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Gabe Newell on Valve Hardware and Owning Steam Games

An interview on The PA Report talks with Valve's Gabe Newell, discussing some general topics with Valve's Managing Director, whose beard is growing in nicely (though not to the magnificent degree mine has at this point). The discussion covers things like his work schedule, his fascination with wearable computers, the possibility Valve might someday sell hardware, pricing games on Steamand more (thanks nin). He also offers responses to questions about to what degree customers won games purchased on Steam:

But even from kind of a more general point of view, you have services like Steam or Origin where these many purchases and micro-transactions and all these transactions weíre making through multiple companies are kind of tied to this overreaching account. Do you have lawyers who kind of look at the legal implication of where exactly you fit into that relationship?

Yeah, we have lawyers who look at stuff all the time, Iím not sure Iím answering your question directly. Itís sort of like this kind of messy issue, and it doesnít really matter a whole lot what the legal issues are, the real thing is that you have to make your customers happy at the end of the day and if youíre not doing that it doesnít really matter what you think about various supreme court decisions or EU decisions. If youíre not making your customers happy youíre doing something stupid and we certainly always want to make our customers happy. And I think we have a track record of having done that.

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108 Replies. 6 pages. Viewing page 4.
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48. Re: Gabe Newell on Valve Hardware and Owning Steam Games Feb 20, 2012, 16:49 WaltC
 
theyarecomingforyou wrote on Feb 20, 2012, 13:17:
Valve offers a better service than EA. Better value, better selection, better functionality, better experience, better community engagement, etc. But I'd like to see Valve improve their service - remove the online check before launching every game; remove the threat of a permanent VAC ban, which disadvantages those that keep all their games on a single account (dedicated cheaters will use disposable accounts); give users the option to revert to a previous version, as patches can break mods and system compatibility.

I've got several Steam games, including Skyrim (v1.4.x.x), that have no trouble booting up w/o an Internet connection & for which Steam simply does not run in that condition. The Gothic 2/3 games are others in this category. Yet, a game like Witcher2 v2.1 simply won't run at all w/o an Internet connection.

Looks to me that this is decided by each game's publisher as opposed to Valve.

As for the interview, it was a pretty difficult read. No offence to Gabe but many of the responses were verging on gibberish, with constant tangential detours and hard to follow sentences. Still, it reinforces what I already knew about Valve. The response to the Russian question was particularly interesting, as he stated that if true that Valve probably messed up. You wouldn't here that from EA - they'd be more likely to send the secret police round to your house to assassinate your dog.

I agree and was a bit disappointed with Ben Kuchera--great interview for him considering his recent promotion from games writer at Ars to Sr. Editor @ Penny Arcade--but his lack of experience shows in his decision not to ask Gabe any interesting questions--or to hold his feet to the fire, etc. I'm sure that certain topics were off the table as a pre-condition of the interview--although I really don't *know* that to be the case since I wasn't a fly on the wall anywhere near Ben...;)

But overall I have found Newell most impressive by way of what he does not say, and usually he just refuses to answer direct questions directly. A skillful interviewer can ask Gabe questions allowing the reader to piece some things together--but I think Ben was too impressed by Gabe to give this interview much in the way of thought. Gabe's answers were, as usual, rings around rings of virtually nothing...;) I've always been a HUGE fan of Valve, though, so I say these things wistfully and reluctantly. I only wonder that Gabe gives interviews at all because he generally has almost nothing to say when he grants interviews. Were it me, I'd only give interviews when I had something to say and then I'd make sure it got said.
 
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47. Re: Gabe Newell on Valve Hardware and Owning Steam Games Feb 20, 2012, 16:16 PHJF
 
No, its only allowing trade of a game before its locked to an account forever. And you can't play it without locking it. Once you play the game its activated and locked to your account. What you are trading is the games in a gift form. They are just making it easier to get an unused game to someone who wants it. And this way, if a gift is refused (I had this happen recently), it comes back to you as an inventory gift so you can give it on to someone else.

Yeah but nobody is going to buy a game they have no intent to play with the intent of trading it in the future. And with packs, you can't activate SOME of the games and trade/gift away the others. I don't think they'd have implemented the trading system as they did without some sort of further intent for it.
 
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46. Re: Gabe Newell on Valve Hardware and Owning Steam Games Feb 20, 2012, 16:14 Razumen
 
verrul wrote on Feb 20, 2012, 15:44:
either though steam or dd or physical copy you dont technically own any media on anything even music what you are buying amounts to a license to play said media the way they say you can play said media. Reed your eulas on everything media you dont own it. you have a license to use the product that the company can revoke at any time.

