Valve Aims To Keep Users Happy Not Just Seek Profit, Says Indie Dev

By William Usher 2014-01-19 12:12:54 discussion comments
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During the Steam Dev Days, a number of developers came together under a Valve-spread umbrella to get firsthand looks at the upcoming Steam Machines, the new controllers and the new SteamOS. The idea was to spur discussion about the future of gaming through the Steam ecosystem and it seems to have paid off big with a number of developers.

The developers from tinyBuild Games, the same minds behind SpeedRunners and No Time To Explain, spent a few days at the Steam Dev Days event and then decided to share their experience with users in a rather informative post on Reddit. However, the most interesting thing from the post wasn't about what's in store and how Valve plans to do it, it's about their business methodology and how they've achieved success with it, writing...
“Valve's basic philosophy is to keep users happy. Never during Steam Dev Days have I heard anything about profit. Steam's business team thinks first about the users, about what they might like/use, and then about how to monetize it -- but only in fun ways that deliver actual value.”

That's like the complete opposite of Electronic Arts and Microsoft at the moment.

I know the common excuse is “Well they're a business, not a charity.”

That's true... but does it mean they have to screw people over to stay in business? Is it so necessary to strip away consumer rights? To implement draconian DRM? To close off communication and create a walled garden within the consumer market in an attempt to monopolize a sector of the industry?

Some people might say Valve is doing the same thing, but no... they aren't.

TinyBuild goes on to explain that...
“Users love spending money for something that creates value -- and not for artificial walls like in "social/facebook" games. Valve really cracked the formula of keeping players happy AND willing to spend money to become more happy. “

Over $10m was made by 600+ people creating content for TF2. This is because they have all the tools to let their community create content, and make money off it — all while letting that same community dictate the value of the content. Think of it as a self-adjusting system where price is determined by demand. What happens is real value creation in the perception of users.”

It's funny because this is the absolute complete opposite of monetary methods exercised by profit-driven companies within the gaming industry. As a recent example, you have Titanfall being released with no mod support, but you can bet your bottom dollar there's going to be a plethora of seasonal DLC rolled out for the game over the span of its market run. Do I even need to bring up Call of Duty: Ghosts or Battlefield 4?

Valve's success is skyrocketing because they're doing what gamers want; doing what developers want. Putting the control back into the hands of users. I know there's a ton of complaints about Steam Greenlight, but I can readily say that I've purchased more than handful of games I've voted for and wanted to see on the Steam storefront. It's not just a marketplace that dictates what we should buy, but offers options and avenues to allow us to partake in what we would like to buy.

The devs from tinyBuild also shared thoughts on the Steam Machines, writing...
"Happy users will keep on returning and spending money" -- quote from a breakout session about user generated content.

This happy user methodology combined with the iterative approach are key factors in why Steam Machines will dominate living rooms. Multiple times Valve employees said they’re just extending Steam to the living room, implying no real competition with consoles. In some way it’s true that not all console players will want a Steam Machine. But I believe developers won’t want to go anywhere else.”

I'm considering getting a new gaming machine and a Steam Machine definitely seems like the way to go: PC gaming in the living room. With SteamOS also aiming to offer media streaming options, it could be the all-in-one system that Microsoft was hoping the Xbox One would be.

The only thing we have to see now is how many people will be willing to follow Valve down the road of Linux and whether or not the Steam Machines will find some place in the consumer market to make them a viable business option in the long run.
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