Earlier this week Germany's Federation of German Consumer Organizations (or vzbv) called on Valve to explain the changes it made to the Steam end-user license agreement back in August. The vzbv found that the changes Valve made to its EULA were unfair to consumers and that Steam had no mechanism for allowing its users to trade games per a recent European High Court ruling. It required Valve to respond by September 26 to their insistence the company change its policy "restricting access to content based on the forfeiture of signing the new EULA."
Yesterday we highlighted a job listing on Valve's website that showed the popular game developer was looking to hire an Industrial Designer to work on "product design and manufacturing, ergonomics, usability, aesthetics, and surfacing."
While Valve Software has adamantly denied the rumor that it was getting into the hardware side of gaming (the infamous SteamBox rumor), a new job listing from the company seems to indicate otherwise. In that job listing Valve says that it needs an industrial designer to work on "product design and manufacturing, ergonomics, usability, aesthetics, and surfacing."
Valve Software's business development chief Jason Holtman finally offered a response to what EA Origin boss David DeMartini said last month about Steam sales "cheapening intellectual property." At the time DeMartini said that EA's digital distribution platform would not copy Steam's frequent and deep discounting sales tactics.
In an interview with GamesIndustry International, David DeMartini, Senior Vice President of Global Ecommerce for Electronic Arts and the head of EA's Origin digital distribution platform, decided to talks some smack about Valve's Steam. He also talks about the platform's rocky first year and how the company wants Origin to be the number one hub for gamers.
Blizzard Entertainment issued a brief statement this afternoon announcing that it had come to a mutual agreement concerning their competing DOTA games. Valve is developing DOTA 2, but under the terms of the agreement Blizzard will preserve its right to the noncommercial use of DOTA for its community relating to player-created maps for Warcraft III and StarCraft II.
EA's digital distribution platform "has a long way to go," according to Valve's Gabe Newell, who owns Steam. As part of episode one of the Seven Day Cooldown podcast, Newell gave a blunt response when asked what he thought about EA's digital distribution platform.
"They have a lot of work to do to get to where they need to be and where I as a customer would want them to be," he said.
Valve Software's Gabe Newell has a net worth of approximately $1.5 billion dollars, putting him on Forbes Magazine's list of the richest people in the world. Newell ranks 854th in the 1,226 list of worldwide billionaires. Newell did not disclose his new worth to the magazine and since Valve is a privately-held company, Forbes had to estimate the figure listed above.
Blizzard has challenged Valve's efforts to secure a U.S. trademark on Defense of the Ancients - something it said it had no plans of doing. In 2011 Valve announced plans to create a sequel to the popular Warcraft II mod, Defense of the Ancients. At the time Blizzard said that it would not oppose the company, but said that it was confused by the move. Today we learn that Blizzard filed a complaint with the U.S. trademark in opposition of Valve's registration of the Dota name in late 2011.
Valve front man Gabe Newell says that there is a way to beat piracy, and it involves content creators and publishers providing better service. In other words, obtrusive DRM solutions are not the answer to the problem.
"One thing that we have learned is that piracy is not a pricing issue. It's a service issue," said Newell at a tech conference in Seattle. "The easiest way to stop piracy is not by putting anti-piracy technology to work. It's by giving those people a service that's better than what they're receiving from the pirates."
Speaking to GameIndustry.biz, Jens Uwe Intat, the head of Electronic Arts Europe, said that his company continues to have a good working relationship with Valve Software, despite launching its own rival digital distribution services earlier this year. He is referring to the companies' continuing their retail relationship, and not necessarily the rivalry between its Origin digital distribution service and Valve's Steam.
While some publishers think that obtrusive DRM is the right way to go in protecting their PC game titles, Valve Software founder Gabe Newell sees the whole practice as wrong-headed and misguided. Speaking to Kotaku for its "Well Played" column, Newell said that Valve is a broken record on the topic:
Speaking to Eurogamer recently, EA Europe's top executive said that seeing future games on Valve's platform, despite recent disputes, is still a possibility.
"Never say never," said Jens Uwe Intat when asked by Eurogamer if EA could fully embrace Valve’s Steam platform again. "When we were talking about it's best for the consumer that competition is a good thing, for the consumer also choice is a good thing."
