Valve is reporting strong activity in Left 4 Dead after yesterday’s release of the Survival Pack DLC. No doubt the fact that the DLC is free has something to do with that, but why exactly did Valve go that route?
Left 4 Dead‘s Survival Pack DLC, just released yesterday on PC and 360, seems to be a great success. “From what we’ve seen on the forums, in the press, and the gamers we met on public servers this morning, folks seem to be enjoying it so far,” Valve’s Doug Lombardi told EDGE. “Meanwhile, the concurrent player numbers are already up from their recent averages. So positive indicators thus far.”
The Survival Pack DLC adds a new mode called Survival and two new campaigns for the game’s Versus Mode. Valve, notably, decided not to charge for the content and released it completely free of charge, something of a magic trick considering the company’s well documented troubles with Microsoft over getting Team Fortress 2 DLC onto the 360 without a price tag.
How Valve may or may not have sweet talked Microsoft into getting Survival Pack onto the 360 for free aside, the question remains as to why the company decided to go the free route at all. People love Left 4 Dead, and I think we can safely assume that the DLC would be popular even if it weren’t free.
So why so generous? And no, simply saying “it’s because Valve are AWESOME” does not qualify as an answer, especially considering Valve themselves admit that they aren’t total Santa Clauses. “Releasing new content free of charge has made sense to us on many occasions,” Lombardi said. “We have, however, released commercial add on packs and new episodes in the past.”
The Left 4 Dead DLC, Lombardi said, fit the qualifications for free distribution best. “We evaluate these decisions on a case-by-case basis,” Lombardi said. “The Survival Pack was a case where we felt like it made a lot of sense for the product and community to make it available free of charge to both Xbox 360 and PC customers and we were able to work through that plan with Microsoft.”
So there. No guarantees that Valve will continue to release DLC for free, it just depends on what exactly the content in question is. The next Left 4 Dead DLC may cost you, and it may not. Valve’s running a business after all. Somebody’s gotta keep Gabe Newell’s kids fed.