Valve: Piracy a "non-issue" for Steam

Gabe Newell says quality of service allowed Valve to break into difficult Russian market

Valve managing director Gabe Newell claims that piracy is a "non-issue" for the company's Steam retail platform.

In an interview with the Cambridge Student, Newell explained that the "fundamental misconception" about piracy is that it is motivated by high prices. However, Valve sees it as a service problem.

"For example, if a pirate offers a product anywhere in the world, 24/7, 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," he said.

The DRM solutions implemented by other companies tend to restrict their consumers and "create uncertainty." This can harm the consumer's overall experience, and offer an incentive to turn towards piracy.

"Our goal is to create greater service value than pirates, and this has been successful enough for us that piracy is basically a non-issue for our company. For example, 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 our largest market in Europe."

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Latest comments (11)

Kevin Danaher Associate Producer, EA Mobile10 years ago
Oh my, an industry leader who sounds like he understands the big picture where DRM is concerned. Devaluing the product with DRM is all too commonplace so it's good to see that view expressed.

Unfortunately although Steam may not bombard you with DRM restrictions Steam as a service basically is DRM so his principle may be sound but it's easy for him to say.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 10 years ago
I like Gabe, but I'd be a bigger fan of Steam if it wasn't part of some boxed retail games folks I know couldn't play because they didn't have broadband and didn't want the hassle of installing any clients anyway because they don't use credit cards or have hours to spend on automatic updates even if they did.

Funny thing here is if I was offering say, stolen cars, furs or beef for sale online (or off for that matter) with big neon signs pointing to my shop, I wonder if the producers of those products would sit there and shake their fists at the screen or walk by my nicely-sized warehouse to throw the occasional icy state while I was taking change out of their pockets and purses?

Ah well, maybe one day someone will get it...
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David Spender Lead Programmer 10 years ago
Steam is just as restrictive. You must have an internet connection to play their games. There is an offline mode, but you must login 'online' and cache your credentials in order to play offline - so that's not really very helpful.

I found this out the hard way the other day when a chain of events caused me to be unable to play my boxed copy of Skyrim.

1) I logged into Steam from my laptop to play Uplink newly gotten from the latest humble bundle.

2) Unknown to me, Skyrim updated with a patch that made steam login a requirement with a boxed copy (despite the box saying its needed for authorization only)

3) My internet pooped out in the evening.

4) I tried to play Skyrim and was unable to because my credentials were not cached because I had logged into my laptop and it had logged me out.

5) I could NOT play Skyrim that evening.

6) When my internet came back I quickly downloaded a pre-patch tesv.exe file and restored my ability to play WITHOUT steam.

Not a real fun time - the pirates don't have this issue. If only I could pay AND have an unrestricted copy.

I also don't think Steam does enough to protect people from their accounts being hijacked. They do alot, yes, but when you think about having your entire game library in one basket..... if your password got stolen.... its all over. There needs to be more safeguards. A security dongle (token) would be a really great idea - most major MMORPGs offer them (WoW, FFXI/XIV) so why not Steam????
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Show all comments (11)
Khash Firestorm Senior Programmer, MuHa Games10 years ago
I agree with david. I have very bad internet at home and recently i was not able to play any of my games on steam because it just decided it needs update, and my internet fall down... No gaming this weekend... no gaming at monday... Maybe soon my network will be up long enought to update steam, or copy of steam I have made at work will override one at home and let me go offline(finger crossed)
But overall... they should just let you easily go offline when you cant access internet. Its pain when you cant play games because you paid for them... my friends which "copy" games doesnt have this issue... so yes Steam is jsut DRM, very annoying one, but those who have good internet connection will never understand this...
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Daniel Vardy Studying HND IT, De Montfort University10 years ago
@ David
The safeguard from your Steam account being hijacked is SteamGuard. I am sure I remember seeing Gabe give out his Steam password to show how well SteamGuard works.

