A Very Gaben Industry

Piracy. Sopa. DLC. Consoles. Tablets. Sequels. Gabe Newell has an opinion on all of these. Gabe’s a man that believes in video games. What they do for the people who play them and especially what they’ve done for him. Co-Founder of Valve Corporation, Gabe is a busy man managing the Steam platform and directing Valve’s own video game department. However, he still finds the time to reach out to his fans and gamers in general. Ever since his e-mail address was put on the internet, people have been blasting his inbox with questions, requests, jokes, and other assorted wacky things trying to get a response out of him. With every response the internet goes bonkers for more Gabe. It really makes you wonder if any of them realize that Gabe is just a gamer like them. The only difference is his position in the industry. That is what is so great about Gabe Newell. He is a gamer.

Normally, that wouldn’t be a big thing to boast about a person. Hell, I’m a gamer. Why does it matter with Mr. Newell? He’s a leading man in the gaming industry. His opinions and beliefs are so far and away different from others in his position that calling him a “true gamer” actually means something. When you have people like John Riccitiello, Bobby Kotick, and countless other people that are constantly at the center of controversy such as DLC pricing and dates, rushed products, and so forth it is nice to see someone who has the actual products and their quality as a priority. Now, you’d think that these companies and people are out to make a buck since that’s their business. I’d completely agree with you if Valve wasn’t so successful. Gabe talks about piracy and why it is so rampant and basically if comes down to the service you provide to people. One of the greatest examples he gives is when Steam was ready to launch in Russia. With all the warnings about piracy there, Steam launched anyways and is now proving to be one of the more grossing markets for them. Provide the service not only to game companies but to the consumer in the best way possible and a trust formed.

Let’s take EA’s Origin service for instance. Origin is a great program. The interface and features are easy to use and even its “overlay” during gameplay is better than Steam’s. Origin gets a bad rap, though. Why? Plenty of reasons. Their EULA is extremely confusing and even after saying that they changed their data collection clause, it is still not clear whether or not EA is giving your info and game play data to 3rd party companies. Plenty of users are coming out and being banned on a game forum and having their entire Origin library disabled. On and off again customer satisfaction and iffy product redemption/adding doesn’t help, either. EA and Steam apparently had a falling out over how DLC should be received by players and since then most of EA’s games have been taken off of Valve’s platform. Now, we can speculate all we want but it is fairly easy to see that this happened right after Origin launched. You couldn’t buy Mass Effect 3 or Battlefield 3 on Steam and it didn’t stop there.

The difference between Steam and Origin is that Valve is providing a service to gamers while EA is allowing you to use their platform. They see it as a gift to allow players to use their products digitally. Valve sees it as the future of gaming. Gabe’s stance on piracy and DLC is the right way. Which leads me onto the point of this article.

Gabe Newell should be the head of a “gaming council” for all these companies. To show them what’s right and what’s wrong. This man would single-handily reduce piracy to a non-factor. His business sense and “for the gamer, by the gamer” mentality throws out the nickle-and-diming that all these companies have fallen in love with. Gaming is a hobby to most. They are willing to dish out the cash if they feel satisfied. Day one DLC packages, $10 online passes, and always-on DRM protection puts an extreme burden on those who are paying customers and loyal fans. EA’s obsession with multitudes of DLC, Ubisoft’s ridiculous DRM policies, and Activision’s milking is not the way to create the kind of trust gamers are looking for. Everything should be done with a reason – as is the same for non-gaming subjects as well. For instance, I understand why the DLC is on the disc for Street Fighter x Tekken. It is put there to get rid of online compatibility issues that plagued prior games. However, be honest about it. When people see loads of DLC on the disc after a purchase with no prior news about it, it becomes a problem. Then a company has to prepare a statement and all this other garbage to try and set things right. When I downloaded “From Ashes” for Mass Effect 3 on Origin, it downloaded a 400+ mb addition for the game. Was that the full DLC? It seemed like it. However, on the consoles it is seemingly on-disc. If something is on the disc for no reasons other than “day one DLC”, it should be free since we just paid for it. If it is there for stated reasons and the DLC is not out on day one, then it feels justified. Doesn’t it?

These are practices that are becoming more and more the norm in today’s video games. Does anyone remember when buying a game meant you got the full product in your hands? Or how about when DLC meant an expansion pack or something worthwhile that added to the experience? Horse Armor, folks. Horse Armor.

What I am really getting at here is that people like Gabe Newell has the best intentions when it comes to releasing a product or platform. He uses it, too. That’s what makes Valve such a reputable company. Gabe knows how gamers feel because he is a gamer. He isn’t a fat cat who directs people and watches the bank accounts. He is just like us and he sees the problems. His products and services don’t have these problems. It isn’t about Team Fortress hats or Portal gear. Those aren’t necessary for the experience. From Ashes, however, adds to the game and unless you bought the more expensive version of Mass Effect 3, you were bombarded with employees of GameStop or Best Buy if you wanted to buy the add-on.

The gaming industry is coming to a head and its not a pretty one. Prices and packages are only going to rise and with the coming generation of consoles, you really have to wonder if there is any good news up ahead. With rumors of used games being useless on Microsoft’s new console and DLC rampaging through wallets is there anything left alive from the gaming hobby or has it completely turned into a job yet?