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Epic: Valve can guide consoles to a more "enlightened path"

Epic: Valve can guide consoles to a more "enlightened path"

Mon 21 Oct 2013 8:18am GMT / 4:18am EDT / 1:18am PDT
HardwarePublishingDevelopment

Tim Sweeney talks up Steam Machines, id's John Carmack believes chances of success to be "a little dicey"

Epic's Tim Sweeney believes that Valve's Steam operating system and Steam-branded hardware could have a positive influence over the console companies.

Speaking as part of a panel at an Nvidia-hosted conference in Montreal, Sweeney recalled his initial suspicion when Valve first pitched Epic the idea of Steam. It took at least five years for the platform to start delivering on its promise, and Sweeney expects the SteamOS to require the same slow build-up.

"You can't judge this over the next six months," he said, "you have to judge this over the next decade."

"It'll go a long way to steering the console manufacturers into pursuing an enlightened path"

Tim Sweeney, co-founder, Epic Games

However, if successful, Sweeney believes that Valve's ideas could be the answer to the widespread fear among publishers and developers of being "tied down" to closed platforms from companies like Sony and Microsoft.

"Absolute control over certification is scary, and their control of e-congress rules out possibilities where we would like to have direct relationships with our customers and they prevent it," Sweeney said.

"The possibility of Steam Box as a real, genuinely open platform based on Linux with multiple manufacturers that's jump-started by Valve but isn't absolutely controlled by Valve in the same way that Microsoft and Sony control their platform is very interesting. It'll also go a long way to steering the console manufacturers into pursuing an enlightened path."

Id Software's John Carmack was also on the panel, and he remembered responding to Steam in a similar way when Valve made enquiries about securing Doom 3 as a launch title. Initially, Carmack thought Valve's idea was "crazy", and if it were any other company behind Steam Machines he would be inclined to feel the same way now.

"I'm afraid that I might be at that same point right now where I'm like, 'making your own console OS? Are you crazy?' Maybe ten years from now they're going to look like they've made billions of profits again with it. It still seems a little bit dicey to me - getting everything moved over to Linux, pushing from that side of things, but given their track record I'm a little hesitant to...

"if it were some other random company I would be pseudo-scornful, but it's Valve so I'm not."

13 Comments

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

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It's a little bit... ironic (dontcha think? :p ) that Sweeney's comments about being "tied down" are at an Nvidia conference. The direct competition between Nvidia and AMD regarding graphics effects and innovation is the one thing that could drag the openness of the PC world down into something close to the console wars, and Nvidia are aiming to be the worst culprit here. PhysX is physics calculations that can only be handled by Nvidia cards, even though AMD cards easily have the power to handle them. Nvidia have even destroyed Hybrid PhysX, where you used to be able to have an AMD card as a primary adaptor with an Nvidia card handling PhysX. Don't have an Nvidia card (or 2, in an SLI), then you don't get PhysX. Because exclusivity of effects is great for openness. At least AMD's Mantle is (or appears to be) open.

And don't even get me started on G-Sync.

Sure, it's a business, and, sure, Nvidia have to make their money somehow. But it's only going to shoot them (and the PC platform) in the foot in the future, I think.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 21st October 2013 10:06am

Posted:A year ago

#1

Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing

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Instead they'll be tied down to Valves closed system

We need a universal ownership storage locker like UltraGiolet, not more proprietary walled gardens. Like UV, I should be able to purchase other versions for a small fee ($5 buys me an HD upgrade, why not the PC version of my Dbox game??)1

Posted:A year ago

#2

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

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@ Jeff

I can actually see that happening, and I think Valve may be the one to start it. The timing may not be... Great, though. Consider:

Valve is all about the openness - the OS, opening up Greenlight and user-curation (something that Gabe Newell broached last year, I think it was). All of those things speak to broadening the PC market, not closing it down. But right now, Valve needs the control of the PC digital distro market that they have in order to leverage that openness. Valve's such a big player in the PC market that they can't be ignored (as John Carmack implies), and when they say they want to start a shift to Linux gaming, then a shift will happen (the only debate is how large a shift it will be).

But! After this has all settled down, what then? Valve will have leveraged their position into the living room (at least a little). But people have already witnessed what happens when a digital distro client fails with Games For Windows Live, and it costs money. 2K gave the Minerva's Den DLC away free to people who already had Bioshock 2 installed on Steam. Warner Games has given away the GoTY version of Arkham City to the people who had the Vanilla version installed. Why? Because GFWL is being closed, and they can't verify who bought DLC and who didn't.

