Newell: Cheaper games for the cool kids

“The industry has this broken model, which is one price for everyone. That’s actually a bug, and it’s something that we want to solve,” says Gabe Newell, managing director of Valve Corporation. What does Newell mean by that exactly: discounts from big-box retailers, loyalty cards like as if games were coffee from Starbucks? Let's let him explain: “A really likable person in our community should get DotA 2 for free, because of past behaviour in Team Fortress 2. Now, a real jerk that annoys everyone, they can still play, but a game is full price and they have to pay an extra hundred dollars if they want voice.”

Well, gosh. That's quite some idea.

“Something as an industry we should be doing better,” Newell explains in an interview with Develop Online, “is charging customers based on how much fun they are to play with. Some people, when they join a server, a ton of people will run with them. Other people, when they join a server, will cause others to leave. We should have a way of capturing that. We should have a way of rewarding the people who are good for our community.”

This ties into Newell's thoughts on social gaming – which are a lot less antagonistic than Team Fortress 2 e1337ists might like to suppose – and the changing face of game sales, from an industrial product-delivery system to a community-driven model. The idea of star players being rewarded by the studio might seem radical, but Newell reveals that it's already in practice: “We have these high value customers [who] aren’t just paying for games, they’re making money from them. And it’s not just a little bit of money, it’s [up to] $20,000 per week.”

It's a future-oriented view of gaming but one with pretty weird implications: putting studios not just in the position of delivering games, but actively engaging with the community to tailor that game's ongoing experience in a way that goes way beyond developer presence on forums or patches influenced by player feedback. Does this stop players enjoying the game they want, or would you rather play a game where screaming griefers had to pay extra for the privilege? What do you think of Newell's scheme?

May 17, 2011

Stephen Merchant surprised by fan response to Portal 2, found voicing Wheatley 'exhausting' 
'[Games] rank alongside movies and whatever else people really take to their hearts'

Portal 2 Easter egg guide: 30 secrets and references you may have missed 
Have you seen everything Aperture Science has to offer?


  • Friedrice - May 20, 2011 6:07 p.m.

    I like the idea, but what would keep these companies giving to the cause? Let's say I'm an exceptional asshole (Whether this is true or not is up to you), but I buy merchandise like there's no tomorrow. Now let's say someone is the nicest, most helpful guy in the world but doesn't do much in the way of brand support short of buying his most anticipated game every once in a blue moon. The nice guy may get the shaft simply because he can't buy character statues or art books or DLC; however me, the asshole, gets to reap the benefits simply because he's a dedicated financier. Getting ahead because you have the most green is wrong, IMHO. I like the idea, as long as money doesn't corrupt the system.
  • Zanthis - May 18, 2011 12:50 p.m.

    This is a wonderful idea. It really is a concrete implimentation of the whole karmatic principle. However, I don't think it will work in out current industry. This would require a seperate team to monitor the community to assure that people aren't just acting in their own self interest. Maybe Valve can afford that, but I don't know anyone else who could or would want to. This still is an industry who's goal is making money.
  • foxxjeh - May 18, 2011 8 a.m.

    I'm okay with this, as long as we get the option to mute and/or kick the sod who paid the extra 100$ to talk. Starting with that racist bastard Gandhi >=(
  • BlackElement17 - May 18, 2011 6:57 a.m.

    Gabe is like the gaming industries Batman.
  • Ivegotmyawesomepantson - May 18, 2011 4:31 a.m.

    I love how in the comments of any story involving Steam, Valve, their games, or Gabe Newell there's always several people who go "fuck you, gimme my Episode 3 NAO!"
  • Nodoudt - May 18, 2011 3:17 a.m.

    If anything it would instill a "lead by example" mentality amongst gamers, which would obviously have very good long-term effects.
  • NullG7 - May 17, 2011 11:56 p.m.

    Cool, this concept is fresh and feels right no complaints here.
  • mockraven - May 17, 2011 11:43 p.m.

    Sorry to double-post but forgot a word or two in "If the system's also based on pure scoring then there'd be a penalty for enjoying a game that you're not particularly good at." (roughly the 4th line for anyone who cares) Got hooked on phonics and the word "particularly!"
  • mockraven - May 17, 2011 11:40 p.m.

    The thought of $100 for jerks and free for awesome people is cool but not quite practical. There's the issue that other commenters have brought up: What about the people who are new to the community? This essentially penalizes new players. If the system's also based on pure scoring then there'd be penalty for enjoying a game that you're not particularly at. As far as feedback from other players affecting whether your penalized or rewarded, there'd also need to be a counter-check system to ensure that the other players aren't griefers or specifically targeting one person or group for some stupid reason. Now, a rebate system would be also pretty cool. Everybody starts off paying the same price for the game, but after incorporating themselves in the social-side of things they get a % rebated to them as credit or cash(in all it's forms). This would give new gamers a chance to also benefit and give jerks a chance to redeem themselves. Although, there's still a lot of room for abuse in this idea, as well. It's a cool concept, but I'm really not sure how it can be effectively, and fairly, implemented. (Recaptcha: olicat start:)
  • mattersnotnow - May 17, 2011 11:24 p.m.

    Don't really like the idea. Puts pressure on people about the way they're playing. I don't want to be worrying if I'm being good to the community! I just want to play the damn game!
  • Gurkogg - May 17, 2011 9:52 p.m.

    When I played World of Warcraft I encountered no shortage of douchebags who would spend thousands of dollars every year purchasing gold and accounts. I am pretty sure there are plenty of SOBs who are willing to pay extra just to be an asshole in a videogame. Recapctha: stick justice, ya that sounds about right
  • Silentboy - May 17, 2011 9:21 p.m.

    Sure that's nice Gaben, but where's Episode 3?!
  • D0CCON - May 17, 2011 9:09 p.m.

    Considering that being free from repercussions is a big reason for why so many gamers are dicks, that does sound like a cool idea. You want to be a racist, sexist, homophobic prick? OK, we'll just charge you an extra $100 then.
  • killorabbit - May 17, 2011 9 p.m.

    Where's my $20,000 a week? :D Seriously though, this is all a lovely idea but I want to know who is making this cash and how. Also, $100 to let a mouthy gamer use chat seems a tad bit OTT (but i'm willing to watch them suffer). I guess this whole scheme relies on how good/bad community members are flagged.
  • FVDub - May 17, 2011 8:28 p.m.

    Has there ever been a news article about Gabe that didn't have Half-Life 3 mentioned in the comments? I sure hope not.
  • CoryM1134 - May 17, 2011 8:22 p.m.

    I'm okay with this, Mr. Newell. I really like how this guy always tries to just do whatever he feels like with his games, regardless of industry standards. Of course this idea would be difficult to fully implement, and would likely go through lots of models before finding one that worked well, but I like it.
  • AlpineGuy - May 17, 2011 8:11 p.m.

    It's a new breed of thought, sure, but how does this tie in to people who, say, are just starting out with a game like TF2 or DotA2? Do they have to pay more because they have no background to check? Oh, and Half-Life 3.
  • bigwill1221 - May 17, 2011 7:56 p.m.

    I'm sort of confused about this idea.. even though I read the whole article D=
  • Moroz - May 17, 2011 7:49 p.m.

    I like the idea, but unfortunately not all companies would be on board for this one. Companies like Activision just want to sell as many games as possible. They wouldn't want alienate any of their douche bag customers (of which there is no shortage).
  • angelusdlion - May 17, 2011 7:39 p.m.

    Nice idea, but the big question I have is "who decides?" And the mighty Captcha says "Teachers Armpits" Never mind, question answered.

Showing 1-20 of 29 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000