Valve's Gabe Newell Says Piracy Is a Service Problem

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Valve's Gabe Newell Says Piracy Is a Service Problem

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In a wide-ranging interview, Gabe Newell dishes about Steam, piracy and Half-Life 3.

The CEO and cofounder of Valve is never short on opinions. As the creator of some of the most beloved games titles (Team Fortress 2, Portal, Half-Life) and owner of the most pervasive online gaming portal for the PC platform, Gabe Newell has earned the right to express them. In an interview for the University of Cambridge's school newspaper, Newell said that the way to end piracy is to provide a service that's more complete than cracked software, and that restrictive DRM only encourages more piracy.

"We think there is a fundamental misconception about piracy. Piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem," he said. "If a pirate offers a product anywhere in the world, 24 x 7, purchasable from the convenience of your personal computer, and the legal provider says the product is region-locked, will come to your country 3 months after the US release, and can only be purchased at a brick and mortar store, then the pirate's service is more valuable."

The proof is in the proverbial pudding. "Prior to entering the Russian market, we were told that Russia was a waste of time because everyone would pirate our products. Russia is now about to become [Steam's] largest market in Europe," Newell said.

The purpose of Steam is to provide as much value not only to the customer but also to other game publishers. "Our success comes from making sure that both customers and partners (e.g. Activision, Take 2, Ubisoft...) feel like they get a lot of value from those services, and that they can trust us not to take advantage of the relationship that we have with them."

While Newell offered candid observations on the risks of releasing Portal and the support Valve has provided with 150 updates to TF2 since 2007, he was not so loquacious when it came to questions about long-delayed Episode 3 of Half-Life 2. When asked whether it was a mistake to release episodic content for HL2, he merely said, "Not yet."

Oh, and Gabe? When is Half-Life 3 coming out?

"I don't know," he said.

Source: The Cambridge Student

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And that's why Valve is so loved.

Why can't other game companies treat customers as individual valued clients rather than as an amorphous mob to be controlled and herded into the cash-producing abattoir?

And so... reading between the lines, he's indicating that they are working on HL2:e3, but not HL3 yet?

Do you still consider coding games for consoles to be an unpleasant experience? What makes the PC so much more desirable?

The coding part is a one-time fixed cost. The much larger problem is the restrictive nature of the customer relationship where the console owner won't let you try to discover the best value proposition for each customer. On the PC we've done 150+ updates for Team Fortress 2, while on the Xbox 360 we've done two. We have lots of content we'd like to give to our Xbox 360 customer for free which we are precluded from doing given the restrictions under which we have to operate.

Fascinating. I want more Gabe interviews!

"We think there is a fundamental misconception about piracy. Piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem," he said. "If a pirate offers a product anywhere in the world, 24 x 7, purchasable from the convenience of your personal computer, and the legal provider says the product is region-locked, will come to your country 3 months after the US release, and can only be purchased at a brick and mortar store, then the pirate's service is more valuable."

A-Fucking-Men.

Though price dropping does help in persuading people to buy a game but being able buy the game and play it where ever and not being locked by region or, even worse, install limits is great.

Now if only some of the devs will listen. But they wont.

Interesting reading this right after watching this week's Jimquisition. I like the two different perspectives on gaming 'service' though. Also, I hope HL3 comes out soon just so people stop bitching about it. Actually, I hope it's another episode. That would be awesome to get 3 hours of gameplay after what, four years? Ya, awesome.

ooh valve :) You usually make me smile.

but...

HL2 EP3 NOW! D:

This is why Valve is so awesome and Gabe is the hero of gaming industry. If one really thinks that piracy is a big problem on PC, just look at how well Valve is doing despite piracy. That's because they treat their customers with the utmost respect, and not like criminal scum.

Also, as today's jimquisition says, have games that are good and that do their own thing (well) that are worth the purchase.

While I know that this is not exactly what gabe was talking about, it will also prevent piracy in the more "priviliged" (for lack of a better word) regions, since piracy is still a problem in the west.

But on topic, yes Gabe newell, FUCKING-A.

Convinience, good pricing, good value, caring for the satisfaction of your customers. WHile i'm not the biggest fan of their games, I am a huge fan of their approach to game design and customer service.

Who knew that people when presented with the option of waiting and paying for an inferior product or getting a superior product for free will choose to get the superior product for free. When these developers release games with things like region locks, draconian DRM, and god knows what else that ends up making the paid version inferior to the pirated version they are are only encouraging people to choose the pirated copy as it's both a better overall version and it's free to boot.

Now he just has to convince the rest of the industry that he's right. He can start with Ubisoft.

You'd think they'd listen. You'd think the enormous pile of cash he's made from pc gamers would be a persuassive argument. You'd think so, right?

He definitely has the right idea overall, though some of the sounds a little hypocritical.

Steam, after all, is essentially a region-locked service.

Something which has been discovered more than a few times by people that have purchased things while in a different region, and then found they don't work when they try and play them at home.

