Valve founder Gabe Newell opened the DICE summit in Las Vegas yesterday with a talk on his favourite topic: the concept of entertainment as a service, rather than a product.
In the course of his oration - as reported by GameSpot - he revealed that Valve was working on a Team Fortress 2 comic, and that it would be made by the game's original creators. Newell said that he didn't want to hand over the project to "some third-party hoping to make a quick buck and take advantage of some opening weekend marketing push".
This, along with the popular Team Fortress 2 videos Valve makes to promote the game, was an example of Valve moving away from being a pure videogame developer. Customers want an entertainment company, not a games company, he said.
Newell spent the rest of his talk extolling the virtues of Steam: the intimate connection it builds between developer and player, the long tail it gives to game sales, and the flexibility it gives Valve in the marketplace. He likened Steam's move to "entertainment as a service" to the film industry's move to Netflix, or the music industry's to iTunes.
It was a familiar rant for seasoned Valve-watchers, much of it summed up in the company's championing of the PC last year. However, some interesting new facts came to light.
A recent "sale" of Left 4 Dead on Steam, which reduced it to half its retail price for a weekend, caused a 3000 per cent increase in sales, Newell said. However, it didn't undermine retail sales of the game (which Valve also tracks through Steam) at all, he said.
Meanwhile, the free updates to Team Fortress 2 aren't merely done out of the goodness of Valve's heart and its dedication to service. Each one causes a significant sales spike, Newell asserted. Valve has also distributed "guest passes" through Steam, which players use to encourage their friends to join them.
For console makers to ignore these innovations would be as bad an idea as sticking to 2D graphics, Newell said.