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Valve: Fears of a digital land grab "don't make sense"

Steam helps all developers reach a wider audience and grow digital market; Valve games aren't prioritised over others, says Holtman

Valve's Jason Holtman has said that fears the Steam platform could become a monopoly in the digital market are unfounded, and that the company's own game releases help the platform to grow for the benefit of all.

He was speaking following a report by Stardock's CEO Brad Wardell, which estimated Steam has a 70 per cent share of the digital market in the US. Some developers, such as Gearbox's Randy Pitchford, have also publicly questioned whether it's good for the industry as a whole for a games developer to run the leading online digital distribution service.

"In terms of whether we get too big or maybe our content shouldn't be on the platform, it's just doesn't make much sense. Because the content helps the platform grow," said Holtman, speaking in an exclusive interview published today.

"There's nothing better in the world for anyone making an Xbox 360 game than the fact that Halo exists. It's awesome, there's nobody saying 'boy I wish Bungie hadn't made Halo' because it sold an awful lot of Xboxes that you can sell your games on."

"Having the content and the distribution that go hand-in-hand make it a stronger platform, make it a platform to reach more consumers with your own game. If you look at any given time on our top-sellers and our marketing, it's clear that [Valve games] are not the only push out there," said Holtman, who heads up the Steam business for Valve.

There's plenty of competition on the PC for consumers to take their business elsewhere if they weren't happy with the service, said Holtman, and the nature of the format means that other companies can potential build a rival to Steam as it's an open format.

"The thing about PC in general is that unlike a closed platform you can make your own. We have a force of openness on the PC that's always pushing on us. If we started doing things that were bad decisions for customers or developers, they can just move and go somewhere else."

The full interview with Jason Holtman, where he discusses Modern Warfare 2 sales, and how big publishers have learnt to “turn on a dime” to take advantage of the fast-changing digital market, can be read here.

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Latest comments (5)

Lance Winter Senior Game Designer, Splash Damage10 years ago
Both parties are correct.

Is it a bad thing for one company to monopolize PC distribution? Yes.
Is it a good thing that Valve are providing such a popular delivery platform? Yes.

Steam really has raised the bar for other distributors. I'm sure that right now it's incredibly difficult to bring something competitive to the table - but it can certainly still be done. The key to Steam's success is that for many customers, it's a more compelling experience than either physical retail, competing digital providers, and even more of an attractive proposition than piracy.

In contrast with the world of console, handheld, and iPhone distribution, the PC is still a very open environment, but new-entrants really must strive to provide something that gamers really want: a creaking website offering DRM-enshrouded downloads is no longer good enough!

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Jurrie Hobers Founder & General Partner, Noein Ludus Ventures10 years ago
I understand the general concern here, but you could say that both Sony and Microsoft are doing the same with owning a platform and also publish their own content? Same as Nintendo.

It pays for Valve that they took the steps years ago and learned a lot while continuingly build on their platform. No one stopped others from doing the same. But no one did...
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After Steam blew off our indy title 'Flowerworks' - in a completely unprofessional and uninformative way - we'll never work with them again. The more competition, the better - maybe it will make them think twice about doing that sort of thing in the future.

Oh yeah - we launch on WiiWare (US) next Monday, enough said.
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Show all comments (5)
Yiannis Koumoutzelis Founder & Creative Director, Neriad Games10 years ago
I really like Steamworks. It is a great idea that works and yes, i agree that developers choose what features of Steam they want to include with their title to their benefit as they should.

I just fail to see what (according to valve's claim) is the benefit of including valve's storefront in that particular title for the developer. Other than facilitating players to buy more products from Steam easily. Unless they are getting a cut from every title sold through their game.

On the other hand,
It is a free open market and everyone can develop and improve their products the way they see fit to meet competition requirements.

If others think that valve is trying to monopolize the market then i believe that it is to their interest to develop and offer similar and better features and deals to developers.

It will be more profitable that complaining about it.
And less damaging than excluding top tier titles from their stores.

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Reilly Smith Studying Film and Video Studies, University of Oklahoma10 years ago
Lance, might I ask how it is "bad" if Valve "monopolizes" digital distrib on PC, especially if it's clearly what the market demands? There is a fundamental difference between a coercive monopoly (government services, patents, copyright protection, etc) and one voluntarily emergent in the market.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Reilly Smith on 24th February 2010 9:56am

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