Steam is a double-edged sword for some people. It is a form of DRM, but one which a majority of people like. I myself have not had any issues with the system as a whole when it comes to playing offline. But I will say that it would be good for people to allow them to play a single player game in offline mode without the need for credentials. Maybe some form of security questions pre-cached on the system for such an occasion?
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Andy Grimbal  Game Production, Turner Entertainment Network Asia10 years ago
My problem with Steam - and why I actually prefer Origin now, despite its limited library - is that I can't play my games on two computers without going through hoops and hurdles.

If I have two physical copies and two computers, I can play on one while my son plays on another. With Steam I have to disable Wifi or unplug the LAN cable on one computer to fool Steam into asking me to login offline - and that only works occasionally (caching is iffy as David so aptly mentioned above).

Origin has the right idea right out the gate: If I go online with one computer, the other Origin instance simply goes offline. I can still play the games in single-player mode. Origin even has the courtesy to ask me if I want to take the other computer offline!

This inability to play even single player games on more than one computer with Steam has always been an issue for me, and since Origin came out I've bought only one game on Steam. My Origin library is growing quick.

For Steam to truly back up their claim of a superior service, they have to at least provide the option to go offline seamlessly and elegantly.

There's a new kid in town, Valve. Time to up your game.
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Sander De Visser Developer 10 years ago
@ Andy,

You think it is strange or unfair that you can not play a game you have only bought once on 2 systems at the same time? You can't do this with good old CD's either, so what's your point? That Origin can does not make it the norm. Besides, this sounds more like a bug then a feature.

What I do find an issue are the problem the person above Andy pointed out (Can't see the name? :s). This however is not entirely Valve's fault, as local governments put up many of these restrictions.
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Curt Sampson Sofware Developer 10 years ago
Actually, those regional restrictions are nothing to do with governments, as far as I know. It's simply that this is the only way in an age of digital downloads to make price discrimination by region actually work. If you charge a lower price in one region, and don't have any restrictions on the use of the goods, people will tend to buy their goods from that region because it's just as easy as buying it from their own region. (This is not such a problem for physical goods due to shipping costs.)

I hate region restrictions with a passion, myself, but one has to recognize that price discrimination can make for significant extra revenue for a title, as well as allowing people less rich than us more opportunity to play the games.
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James Prendergast Process Specialist 10 years ago
@ Curt. Whilst i understand the gist of your comment might i be able to paraphase your last sentence as thus?:

"We should make people who are richer pay more for a service/product.... because they can afford it."

This doesn't sit right with me. Either your product is worth something or it's not. You shouldn't discriminate against people because they earn more than others.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 10 years ago
re: Region-locking and pricing

The same thing can be said of DVDs and Blu-Rays - that they artificially keep prices high in some areas due to locking out external regions, so it's not just particular to digital gaming. As a way of ensuring maximum profitability from internal sales, it's a good thing. For the consumer, it is fundamentally bad thing. But, generally speaking, it is the fault of the currency markets - as Curt says, people will buy from the region with the cheapest goods, unless there are safe-guards put in place. This is one area where Steam is very very business-like.

Yes, they're the only DRM that region-lock games. But other digital services (Origin and GMG, for example), force consumers to buy from their own region due to IP screening. This forces the consumer to pay over-the-odds, and ensures that region-restricting titles through DRM is a non-issue.
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Andy Grimbal  Game Production, Turner Entertainment Network Asia10 years ago

I'm talking about two different games. If I have, say, Team Fortress 2 and Trine, I should be able to play both games on two separate computers using the same account.

I'd even go as far as saying if I had two multiplayer games, such as Team Fortress 2 and Modern Warfare 3, I should be able to play both games online on two separate computers. If I had the physical discs I certainly can do so, and I don't see what's wrong with being able to do so online at all.

And Origin's implementation is definitely a feature, not a bug, for the message clearly states that the other instance will be put online if you go online with another computer.
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