3D Realms' Scott Miller Calls For Steam Independence

3D Realms' Scott Miller Calls For Steam Independence

In a recent interview, Scott Miller suggested that Valve's Steam publishing program should become its own company, fearing Valve's access to download stats and revenue information about the competition. Soon after the interview, Valve announced that 3D Realms' Prey is available for download on Steam.

"I'm not a big fan of using Steam, because I'm not a fan of a strong competitor of ours having access to our download stats and revenue totals," said Miller in an interview. "I'd rather keep that private. Not only that, but we're lining their pockets as well."

Rather than have Steam run under the Valve umbrella, Scott Miller would prefer Steam become a separate entity: "I'd love to see Steam spin off as their own company. That would be a smart move. That removes the conflict of interest issue and it would give Steam focus as a separate company. Since they're buried in Valve, if Valve doesn't do well for a game or two, Steam will get cut before their internal game development. They have to consider Steam secondary. I don't know why they hang on to Steam as an internal thing. They'd probably rule the game industry if they did. A truly independent company is going to come along, and I know of a couple of start-ups. I think one of these companies will emerge as the product leader and they should be able to take Steam's spot."

Despite Miller's concerns, the 3D Realms and Human Head FPS Prey has been made available on Steam today for $49.99. Users who have already bought the game from a store or the now defunct Triton download service can get it through Steam using their existing product key.

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I suppose it's easy to say that if you aren't Valve. I remember when Steam was first being publicly discussed. The rest of the industry seemed to be taking a wait and see approach. Valve in the meantime went through a couple years where retail, publishers, users, journalists and other developers complained about Steam for both its functionality and the very concept of digital distribution. Now that it appears to have been a huge success, Valve has every right to call the shots on how they manage, charge and run the business. I'm of the opinion that the success of Steam helped usher in the Xbox Live download situation we see now, not just for demos, but for all of the additional content that gets pushed via that platform. Microsoft could see the benefit of cutting out the middlemen at retail, maybe not completely, but for "microtransactions" which they can make a higher profit margin on in the first place. It's ironic that 3D Realms has anything to say about Steam, seeing that they backed the wrong horse with Triton...

I think Valve should make them a bet. Valve will spin Steam off as a seperate corporate entity if 3D Realms finishes and ships Duke Nukem Forever.

I think Miller's logic is flawed.

Scott Miller:
Since they're buried in Valve, if Valve doesn't do well for a game or two, Steam will get cut before their internal game development. They have to consider Steam secondary.

I was under the impression that if Valve didn't do well for a game or two, they'd have Steam and its revenue to fall back on. Is that not the case? I thought that was why they were getting so aggressive about 3rd-party games on the service.

Demiurge:
I was under the impression that if Valve didn't do well for a game or two, they'd have Steam and its revenue to fall back on. Is that not the case? I thought that was why they were getting so aggressive about 3rd-party games on the service.

I agree. His logic is also fundamentally flawed; Valve tanking on a couple of games is like theorizing Blizzard may release a couple of stinkers and be in financial crisis as a result. My impression of Valve is that they don't release half-finished titles and won't release a product until it is almost going to be a guaranteed success (Counter-Strike: Condition Zero notwithstanding). At this time, they own the rights to a large number of high-profile original IPs: Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat, Team Fortress and now potentially Portal if that game turns out to be a hit. I don't see them being in financial troubles anytime soon.

Some of the logic is a bit sketchy, but I think he's right that Steam being an independent company (say one partially owned by Valve, or something similar) would make it a better property. I think the service would improve a hell of a lot faster, and it would probably attract more customers as a result.

Well, at a glance, just looks like a conflict of interest. It's fine that a dev studio wants to digitially distribute its own titles. But other people's titles? I guess that's fine too, as long as everyone understands a competitor is selling your product.

Unless I'm completely mistaken?

Hmmm. This is an interesting dilemma, as on the one hand, yes, I don't think Valve is just gonna let Steam spin off so easily. It is another stream of revenue, and likely a fairly tidy one at that.

But, Miller's point about the data Valve, as a competitor to many companies, could get their grubbies on is not a bad one. That's generally internal data and could be quite useful to a competitor to know exactly what kind of revenue and product movement others' are enjoying (or not). I'd imagine it's a bit unnerving to think about - one of the most high profile downloads services also happens to be the same company as your direct competitor.

If nothing else, it seems that Valve will find some friction attempting to enter the digital download market as a whole, rather than proprietary content.

This is a similar issue to console development. Who was it who said back in 1992ish that developing for the SNES (Genesis?) was hard, because not only were you competing against other third-parties, but also against Nintendo (or Sega, as it were). The industry appears to have weathered that particular crisis, however.

Valve has pioneered digital distribution on the PC. Why shouldn't they enjoy the spoils; they certainly took all of the risks. I whole-heartedly agree with Bongo on the console situation. EA and M$oft fought for years over Xbox Live, mainly because EA didn't want to share such a large of their intellectual properties with M$oft.

 

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