Valve have seen this happen, and they won't want it to happen again if possible. It costs everyone involved money (including Valve, but not Microsoft, even though it's their fault), and inconveniences consumers. What's the answer? The obvious one is what you suggest - a universal ownership storage space, where you can register a serial bought from anywhere, and have the game. And, indeed, it makes it even easier for consumers new to the PC gaming space, who are already growing accustomed to UltraViolet. It's the very ideal of openness. And just like the push to Linux, Valve have the power to move the industry that way. In fact, it's even easier than the push to Linux - EA, for example, don't even have a Linux version of their Origin client, but they wouldn't turn their nose up at this idea, even if it came from Valve. Right at this very moment in time, though, it's against Valve's business interests to do it.

But soon, I think.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 21st October 2013 12:27pm

Posted:A year ago

#3

Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd

1,021 1,470 1.4
@ Jeff Uh, what? Ultraviolet is a much more closed ecosystem than Steam. Only certain publishing partners are on Ultraviolet, it's only compatible with certain devices, it is only downloadable in a specific format.

Don't get me wrong, Steam is not an open ecosystem, but it's certainly much more open than most (and much more open than Sony and Microsoft). I don't understand the anti-Valve reactions recently. Steam OS is not an anti-Windows system, it's a protection against Microsoft's future plans to lock other marketplaces out of Windows entirely.

Posted:A year ago

#4

Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer

584 323 0.6
One small problem...

Steam was built on the success of Counter-Strike. To play Counter-Strike online you needed to have Steam. CS was the most popular first person action shooter of all time, and probably still is. THAT was what drove Steam. Indeed, if you remember the early days of Steam, that was likely the key reason why Valve did that: to cut out the publisher middlemen; to prevent rampant piracy of CS keys.

There is nothing like that driving the Steam OS.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Tim Carter on 21st October 2013 6:29pm

Posted:A year ago

#5

Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing

407 247 0.6
@Nicholas

I suffer you learn more about UV. Anyone can join UltraViolet. Anyone can sell UV. Disney is the only major who hasn't because they're still pouting over the millions they lost on KeyChest, but they'll come around soon, they're already halfway there with their Vudu partnership. UltraViolet does have a universal file format, yes, but since there are playback applications for every platform except Nintendo and Linux, both of which can still work via browser, I don't really see the issue

Apple and Amazon will fold sooner rather than later, and again, UV works on their devices right now anyway. When you don't own the content you need to survive, those who do can dictate such reasonable things. Right this minute, I can take out my DVD, put it in my computer and pay $2 for an SD version on UV, the same for an HD version if it's a Bli-ray. I can rip the DVD to HD for $5. This service is offered by Best Buy and Wal-Mart with more coming online.

You know what? valve is worshipped by a lot of people, that is until you have a problem with them. With customer service is beyond abysmal, and they refuse to even stock a customer service phone line. I'm being serious when I say their, but ex Valve employees I know spend an hour or so a weak having people randomly bashing extensions desperately trying to get someone to talk to because the people answering emails are incredibly overworked. I myself have had two seperate instances of 7 day, multiple email Odysseus with something as simple as "Steam is not displaying my serial and I need it to get tech support". They ban people on their forums for complaining about it, and claim they can't find "highly qualified" people to fill the positions. Well, the lady on the other end at Origin sounded like she knew nothing about gaming, but still managed to solve my problem in ten minutes, instead of five emails over ten days of people cut and pasting non-applicable form letters. So while I appreciate what Valve did, their creaky infrastructure, and refusal to provide customer service means they are not equipped for the position they're currently filling. Damnit Jim, they're engineers, not CS specialists, and so they should be rewarded for that contribution, and phased out for a master system the entire industry can get behind. No more a origin, no more Uplay, no mor Live or PSN just GameCentral, with those hubs still doing everything they do today, but with the benefit of digital ownership that means something.

@Morville

Only way it's happening is if Valve sells Steam. Considering that without that revenue they're screwed, i don't see it happening. If you've noticed, WB and several others are no longer supporting iTunes digital copies on many of their titles in an effort to break their stranglehold on people.

Posted:A year ago

#6

Roberto Bruno Curious Person

104 69 0.7
@Jeff: which isn't closed at all, so your point is null.

Posted:A year ago

#7

Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing

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Steam isn't closed? SO just anyone can just put their content up there? That's why one company I know of spent a year trying to get their game that had over a million downloads on mobile, console, and handhelds and won multiple awards, and made by a well established software developer onto Steam?

Steam is less closed than PSN/XBLA (both of which published the game in question), and more closed than Apple (who desperately needs more active curation).No platform is open unless I can upload my game and it's for sale as easy as posting on WordPress.My whole point is not having a single private entity with a dog in the race holding an industry hostage, and promoting openess across the platforms in a way that benefits the consumer, AND makes studios more money. Everyone wins.

