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Valve to turn game publishing on it's head!
September 4th 2003, 00:41 CEST by Neale

Over on the Halflife2.net forums, Gabe Newell has indicated Valve's plans for distribution of Half-Life 2 and their other products. It's interesting stuff...

Gabe Newell has said the following:

Here's my current thinking: Some people want to buy Half-Life 2 in a store. Right now we have three SKUs planned at three price points. One will have single-player only and not play MODs and we think of that as the mass market SKU (sold mainly at the Costcos and Walmarts of the world). The second is our traditional single-player plus multiplayer SKU that runs MODs and is sold at places like EBX. The third is the collector's edition SKU with lots of cool bonus stuff for people who like cool bonus stuff.

In the Steam world, some people will want to buy it once, like the middle SKU above. Other people will want to buy the game on subscription (e.g. $9.95/month). The good news for the "buy it once" crowd is, well, they only have to pay once. The bad news is that when we come out with new content (expansion products, TF 2, and presumably other games) then they have to pay separately for those. We're pretty sure that the $9.95 guys are going to get the better value, as we've been pretty good over the years at generating a lot of content.

Now nobody has done this before, so we're scratching our heads and massaging the plans to make sure we've got the best set of options. We've had some feedback that we should sell the top SKU (single-player only no MODs) on Steam, and my reaction has been "yeah, right, for the three people in the world who have a broadband connection, are sophisticated enough to purchase software over the Internet, but DON'T want to play MODs and multiplayer". Some people have said "I want a subscription, but I think the box and the manual are cool, so what about sending me those" and I think that's pretty interesting and we're trying to figure out what to do for them (needless to say Sierra isn't exactly jumping for joy at the idea of selling us boxes so people don't buy Half-Life 2 in stores).


He then followed up with this clarification:

Vivendi owns Sierra. Sierra is the publisher.

The various SKUs will be available at the other stores. It's just how we think of them (we think of the lowest price one as the "Walmart" SKU even though Walmart will probably be the biggest single seller of all three SKUs given their volume).

TF2 isn't a MOD, correct. However the subscription will be for anything we make. So when TF2 ships, the subscribers get it as part of their subscription.

We've been talking with retailers about the retail SKUs for a long time. Steam pricing was what I was trying to explain. Steam options seemed to require an explanation of the retail SKUs.
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#1 by Phayyde
2003-09-04 00:44:22
Is Steam required for Internet multiplayer?  Can I just type in an IP and go?

Beat to fit, paint to match.
#2 by bago
2003-09-04 00:59:34
manga_Rando@hotmail.com
Steam seems to be subscrption infrastructure.

#3 by Darkseid-D
2003-09-04 01:06:07
rogerboal@hotmail.com
steam at the moment is an interesting delivery system, first time you install and set up it downloads components.  You can then pick from a list of what Valve offers and it dumps a local version down onto your machine in a cache version. Theres no single player content atm, just the multiplayer, Counter strike 1.6, TFC, ricochet, Valve DM, the quakelike DM, open forces ctf etc.  CS 1.6 has offline bots which are actually quite good but still cheat like bastards (they always know where you are, they just have dumbness/slow reactions programmed in). You can still play over a lan if bot machines have steam installed and the content downloaded, the problem being you both need a net connection / shared connection and its 2+ x 450mb downloads.

On broadband this isnt too painful, especially as Valve appear to have VERY phat pipes, I was pulling 900k/sec on the first stream, 400 odd mbs took around 10 minutes (additional patches etc).  Then it was click, click, click play. No CD key needed no proof you have an original half life / retail CS or opposing forces.

Downside is that the client is a bit flakey and heavily java dependant and can bug out and cause you to require a reboot to be able to play once again.

