At the DICE Summit this week in Las Vegas, Valve founder Gabe Newell delivered what sounds like a spectacular presentation on the changing face of the company's content delivery service Steam, and its relationship with the PC gaming industry.
First he went into experimental pricing (Valve has recently hired an experimental psychologist for just that purpose), then encouraging their constant update approach, and next the importance of a direct relationship between studios and gamers (this one, he says, will decide the fate of the console wars next time around).
Finally, Newell presented his views on Digital Rights Management (DRM) and PC games. Previously having stated "most DRM strategies are just dumb [...] and in general there is a groundswell to abandon those approaches", he's fully aware these methods "gives a game a stink", leaving customers feeling unsure about how flexibly they can access their games, coupled with a feeling of a lack of ownership, perhaps. And so gamers pirate, as those versions of the games have no strings, Newell suggested, elaborating "there is evidence anecdotally that DRM is increasing piracy rather than decreasing piracy."
What to do? Compete with pirates.
The primary advantages Valve have over pirates are 1) money and 2) a reputable service. With this, they can do things such as mine data from their customers, which, while perhaps disconcerting, is likely not so much so long as they are transparent and open about it (they're mostly not yet), and prove to the customer it is better for the games themselves in the end (see: Steam Hardware Survey). Demos, trailers, news, and tons more packed into one application, of course, is just the start of why so many have flocked to the service. In short, offering a better experience overall means less piracy and more sales (15 million customers could attest).
The presentation ends with Newell apologizing if he came off as too much of a "Steam whore"; Neoseeker says the same.