Valve's Gabe Newell took to Reddit this weekend to respond to criticisms over the introduction of a system allowing Steam Workshop users to sell their mods.
On Thursday last week, Newell boarded a plane in Los Angeles. By the time he landed in Seattle, Valve's native city, he had 3,500 messages, all of them expressing varying levels of frustration. "Hmmm," Newell thought, "looks like we did something to piss off the Internet."
However, if any disgruntled Steam users were expecting a display of contrition, they would leave disappointed. In two hours of respectful back-and-forth, Newell's message was neatly summed up in a single, concise statement: "You need a more robust Valve-is-evil hypothesis."
Valve, Newell explained, is a company with modding in its very DNA. Some of its most successful games started out as mods (Dota 2, Team Fortress 2), and the changes to Steam Workshop were motivated by a desire to, " increase the investment in quality modding, not hurt it."
"Think of money as information. The community directing money flows works for the same reason that prediction markets crush pundits"
Newell took particular exception to the accusation that Valve was simply being greedy, attempting to profit from an aspect of PC gaming that has traditionally been free.
"Let's assume for a second that we are stupidly greedy," Newell said. "So far the paid mods have generated $10K total. That's like 1 per cent of the cost of the incremental email the program has generated for Valve employees (yes, I mean pissing off the Internet costs you a million bucks in just a couple of days). That's not stupidly greedy, that's stupidly stupid.
"If you are going to ascribe everything we do to being greedy, at least give us credit for being greedy long (value creation) and not greedy short (screwing over customers)."
Newell assured Reddit that, if the changes do not ultimately serve the agenda of improving modding for both creators and gamers, they will be dropped. In the meantime, however, the foundation of the complaints Valve is receiving seem to be grounded in the difference in how money is perceived.
"Think of money as information," Newell said. "The community directing money flows works for the same reason that prediction markets crush pundits.
"Money is how the community steers work."
However, Newell did concede that the community has two "legitimate beefs" with Valve's services at present: customer support and Greenlight. The company, he said, is working on both short and long-term strategies for addressing these problematic areas.
"In the interim, it's going to be a sore point. Both these problems boil down to building scalable solutions that are robust in the face of exponential growth."