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Half-Life 2 Black Box dropped

Steam to undercut retail :: May 19th, 2007 :: New products :: 41 Responses

Valve have announced that the Half-Life 2 “black box” SKU will no longer be shipped, leaving PC players with either the orange box, which also contains Half-Life 2 and Episode One, or Steam, which is still set to offer a package of just the three new titles. (This may now only happen once the games have been released on 10 October.)

Half-Life 2: Episode Two screenshot
Valve are trying to convert existing retail customers to Steam.

This is clearly a move designed to let Valve undercut retailers by organising the availability of a clutch of highly-anticipated games online and offline, as happened at Half-Life 2’s launch when Steam’s Silver package gave far better value for money than retail options.

In this case, Valve are circumventing retailer’s hold over minimum prices: stores can easily refuse to stock a product if it’s being sold for less online, but refusing to stock a different pack because a theoretically less valuable one is being sold cheaper elsewhere might not go down so well with shareholders.

The reverse effect of retailers undercutting Steam is also undoubtedly on Valve’s mind, as they lost a great deal of face when Episode One was sold on the high street and at e-tailers for less than its Steam price on day one. Will shops be willing or even able to cut prices enough to compete with a now unencumbered Steam? I doubt it. Unless you want HL2 or Episode One too, Episode Two’s package, I predict, is going to be cheap.

This will also be a marketing experiment for Valve: what proportion of their cornered market of Half-Life 2 and Episode One owners will they be able to convert into Episode Two buyers? It will be a measure of their confidence whether or not we see any advertising for the Steam package outside Update News items.

41 Responses to this post:


  1. Tom Edwards Says:

    This is also helping ATI a little, as the HD 2000 range of cards will each ship with a three-game Steam code.

  2. Andy Simpson Says:

    Wow, I feel blitzed. Three updates in one day.

    I hope Valve actually make a direct and clear statement on this – too many people are getting the impression that the Ep2/TF2/Portal bundle is going away entirely, not that it’ll only be on Steam. There are a few complaints that even though they could go the Steam way, they want the box.

    I can’t understand it, myself. Steam purchases are far more convienient. I’m at uni right now, and most of my old games are in boxes back at home. If I want to play them here, I’m stuffed. Not so with Steam.

    Nice to see they’re going to deliver drivers, but hopefully they’ll be able to get Nvidia on board too. I don’t know quite why Valve hasn’t done this of their own accord yet though. Presumably all they need are a list of chipsets being used by the Steam population (which they have) and the latest driver binaries to support each chipset (which they can find out from the web / the Steam stats).

    Time will tell if using Steam for advertising will take off… my view is that Valve has a really incoherent middleware strategy. I don’t think they really know what it is they’re trying to sell. If they broke Steam up into a bunch of discrete pieces of functionality that could be individually licensed, but made a lot of sense used together, they’d see a lot more uptake. More uptake = more $.

    Like, they should sell their server browsing solution. I’d buy it for my game, any system that can handle the kinda use Steam gets is clearly well worth it. Then the proceeds could pay for a guy to specifically work on making server browsing better, which would not only benefit all of the licensees but also Valve’s own games.

    I mean, you can see the benefits of the decoupled approach in the content delivery business itself. Ever since they removed the requirement for games to implement the Steam filesystem and made it easier to use Steam as basically glorified download + billing client its use for third party games has exploded.

    I reckon the same thing would happen if the billing, download, server browsing, auth, friends, community, ads etc. features were all broken out, and it could be done without losing the benefit of the main Steam client itself, it’d just be an option.

    E.g. “This game uses Steam Friends to chat with friends in-game. Do you want to install the Steam client to chat with the same friends on the desktop, see when and where they’re playing, as well as access to demos, trailers and Steam-only special offers?”

    Ah well, I can dream, I guess.

  3. ATimson Says:

    Ooh. Talk about incentive to upgrade… 🙂

    (Especially since my current card is a no-longer-supported Radeon 9000.)

  4. Ed Says:

    What they should do is release Portal in advance for people who pre-order on Steam. That’d be a killer deal and a win-win situation for Valve. Thats something the shops cannot match!

  5. ally Says:

    this is pretty cool i like the idea of bundling it in with the ati dx10 cards

  6. King2500 Says:

    Nice screenshot 😀

  7. Michael Says:

    At my university, downloads are charged to me at AUD$35.00 per GB. At home, the my broadband plan is almost as bad as dialup*. Australian internet services are a joke.
    Which is why I like having my games on CD and in boxes. There are so many advantages of being able install from CD instead of having to waste downloads on something that can be bought in physical form.

    A stunt like this from VALVe really does offend me as it either forces me to do it their way or to pay extra, for something that I already own. The australian gamers market gets charged extra for any game that is released, even if it was bought over steam.