THe full release of steam will be based on a verifiable key, much like its current key for HL/CS. I imagine that the key will code what version of the game you have and what rights you get.  Thus the cheap retail sku will only hook up onto valves servers to check for patches etc / verify for net play, and the 'collectors' edition do a lot more.  Buying it online will secure you a key for your use, you keep that key, user id and password somewhere secure and login, it pulls the content down onto your machine and you play through it (and additions dependant on who buys what). If you go for a monthly fee you`ll probably get access to updated things other people wont have, nothing that will wreck game balance (ie no portable miniguns whilst everyone else has pistols), but things like updated models and textures, new maps and the like, something like the MMPOG setup we have at the moment, probably even some custom servers.

Do not go gently into that good night.
Old age should burn and rage at the close of day.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
#4 by Your Friend
2003-09-04 01:09:01
Steam is both a subscription billing infrastructure and a network streaming technology for games.

There's nothing to get in a panic about here.  All they are saying is:

1) Half-Life 2 will have two versions in the store, one is single player only, the other is full sp/mp like HalfLife 1 was.  The single player only version will be cheaper.

2) Instead of buying HL2 or TF2 or CS2 and expansion packs at the store you can subscribe to Steam for $10 a month, allowing you to download and play all of this content (though it goes away if you cancel your subscription, you don't "own" it).

But nothing changes about playing HL2 online.  Assuming you buy the sp/mp package you can play online as much as you like without paying a monthly fee.

Personally I'll probably go for the SP version, because HL multiplayer was weak and I never liked CS or the other mods for it all that much...  And Team Fortress 2 doesn't interest me much.  But YMMV.

"Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me."
#5 by Your Friend
2003-09-04 01:10:39
In #1 above, I realize it is really THREE versions to buy in the stores, but the third is just the second in a collectors tin with some bonus garbage, just like Warcraft III collectors edition or Quake III collectors edition... Nothing new there.

"Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me."
#6 by Phayyde
2003-09-04 01:18:13
You can still play over a lan if bot machines have steam installed and the content downloaded, the problem being you both need a net connection / shared connection and its 2+ x 450mb downloads.

This worries me.

First case.  Let's say I buy 2 retail HL2 boxes - the one with both single and multiplayer components.  Can I, sans Internet connection, install these on two machines on my home lan and get my Deathmatch on?  Is steam-free LAN multiplayer possible?

Second case.  If I restore Internet connectivity to my lan, can I bypass steam and just connect to a HL2 server IP?   Is steam-free Internet multiplayer possible?

Will Steam provide any free services at all?  I really don't want to pay a recurring fee.

Beat to fit, paint to match.
#7 by Phayyde
2003-09-04 01:22:08
YF: You believe it's possible to bypass Steam altogether?  Or are you saying Steam is required but will provide server browsing for free?

Beat to fit, paint to match.
#8 by Your Friend
2003-09-04 01:22:15
Steam is only used for downloading content.  You subscribe so you can download HL2, TF2, CS2, etc.  If you want you can never use Steam and just buy those games at the store.  Steam is not used to connect you to multiplayer games.  You can buy two full copies of HL2 at the store and play them on LAN or play them on the Internet without ever subscribing to Steam, you can patch them without subscribing to Steam.  

Steam's subscription service is merely for the hardcore Valve fans who are likely to buy HL2, TF2, CS2 and any/all expansions.  Even then I'm not sure it makes much sense, I'd still personally rather "own" a game like HL2 than rent it, but maybe I'm weird like that.

"Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me."
#9 by Your Friend
2003-09-04 01:24:37
In short, Half-Life 2's gaming model is no different than Half-Life 2's except there is now a separate "single-player" only version.

Steam should be considered something completely different.  Steam is a service you subscribe to if you want to be able to download any Valve game and play it on demand.  In essence it is like those other game rental services like the one on Yahoo except it is all Valve games, or high profile mods to Valve games.

It isn't that scary..

"Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me."
#10 by Shadarr
2003-09-04 01:24:40
shadarr@yahoo.com http://digital-luddite.com
We're pretty sure that the $9.95 guys are going to get the better value, as we've been pretty good over the years at generating a lot of content.


