Valve’s Track Record of Trust Earns Player Forgiveness

Independence

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.


Ron Whitaker is managing editor at GameFront. Read more of his work here, and follow him and Game Front on Twitter: @ffronw and @gamefrontcom.

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6 Comments on Valve’s Track Record of Trust Earns Player Forgiveness

lol

On February 20, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Why is there no mention that Valve’s success is largely based on the fact that they are practically the first party when it comes to PC gaming?

EA/Activision/Ubisoft have to contend with Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. Valve doesn’t need to.

Laughing at lol

On February 21, 2014 at 12:58 am

Probably because it’s not relevant, or moreso you’re putting the cart before the horse. The reason Valve is the first party is because of its good qualities that have led PC developers to trust it better. It didn’t start off as the first party and go from there, it earned it. Simple logic, but then again you’ve clearly never let that get in your way before.

David

On February 23, 2014 at 4:30 am

Corporate culture and corporate regulation both play a part as well. Shareholder lawsuits are a product of well-intentioned laws that make corporation liable for all sorts of things they might say in reasonable faith, but that turn out wrong: this of course has the effect, not of making corporations more honest, but of making them unwilling to say anything at all.

And few corporations–few people, more generally–really grasp the story of “Captain Asoh and the concept of grace.” The observed reality is that if you screw up, and quickly and freely admit it, you will often be more readily forgiven–and suffer less harsh penalties–than if you try and talk your way out or around the problem.

max

On February 23, 2014 at 8:31 am

Can this work out with me ? when i was 16 a friend of mine showed me a hack for CS Source i used it for fun without even trying to hide it, lasted a day then they banned me, never used a hack in my life otherwise that one , not its been over 7-8 years later, can i get the games i bought on that account back ? H-L 2 PLZ ?

SweetPea

On February 23, 2014 at 11:53 am

@max
You don’t lose your games because of a VAC ban.

How quick people forget...

On February 25, 2014 at 5:49 am

… that Gabe Newell lied to the whole HL community about the delays of HL2. That these delays killed off Troika Games, one of the best RPG producers. That Valve forced all CS players to use Steam, no choice whatsoever, and only that way got the headstart in the online distribution business that they live of until today. That they haven’t fixed Steam offline mode since the beginning and even made it worse recently. That they haven’t released something unique since HL2:EP2, they only commercialise mods and student projects to stay on the save side with games already known to work. That their whole Steam Box thing is just another plot to keep dominating the PC gaming world with their DRM system. I don’t trust them one bit!