  8. Tom Edwards Says:

    Hundreds of games. Millions of gamers. Logon to Steam today.

    The Steam slogan?

  9. n/a Says:

    if the only way for me to get team fortress2 and portal is to buy a orange box, or to get it from steam i will do neither, i see no reazon why should i be forced to only do what valve wants, im not going to pay more for the orange box, since ill just throw away(not use) hl2, ap1 or ep2, since i have no interest in playing those games, never really got into hl itselfe(granted many ppl like the game, not me) and my other option is to supposebly dld it from steam, which i will not do, since i have no time to stay online and dld some software for hours, i pay for it, i want it on a cd/dvd as its normally done, not some dld, and for those talking about advantages of steam, i see none, seriously ZERO

  10. Kadayi Says:


    You were always going to have to subscribe to Steam regardless (Black or orange box). Valve have made that pretty clear throughout regarding their products. Knowing that would definitely be the case I’m unclear what exactly your complaint is about. Also if you have no desire/capacity to be online for hours on end, I’m surprised that your so desirous for TF2 as it’s an online multi-player game that will consume your life for many months.

  11. kadayi Says:

    Over at my usual haunt on in response to this news someone posted an interesting thought regarding the fact that, although Valve will no doubt be looking to try and capture more direct steam sales of EP1 from those players who already have HL2/and EP1, there will also be effectively be giving away a hell of a lot of legitimate HL2 steam activation keys through the retail release. In future whose going to pirate HL2 and risk spyware, etc, when they can probably go to a forum and ask for a spare number from someone?

  12. ATimson Says:

    HL2 probably isn’t much of a concern with regards to extra keys, especially if (as it appears) that it’s only the single-player. It’s the multiplayer games where it’s a concern. (Yes, I’d like a free VAC unban, please!)

  13. TonicBH Says:

    There are two things that bother me about this: I already own HL2 and Episode One, and now I have to pay $20 (or however much) more to get games I don’t want.

    And like hell am I gonna go buy it on Steam. Give me a box, I’m not ready for digital distribution.

  14. ATimson Says:

    [quote comment=”3165″]There are two things that bother me about this: I already own HL2 and Episode One, and now I have to pay $20 (or however much) more to get games I don’t want.[/quote]
    $10, actually.

    I’m not ordering Episode 2 until I see what retail discounts we get this time around. After being burned both by retail prices and by the short length of Episode 1, Valve has got some serious convincing to do before I pick it up. Say, $15-20 for E2 and Portal (Unless they come with a video card in the meantime, of course. ;))

  15. Kadayi Says:

    [quote comment=”3165″]And like hell am I gonna go buy it on Steam. Give me a box, I’m not ready for digital distribution.[/quote]

    Bet you don’t blink an eye buying crap from Amazon though. With 13 million users, Steams’ not going anywhere, so why not dip a toe in and see how it feels.

  16. Dan Says:

    so… if I buy an XT2900 now, do I get the 3-pack when Episode 2 releases? Interesting incentive.

  17. Bino Panda Says:

    you guys do know you can buy all the games in this package separately so nobody has 25 copies of hl2 just go to the steam site and search the name of the game be it portal tf2 or any other game they have you don’t need some big fancy package unless you get the 360 version.

  18. reizig Says:

    You realize that if you already own a copy of a game and you purchase a package with that game included, Steam has a fully functional gifting systems which allows you to transfer ownership of the game to someone else.

    So let’s say you own HL2 and HL2:Ep1 (like I did). You still get Ep2, TF2 and Portal for less than 50 bucks. That’s a deal either way. Plus it gives you the chance to give it to a friend or get someone who isn’t into video games a chance to play HL2 for free (you can gift multiple gifts to multiple partners).

    So really the only reason to complain about this is if you have no friends.

    Or if you live in Australia, in which case I figured that by now you guys would be used to being dicked over in the ISP department.

    PS. You can buy the games individually, so seeing as how they aren’t FORCING you to buy a package and you’re still all up in arms about it, probably means you really really just want one and are trying to talk yourself out of it.

  19. John Says:

    i’ve been using steam a while now but with ep2 i might buy it over steam for the first time, don’t want to buy stuff i already have. Just a query guys if u buy it on steam and download it, you can back it up on a dvd, when u do that does it act like a retail installation disc?

  20. Tom Edwards Says:

    Yes, and yes. 🙂

  21. Christian Burkhardt Says:

    I agree with all that own half life 2 and episode 1 and are upset with the way eisode two is being offered. I am in the same position I do not want to purchase something I already have. I want the Disks for the games. All I want is the new games. Here are some more upset users that want to purchase only the new games. I say that everyone that is upset sontact steam and voice their frustration over the way it is packaged. I did and I will do it again.

  22. Zoris Says:


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