I find it very hard to believe that they can generate $120 a year worth of content that people will want to buy.
#11 by jjohnsen
2003-09-04 01:25:02
http://www.johnsenclan.com
So if I want to buy it on steam, and I finish the SP within a month, then I've bought HL2 for less than $10?  Sounds too good to be true, there is no way it would take more than 30 days to finish a single player game.  For people like me that don't play alot of MP, how are they going to keep us around so they get the full value of the game?  Maybe I'm not understanding the concept correctly, but this sounds crazy.
#12 by Your Friend
2003-09-04 01:25:07

Half-Life 2's gaming model is no different than Half-Life 2's


Duh, that second one should be Half-Life 1's

"Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me."
#13 by Phayyde
2003-09-04 01:26:02
Thanks.  I'm no judge of marketing strategy, but I have seen mere confusion scare customers away from good products before.  I hope Valve presents this information well when the time comes.

Beat to fit, paint to match.
#14 by jjohnsen
2003-09-04 01:26:21
http://www.johnsenclan.com
Or is it that I buy HL2 off of steam for $50, then pay $10 a month for free updates, content, etc?
#15 by Your Friend
2003-09-04 01:26:52

So if I want to buy it on steam, and I finish the SP within a month, then I've bought HL2 for less than $10?  Sounds too good to be true, there is no way it would take more than 30 days to finish a single player game.  For people like me that don't play alot of MP, how are they going to keep us around so they get the full value of the game?  Maybe I'm not understanding the concept correctly, but this sounds crazy.


Yeah that's how it works.  Why is it so unbelievable? You can go rent a DVD for $3.50 instead of buying it for $25+ dollars.  Same model.

"Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me."
#16 by Quicken
2003-09-04 01:27:15
gdunn@backmeup.net.au
I think Valve is over estimating the value of the additional developments they will make in the few years after HL2. I mean team fortress 2 is all well and good but I don't want to be paying $120 for a year only to find their fantastic addition at that price is Ricochet or Classic DM. I wouldn't pay $10 for those. I mean half-life was released something like 5 years ago and in that time the extras we would have got for the $600 would be the original game, team fortress, two expansions (possibly), ricochet and classic DM. I can't see that price as justifiable no matter how you hype up the content.
#17 by Your Friend
2003-09-04 01:28:47
I do agree that Valve should have worked to present this information more clearly.  Looks like Gabe made a pretty big mistake sending out that email before things were scrubbed down by a PR person who could make it sound a lot less like a scary money grab.

"Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me."
#18 by Shadarr
2003-09-04 01:29:27
shadarr@yahoo.com http://digital-luddite.com
Or is it that I buy HL2 off of steam for $50, then pay $10 a month for free updates, content, etc?


If you're paying $10 a month, the updates are no longer free.
#19 by jjohnsen
2003-09-04 01:31:58
http://www.johnsenclan.com
Whoops, I meant what has been previously free content.  I still think its crazy that i can get an "A" title for $10 if I finish in less than a month.  When I think of all the money I would have saved on games if this model had been around.  Seriously, hom many games are you still playing a month or two after you buy them?  Maybe other people replay and play online than i do.
#20 by BarneyQue
2003-09-04 01:34:15
Yeah, scary money grab (true or not, I don't care), that's all I got from it, and I'm not about to spend any time learning anything else about it.  I've been suspicious of the 'steam' pile since the first time I learned of its existence.

All I know, is whatever it is they are up to, it's not that they decided they had too much money, and are looking for ways to earn less. I'm getting old, I'll stick with the familiar box on the shelf. I've never subscribed to anything game related, and I plan to die that way. :)
#21 by Your Friend
2003-09-04 01:36:05

Whoops, I meant what has been previously free content.  I still think its crazy that i can get an "A" title for $10 if I finish in less than a month.  When I think of all the money I would have saved on games if this model had been around.  Seriously, hom many games are you still playing a month or two after you buy them?  Maybe other people replay and play online than i do.


