TL;DR

Valve are destined to take over the world.

Gabe Newell Is Pretty Cool

I’ve recently seen three videos of Gabe Newell discussing his opinions on things, and hinting at the future direction of Steam, valve and the world economy. They’re a pretty fascinating insight into the future of Steam and they’re very exciting to me as both a gamer and a game developer.

If you’re only going to watch one of the videos then watch the D.I.C.E. Keynote. It’s the shortest of the three but still manages to cover all the important points.

I took some notes while watching the videos and decided to summarise them with my opinions (spoiler: I agree with Gabe on nearly everything).

PCs Will Take Over The Living Room

  • Cheaper than console, because you already have a PC!
  • PCs are upgradeable, which makes it cheaper to keep pace with technology
  • Demands of mobile have taken hardware capabilities far beyond what living room needs
  • PCs can easily be small, quiet, fast and cheap.
  • A new game console means you need to re-buy everything like controllers and games
  • New console generations come very rarely and don’t keep up with technology
  • A new PC keeps your games, controllers, friends lists, save game progress
  • Apple have the best path into the living room
  • Smoother upgrade cycle
  • Lots of existing brand awareness

Personally I don’t agree that Apple have the best path into the living room. Anything Apple makes for the living room would undoubtedly be a very expensive closed platform, which I think would put it on par with games consoles (very expensive, closed platforms).

Games are productivity platforms for gamers creating digital goods and services for other gamers

  • Community produces 10x more content for TF2 than valve do
  • Best way for Valve and the community to make money is for Valve to enable community to make even more/better content
  • Ownership of content should be tracked through the entire system
  • Someone makes a texture, someone then uses that texture to make a model, and someone else uses the model to make a level.
  • If someone buys the level, then everyone in the chain should get some reward for the value they created
  • Enables ad-hoc collaboration
  • A single game shouldn’t be a closed economy, work put into getting, for example, leather in WoW should be exchangeable for something in another game, e.g. DoTA
  • Essentially, every game becomes an instanced dungeon of a global game economy
  • Obvious Example, Steam Trade
  • Reviews, Replays, Commentary, are all content which valve wants to provide a way to reward
  • Na’Vi (famous gaming team) provide a service (streaming their games, entertainment), so they should be able to earn money from it
  • Valve need to provide a framework for people like Na’Vi to earn money from being famous players of DoTA
  • Na’Vi earn money, and keep on doing what they do
  • Valve take a cut
  • Other gamers enjoy watching the show
  • Everyone benefits!

Engaging with the community is something I consider incredibly important for Heist, because I also think that the community can produce more, better and more varied content than I can. If Valve create a system enabling (and incentivising) content creation for all games, then that will be truly incredibly for gamers (more variety), modders (more money) and game developers (a modded game stays interesting longer).

Valve Are The Bottleneck To Getting Something On Steam

  • Closed platforms are bad
  • Create artificial costs to entering the market
  • Reduces innovation
  • Less innovation is bad for everyone
  • Valve can only put so many games onto steam each day, inadvertently creating limited shelf space
  • Right way to solve the problem is for steam to become a network API for developers to distribute their content, anyone can publish anything on steam, no bottleneck!
  • A store for games or content should be user generated
  • Indie devs create a store for their game
  • Modders create a store for their mods
  • Reviewers can create a store of good games
  • This creates more value for Valve (more games == more sales == more money)
  • This creates value for the players (more games == more variety == more fun)
  • This creates value for game developers (easier to get a game on steam)
  • People contributing to the general gaming community (e.g. reviewers) can make money by setting up a store for games they reviewed as good. This rewards the work they do improving the gaming community with reviews

This all sounds… awesome. A few posts back I discussed the different approaches to releasing Heist, I concluded that Steam was the best choice (despite being hard to get onto) because of all the infrastructure (auto updates, massive bandwidth, user statistics, matchmaking etc etc) they provide. If all the Steam infrastructure became available to any indie developer that wanted it that would be incredible.

Greenlight Can Be Done Away With

  • Greenlight is a bad example of how to do it
  • Greenlight can eventually be done away with in favour of the more open steam platform already talked about

This makes sense. It now becomes obvious that Greenlight is just a transitional technology while Valve shift their entire distribution system over to user driven stores.

Summary

Although it looks like a new and strange way of doing business Valve are really just taking the next logical step. Over the years games have been increasingly about releasing early and getting lots of community interaction, then constantly updating the game with free or paid DLC. Indies in particular seem to always release their games incomplete (or at least as early as possible) and then develop it onwards in the direction the community likes the most. What Valve are doing looks to be the next step, actually allowing the community to directly interact with and modify the game (and possibly being paid by the rest of the community to do so). This is going to be a very exciting time for gamers, game developers and modders. It’s probably going to be a less exciting time for traditional game publishers.



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