Posted:A year ago

#8

Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing

1,183 1,267 1.1
Valve said they want their systems to be hacked. Certainly, it was a rather quick throwaway statment towards XBMC and installing a few Debian packages. The true test, however, will be when a company, such as EA, decides, they want Origin on every linux powered Steambox. That is when the Steambox either turns into yet another console, or turns into something truly disruptive.

Posted:A year ago

#9

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,629 1,509 0.9
The problem is, Valve are trying to walk a tight-rope of being open, whilst also only allowing "quality" games onto Steam. Which is impossible, because being truly open means allowing the dregs of the industry to be given prominence on the largest digital distro network out there, alongside the greatest games ever made. And it's hard to deal with, both as a consumer, and (from what I have read) a developer/publisher. You only have to search for Rally games to know how appalling Valve's stance is on some games/genres (no, the Dirt series does not count, for heaven's sake!).

But, it's all a process. Rome wasn't built in a day, and Steam isn't going to be fully open in just a couple of years. It's already more open than Origin (which EA touts as having a number of users almost equal to Steam). And the quality/quantity issue will be partially dealt with by user-curation.
Only way it's happening is if Valve sells Steam. Considering that without that revenue they're screwed, i don't see it happening.
Perhaps... The issue isn't just with Steam, though. Companies saw Valve take home a large (well, 30%-ish) slice of revenue, and built clients into everything. And that means, just like Valve is going to have to take a step back from Steam, other publishers will have to do the same; stop using integrated clients when they're not needed. Or at all. A third-party browser/server system which couldn't be hacked would make a killing (so, y'know, not Punkbuster. :p ).

Valve could lead the way in this scenario, but at the same time, they could easily say "We have a large infrastructure, give us pennies on the dollar and it's yours". At which point, they might lose Steam, but they'll gain licensing revenue. And the thing is, it would actually be a reasonable request. Looking at the Steam download stats ( http://store.steampowered.com/stats/content/ ), their servers must easily be the equal of Amazon's cloud servers.

Also, regarding your quote there: Valve owning Steam doesn't mean they can't press for a universal storage locker. Assume that you can buy an item from anywhere, and register it on "UV". That gives ownership of the game, DRM free. Sorted. But surely all that's needed then is to link your UV account and your Steam account, and you can register that key on Steam, to gain the benefits of Steam (like, say, achievements, or cards)? At which point, Valve can both press the advantages of a DRM free solution in case they go belly-up, and cater to those who want everything Steam gives. And in this scenario, publisher's don't actually have to give up their software clients (UPlay, Origin, etc). They just do the same thing. As long as every key is universal, and as long as that one central storage locker is DRM free, then everyone's a winner.

Surely? :)

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 21st October 2013 10:13pm

Posted:A year ago

#10

Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing

407 247 0.6
Pretty much. Valve would never support such a thing, just like Apple won't support UltraViolet until forced (Apple is a member of the Blu-ray disc association, receives royalty payments from their patents in the format, yet refuses to suppport it because people aren't buying from them)

Yes, people don't have to give up their clients, just like I can access my UV movies from Vudu, Flixster, CinemaNow etc, but theyr'e all still tied to that universal locker. If Green Man goes belly up, my games don't go away, I just have to download them from Gamefly or Gamestop or Steam or whatever.

DRM free major games is a pipe dream. People just don't pay attention to Steam's (largely ineffective judging by how fast they're cracked) system anymore. Nor do they notice the DRM on UV or their iTunes purchases

Posted:A year ago

#11

Roberto Bruno Curious Person

104 69 0.7
Steam isn't closed? SO just anyone can just put their content up there? That's why one company I know of spent a year trying to get their game that had over a million downloads on mobile, console, and handhelds and won multiple awards, and made by a well established software developer onto Steam?
I don't care about this mysterious company you know.
For a start, this isn't about Steam, this is about SteamOS. Which isn't closed, it's not supposed to become closed and -even more important- it couldn't become closed even if they wanted, because they don't have the legal rights for it, as it's essentially a re-branded Linux with a custom UI.

Beside, they even claimed months ago that they are planning to turn the Steamworks itself in an open API that everyone can use.
Of course, they will keep control of their own store, which is entirely their prerogative, but I don't see how that should endorse this cheap outrage of yours.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Roberto Bruno on 22nd October 2013 11:59am

Posted:A year ago

#12

Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing

407 247 0.6
@Roberto

The same reason why Valve fears the Windows Store on Windows 8 that drove all this: where do you think SteamOS users are going to get their games? If you're not on Steam, you should just give up before you start development.

Posted:A year ago

#13

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