Well, from the developer's perspective they are still making money because they cut out the publisher percentage, packaging costs, shipping costs, etc.  Of course, the vast majority of people will still go buy this in the stores, and Valve knows that, but all-in-all they might be making more money from your $10 for one-month than they do from the sale of the boxed copy.

"Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me."
#22 by CheesyPoof
2003-09-04 01:37:30
I find it very hard to believe that they can generate $120 a year worth of content that people will want to buy.

I wonder what they have up their sleeves though.  Perhaps they are also including mod content that they have brought in house now, such as CS and DoD (I think DoD is in-house now).  So you figure in one year for $120USD you will get HL2, TF2, CS2, DoD2, and probably 1 expansion pack.  I'm sure $120USD would be cheaper than buying all of that content.  The real questions is, if I buy all those in the stores I can play them forever, but what if I get them from steam?  That's the part that would bother me.  I would hate to plunk down $120UDS and then find out I can't play HL2 SP anymore.
#23 by Shadarr
2003-09-04 01:42:11
shadarr@yahoo.com http://digital-luddite.com
I would hate to pay $10 a month and then find out that all the "for pay" mods suck, but I have to keep paying the $10 a month or I won't be able to play the free mods.
#24 by Warren Marshall
2003-09-04 01:43:50
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
So, they're going to have to produce something every month basically.  That sounds like a set up for disaster.  Nobody is going to want to pay $10 and get nothing for it.

Respawn Games
Open your mind, let the beatings begin.
#25 by Your Friend
2003-09-04 01:44:35

I would hate to plunk down $120UDS and then find out I can't play HL2 SP anymore.


That's a good point.  It would be nice if they had some sort of "lease-to-own" type of system whereby if you've been subscribed for X number of months, you can choose one game to "own" that won't go away if you stop subscribing to Steam.

Personally I'm not that interested in Steam unless they manage to sign up more developers to join in with them.  I love me some Half-Life, but as mentioned before I'm not a big fan of any of the HL2 related mods or Team Fortress.... I'd pay $10 a month for a PC gaming subscription service in a heartbeat, but it would need a much better selection of games than Valve offers on its own.

"Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me."
#26 by BabiG
2003-09-04 01:46:37
I thought they were still deciding if there would be a minimum term for the subscription, you may have to start with 2 or 3 months, then decide if you want to keep it for $10 a month after that. I think the price is a little high personally going by their track record in releasing content. I think it makes a sticky issue for them about what becomes free and what's subscriber only, there's sure to be kvetching about that.

I don't wanna write this down, wanna tell you how I feel right now.
#27 by Shadarr
2003-09-04 01:49:40
shadarr@yahoo.com http://digital-luddite.com
If it's pay content, it had better be quality content.  There'd be more than kvetching if people are paying $10 a month for the kind of crap most mod teams put out.
#28 by None-1a
2003-09-04 02:05:54
It's rather consering they haven't said if there's going to be an upgrade avalible to turn the SP version into the SP/MP one. There is a large change people will get confused over what version does what, get the SP version as a gift, or just find some hot mod they want has been released 4 months after the fact and need to buy the game a second time.

That $120USD a month for steam will look like a lot more value if other developers start using the system (remember the subscription gives access to anything avalible not just one game and it's related addons), also you can buy just one game via steam for a one time cost. Oh, Darkseid there is SP content avalible in the steam beta (both HL and Opp For are avalible).
#29 by Marcin
2003-09-04 02:12:29
marcin@wickedtoast.com www.damodred.net
Maybe they just strongly believe that it will be something you will want to return to (HL2, that is) and replay? I dunno, it would have worked with Deus Ex for me. 7 or so replays in a few years, that's more than the box price. Or what if HL2 multiplayer is so good you want to keep playing it at that $10/month? Sounds like a pretty nifty system of try-before-you-buy, except if end up liking it you still have to fork over the fifty bucks for a "real" copy. I guess if you have confidence that you will move product, it's a good move - but they better have done some serious market research to find out what type of clientele they have...

