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Pitchford: Steam "exploiting" developers

Valve's "money grab" is "conflict of interest".

Gearbox Software boss Randy Pitchford has raised a rare voice of dissent against Valve's digital distribution service for PC, Steam. Pitchford argued that a developer owning such a service is a conflict of interest, and that Valve is "exploiting" small developers.

"I'll tell you what. Steam helps [make it easier to buy games]. As a guy in this industry though, I don't trust Valve," Pitchford told Maximum PC.

Pitchford explained that Gearbox has had a long relationship with Valve (it made its name working on Half-Life expansions), and that he personally trusted the Seattle super-developer, but having such a service run by a direct competitor made for an awkward business relationship. It would be better for Steam to be spun off as a separate business, he said.

"It would be much better if Steam was its own business. There's so much conflict of interest there that it's horrid," he said. "It's actually really, really dangerous for the rest of the industry to allow Valve to win."

Pitchford also argued that the business terms offered by Valve were exploitative of smaller developers, although they worked better for larger concerns.

"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 it's 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."

In a separate interview with the UK Official Xbox Magazine, the outspoken studio boss also expressed his belief that making easy achievements could boost game sales by up to 40,000 units.

"The Achievement hunter, who's going to make purchase decisions around the Achievements per minute to ratio - he's probably buying 10 to 20 titles a year, or at least playing that many," Pitchford said. "He's playing a lot. So he's a very frequent customer, and you want to be in that pile. That's just business.

"You can probably affect your sales by something like 10 or 40 thousand units, if you're talking about a triple-A game selling between 1 and 2.5 million units."

Look out for easy achievements in Gearbox's latest, Borderlands, then. The promising RPG/shooter hybrid launches in two weeks, on the 23rd Ocotber.

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Oli Welsh

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Oli was Eurogamer's MMO Editor before a seven-year stint as Editor. He worked here for a colossal 14 years, shaping the website and leading it.

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