Game Informer Online interviews Valve
Game Informer Online caught up with Gabe Newell and Doug Lombardi at GDC yesterday (thanks RP) for a meaty interview covering Steam, episodic delivery and the Source engine. Unfortunately the transcription becomes confused at several points: I’ve tried to make sense of these gaps when they occur.
Summary of points
- The Day of Defeat: Source Free Weekend led to more online sales in its immediate aftermath – but twice as many retail sales, even though the download was complete and the customers all had internet access. More
Newell: The result of letting people play for a free weekend is we sold a bunch of content, we did the billing of that content online for a whole bunch of people, but twice as many people who had never played Day Of Defeat before until that weekend went to the store and bought a copy and then used that to authenticate. They already had the bits on their machine. They just didn’t have the checkmark that said, “Yes, you can play this.” So we weren’t even fulfilling the product. They happened to have those bits on those discs, and [the purchase] really was just the ticket that said, “Yes, you can keep playing.”
- Valve are expanding Friends with a ‘buddy program’ of sorts for trials of multiplayer games. You will be able to give up to five friends access to your online games at any one point. More
Newell: One of the things that we really want to do is help people to get their friends to try our games. It’s a high priority right now for us to put all of the pieces [for that to happen] in place. If you bought a copy of one of our games you can give five trials to your friends. You type in your e-mail address and then you’ll see the first time that they play you’ll have this little screen where you can say, “Oh look, he’s playing. Oh, he hasn’t played yet so I’m going to delete him and replace him with somebody else.” And give your friends a chance to play. It’s a multiplayer game. You get notified as soon as they start playing so you can jump in. That’s the kind of thing we think is going to be super valuable at making that connected customer experience more effective.
- The question of in-game stat-logging is sidestepped (a good sign) for an anecdote explaining how useful Steam’s hardware survey is proving. More
Newell: Hardware companies and operating system companies say, “Wow, you have far more detailed information about people’s PCs than we do because we don’t have this connection [Steam] to our customers. We just send our PCs out in boxes that sit in warehouses someplace and we have no idea what our customers do with them afterwards. Whereas you guys can tell me exactly how many gamers have [GeForce] FX systems, how many of them are actually running dual threaded, how many of them have SLI for real?” They think that that’s super valuable.
- Valve are anticipating ‘two to three’ new releases or announcements of releases on Steam each month! More
Game Informer: With Darwinia and SiN rolling out soon, how many other games can we expect in the near future?
Newell: I think a lot. A whole bunch.
Lombardi: Yeah, we’re pacing about two or three new ones a month.
- Valve have not yet decided if Half-Life 3 will ever be made: they are instead waiting on the response to episodic releases. More
Newell: On the storytelling side I think right now we’re having a lot of fun – chapter, chapter, chapter. I assume at some point we’re going to say, and our fans are going to say, “That was really great for a while, but now we want the big one.” I think that we’re having [to make new choices] – TV show, TV show, TV show, movie. How do you make that decision? Fans like them both. But, some things you want to do with a movie-like piece, and some things work better as individual episodes.
While there is certainly a large amount of interesting information in the interview, particularly Valve’s ongoing experimentation with new trail models, the real event for Steam at GDC was the “What’s Next in Digital Distribution & Mainstream Games” panel. Unfortunately GDCTV.net, due last Wednesday, still hasn’t launched and we remain in the dark. Hopefully the broadcast will go up at some point in the next week; I’ll be covering it as soon as I can after it does.