Valve’s Track Record of Trust Earns Player Forgiveness
There are a lot of reasons that Valve can choose to be be straightforward with its user base like this, but one of the biggest is its independence. The company is privately held, and therefore doesn’t have to answer to shareholders. If Newell wants to take to Reddit and lay out the particulars of VAC, he can, because he only answers to himself.
This isn’t a strategy that companies like EA or Activision could ever employ, because their their cultures are simply different. It’s not a trivial thing to start talking about the nuts and bolts of proprietary, corporate-owned software, especially in a place as public as Reddit. Even if you aren’t handing out the ones and zeros, corporate counsel tends to get very protective of such things. Furthermore, most corporations have strict rules about what anyone can disclose, no matter how high-ranking they may be.
Even if you could somehow get such an action past a boardroom full of corporate attorneys, there’s another hurdle to consider: the shareholders. Shareholders are, at times, even more fiercely protective of corporate property than the executives and lawyers are. After all, they’re the ones footing the bill for it. We’ve already seen multiple lawsuits filed against EA by its shareholders over Battlefield 4, and it’s safe to bet EA doesn’t want to risk any more.
A similar situation arose when Activision was attempting to buy itself back from Vivendi. A single shareholder filed a lawsuit protesting the deal, and threw a wrench into the entire works. The deal eventually went through, but it illustrates just how much power shareholders can exert over the management of a company in which they invest.
Most game companies also tend to hoard information, even when there’s no good reason to. As we’ve discussed on GameFront many times in the past, it’s often somewhere between difficult and impossible to get companies to part with information, even if it makes sense to disclose it. There’s a culture of silence and secrecy that, at least in many cases, Valve seems to ignore.
All of these considerations factor into why Valve is able to do things like Gabe’s Reddit post and make it work. Obviously, Valve’s got years of goodwill with players, and that allows it to weather small storms like this. More importantly, the company is often very open about what’s happening, in a way that a publicly-traded company could never be (Half-Life 3 announcements notwithstanding).
The combination of these factors, plus the fact that Valve games are pretty darn good, make players willing to take Valve at its word, at least until they’re given a good reason not to. Valve has worked very hard not to give them that reason, and it seems to be working out so far.