Should be interesting to see what comes of it. Me, I'd buy a box copy immediately. But if this was offered for Doom III? The 10 bucks deal, no question; whereas I would spend zero on a box version. *shrug*
#30 by Mank
2003-09-04 02:36:29
The main thing everyone seems to be overlooking here is the ease at which content is acquired over Steam. I've been using steam now for the past 2 months, and I always leave it running in my system tray. I've been able to play thru HL1 again, and download all of the videos and other Mods without so much as a single distraction to my normal bandwidth or computer resources. If Steam can run this smoothly and still be able to put the content on my computer, it's going to be great...However..

...I do have a concern about Steam tho: The question of exclusivity, as in, will Steam make certain content available to those who pay the monthly subscription first, and/or will everyone who uses Steam be able to purchase and download new content before people can buy it at the local EB store?  I just dont see Steam being worth the effort in the long run unless it offers some kind of advantage other than online delivery, especially for the subscription model that Gabe mentioned. There is always going to be the hardcore segment who absolutely have to have something before everyone else does.

"A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep."
#31 by Dethstryk
2003-09-04 03:08:33
jemartin@tcainternet.com
I don't think Valve is dumb enough to do some of the things a few of you are concerned with. It's just being poorly worded at this point; it's no different than the "OMG IT WON'T MAKE 9-30!!!"

Holy shit, the 30th is this month.

sunny days have funny ways of quieting the roar
#32 by jjohnsen
2003-09-04 03:35:54
http://www.johnsenclan.com
For a while there were rumors it was getting pushed back, then others said it was still sep 30th.  Have they officially come up with a date yet?  I mean if Max Payne is coming October 15th, they probably don't want to move HL2 back unless it is past that.
#33 by Your Friend
2003-09-04 03:46:13
Rockstar is releasing the GTA3 & GTA3: VC double pack on Xbox...  Cool beans...  Here's hoping it will look like the PC version (or better) but play (controller-wise) like the PS2 version.

Coupled with KOTOR, Otogi, the fabulous Xbox version of SC2 and the forthcoming releases of Halo 2, Ninja Gaiden, True Crime, etc the xbox could be edging into the GameCube's spot as my favorite console.

"Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me."
#34 by G-Man
2003-09-04 04:21:51
I said all of this in an earlier thread (the HL2 vanilla sub-thread) when I was digging around in Steam's configuration files. The Steam service has the functionality to support titles offered by third party developers. At best this will let the mod-world transform into a true independent game industry wiith a built-in market (essentially one-upping Garage Games' business model). At worst it will be a crippled (by lack of developer support and titles) Yahoo Games on Demand service or Govojo, Gamefly, Veegeez, RentZero, NumbThumb, RedOctane, NextRental, Get Any Game, GameLender, Angel Gamer etc.
#35 by Matt Perkins
2003-09-04 04:22:51
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
#33

I agree completely.  I've even been holding off on starting up VC again so I can I get the xbox version love the graphisc update they almost assuredly did.

"I'm an extreme programmer. I don't plan anything when I code."- Lord Nekrull
#36 by Darkseid-D
2003-09-04 05:25:18
rogerboal@hotmail.com
Steam also has a 'friends' client much like msn messenger for locating your friends in games, you can page people to invite them to play via a buddy list (something akin to MS's XBOX live system). This operates when youre logged into steam, but not necessarily in game, handy for playing with specific people / clans / PCers.

as for single player, they must have added that after I tried to launch it, interesting, perhaps a clever move letting people play updated content, certainly not a money loser since the games been out so long.

Do not go gently into that good night.
Old age should burn and rage at the close of day.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
#37 by None-1a
2003-09-04 05:58:56
Actually HL has been available since way back when the beta started (in fact I ran through the HL SP game shortly after it started). So either something is screwed up and it's not displaying every thing or you're blind.
#38 by Dethstryk
2003-09-04 07:30:56
jemartin@tcainternet.com
I guess I'm going to go ahead and install Steam in preparation. Oh, and get a pre-order for a boxed copy in.

sunny days have funny ways of quieting the roar
#39 by "DEATH KiLLER iNTERNATiONAL (iNTERGALACTiC DiViSiON"
2003-09-04 07:45:23
fuck
#40 by KookieMonsta
2003-09-04 07:52:00
I'm just curious.  Is the Steam client downloading from certain Valve servers or is it a P2P program that allows downloading from other Steam clients?  If it is P2P, there's little wonder you can max out your down stream bandwith.