Valve Software President Gabe Newell says that his company has a responsibility to show Electronic Arts that it is "smarter business" to add (and keep) its games on Steam instead of removing them. In a recent interview with Develop, Newell lamented EA's decision to remove games from the Steam service and put out an olive branch to the company.
"We have to show EA it’s a smart decision to have EA games on Steam, and we’re going to try to show them that," he said.
Valve is beta testing a new feature that allows users to trade in-game items, games and other stuff called Steam Trading. Right now they are testing it with Team Fortress 2. From the Steam blog:
"Team Fortress 2 items and Steam Gifts can currently be traded in the Steam Trading Beta.
Any game you've purchased from the store as a gift, or received as an Extra Copy, can be traded to other users. They can be used to trade for other Gifts, or for items in Team Fortress 2.
Valve Software's popular online team-based shooter Team Fortress 2 is going free to play - a first for a Valve Software title. Valve plans to support the title on virtual items.. like hats. All current owners of the PC game will automatically become premium account holders. Premium members get access to rare and cosmetic items through random item drops, the ability to store more items in your backpack, and more powerful trading and crafting abilities
The gameplay experience (beyond the extra baubles TF2 premium account holders get) will be the same for everyone. Gamers who purchase any item from Team Fortress 2's digital storefront (Mann Co. Store) will also be granted premium account privileges. Players spend real money to buy virtual items such as weapons for various character classes, and a wide variety of hats. Those who bought Team Fortress 2 will also receive a "Proof of Purchase hat" for any character.
Valve has always been keen to track user data and use it to improve its games, but many may not know that the company has always been acutely aware that some of its players may have special needs in order to play many of their most popular games. Speaking to Gamasutra Mike Ambinder of Valve Software explains some of the things the company does to help players with different kinds of disabilities:
"Most of the accommodations we make for disabled gamers (closed captioning/subtitles, colorblind mode, in-game pausing in single player, easier difficulty levels, re-mappable keys/buttons, open-microphones, mouse sensitivity settings, use of both mouse and keyboard and gamepads, etc.) stem from functionality added to improve the experience of both able and disabled gamers," Ambinder tells Gamasutra.
One recipient of a rare and controversial item granted last month to 100 players of Valve’s Team Fortress 2, is turning a negative into a positive and has organized a charity drive that will see owners of the items delete them in order to benefit the Child’s Play charity.
The item in question is the Golden Wrench, used by the game’s Engineer class. John Tran, the man behind the charity drive, received one of the items, but claimed, in talking with Bitmob, that they were not randomly distributed, as Valve had earlier stated.
EA's popular squad-based shooter Battlefield: Bad Company 2 recently received a patch to remove the much-maligned SecuROM DRM.
Sounds great right? Well, hold off on the celebration, because there's a bit of a caveat. The patch, which comes with a number of bug fixes and interface changes, will only remove SecuROM for Steam users. Retail owners of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 are still out of luck, at least for the time being. Steam users will find themselves using Valve's internal DRM, which is a significant improvement.
It’s been about five and a half years since Valve released Counter-Strike: Source and a growing gaggle of gamers think it’s about time for some news and action on Counter-Strike 2.
Organized by UK-resident Sam England, the group hopes to goad Valve into issuing an official response on the matter—and to eventually put CS2 into production—by drawing 25,000 members to its Facebook page. The group has already surpassed 2,300 members.
Why the does the group see a need for CS2?
….we want to bolster interest in CS so more people play it, and if we want to regain mainstream attention in the game it needs to be re released as Counterstrike 2. Even if it was just re released with some fixes/patches, additional official maps, a graphical upgrade and a new shiny box... Counterstrike would then survive as a franchise and become popular once again.
England added a few more thoughts:
The most popular multiplayer FPS games on the PC are either non-realistic, less mainstream games or simply very poorly executed ports of console FPS games like Modern Warfare 2. There is no longer a single iconic game on the PC which everyone can enjoy, and play together.
The forced integration of the PC version of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 with Valve’s Steamworks platform has turned off other digital game distribution services.
