, so that turns off a lot of developers. This practically means that if you're a developer, Steamworks is the only choice. The downside of that is that you're contributing to Valve's dominance. A lot of consumers like that, but a lot of people forget that competition is good.

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