Gearbox's Pitchford Says Valve is 'Exploiting' Smaller Devs with Steam, Advocates Split

By Nick Breckon, Oct 07, 2009 4:14pm PDT In a new interview with Maximum PC, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford claims that Valve's dominance in the PC digital distribution arena could come to hurt the industry, citing a "dangerous" conflict of interest and a lack of competition that has already lead to the exploitation of smaller developers.

"I'll tell you what, Steam helps. As a guy in this industry though, I don't trust Valve," said Pitchford, who later clarified that while he personally trusts the company, "a lot of the industry doesn't."

"Valve is taking a larger share than it should for the service it's providing," he said. "It's exploiting a lot of small guys. For us big guys, we're going to sell the units and it will be fine."

Pitchford explained that since Microsoft "is focused on the console platform" and seems unwilling to compete, Valve should split off Steam and form a separate company to improve the service's image.

"It would be much better if Steam was its own business," he said. "There's so much conflict of interest there that it's horrid. It's actually really, really dangerous for the rest of the industry to allow Valve to win."

Added Pitchford: "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."

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64 Threads* | 423 Comments

  • Why must PC devs always pursue this self-destructive trajectory? Steam *is working*, just let it the fuck alone.

    It isn't perfect (the pricing is whack sometimes) but it is *very* good for PC games. It's about the only shining light, in fact. I know people who detest Windows and MS with a passion, and yet still make all their purchases through Steam and have a great deal of respect for Valve. This is important goodwill that Valve have almost single-handedly generated for the PC games industry in the last few years.

    Saying "us big guys" are fine and crying sympathetic tears for the indies also strikes me as bullshit. Let's hear some of the smaller developers on the subject, first.

  • I think the real question could the indie developers do better with a traditional publisher. It isn't so clear cut, I'am pretty sure that a non-digital publisher would be taking more of the profits because of manufacturing costs and advertising. I also think the rejection rate is way higher also. The fact remains that between Steam, Impulse, Direct2Drive, Live arcade/marketplace, PlayStation network, its way more accessible now to get an indie game in a customers hands than it was even 5 years ago.

    The argument that is going on here is really no different than ones that existed between artists vs record labels and screenwriters vs movie studios.

  • This seems to just concern Valve's pricing policies more than anything. I love Steam, and make most of my game purchases there(or, sometimes I use Impulse and Gamersgate when I can't get a given title through Steam), and will continue to do so, but many companies have been complaining about how much Valve can take for its services, I saw it estimated around anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of a given game's price, and I do believe that if Valve wants to continue to grow at the same rates as it does now, it'll have to reduce those margins to a more reasonable number eventually.

  • Seems.. Foolish.

    I cannot agree with the 'healthiness' of competition, when the only available competitors are companies as devious and painfully ignorant as microsoft. Using my computer can be a hellish experience quite often thanks to Windows, I refuse to go to Vista because it will disable half my older programs and indie games.. And because I hate being asked to confirm a command four times over.

    .. The way I see it, there's Steam and there's Good Old Games. I get my Good Old Games from Good Old Games because I love them to death and want to support them, and my Good New Games from Steam because they make it smooth, quick and trustworthy and offer good weekend deals on the games I want, and buy anything truly important from an amazon reseller for a slight discount so I can get the box and manual, which is less and less relevant as time goes on and production values decrease.