“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
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