Carmack: Digital Distribution is Not Easy

Speaking to Tom's Guide in a lengthy interview about everything from RAGE to the latest hardware, id Software co-founder and programming genius John Carmack offered an interesting answer on the new trend of company's starting their own digital distribution services. Carmack said that the work that Valve put into Steam was not easy, despite what some companies might think:

Question: Moving onto digital distribution: How do you feel about developers and publishers striking out on their own for digital distribution? Steam/Valve is the big dog, and now you have Origin/EA, too.

Answer: There’s definitely a sense that publishers don’t want to be tied to Valve. It seems like an easy thing, setting up your own digital distribution, but I caution everyone that there is a lot more expertise built up at Valve than you might think. It’s a harder task than just setting up some automated FTP sites with a web front end, and they have a network effect going by having the games download in the background. Everybody thinks, “Well, I don’t want to split my money with Valve. How hard can it be to set this up?” And my advice is: usually it’s harder than you think it is. I think from the consumer side, digital distribution like Steam is doing a really good thing. It’s better than dealing with getting the box and losing the CD and all of those related issues. Everybody knows that this is the way the wind is blowing.

Question: And Steam didn’t take off until several years after its initial release.

Answer: I remember us talking with Valve, and they were trying to get us to release Doom 3 on Steam. Our response was basically, “Are you crazy? We’re not going to do this!” All the props in the world should go out to Valve for having a vision, sticking with it through adversity, and then really coming out of things in the captain’s chair.

You can read the entire thing here. It's an excellent and fascinating look at one of the industry's best developers.

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