Although you may be right about licenses, I don't believe that it can be revoked as easily as you make it sound.

Also, EULAs and their terms are not necessarily always legally binding. In some cases they've been challenged in courts before and found not to be legal at all. In fact, this is exactly what companies fear the most, and why they'll often settle and give the customer what they want than have to go to court and be forced to change their agreements for all their customers.

I'd very much like Steam to become more of a marketplace for buying games, and less of a digital overlord of your entire game library. Barring any truly illegal activity, it shouldn't be able to lock you out of (all of the) games you purchased.
 
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45. Re: Gabe Newell on Valve Hardware and Owning Steam Games Feb 20, 2012, 15:52 TheEmissary
 
Dev wrote on Feb 20, 2012, 15:47:
PHJF wrote on Feb 20, 2012, 15:18:
I can only assume Steam's recent venture into trading items/gifts is a step toward allowing some level of games trading. Perhaps purchased games can come with "trade activations", so that once a game is traded a certain number of times it is finally locked to a single Steam account.
No, its only allowing trade of a game before its locked to an account forever. And you can't play it without locking it. Once you play the game its activated and locked to your account. What you are trading is the games in a gift form. They are just making it easier to get an unused game to someone who wants it. And this way, if a gift is refused (I had this happen recently), it comes back to you as an inventory gift so you can give it on to someone else.

What would be cool is if you could pay a small fee and unlock a game from your account and trade it on to someone else. But valve would have to renegotiate all sorts of contracts if there was a way to transfer already activated games, and that doesn't even count the DRM hassles if something is layered on top of steam.

It would be nice if the PC had a used/secondhand market for games but that has been gone since the era of CD keys and first types of copy-protection schemes. I don't think developers will ever support used games on PC considering how eager they are to kill it on the consoles.
 
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44. Re: Gabe Newell on Valve Hardware and Owning Steam Games Feb 20, 2012, 15:51 Dev
 
TheEmissary wrote on Feb 20, 2012, 15:45:
It wouldn't surprise me if part of the HL3 delay is that Valve is waiting for a certain level of hardware to become the norm.
Very very unlikely. None of the past valve games have particularly challenged the cutting edge in graphics technology when they came out, even the ones that came out and weren't console ported. They've had decent graphics for their time, but not cutting edge. In fact, thats one reason why they are fairly popular, they can run on almost anything with a graphics card if the details are lowered. And the original CS and TFC can even run on stuff with integrated graphics, since it has an option to use software graphics.
TheEmissary wrote on Feb 20, 2012, 15:45:
I however think the real reason for the delay is that Valve is notorious taking what ever is required to finish a game to their standards. "Valve Time".
Valve time has more to do I think with the way the company works and no management, so people aren't making the call to do a feature lock. That's one big reason why duke nukem forever was never finished by 3d realms, they never made the call to finish the dang thing and get it out. They were continually redoing it for new graphics engines. If it came out 5 years ago, it might have been more popular.
 
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43. Re: Gabe Newell on Valve Hardware and Owning Steam Games Feb 20, 2012, 15:47 Dev
 
PHJF wrote on Feb 20, 2012, 15:18:
I can only assume Steam's recent venture into trading items/gifts is a step toward allowing some level of games trading. Perhaps purchased games can come with "trade activations", so that once a game is traded a certain number of times it is finally locked to a single Steam account.
No, its only allowing trade of a game before its locked to an account forever. And you can't play it without locking it. Once you play the game its activated and locked to your account. What you are trading is the games in a gift form. They are just making it easier to get an unused game to someone who wants it. And this way, if a gift is refused (I had this happen recently), it comes back to you as an inventory gift so you can give it on to someone else.

What would be cool is if you could pay a small fee and unlock a game from your account and trade it on to someone else. But valve would have to renegotiate all sorts of contracts if there was a way to transfer already activated games, and that doesn't even count the DRM hassles if something is layered on top of steam.
 
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42. Re: Gabe Newell on Valve Hardware and Owning Steam Games Feb 20, 2012, 15:45 TheEmissary
 
Mashiki Amiketo wrote on Feb 20, 2012, 10:48:
Cutter wrote on Feb 20, 2012, 10:45:
Not having new HL in so long is not making me happy, Gabe. Not by a long shot!
Yeah. Why do I get a feeling they're waiting for "next gen" consoles.

It wouldn't surprise me if part of the HL3 delay is that Valve is waiting for a certain level of hardware to become the norm. I however think the real reason for the delay is that Valve is notorious taking what ever is required to finish a game to their standards. "Valve Time".