I personally am quite uncertain about my steam games collection;

I've moved from country to country quite often. Now, as it happens my entire steam library comes from one country...

But that raises the obvious question; What will happen if I move again? Is the EU one region? Or if I move say, back to the Netherlands (or Germany, which might happen if some of my stranger plans become a reality), or even back to Australia...

Will my games still work?

I mean, it's all well and good to say these kinds of things, but the service steam provides is not without issues, and some of them directly contradict what Gabe Newell is saying.

"I don't know yet" is dishing about Half-Life 3? Really, Greg? I didn't know you still needed to troll for hits.

Xanthious:
Who knew that people when presented with the option of waiting and paying for an inferior product or getting a superior product for free will choose to get the superior product for free. When these developers release games with things like region locks, draconian DRM, and god knows what else that ends up making the paid version inferior to the pirated version they are are only encouraging people to choose the pirated copy as it's both a better overall version and it's free to boot.

True say.

Consumers want value for money, but developers (at the publishers insistence) are shackling and crippling their creations with these ludicrous restrictive measures.

They devalue their own product and then moan when people don't want to purchase it...

CrystalShadow:
He definitely has the right idea overall, though some of the sounds a little hypocritical.

Steam, after all, is essentially a region-locked service.

Something which has been discovered more than a few times by people that have purchased things while in a different region, and then found they don't work when they try and play them at home.

...

I mean, it's all well and good to say these kinds of things, but the service steam provides is not without issues, and some of them directly contradict what Gabe Newell is saying.

Some Steam games are region-locked simply because that game's publisher refuses to release the game on Steam without region-locking. Gabe is saying that while Valve is willing to publish these games on Steam without requiring the game to be region-free, that the game would see less piracy if he could sell it the way he wanted.

EvilPicnic:
They devalue their own product and then moan when people don't want to purchase it...

Or, they devalue and cripple their software on one specific platform while claiming it's because piracy or some other such nonsense.

It's one thing to turn your nose up at a specific market, all developers are within their right to do so, but to do so while passing it off with some lame-ass excuse is a different story. Steam has proven time and again how lucrative the PC market can be . . . especially for indie devs - who, quite surprisingly, have the most to lose. Take Limbo, for example, which was going to be xBox only . . . Somehow Steam conviced them to port the title for PC and sell it through their service; the devs made more money within it's first week on Steam then they did during the whole 6mths-year that it was only available via XBL.

PC gamers will pay quite well for titles, if they feel it's worth the expense - even pre-ordering in droves (i.e. DXHR, Skyrim) at full retail. Any developer that still firmly believe the PC market isn't worth their while is simply full of shit, and ful of themselves . . .

Ubi: I'm looking squarely at you.

Valve needs to release a new game just so I can give them more of my money.

This is why people love Valve, they're all gamers just like us and they don't let business and profits get in the way of what they believe in.

And this is why I love Steam. So much more convenient than piracy. Well, except one game, Medieval 2: Total War, which I had to crack because it wouldn't work. Not Steam's fault though, the Dev's.

I have over 90 Steam games, and I have never had any problems with Steam itself.

Nice to hear a voice of reason, hardly surprising when it comes from Gabe though. I hope future Origin customers read and take note.

UNHchabo:

CrystalShadow:
He definitely has the right idea overall, though some of the sounds a little hypocritical.

Steam, after all, is essentially a region-locked service.

Something which has been discovered more than a few times by people that have purchased things while in a different region, and then found they don't work when they try and play them at home.

...

I mean, it's all well and good to say these kinds of things, but the service steam provides is not without issues, and some of them directly contradict what Gabe Newell is saying.

Some Steam games are region-locked simply because that game's publisher refuses to release the game on Steam without region-locking. Gabe is saying that while Valve is willing to publish these games on Steam without requiring the game to be region-free, that the game would see less piracy if he could sell it the way he wanted.

Ah... That's actually a good point. I have noticed that some steam games have additional DRM on top of what steam itself creates.

This does lead to a degree of confusion as to whether the problem is steam, or additional measures taken by specific publishers on top of what steam itself does.

That's something that's difficult to spot without taking a microscope to each and every game though...

I can see where Gabe might be a pragmatist in that sense, that he'd rather companies didn't add all this extra DRM on top, but will let them do it anyway.

Qitz:

A-Fucking-Men.

That is the exact phrase I wanted to use to express my love of this, and I was beaten in the second post. I think the problem with other publishers is that this model (giving a good service and lots of updates for free) is too much work. Restrictive DRM and expensive DLC is a lot easier.

And that's why Valve is so loved.

EvilPicnic:
And that's why Valve is so loved.

FFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUU-

Gabe's said this before hasn't he?
What bothers me is how few companies follow Valve's multi-billions from nothing in a decade approach.