Speaking as a non-US resident, I wonder if Valve will offer different subscription rates to different countries.  In case you didn't know, geniune PC games in Asian countries cost a lot less than the US versions.  For instance, when HL was first introduced the price in US was $USD50 (I'm guessing) but I got it in Singapore for $S50 (about $27).  

Assuming the box price for HL2 Singapore version is still $S50, will I be able to get a subscription for cheaper than $USD9.99?
#41 by Bailey
2003-09-04 08:14:00
I'll just be acquiring the SP version in my usual fashion, but if the engine rocks and runs nicely, I'll be buying the MP retail version. Whatever you all might say about Counterstrike, the first six beta phases rocked, as did DoD, TFC, and one or two other mods I forget. Valve makes a damn fine engine, even if they themselves couldn't make MP for shit.

Too straight for #planetcrap.
#42 by Bailey
2003-09-04 08:14:17
Oh, Action HL was alright. No Action Quake 2, however.

Too straight for #planetcrap.
#43 by Bailey
2003-09-04 08:16:32
Kookie

North Americans publishers are more or less resigned to the rampany piracy in Asia, (though they'd never admit to it, the prices tell the real story) so you'll always find lower costs there for games, particularly those which require online keys, as that's the sole point of enticement for any given Asian consumer.

Too straight for #planetcrap.
#44 by Darkseid-D
2003-09-04 08:19:52
rogerboal@hotmail.com
Steam as it stands now is due to come out of beta and I believe I read that theres a new client due, one that will require cd keys to activate various games, the user logins will remain available however, if my poor memory doesnt betray me

Do not go gently into that good night.
Old age should burn and rage at the close of day.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
#45 by Squeaky
2003-09-04 08:21:17
#41 Bailey
I'll just be acquiring the SP version in my usual fashion, but if the engine rocks and runs nicely, I'll be buying the MP retail version. Whatever you all might say about Counterstrike, the first six beta phases rocked

If by first six beta phases rocked, you meant first first four beta phases rocked, then I agree.

I'm a closet metrosexual.
DVDs
#46 by Bailey
2003-09-04 08:24:20
I'll clarify that I loved it until they fagged up the MP5.

Too straight for #planetcrap.
#47 by lwf
2003-09-04 10:11:20
It was good until they added explosives. Beta 3.2 was the best shit, ever.

Nothing was broken and nothin was hurt but I really probably shoulda been at work,
But if my free time was gone would you promise me this, will you please bury me with it
#48 by BobJustBob
2003-09-04 11:48:59
I tried to play some Half-Life multiplayer once. I can't remember if it was a mod or not, but it was back on my 56k so it didn't go well and I never repeated the experience.

Voices tell me I'm the shit.
<Whisp> BJB is a troll. <Whisp> Troll I say!
#49 by BobJustBob
2003-09-04 11:52:01
I have a similar story about an MMORPG, but my cable modem experience with those types of games tells me that it didn't really affect the performance at all.

Voices tell me I'm the shit.
<Whisp> BJB is a troll. <Whisp> Troll I say!
#50 by Sgt Hulka
2003-09-04 14:27:07
It will be interesting to see if Steam takes off, but I wouldn't bet on it myself.  I think it's for a hardcore audience only, and that is a very small niche market of gaming, but then again, it might do so well that all the other companies latch onto it and put it in their future games.  

Personally, I don't like being confined to a company like that.  If I want a patch, I want to go to three hundred web sites to grab it from, not be reliant on Steam.  IMHO.

Doomed! the Movie - Videogames Turn Deadly...
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