Valve: Pirates are "Underserved Customers"

Software pirates are the bane to the developer’s existence, particularly for the PC game maker. Valve Software, makers of the popular Half-Life series and Steam online games service, have a different view on pirates.

Most anyone who makes his or her living off the sales of software could understandably see pirates as vermin, but surprisingly Valve Software sees those who steal software in a different light.

Valve is one of PC gaming’s strongest supporters, not only designing and releasing all its games with the PC in mind, but also creating arguably the best digital delivery platform of the industry.

In a time when developers and publishers are all looking to consoles for the bulk of sales, Valve keeps the faith in the PC. And rather than seeing those who download PC games illegally as pure filth, Valve views them as a potential opportunity, according to comments from the Game Business Law summit.

"There's a big business feeling that there's piracy," said Jason Holtman, who serves as director of business development and legal affairs at Valve. He then adds, "Pirates are underserved customers.

"When you think about it that way, you think, 'Oh my gosh, I can do some interesting things and make some interesting money off of it.'"

Holtman gave the example that gamers outside of traditional game publisher territories as some being “underserved.” Gamers in Russia, especially those who follow PC games intently, often have no legitimate option of purchasing a game on the same day as their U.S. or even western European counterparts.

Due to publisher agreements, or perhaps just indifference, publishers sometimes would bring the game to Russia six months following the first release. By that time, even pirated copies of the games would be old news. Valve, on the other hand, chooses to release its games day-and-date in Russia.

"We found that our piracy rates dropped off significantly," Holtman said, leading for him to conclude that the PC gaming market still has "tons of undiscovered customers."

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  • curnel_D
    Even though there will always be people who either just cant afford to buy the games, or 'wont' afford to buy the games, if publishers evolve how they market and publish their games based on the type of gamers who would rather download a game for free to play it for a bit or even just test it out, they'd do a whole lot better than they do now. Now all they do is waste money on more and more DRM schemes that are broken game day anyways.
  • xTalent
    Bit old, but I agree, if people are pirating a game offer them something that there willing to go to a store and buy, heck I pirate games but every game I really liked I've paid for Bioshock, Team Fortress 2, Call of Duty 4, etc which are all Steam Titles.
  • azxcvbnm321
    Let me repost a response since it seems to fit many pirates who try to justify their actions.

    Maybe you can explain to me why the people you know will go and buy the game they just pirated. I think I understand what you mean, they will buy it if they get X amount of hours playing it and know that they'll keep on playing it forever. But a game that only gets them 60 hours of enjoyment, quite a lot I might add, but has no replay value and they'll never buy that game right, because it doesn't fit into their "good enough" category. Yet 60 hours or even 24 hours of enjoyment is quite a lot. A concert only lasts 3 hours or so if you're lucky, yet people pay hundreds of dollars just for that ONE TIME experience right?

    So you're robbing developers that might want to create a cool game that has no replay value like Myst or some other game like that. What's wrong with a game that is set to be an one time experience like a concert or a movie? You've destroyed an entire category of games. So if you and your friends do what I think you do, which is only buy games that have great replay value, you've hurt the industry by pirating. Why would you buy a game that you've already finished thanks to pirating?

    And there are demos out there for you to try, but of course the demos won't satisfy the pirate thief, the purpose is not to sample but to steal and get enjoyment. Then after playing for 30 hours and finishing the game, he can say the game sucked (even though he just spent 30 hours playing it) and justify not buying it. Yes, it's standard psychology for criminals to justify their immoral behavior. Look at Bernie Madoff, he hasn't apologized or looked sorry because he's somehow justified stealing $50 billion of other people's money. He's not wrong, what he did wasn't bad, maybe he gave money to a charity, so he thinks the rich people who he stole from are stingy and he's a modern day Robin Hood. Thus the criminal justifies his theft.

    Companies don't want DRM either, but the damned pirates forced them to, blame the pirates. Wouldn't it be great if we didn't need car alarms and locks on our doors either? But damned thieves force us to and so when I hear an annoying car alarm, I blame the carjacker, not the owner who is forced to protect himself and his property.