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Gabe Newell: “pissing off the Internet costs you a million bucks in just a couple of days”, but the internet needs “a more robust Valve-is-evil hypothesis”

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In the wake of Valve opening up a paid-for mods section of the Steam Workshop for Skyrim last week, a significant proportion of Steam users bombarded Valve with complaints, accusing the company of greed and attempting to profiteer from a tradition that has always been free. Dealing with the complaints has cost Valve dearly, with staff having to spend time dedicated to answering emails. To address the complaints on a wider forum, Valve boss Gabe Newell took to Reddit for a two-hour discussion with fans. 

His key statement to the internet: “You need a more robust Valve-is-evil hypothesis.”

“Let’s assume for a second that we are stupidly greedy,” Newell said. “So far the paid mods have generated $10K total. That’s like 1 per cent of the cost of the incremental email the program has generated for Valve employees (yes, I mean pissing off the Internet costs you a million bucks in just a couple of days). That’s not stupidly greedy, that’s stupidly stupid.

“If you are going to ascribe everything we do to being greedy, at least give us credit for being greedy long (value creation) and not greedy short (screwing over customers).”

In support of the company’s decision to allow mod-makers to charge for their work, Newell discussed about Valve’s heritage in modding, and noted that Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2 are both games with their roots in mods. The decision to allow paid-for mods was made with the idea to “increase the investment in quality modding, not hurt it.”

Newell did note, however, that if the changes to the Workshop did not ultimately help improve modding for both creators and users, the system would be removed. But for now, the Workshop store will go on. Newell offered an interesting way of thinking to demonstrate his argument on why paid-for mods are a solid direction.

“Think of money as information,” Newell said. “The community directing money flows works for the same reason that prediction markets crush pundits.

“Money is how the community steers work.”

Thanks, GamesIndustry.

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