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Aside from the Left 4 Dead 2 boycott, you don't hear too much criticism of Valve Software. However, Gearbox Software chief Randy Pitchford said in a recent interview that he believes the company is taking advantage of smaller developers that release their games through Steam, their digital games store.
Pitchford told MaximumPC that he doesn't trust a game developer to also act as a retailer. "It would be much better if Steam was its own business. There’s so much conflict of interest there that it’s horrid. It’s actually really, really dangerous for the rest of the industry to allow Valve to win."
"I love Valve games, and I do business with the company," Pitchford added. "But, I’m just saying, Steam isn’t the answer. Steam helps us as customers, but it’s also a money grab, and Valve is exploiting a lot of people in a way that’s not totally fair. Valve is taking a larger share than it should for the service its providing. It’s exploiting a lot of small guys. For us big guys, we’re going to sell the units and it will be fine."
Steam's not the only distribution service run by a game company, though. Impulse is operated by Stardock, CD Projekt owns Good Old Games, and EA Store is...well, EA. Oh, and Hothead Games runs Greenhouse. The only major digital retailer that isn't operated by a developer or publisher (to my knowledge) is Direct2Drive, which is owned by IGN. Why single out Valve, then? I assume Pitchford's gripe has less to do with the conflict of interest and more to do with the particular fees that Valve charges for Steam distribution.
Update: This article originally stated that Paradox Interactive operated GamersGate. A spokesperson for GamersGate just wrote in to correct me: "GamersGate and Paradox were originally under the same umbrella, but a few years ago GamersGate became its own separate company. They are now two different companies with two different staffs."