Valve has seen some rather visceral criticism in the past few months, but none of it was really directed at its games. The one that was targeted was the company itself, as a concept, and its digital distribution service, Steam. The one responsible for the poking and prodding was Gearbox's Randy Pitchford, who, after accusing Valve of being a bad influence on the industry, by taking advantage of the smaller developers, moved on to cleave Steam. Pitchford claimed that allowing Steam to radically dominate the market was "dangerous." Valve responded rather promptly to the first accusation, but has so far remained silent about the one concerning Steam.
That all changed when Jason Holtman, Valve's business director for Steam, decided to detail the matter to GamesIndustry.biz. The way he puts it, having Valve's own game on Steam does more good than harm to the competition. "There's nothing better in the world for anyone making an Xbox 360 game than the fact that Halo exists," Holtman said. "It's awesome, there's nobody saying 'boy I wish Bungie hadn't made Halo' because it sold an awful lot of Xboxes that you can sell your games on." Holtman thinks that the same principle works for Steam and Valve's games.
"Having the content and the distribution that go hand-in-hand make it a stronger platform, make it a platform to reach more consumers with your own game," he added. "If you look at any given time on our top-sellers and our marketing, it's clear that [Valve games] are not the only push out there. In terms of whether we get too big or maybe our content shouldn't be on the platform, it's just doesn't make much sense. Because the content helps the platform grow."
He further added that, in spite of the fact that Steam held roughly 70 percent of the market, this didn't make the platform a ruler. "And the other thing about PC in general is that unlike a closed platform you can make your own. We have a force of openness on the PC that's always pushing on us. If we started doing things that were bad decisions for customers or developers, they can just move and go somewhere else." Yes, it's true that developers and publishers can always move away from Steam, but since it would be highly detrimental to the sales of games that they publish, they can't really afford to do that.