If you look in the past it becomes clearer that it is business as usual. The first Half-life came out in 1998 and then 6 years later Half-Life2 was released. There is an even longer delay if you consider the Team Fortress series. Valve's Team Fortress Classic was released in 1999 and the sequel TF2 was released in 2007 a 8 year gap. They have admitted that episodic model failed them so going back to their old development model isn't surprising.
 
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41. Re: Gabe Newell on Valve Hardware and Owning Steam Games Feb 20, 2012, 15:44 verrul
 
either though steam or dd or physical copy you dont technically own any media on anything even music what you are buying amounts to a license to play said media the way they say you can play said media. Reed your eulas on everything media you dont own it. you have a license to use the product that the company can revoke at any time.  
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40. Re: Gabe Newell on Valve Hardware and Owning Steam Games Feb 20, 2012, 15:26 Razumen
 
I really hope these questions of ownership gets cleared up soon. I love Steam, but this confusion over game rights has led me to only purchase games on Steam when they're priced at a very substantial discount.

And no, I don't see my Steam purchases as rentals, nowhere during the process of getting you Steam account up to adding the game to your account does it mention anything close to the concept of renting. In fact the wording the software uses could very well be argued that it makes customers believe their purchases will be honored in perpetuity.
 
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39. Re: Gabe Newell on Valve Hardware and Owning Steam Games Feb 20, 2012, 15:18 PHJF
 
The one problem with transferring "ownership" of a title on Steam is that Steam isn't a product, it's a service. It'd be one thing if Steam was a one-time product download, but in its current state we get a "lifetime" of access to our titles from the Steam servers.

I can only assume Steam's recent venture into trading items/gifts is a step toward allowing some level of games trading. Perhaps purchased games can come with "trade activations", so that once a game is traded a certain number of times it is finally locked to a single Steam account.
 
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38. Re: Gabe Newell on Valve Hardware and Owning Steam Games Feb 20, 2012, 15:16 Creston
 
Dev wrote on Feb 20, 2012, 14:28:
Creston wrote on Feb 20, 2012, 13:55:
Because I'd love to see the EULA that says that whatever actions you take in one game means you get banned from every other possible game as well.
Actually the EULA says something about removing your game access for any reason they like (which of course includes bans or chargebacks or fraud or whatever).

I believe for steam a VAC ban only bans multiplayer on VAC servers and only on the one game someone gets the vac ban for, but thats a different thing.

Yes, but that's for THAT particular game. Like I said, I still want to see someone actually try to take away ALL your games for your actions in one particular game. EA tries to do so, of course, but I'd like to see that legally challenged. Because there is no way in FUCK that that is legal.

Creston
 
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37. Re: Gabe Newell on Valve Hardware and Owning Steam Games Feb 20, 2012, 15:01 Beamer
 
A big part of the reason you'll never see these licenses transferable is that there's no diminishing involved. It's pretty much what you have with used games only far, far moreso.

In other words, why would anyone ever buy a new game, other than Day 1, when you're guaranteed to find the exact identical product on eBay for less? You pay the owner, he transfers the title to you, and you have it 100% as if you bought it, only for less money. At least with used games you can argue damage to the packaging or possibly even a scratch on the CD.

This isn't anywhere you'll see anyone fight to go. Valve themselves would despise this.
 
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36. Re: Gabe Newell on Valve Hardware and Owning Steam Games Feb 20, 2012, 14:52 Silicon Avatar
 
DangerDog wrote on Feb 20, 2012, 13:25:
The one thing that will make the party come to a screeching halt is if Seattle experiences a massive earthquake, would surly cause the authentication servers to be down for an "extended" period of time.

If Seattle experienced a massive earthquake I would hope people would be less worried about their games and more worried about the people of whatever remained of Seattle.

 
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35. Re: Gabe Newell on Valve Hardware and Owning Steam Games Feb 20, 2012, 14:41 avianflu
 

Some _great_ points made here but

Newell intentionally spoke PR blather that meant absolutely nothing.

So to parse what he said is particularly pointless because he did not say anything.


 
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34. Re: Gabe Newell on Valve Hardware and Owning Steam Games Feb 20, 2012, 14:34 Kastagir
 
This "software as a service" debate is old. The developer/publisher owns the software - what you get is a license. This is the case whether it is Skyrim or Windows. Don't like it? Don't buy it.

Still...."wearable computers?" I hope this means he's wearing an armband for his smartphone...
 
