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Tuesday, July 19, 2005



So the news has come out that Valve, best known for the Half-Life and Counter-Strike franchises, has chosen EA as their new publishers. While I, like most gamers and developers, am a tad displeased with EA, people need to get some perspective. Let's take a look:

1) Valve was in a position to dictate their terms

Valve had a blockbuster franchise that is guaranteed to make a bundle of cash. If a given publisher didn't like Valve's terms, there were likely dozens more lining up that would accept them. Valve could make any kind of deal they wanted.

2) EA likely has no control over the products

Publishers (such as EA) normally have control over products for a variety of reasons. With EA it's usually because they own the studio doing the work. With outside developers, it would be because EA fronted a lot of money and the contract gives them that control. When Valve dissolved their contract with Vivendi they were in a unique position. They had a product, Half-Life 2, which they had funded entirely themselves. They didn't owe anybody any money. They didn't need a publishers help to finance a game. For this reason, it is likely that any deal with EA simply lets EA publish the games, and doesn't give them any control.

3) Valve wants to push STEAM

One of the main disputes Valve had with Vivendi Universal was over STEAM. Valve wanted the freedom to publish their games both in stores and on STEAM with no restrictions on what they could do. Vivendi tried to stop them from publishing HL2 via STEAM entirely, and failing that, did manage to set a minimum cost ($5 less than retail) and delayed the release of the game until it was on store shelves. This displeased Valve to no end, and you can be certain that the contract they signed with EA gives Valve full control over what they publish on STEAM, when they publish it, and for how much.

4) You don't have to buy from EA

As of HL2's release, Valve has provided us with a direct-to-developer method of purchase. I purchased HL2 exclusively online, and all went smoothly. While XBox gamers will have to get Valve games via EA (The XBox has a hard drive, but a relatively small one), PC gamers have the choice of using STEAM and cutting EA out of the deal entirely

5) Either way, EA stands to make a lot of money

Think about it. Even if the contract between EA and Valve is strictly limited to "We provide the games, you put them on the shelves", EA makes a bundle of cash. While Valve no doubt negotiated a very favorable agreement with regards to how much of the profit EA gets vs how much VALVE gets, the fact is that even if EA only makes $10 in actual profit per copy sold, multiply $10 by tens of millions and either way they make money.

6) EA may choose to publish games over STEAM

Think about it. Valve has, despite it's flaws, the best online game delivery system in the industry. Valve has been saying since the beginning that they intend STEAM to be a delivery system for multiple developers and that they never intended to keep it to themselves. While they designed STEAM with independent developers in mind (Cutting out the middleman publishers and publishing a game via STEAM goes a long way for a small developer), there is no reason why EA can't use STEAM as a vehicle to publish their games. Part of their agreement with Valve may include the right to publish EA games on STEAM, a prospect that is positive for both EA and Valve.

So what is the point of this post? Simple. Even if you absolutely hate EA, you have nothing to worry about. Valve isn't going to change, and you will be able to continue purchasing Valve games without dealing with EA at all.

"Valve wanted to freedom to publish their games"

Typos! tsk.
Let's see who took Valve's bribe money here...
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