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Valve: Steam can boost boxed sales

Free weekends on service increase retail sales, claims Lombardi; Left 4 Dead 2 pre-orders already double that of original

Valve has batted away the latest fears that its digital Steam service is damaging traditional retail, revealing it has data that shows boxed sales increase when it runs promotions via its digital distribution channel.

Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz in London yesterday, marketing boss Doug Lombardi claimed 'free weekend' initiatives boosted sales of its games across the board.

"When we do our free weekends on Steam for our products we see an increase in player numbers, obviously, and then we'll see a spike in sales at the end of the weekend on Steam and at retail," he said. "And recently we've seen data that shows Left 4 Dead free weekends increase the sales of Left 4 Dead on Steam, at retail and on the Xbox 360, which we would never have guessed could have happened, but it's just that word of mouth."

Lombardi also hit back at industry rumours suggesting leading US retailers including GameStop were increasingly reluctant to give over shelf space to Valve products in-store, due to the impact Steam is having on bricks-and-mortar businesses.

"A lot of the 'Steam is there to compete with retail' stuff is sort of sensationalised," he argued. "We spent more money at GameStop in the US promoting Left For Dead than we did at any other chain. We sold more copies of Left 4 Dead at Gamestop than we did at any other chain.

"We're supporting them with dollars for promotions and they're supporting us by delivering top performance in terms of sell-through at their outlet with Left 4 Dead. My hope is that we can replicate that success with Left 4 Dead 2.

"[Steam is] about making the games better. It's currently a great marketing and promotions channel, and yeah we sell games over it and that's great, but whether people buy games at GameStop, or GAME UK, or on Steam, we get paid. So for us, whichever cash register you want to pay at, that's fine."

Lombardi added that pre-orders for Left 4 Dead 2, the co-op shooter sequel, were already double that of the original for a similar time frame. This in spite of a widely-publicised internet campaign led by disgruntled owners of the first game, objecting to Valve releasing content as a standalone sequel rather than as DLC.

Left 4 Dead 2 is due for release on PC and Xbox 360 in November.

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Johnny Minkley avatar

Johnny Minkley


Johnny Minkley is a veteran games writer and broadcaster, former editor of Eurogamer TV, VP of gaming charity SpecialEffect, and hopeless social media addict.