Friday, January 16, 2009

Valve Thinks Pirates Just Need Some Love

This is a real picture I got from  I'm not joking.  Credit where credit's due. At the Game Business Law Summit (something I didn’t know existed) on Wednesday, Valve’s Jason Holtman spoke about the business models behind Steam (GameDaily reports).

Holtman raises some points that actually factor into the pointcounterpoint Andrew and I ran this week. One stat he cites is the “huge install base” of PCs: 255 million new PCs were purchased in 2007. And since Steam is a PC platform, this is a gold mine for them.

He discusses the positive effect digital sales have on retail sales and how the only reason we think of it as a “cannibalization” is because retail sales are growing sluggishly compared to the increase in digital sales. But his most interesting point is his view on Internet piracy. “Pirates are underserved customers,” Holtman says. This view caused Valve to start releasing products day-and-date to Russia because “Russians are reading magazines and watching television -- they say 'Man, I want to play that game so bad,' but the publishers respond 'you can play that game in six months...maybe.' "

I must say this view of Internet piracy is refreshing. I’ve heard a few interviews with Lawrence Lessig (the guy behind Creative Commons), and he feels that copyright holders (of all media) need to find ways to embrace the Internet instead of creating laws to fight it. He’s not advocating free-everything, and Valve surely isn’t. But finding ways to win over new customers instead of simply demonizing them as thieves and scofflaws seems to be the way to go.