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

Over on the 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.
Home » Topic: Valve to turn game publishing on it's head!

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#19 by jjohnsen
2003-09-04 01:31:58
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
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
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
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
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
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
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

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
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
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
2003-09-04 07:45:23
#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

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
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.
#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...
#51 by mrbloo
2003-09-04 15:45:16
The new version of Day of Defeat rocks pretty hard.  Probably the best mod for HL out there, IMHO.  I like CS as well, and I don't have any problems with the changes in each beta.  It just seems to have stagnated now with very little new content being added while they work on the SP version.  I wouldn't play either of them on the Internet though, which seems like it saves me a world of frustration.

The Steam subscription idea sounds interesting, but anybody who shells out $10 a month on the off-chance that they'll get TF2 in the first year is nuts.

#52 by Darkseid-D
2003-09-04 17:55:47
Requiring steam for internet play is quite possibly a brilliant move, theyve already had the auth servers for key checking after all. Now they can incorporate security checks on the client before they get to the server, they can also stream patches out quietly in the background to large numbers of players and at a specific time or date let it go live, bang youve got an already patched number of players.

Sitting in fileplanet queues waiting for a patch, or having to download this client or that client, wading through 15 pages of ads and popups to get a patch or update for your game from the common paths. Or a game that does all the work for you , quite possibly invisibly to you.

Extra 'clan' support, being able to upload your decals to a central server and have them available and locked to `your` use across the world?

Needing new items for a map youre working on and being able to hit up the 'warehouse' for the primitives / skinned item and placing it in your map already predefined. Uploading that nifty looking model you just made and having it available in a central warehouse with a property tag on it (visible in the editor)

Inbuilt voice comms for your games thats surprisingly good quality and that can be used via the buddy list, hey just like people across the country are using xbox/live kits in place of long distance phone calls.

Information feedback, Valve can enumerate scores of machines at once and identify problem patterns like 'corruption happening on p4 1.5's with radeon cards, similarity is driver tk421, leave the person with the problem a buddy message on how to update their drivers.

Sounds too good to be true?  Most of the framework is already in steam as it stands, its sitting on a very PHAT bandwidth pipe (I suspect a fee is just to pay for that, no more) and Valve have demonstrated what they can do in the past.

If you think it sounds kinda big brotherish, just remember the two 'owners' / senior management at Valve are ex Microsoft management.

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.
#53 by "Anonymous"
2003-09-04 18:11:43
#52 -

Anything that sends data back is going to be a problem. Charging to get access to steam and then collecting "valuable" demographic information (ie. system specs) is going to butt heads with the privacy crowd.

Also, wading through pages of adds and bullshit isn't an inherent problem of patches, it's an inherent problem of dumbass web-wankers and content companies that don't want to host this shit themselves.

Also, if I buy HL2 in the store and need patches, do I have to get on steam?
#54 by None-1a
2003-09-04 18:26:08
From what's been said in the past CD keys can be used to access the game via steam (it'll act just like it would if you bought the game over steam rather then getting the subscription). I'd also assume all of the server browser and IM features will be free, mostly because they'd act as a rather good way to get people using it.
#55 by Neale
2003-09-04 18:34:03
Steam's "phat pipes" are provided by third parties, usually in return for a couple of free subscriptions :)

You can't derail this train of idiocy, Shadarr. Not even with a big fat cow of logic on the tracks. - Bailey
#56 by Bailey
2003-09-04 18:34:27
Lord knows nothing would get me playing MP faster than receiving instant messages containing the deepest innermost thoughts and musings of cYbAkIllA666<<CLAN HELLFUCKER>>.

Too straight for #planetcrap.
#57 by Shadarr
2003-09-04 19:06:54

I haven't used Steam, but the download software that came with Galactic Civilizations was a joy to use.  More rewarding than the actual game, in fact.
#58 by Phayyde
2003-09-04 19:24:48
Requiring steam for internet play...

Wait I'm confused again.  Is Steam REQUIRED for Inet multiplay?  What if I already know the IP address of my buds server, can't I just type that in and connect?

And if it's REQUIRED for Inet multiplay, whattaboutta LAN?  Surely they couldn't...

Beat to fit, paint to match.
#59 by Your Friend
2003-09-04 19:38:11

Requiring steam for internet play is quite possibly a brilliant move

They AREN'T requiring Steam for Internet play.  Jesus Fucktard Christ!  Steam has nothing to do with Half-Life 2 online multiplayer play except as a delivery mechanism for the content if you don't want to buy it in the store!

And Steam was architected for quick content download, not game related network traffic.  The difference between what you want for each of those (bandwidth for downloading vs fast latency for in-game) is so different that I doubt Stream would be any good for handling the in-game communications.

"Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me."
#60 by Gabe
2003-09-04 19:43:43
The Steam client includes IM and server browsing. It's not just a content delivery platform. I think the friend list was even integrated somewhat into the Half-Life front end.
#61 by G-Man
2003-09-04 19:43:54
Steam is all things to all men.
#62 by Your Friend
2003-09-04 19:49:05

The Steam client includes IM and server browsing.

True, but neither of these functions need the sort of quick latency the in-game networking needs.  IM and server browsing could be piggy-backed on anything, even http.  Anyway the important point is Steam is absolutely not going to be required to play Half-Life 2 online.  The other point is, Valve really needs to control its information flow better in the future because they have tons of fanbois running around with their heads cut off thinking Steam is the only way to play Half-Life 2 online.  I mean, in an ideal world it is really the fanbois fault for not being able to read, but Valve should still probably know better.

"Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me."
#63 by G-Man
2003-09-04 19:51:58
Uh to be fair, part of that belief stems from the fact that Steam is required to play the latest version of CS online. So a required Steam account isn't exactly unprecedented.
#64 by Gabe
2003-09-04 19:56:03
Your Friend

I don't understand why you make the leap that requiring Steam to play online would mean that Steam is somehow the networking infrastructure for the game. Having to authenticate with a master server to play Q3A online doesn't mean the network traffic for the game itself is going through the master server.
#65 by Your Friend
2003-09-04 20:01:27

 A number of people have made it sound as if Half-Life 2 will require Steam for any and all network function and that this would prohibit LAN play and other forms of play that were available for Half Life 2.  My purpose in pointing out that Steam itself would make a crappy link layer for the in-game functionality is to demonstrate that it would be silly for Valve to use Steam for everything, as some people (based on posts even here) seem to think is the case.

"Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me."
#66 by Phayyde
2003-09-04 20:09:55
YF:  You sound less than confident.  The question remains unanswered.   I'll ask again.  To what extent is Steam required for Internet and LAN multiplay?    And will these services require recurring payment?

I want answers, YF, although your conjecture is a nice gesture.

Beat to fit, paint to match.
#67 by None-1a
2003-09-04 20:26:54
I'm thinking based on steam's current feature list it'll be 'required' in the same since Q3 or UT's in game browsers are required for online play (ie it'll just be the default method). Also remember steam isn't just the subscription service, a single game can be bought for a one time fee. From what has been said in the past steam can use CD keys to allow access that's exactly the same as buying a single game over the service (so no recurring payments to use the server browser/IM/patch service with a store bought copy of HL2*).

*Which makes a lot of since from a business stand point. Steam's main purpose is as a content delivery system and as close as anyone is going to currently get to a 100% profit on sales. Lets people use the single game related features just might get them to use the system once another hot game is released.
#68 by LPMiller
2003-09-04 20:28:52
My understanding is that Steam will be required before having children, or buying your first home.

I believe I can fly......urk.
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