Friday, July 1, 2011


So, this is my grand entrance as a video game blogger.  What shall I write about?  The state of the industry as I see it?  What games I'm looking forward to in the coming months, and why you should be excited too?  A cutting review for a brand new game?


I'm going to talk about Valve.

I might be considered a Valve fanboy, especially after this is written, and to be honest, I'd have a hard time arguing against that assertion.  However, I'd like to think I have good reason (or rather, reasons-plural) for having as much affection for a company that a person can have and still be considered (mostly) healthy.

First and most obviously, Valve makes excellent games.  I don't particularly think I need to elaborate much.  They made Half-Life, Portal, and Team Fortress, among several others.  For those of you who haven't played any of those yet, do yourself a favor and play them.  Team Fortress 2 is now free-to-play on Steam, as well.  That brings me to my next point.

Valve is generous to their customers.  They made one of their flagship games free-to-play.  Yes, I'm aware that there are microtransactions for us to give them our nickels.  Yes, I'm aware that it's either a) a shrewd business move, or b) a business model experiment for future games.  But the fact of the matter is, we're in a time where on top of a $15/month subscription fee, Blizzard (another ultra-successful company with exceedingly loyal fans) charges lots of money ($15-$30!) for character transfers and in-game vanity items, and then they nickel-and-dime their most devoted and/or crazy customers with mobile apps that let them view their in-game auctions or chat with their guildies.  Nevermind the fact they've broken Starcraft 2 into three separate, fully-priced (that means $60!) games.  However, this isn't about Blizzard-rage; this is pointing out that Valve could have gone in a very different direction than what they have, and it's refreshing to me to see this kind of attitude toward their customers.

Lots of companies have already adopted this "freemium" model, where the actual game is free, but you can buy premium items quickly and easily for small amounts of real money.  The difference between Valve doing this with Team Fortress 2 and, say, Turbine doing it with Lord of the Rings Online is that Team Fortress 2 is still really popular.  I've never had a problem finding a game of TF2 to jump into, and I'm also reasonably sure that the game is still selling because I encounter people who are actually worse than me at the game.  LOTRO, on the other hand, was on life support when Turbine switched to the freemium model, but when they did, they immediately started making more money than they ever did with the outdated subscription model.  In other words, while this may have been a shrewd business decision on Valve's part, the decision wasn't made because nobody was playing TF2 anymore.

I could go on about the ridiculous Steam sales that are happening right now (Oblivion GOTY Deluxe $8.50!), or about the new support for freemium games on Steam, but this post is beginning to become long in the tooth.  So I shall sum up this entire post thusly:  Valve is really stinking cool to its customers, and everybody else in the industry can and should learn from their example.