IGN-owned Direct2Drive has opted not to offer MW2 on its service reports Gamasutra, calling the forced use of Steam a “Trojan Horse.” The company will offer $5 off other Activision games as compensation. From a statement on Direct2Drive’s website:
At Direct2Drive, we believe strongly that when you buy a game from us, you shouldn't be forced to install and run a 3rd party software client to be able to play the game you purchased.
Meanwhile, VoodooExtreme received confirmation from both Stardock and GamersGate that neither of those two services will sell MW2 either. Stardock elaborated to VE on the reasoning for not selling MW2 through their Impulse service:
We share some of the same concerns as Direct2Drive over the bundling of the Steam client with the game. The most obvious issue is the forced inclusion of a competitor's store that blocks us from carrying the game.
Our issues with the game are solely with the Steamworks bundling. We enjoy a great relationship with Activision and would love to sell the title, but not with Steam.
GP: A commenter on the Gamasutra story noted that Direct2Drive offers other games that require a Steam install, such as Zeno Clash. Of course that game will not move nearly the amount of copies MW2 will, so it appears in this case that IGN/Direct2Drive is just being selective in its stand against Steam.
A reddit user has created a striking visual representation of what *could* happen if net neutrality laws are shot down.
The image is based tiered pricing plans that some cable and Internet companies currently offer (lending, perhaps, an increased measure of reality to the illustration) and imagines, for example, websites such as Hulu and YouTube as part of a "Hollywood Tier," available for $10 over the price paid for basic Internet service.
More relevant here is the rendering of a “Playground” tier that includes Valve’s Steam platform, World of Warcraft, Gametap, Electronic Arts and Real Arcade, offered for a $5 surcharge. Yikes!
Australian gamers will have to make do with a modified version of Valve’s Left 4 Dead 2 as the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) board again denied the title classification following a re-review of the game.
A three-member panel of the board declared that the game could not be accommodated within the MA 15+ classification, reaffirming an earlier decision. Valve and distributor Electronic Arts had appealed the earlier judgment, but as a backup they also submitted a toned down version of L4D2, which received an MA 15+ rating. The edited version removed depictions of decapitation and dismemberment.
Further commenting on the original, Refused Classification version, the board said:
…it was the Review Board’s opinion that there was insufficient delineation between the
depiction of general zombie figures and the human figures, as opposed to the clearly fictional
‘infected’ characters. This was a major consideration of the Review Board in determining the
impact of this game on minors.
A media release on the subject from the OFLC can be viewed here (PDF).
A group of gamers angry at Valve Software over the development of Left 4 Dead 2 are poised to disband their boycott group.
The Steam Group L4D2 Boycott, comprised of over 41,000 members will close on October 21, 2009 reports VoodooExtreme. The group was angered over what they termed Valve’s abandonment of the original Left 4 Dead game, which they expected more updates and content for, versus Valve’s decision to launch a new version of the game.
Steam user Agent of Chaos said the group had “accomplished everything we can” and added that “Our goal wasn’t to steer people away from L4D2, it was to get Valve’s attention and have them support original L4D. We succeeded and that’s where our mission ends; nothing more or less.”
Another group admin, Steam user Walking_Target stated that “people are unwilling or unable to wait for Valve to follow through in any cohesive way. Valve is at least trying to make things right, there will be speed bumps on the way, however we will get there.”
Labeling the boycott group a success, Walking_Target continued:
As a collective we have done more than achieve a few goals, we have paved the way for Developer-Community relations in the future. No matter what the press or other gamers say, we have made an indelible mark upon the future of this industry. You should all be proud, we certainly are.
Valve flew the leaders of the boycott group out to their offices in September in a bid to make peace.
Tripwire Interactive President John Gibson has penned an opinion piece defending Valve Software and its Steam digital distribution service against comments made by Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford last week.
Pitchford had termed Valve’s dual role as developer and distributor a “conflict of interest.” Gibson, whose company has released titles like Red Orchestra and Killing Floor on Steam, told Gamasutra, “I can say with certainty that if it weren't for Steam, there would be no Tripwire Interactive right now.”
Gibson initially approached traditional distributors for Tripwire Games, but was “shocked at how terrible their proposals were.” Valve’s approach was different:
When we got the contract from Valve, we were amazed at how much better the deal was from what we were getting from the standard publishers. Even our lawyer was surprised at how straightforward the contract was. Valve's contract was the first one we had seen that didn’t have any land mines in it.