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33. Re: Gabe Newell on Valve Hardware and Owning Steam Games Feb 20, 2012, 14:28 Dev
 
Creston wrote on Feb 20, 2012, 13:55:
Because I'd love to see the EULA that says that whatever actions you take in one game means you get banned from every other possible game as well.
Actually the EULA says something about removing your game access for any reason they like (which of course includes bans or chargebacks or fraud or whatever).

I believe for steam a VAC ban only bans multiplayer on VAC servers and only on the one game someone gets the vac ban for, but thats a different thing.
 
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32. Re: Gabe Newell on Valve Hardware and Owning Steam Games Feb 20, 2012, 13:57 Jivaro
 
Tumbler wrote on Feb 20, 2012, 13:29:
Well valve certainly owns my steam games. There is no question that my access to the game I've paid for on steam are not mine at all but belong to Valve and Steam. I have no ability to sell my steam library so I do not own them in any real sense. This is why I pay very little for most of my steam games. Regardless how much the game is worth the value I get from playing it through steam is on par with rental prices which to me are around $5.

There have been odd little comments about passing these accounts on to your children, like when you pass your stuff on to your children...what happens to these accounts?

Just understand what you're paying for. It's a rental. You're renting stuff from steam. It might be a very generous rental in your opinion but you have no rights. (at least nothing that has been upheld by the courts)

I think the courts should rule in the favor of consumers in these cases and force all these companies to allow these licenses to be retitled and transferred. Possibly at a cost to the consumer but there is no reason the consumers should not be granted ownership of these titles the way they are being marketed. The terms purchase, buy, and such which they freely use at the point of purchase should not be allowed if these companies are renting these titles. The reality that this is a rental is buried inside those eula's which is done deliberately because consumers are smart enough to know that you should be paying less for "rentals" than you do for ownership.

there be truth in these words.
 
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31. Re: Gabe Newell on Valve Hardware and Owning Steam Games Feb 20, 2012, 13:55 Creston
 
Tumbler wrote on Feb 20, 2012, 13:29:
Well valve certainly owns my steam games. There is no question that my access to the game I've paid for on steam are not mine at all but belong to Valve and Steam.

That actually raises a very interesting question. DO Valve and Steam own the games? Or are they still owned by their respective publishers? And if so, where does Steam fall in that?


There have been odd little comments about passing these accounts on to your children, like when you pass your stuff on to your children...what happens to these accounts?

Well, it's not like Steam knows that it's not you typing in that password, so...

Just understand what you're paying for. It's a rental. You're renting stuff from steam. It might be a very generous rental in your opinion but you have no rights. (at least nothing that has been upheld by the courts)

Right to re-sell, no. But I think if you were the recipient of an all-account ban for whatever reason, and Valve kills your ability to play your single-player games, that if you get yourself a lawyer, you're going to wind up with access to your games again. Because I'd love to see the EULA that says that whatever actions you take in one game means you get banned from every other possible game as well.
(Note: this is likely not true if you committed financial fraud, or are accused of doing so.)

I think the courts should rule in the favor of consumers in these cases and force all these companies to allow these licenses to be retitled and transferred.

Yeah, that'll never happen. Too many lobbyists greasing too many palms.

Creston
 
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30. Re: Gabe Newell on Valve Hardware and Owning Steam Games Feb 20, 2012, 13:29 Tumbler
 
Well valve certainly owns my steam games. There is no question that my access to the game I've paid for on steam are not mine at all but belong to Valve and Steam. I have no ability to sell my steam library so I do not own them in any real sense. This is why I pay very little for most of my steam games. Regardless how much the game is worth the value I get from playing it through steam is on par with rental prices which to me are around $5.

There have been odd little comments about passing these accounts on to your children, like when you pass your stuff on to your children...what happens to these accounts?

Just understand what you're paying for. It's a rental. You're renting stuff from steam. It might be a very generous rental in your opinion but you have no rights. (at least nothing that has been upheld by the courts)

I think the courts should rule in the favor of consumers in these cases and force all these companies to allow these licenses to be retitled and transferred. Possibly at a cost to the consumer but there is no reason the consumers should not be granted ownership of these titles the way they are being marketed. The terms purchase, buy, and such which they freely use at the point of purchase should not be allowed if these companies are renting these titles. The reality that this is a rental is buried inside those eula's which is done deliberately because consumers are smart enough to know that you should be paying less for "rentals" than you do for ownership.
 
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29. Re: Gabe Newell on Valve Hardware and Owning Steam Games Feb 20, 2012, 13:25 DangerDog
 
The one thing that will make the party come to a screeching halt is if Seattle experiences a massive earthquake, would surly cause the authentication servers to be down for an "extended" period of time.  
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108 Replies. 6 pages. Viewing page 4.
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