'Simplify Steam and core gaming could explode'

'Simplify Steam and core gaming could explode'

By Rob Crossley

January 17th 2012 at 4:45PM

CLOUD GAMING EUROPE: Valve platform must streamline for widest audience, says Gaikai exec

The entire games landscape could change if Valve’s PC platform significantly improved how accessible it is to new customers, the CEO of a leading cloud gaming firm has said.

In a discussion point filled with caveats about how “brilliant and important” Steam is to the industry, Gaikai CEO David Perry nevertheless believes Valve’s core games platform should undergo a series of enhancements to appeal to new customers.

“The whole games industry could improve dramatically if Steam moved away from old tactics,” he said. “Steam still has far too much friction.”

Speaking at the Cloud Gaming Europe event in London, Perry provided a video demonstration of all the hurdles a player had to overcome to play PC game demo through Steam.

And although he laced his talk with how much respect he had for Valve, his demonstration pulled no punches.

Perry walked the audience through the 43 steps each new customer had to take. Players will have to fill out an end-user licence agreement before they were asked what language they spoke in. They had to download an old version of Steam before, later on in the process, they were asked to update that version.

“Why are they doing this?” Perry asked. “Why not just allow me to download the most current version first? I know the current way is easier for the programmer, but it’s not easier for the customer.”

The demonstration showed that a full version of a game must be installed on Steam to run its demo. After registering, the customer is taken to the store’s front page as opposed to the product they installed Steam for.

“Throughout this whole process, Steam has probably lost 95 per cent of their possible new users,” Perry said.

“The games industry could improve dramatically if Steam moved away from these old tactics. Steam still has too much friction. I say that with love, Steam is very important and it’s number one.”

The demonstration was part of Perry’s wider talk on how cloud technology could be the key to true mass market gaming.

“I don’t believe the videogame industry can be the number one form of entertainment,” the games veteran said, living up to his reputation as an outspoken industry exec.

“Music and movies are just far too accessible as entertainment forms. The only way games can become the number one entertainment form is if they are far more accessible.”

That’s why Steam needs to adapt, he explained, whilst taking a moment to promote his own company as a solution.

As long as a network’s bandwidth permits, Gaikai allows customers to play games and demos within a matter of seconds. The average play time on a Gaikai-powered demo is eleven minutes, Perry said, because unlike Steam it allows people to try demos near instantly.

He also expressed how the tiniest elements of UI and design are absolutely crucial to appealing to internet users.

For example, once the Gaikai team changed the phraseology of loading screens – from “checking your bandwidth” to “loading your game” – player retention improved by eight per cent.

Steam currently houses about 40 million active users, according to Valve. Perry’s overarching argument was that, if online players cannot even tolerate waiting for bandwidth checks, imagine how far Steam could go if its 43-step registration process was reduced to a single click.