While he notes that there could be a conflict of interest stemming from Valve’s two roles, Gibson said that Valve’s angle is “Our game is good, and so is yours, so let's both make some money together.”
In closing, as a final acknowledgment to Valve, Gibson referenced his company’s success:
Ask the Tripwire Interactive employees if they feel exploited, as they move into their new offices paid for by the money the company has made on Steam. Or me, as I drive away from the company that was built from the royalties we made on Steam, in my sports car paid for by the royalties we make on Steam, to the home that I pay for with the royalties we make on Steam.
Developer Derek Smart (Battlecruiser 300AD) also backed Valve and Steam in a comment posted on the ShackNews.
News.com.au reports that a resubmitted and modified version of Valve’s Left 4 Dead 2 has been granted a rating by Australia’s Office of Film and Literature Classification board.
The original version of the zombie-killing title was refused classification by the PFLC, rendering it unreleasable. The edited version has received an MA 15+ rating. Distributor Electronic Arts told the website that it still holds out hope that the resubmitted full version of the game would receive classification and that is the version it would still prefer to release.
The OFLC's full report (PDF) on the modified Left 4 Dead 2 title contains consumer advice of “strong bloody violence,” though the board noted that “the game no longer contains depictions of decapitation, dismemberment, wound detail or piles of dead bodies lying about the environment.”
In the Board’s view “the element of violence in the game has been sufficiently modified.”
Image Via: Cheezburger.com
Maximum PC has an interview up today with Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford, in which he discusses Borderlands (natch), DRM, digital delivery and Valve’s Steam platform.
While noting that he personally trusts Valve, Pitchford stated, “As a guy in this industry though, I don’t trust Valve.” What does he think of Valve’s dual role as a game developer and proprietor of Steam? “There’s so much conflict of interest there that it’s horrid.”
When asked if Valve should spin off Steam into a separate entity, Pitchford replied:
It would be much better if Steam was its own business. I love Valve games, and I do business with the company. But, I’m just saying, Steam isn’t the answer. Steam helps us as customers, but it’s also a money grab, and Valve is exploiting a lot of people in a way that’s not totally fair. Valve is taking a larger share than it should for the service its providing.
Pitchford on DRM:
…False negatives are a disaster for everyone. I’d much rather have a false positive, and allow thieves to play, than prevent a paying customer from playing my game. The industry has destroyed a lot of good will with DRM problems.
In light of the refusal of the Australian Classification Board to classify Left 4 Dead 2, some authorities are rethinking the country’s game ratings.
While R18+ ratings exist in Australia for films and other media, videogames still top out with a MA15+ rating, meaning that games that fall outside the spectrum can’t be approved for sale.
Adding an R18+ rating would require the agreement of all Australia’s attorney generals, but News.com.au reports that at least one member of that group is holding out, South Australian Attorney General Michael Atkinson. Atkinson’s take:
It certainly does restrict choice to a small degree, but that is the price of keeping this material from children and vulnerable adults. In my view, the small sacrifice is worth it.
Victorian Attorney General Rob Hulls disagrees, saying that Australia is “out of step with the world,” adding:
It seems inconsistent that in Australia adults are allowed to view adult-only films which have been classified R18+ by the Classification Board, but not computer games with equivalent high-level content.
Valve and Electronic Arts have appealed Left 4 Dead 2’s refusal of classification.
In response to last week’s refusal of the Australia Classification Board to rate Left 4 Dead 2, an Electronic Arts spokesperson had some choice words for the government entity.
Speaking to GameSpot Australia, EA’s Tiffany Steckler began defending the Valve Software title by suggesting that adults should have the right to choose what games they play. She continued:
It’s funny that a place like Australia, which has come up with some pretty violent material in the past with something like Mad Max, can effectively ban video games for the same reason.
There’s still no word on whether or not Valve will institute changes to the sequel in order to get it approved down under.
Update: According to Blue's News, Valve appealed the Classification's board ruling yesterday. Also listed on Blue's are ratings for Left 4 Dead 2 from a variety of territories around the world.