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Valve's Newell on tearing down the Steam "dictatorship"

Newell wants Steam to be more open with increased user input

Though Valve's Steam online retail service is currently the market leader, Valve founder Gabe Newell has a lengthy list of changes in store. In a talk at the University of Texas, Newell outlined a Steam more controlled by users than by Valve itself. Possible changes to the service include scrapping the current approval process, killing Steam Greenlight, and opening the storefront to more user-generated content.

"One of the worst characteristics of the current Steam system is that we've become a bottleneck. There's so much content coming at us that we just don't have enough time to turn the crank on the production process of getting something up on Steam. So whether we want to or not, we're creating artificial shelf space scarcity," explained Newell, according to a report by Gamasutra.

"Right now we have inside of Steam we have a dictatorship It's probably bad for the Steam community, in the long run, not to move to a different way of thinking about that. In other words, we should stop being a dictator and move towards much more participatory, peer-based methods of sanctioning player behavior," he said.

Newell wants to turn Steam into a distribution service that any person can use. Newell's idea for the future Steam includes user-driven curation on the storefront.

"So the right way to do that is to make Steam essentially a network API that anyone can call. Essentially, it's like, anyone can use Steam as a sort of a distribution and replication mechanism," said Newell.

"It's not us making a decision about what should or shouldn't be available. It's just, you want to use this distribution facility? It's there. And customers decide which things actually end up being pulled through. So Steam should stop being a curated process and start becoming a networking API."

"The stores instead should become user-generated content. If a user can create his own store -- essentially add an editorial perspective and content on top of the purchase process -- then we've created a mechanism where everybody, in the same way we've seen a huge upsurge of user-generated content with hats, we think that there's a lot of aggregate value that can be created by allowing people to create stores."

Steam Greenlight was meant to put the power in the hands of users, but Newell admits the current implementation is working out.

"Greenlight is a bad example of an election process. We came to the conclusion pretty quickly that we could just do away with Greenlight completely, because it was a bottleneck rather than a way for people to communicate choice," he said.

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Mike Williams avatar
Mike Williams: M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.
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