Gabe Newell: Piracy Is A ‘Non Issue’

Valve’s Gabe Newell has had a lot to say about the subject of video game piracy as of late. Last month, he said “The easiest way to stop piracy is not by putting antipiracy technology to work. It’s by giving those people a service that’s better than what they’re receiving from the pirates.” Wise words, methinks. Newell er, hethinks too, because he’s repeated the theme in a conversation with The Cambridge Student.

In general, we think there is a fundamental misconception about piracy. Piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem. For example, if a pirate offers a product anywhere in the world, 24 x 7, purchasable from the convenience of your personal computer, and the legal provider says the product is region-locked, will come to your country 3 months after the US release, and can only be purchased at a brick and mortar store, then the pirate’s service is more valuable. Most DRM solutions diminish the value of the product by either directly restricting a customers use or by creating uncertainty.

Our goal is to create greater service value than pirates, and this has been successful enough for us that piracy is basically a non-issue for our company. For example, prior to entering the Russian market, we were told that Russia was a waste of time because everyone would pirate our products. Russia is now about to become our largest market in Europe.

I’ve long said that with music and movie piracy, the problem isn’t that this awful thing called ‘The Internet’ exists to make it easy for ZOMG pirATES!!11!! to steal. The problem is that the movie and music industries did everything possible to keep potential customers from accessing their products in the most convenient way possible. By the time they finally realized that not giving the people what they want is a stupid way to do business, that pirate ship had sailed. Worse, to this day, they continue to limit access to certain content in ways that don’t make sense.

Case in point: I want to give the Danish band Alphabeat my money in exchange for their music. Unfortunately, they don’t have an American distribution deal. So when I go to, say Amazon.co.uk and try to pay at a disadvantaged exchange rate, I’m told I can’t because my IP address indicates that my money has AIDScootiesherpes or whatever justification they use to prevent the exchange transaction of legal tender for goods and services. So, I either have to pay an extortionist rate for a physical ‘import’ copy, and hell no to that, or I can find the music in literally 3 seconds and download it free (and illegally).

That kind of thick-headedness is why the music industry is basically on life support. The film industry and television are getting better about making sure people can see their product legally, and quickly, but much work needs to be done. It would be a shame then if the Video Game industry, rather than doing the smart thing, simply copies them wholesale. Because instead of salvaging profits, it will drive even well-meaning and preferably law-abiding citizens into the arms of pirates.

Via Computer And Videogames

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