Valve on Piracy Rates and How Steam Keeps Them Low

Piracy is the subject of note in the third part of a massive interview with Valve Software’s Gabe Newell and Erik Johnson over at PC Gamer.

When asked about piracy rates on Steam Newell said that that they are so low that Valve does spend any time thinking about it:

"They’re low enough that we don’t really spend any time [on it]. When you look at the things we sit around and talk about, as big picture cross game issues, we’re way more concerned about the stability of DirectX drivers or, you know, the erroneous banning of people. That’s way more of an issue for us than piracy.

Once you create service value for customers, ongoing service value, piracy seems to disappear, right? It’s like “Oh, you’re still doing something for me? I don’t mind the fact that I paid for this.” Once you actually localise your product in Russia and ship it on the same day that you ship your English language versions, this theoretical hotbed of piracy becomes your second largest- third largest after Germany in continental Europe? Or third after UK?

Newell goes on to say that creating anything to combat piracy that has the potential to affect even one customer is not something the company is willing to do. He also adds that Steam’s ability to let users play the games they own from any computer has also helped to keep customers happy.

Read the whole interview at PC Gamer.

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  1. 0
    asmodai says:

    Noting that it’s highly unlikely someone will revisit this topic, it’s still worth mentioning that the big problem is that few people really want to admit their piracy and ergo it’s hard to get feedback on how a company might adjust it’s approach to lure people away from piracy.

    Digital IP is somewhat unique in that it can be propagated ad infinitum so standard loss prevention isn’t really possible.  Valve seem to have taken the unique approach of considering what pirates want and trying to deliver it to them, rather than chasing them pointlessly.

  2. 0
    GrimCW says:

    and this guy obviously wasn’t very bright then, cause he should’ve changed his password the first time it happened.

    and thats not piracy thats password theft in the league of identity theft.

    someone probably phished it out and had him targeted.

    then wised up and got his account info changed before he did.

    i have multiple systems on steam at a time, and i can play across’em (as i two box with a couple of MMO’s since i can’t oft stand the smug attitude of the elitest crowds that have long since taken over any MMO out there)

    just gotta remember only one can be in online mode at a time.

  3. 0
    mogbert says:

    I was playing TF2 today, and one guy kept getting kicked for multiple computers logged on with the same ID, and later for "No Steam Password".

    So there still seems to be Steam piracy, but it seems to be a lot rarer and more inconvenient. Unfortunately they seem to lean more in the dirrection of griefing, yelling repeatedly in the mic, and botting.

  4. 0
    axiomatic says:

    Pay attention game companies who are NOT Valve: if you provide a DRM "front end" that provides more services than just the digital distribution of the game you might be successful as a company.

    Whats that? I know! SHOCKER huh?!?!



  5. 0
    ZippyDSMlee says:

    I don’t like steam that much they need to polish offline mode so its completely seamless it goes off line only the primarily online content cares about it.

    The only thing they do to lesson piracy is due to the online company support, offline games are as easily cracked as anything else.

    I still try before I buy because prices are still out of whack and I prefer to buy physical goods.

    I have a dream, break the chains of copy right oppression!

  6. 0
    Neeneko says:

    *nods* this is why research into ‘why people pirate’ is imporant to look at when trying to make a buisness case.  While the ‘people pirate because they do not want to pay’ makes good press, it tends to fall flat as a universal when looking at actual customers that are willing to pay when a convient service is offerred.

    This is also why companies that have bothered to break away from the meme and do actual research are laughing all the way to the bank.  Crow, if StarDock was not so niche or higher profile, they would probably be doing pretty well too (and it could be aruged that the succes/survivial they do have could be partly attributed to thier download service and lack of DRM… I know that has made me a returning customer)


  7. 0
    asmodai says:

    This is part of the reason why I no longer ‘try before I buy’…

    I still spent thousands on software back when I was pirating like crazy.  I could afford it but it was just easier to cue up the download on certain titles than it was to go to the store.  All the antipiracy attempts (controls etc) didn’t do anything to faze me.  The one thing that has virtually eliminated my piracy habits is Steam being convenient enough to give me no reason to pirate…

    Steam, particularly it’s aggressive special sales, has really given me no reason to pirate anymore.  My ISP doesn’t meter steam content (they still meter in Aus ; ), the DRM is typically unobtrusive, I don’t cheat so I’m not going to get my account banned and I’ve got my library where lack of discs or damaged media isn’t going to be a problem.

    Steam has reduced the difficulty involved with obtaining and using the software so much that it’s far more convenient to spend a bit of cash and get what I want immediately.  The value adds (auto patching, matchmaking and social network integration, cloud settings etc) are just icing on the cake.

    I won’t try to justify my previous piracy because I’m pretty unrepentant about it.  But there’s a lot of money out there to be made from people who would spend it on your product if only it was convenient to do so and well supported.  It won’t end piracy but it’ll certainly help.

  8. 0
    DorkmasterFlek says:

    You mean you can drastically reduce piracy by *gasp* giving customers what they want?!  I am shocked and appalled.  Where’s your constant Internet connection requirement and intrusive rootkit software, Gabe?  Don’t you know you’re killing the industry?!  You and the dirty commies!  :)

  9. 0
    Thad says:

    Shows what he knows.  If you don’t have intrusive DRM, your company can’t possibly make enough money to survive!  Ubisoft said so!

    Seriously, though, good for him.  Steam’s not perfect but it’s one of the best systems out there, and I’d like to see more guys take Newell’s approach.

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