Like he said, make the system work for the customer and the customers will come. Instead we have other publishers hawking ever more insane DRM (I am aware Steam is DRM, but it's mostly helpful). Case in point being Battlefield 3 and it's utterly daft system, why does the publisher have or indeed want the power to stop me playing a small scale server based game at whenever it chooses?
More importantly, why the hell do I have to open a client, run the game, go out of the game in to completely different web browser based client just to play one friggin' round of multiplayer?

Oh wait, I don't, I went and got a refund...

imperialreign:
[

Take Limbo, for example, which was going to be xBox only . . . Somehow Steam conviced them to port the title for PC and sell it through their service; the devs made more money within it's first week on Steam then they did during the whole 6mths-year that it was only available via XBL.

Im pretty sure that was Cthulu Saves The world (which was on the indie marketplace, not the XBLA). Limbo was a smash hit on Xbox, selling about a half a million copies on it, out of the million or so sales across the three platforms (according to Wikipedia).

The Bucket:
Limbo was a smash hit on Xbox, selling about a half a million copies on it, out of the million or so sales across the three platforms (according to Wikipedia).

Playdead did make more money from the Steam release than a whole year's worth of XBL sales, the barriers to entry (and percentage cut from sales) are much smaller on Steam than they are on XBL.

its nice to see someone in the industry looking at it from the customers point of view, and not through bank balance goggles.
DRM is the main cause imo, but I will also admit that the prices of games is a bit silly too, for once off purchase with no value of investment other than replaying yourself, which i never do, just my preference.
Oh, and fuck steam.

this isn't really news, he's said this a number of times, but he's still right about it

Ickorus:
Valve needs to release a new game just so I can give them more of my money.

Amen.

I wish we could sit some people from EA, Ubisoft, and any other company who likes intrusive, draconian DRM down with Gabe Newell and make them listen to his words of wisdom and see the proof that he's right (that whole Russia thing being a great example) and hope that they will learn and stop putting DRM everywhere.

I wonder if we can get him to talk about online passes and how you don't need those either.

This man speaks the fucking truth!

Maybe this is why, when a Valve game shows up on a pirate site, so many of the comments amount to "lol already bought this game you should too."

big words from the founder of the DRM that prevents me from playing many of my legaly bought games whenever i travel 100 miles west to germany.

fuck steam, seriously.

Ickorus:
Valve needs to release a new game just so I can give them more of my money.

This is why people love Valve, they're all gamers just like us and they don't let business and profits get in the way of what they believe in.

And they said it couldn't be done. How many senior executives or companies are beloved by their customer base? Imagine a company being able to treat their customers like valued partners and still make a ton of money. Not only do I wish other game publishers would take note, but other companies and people in MBA classes. WE'RE NOT THE ENEMY - WE PAY YOUR BILLS FOR YOU. BE NICE TO US AND WE'LL BE NICE TO YOU!!!

sir.rutthed:
Also, I hope HL3 comes out soon just so people stop bitching about it.

I'd bet you, 30 minutes after Ep3 is released people would be moaning about when either Ep4 or HL3 is released.

CrystalShadow:
He definitely has the right idea overall, though some of the sounds a little hypocritical.

Steam, after all, is essentially a region-locked service.

Something which has been discovered more than a few times by people that have purchased things while in a different region, and then found they don't work when they try and play them at home.

I personally am quite uncertain about my steam games collection;

I've moved from country to country quite often. Now, as it happens my entire steam library comes from one country...

But that raises the obvious question; What will happen if I move again? Is the EU one region? Or if I move say, back to the Netherlands (or Germany, which might happen if some of my stranger plans become a reality), or even back to Australia...

Will my games still work?

I mean, it's all well and good to say these kinds of things, but the service steam provides is not without issues, and some of them directly contradict what Gabe Newell is saying.

A friend of mine can access his entire library, bought while he lived in the US, in China.

I should note that he has mostly VALVe games, and several others, most of them indie titles. Whether certain publishers sell region-locked games on STEAM is entirely up to them.

I'd agree with him, but Steam is in itself a pretty intrusive form of DRM, so fuck that.

I agree with the service problem.. Of course people who can will always pirate stuff. But when they make it easier to buy and use games more people would be inclined to pay up some to not go through the hassle (and risk) of pirating... Steam is not perfect but many steps in the right direction... Unlike Ubisoft....

And I think we missed the big point here:
He does not know when half life 3 comes out, witch can not mean anything else (somewhat sarcastic...) than it is at least in the works! Yey Half life 3 will come out! At some point in the future this or some alternate but still... This is good... So Ep 3 is also coming then... Many good news here//

no shit with some games I,m forced to pirate (IE TouHou and stuff like Kanon) if only more companies used Steam.....
PS
I,m really happy at least one dev sees pirates as a potential consumer base instead of crooks.

Greg Tito:

Oh, and Gabe? When is Half-Life 3 coming out?

"I don't know," he said.

image

Don't ever change, Gabe.

Well, tell that to Bethesda. All their games are not available for purchase on Russian Steam. Now guess, which games are the most pirated ones there?

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