The Steam Review

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The Double Fine question

Episodic and on Steam? :: October 9th, 2006 :: General, New products :: 14 Responses
Psychonauts: Waterloo World
It’s impossible to convey Psychonauts with a single screenshot, so I won’t even try. Click through for a gallery.

One particularly good piece of news to come from Majesco’s and Valve’s recent contract-signing press release was that Double Fine‘s most excellent game Psychonauts would be arriving on Steam at some point this month. While I would feed justified making special mention like this purely on the game’s many merits and tragic under-appreciation at retail, there are several noteworthy issues surrounding it also.

Design lead and industry veteran of Monkey Island fame Tim Schaefer spoke to the Guardian this August:

Definitely, we’re looking at distribution by download. It’s a promising avenue. … We’re definitely interested in downloadable content to make smaller games, just because it would be nice to make a game in less time than most modern games, which usually take about two to three years. Back when we did Monkey Island, that was only about nine months.

Before we get to carried away with the very pleasant notion of Double Fine producing episodic games for Steam, a reality check is in order: the group’s next game is being published by Valve’s old friends Vivendi Games, both excluding their future projects from the Majesco contract and placing them at the mercy of a publisher with every reason to hold no great love for digital distribution, not to mention Steam.

Fortunately this fact doesn’t quite preclude our merry theorising: Valve and Vivendi parted out of court and on “good terms” (if anyone can find the interview with that VU rep quote in, I would be grateful), and Double Fine have described the publisher and their contract with them as “developer-friendly”.

Nevertheless, the relationship makes a question out of what I would have otherwise have happily called a certainty. Just how good were the terms, and just how developer-friendly is the contract? Watch this space.

14 Responses to this post:

  1. Andy Simpson Says:

    Woo, two posts! I have to say I actually missed the Steam Review. May such a hiatus never occur again.

    I’ll add my two cents about both posts here. First off, you make a convincing argument, but at the same time, I think the publishers aren’t going to want to tie their wagon to anyone in particular for any longer than is necessary. If anything it just adds risk to the process if they’ve not already got their backs to the wall.

    I’d say dealing with publishers is a necessary transitional move in the switch from a pure retail model to a hybrid. Until developers come out from under the shadow of restrictive contracts and own their own digital distribution rights we’re going to see a lot more of this. The situation with Junction Point highlights how financially tricky this whole thing is. Unless you have very secure finances like Valve, you don’t have the backing to come out from under the financial umbrella of the big publishers.

    Erm. I’d like to get Psychonauts. Doesn’t one of the guys who wrote it work at Valve now?

    Thirdly, Triton. I find the collapse of Triton… I wouldn’t say amusing, because it sucks royally for anyone who bought a game from them. I think it’s funny that they hitched their wagon to Triton mainly because they personally don’t like Steam and they didn’t want Valve to know their sales numbers, technical or business advantages aside.

    Their perceived attitude of competition with Valve is weird, seeing as how they have successfully managed to fail to release their flagship game. I mean, presumably id is taking a royalty on each copy of Prey, and Epic for DNF (if it ever comes out) for the engine license, but they’re averse to Valve taking a cut?

    Steam frankly is the perfect system for something like Prey. The content streaming is just as good if you can be halfway arsed to set it up, and you’re putting it in front of literally millions of hard-core FPS fans. Not to mention that Steam is built like a brick shithouse. This thing managed to release HL2 a few years ago with only minor trauma, and it’s bigger and better than ever today. It’s not going to bat an eyelid at Prey.

    Instead, they went with Triton, the unproven newcomer to the market. And yes, the management of the shutdown of Triton swerves towards the appalling. To not even tell your corperate clients about the shut-down wreaks of bad business practices.

  2. Jobye Says:

    Yeah, I was one of the unlucky few to suffer from Triton’s collapse. Apparently, a patch is in the works to cut the dependancy of Prey to Triton, something that they should of thought of before. I mean Valve already has a patch like that ready if the eventuality of them somehow going out of business should arise. Anyways, Tom, you should do an articles on Triton’s untimely downfall. And like you said, I find it very dumb of 3DR not choosing Steam just because Valve is a competitor. They must be regretting their decision of going with Triton now that they’ve seen what has happened.

    More on Triton here:

  3. Ed Says:

    Well, I’d love to see a ‘real’ sequel to Monkey Islands I and II. If not that, any new Monkey Island game would be great!

  4. Dwarden Says:

    More good adventures on Steam i wish πŸ™‚
    Fail of Triton was predictable with all problems they got. Sad for Prey but now they can go Steam w/o thinking twice πŸ™‚

  5. boglito Says:

    Good for them that psychonauts arrives on steam. The buzz-o-mania on various discussion boards indicates that the sales should be pretty solid, which I’m sure the developers deserve.

    I think the partnership with vivendi makes it a lot less probable that we will see new games from tim schaefer on steam.


  6. hahnchen Says:

    No one ever parts from a court decision on “good terms”. When asked how the current Valve/EA agreement was going, Gabe commented “at least they haven’t sued us”. But business has a short memory, if Vivendi and Valve think they can make money together, then you can be sure there won’t be too many qualms before jumping into bed again.

    The Triton representative has commented on the Prey situation, and after the initial wtf? it seems like they’ve got a hold of the thing. A patch is in the works to remove Triton dependancy, and there is an agreement with 2K for to replace some Triton for boxed copies.

    The representative also quotes “Thanks to your support, the Triton service was a technological success in its launch, but unfortunately it saddens me to announce that the Triton service is offline. The company itself is undergoing an reorganization process.” They’ve cut their losses in the digital delivery market, but the company/backers behind it are still liquid. My money is that they’re going to move on licensing the “technological success”.

  7. Tom Edwards Says:

    No one ever parts from a court decision on “good terms”.

    It was an out-of-court decision.

  8. hahnchen Says:

    It doesn’t matter where the decision was made, if the thing was taken to court, you can sure damn expect there to be acrimony on both sides.

  9. Tom Edwards Says:

    That’s what the VU guy said happened, though I do admit I can’t find the interview any more.

  10. Andy Simpson Says:

    Hmm. You probably should remove the Triton link now. It seems to redirect to a page full of ads…

  11. Cargo Cult Says:





  12. hahnchen Says:

    I have a nice fat piece of pure speculation and didn’t know where to put it.

    But what do you see at ?

  13. hahnchen Says:

    Does no one think anything of the bioShock reference on that link? There’s no way bioShock’s going to have IGA, but digital distribution maybe?

  14. Tom Edwards Says:

    I’m working on it. Done.