Newell wants to end 'dictatorship' of Steam

Newell wants to end 'dictatorship' of Steam
Seth Tipps

By Seth Tipps

February 7th 2013 at 8:07AM

Valve boss says user should be shop curator, not corporations

The founder of Valve wants to give users control of the curation process for steam.

Last year the company launched Steam Greenlight, which gives customers a chance to vote for what they want to see on the digital sales platform.

This isn't enough for Newell, who thinks Steam should function more like an API, allowing the individual control over what he sees on the storefront.

"Right now we have inside of Steam we have a dictatorship," he told an audience at the University of Texas in a talk transcribed by Gamasutra.

"It's probably bad for the Steam community, in the long run, not to move to a different way of thinking about that. In other words, we should stop being a dictator and move towards much more participatory, peer-based methods of sanctioning player behavior."

Newell says Greenlight has proven to be just another bottleneck rather than a real road forward, and it should be done away with.

"Greenlight is a bad example of an election process," he said.

"We came to the conclusion pretty quickly that we could just do away with Greenlight completely, because it was a bottleneck rather than a way for people to communicate choice."

The big problem of company-curated stores they demand company resources which are inherently limited, and thus prevent users from getting content they want.

"One of the worst characteristics of the current Steam system is that we've become a bottleneck," said Newell.

"There's so much content coming at us that we just don't have enough time to turn the crank on the production process of getting something up on Steam. So whether we want to or not, we're creating artificial shelf space scarcity."

The anti-bottleneck solution? Break the bottle.

"So the right way to do that is to make Steam essentially a network API that anyone can call," said Newell.

"Now, this is separate from issues about viruses and malware. But essentially, it's like, anyone can use Steam as a sort of a distribution and replication mechanism."

The idea seems to be to make digital distribution 'social' by giving everyone the power to create their own store based around their individual tastes.

"It's the consumers who will draw it through. It's not us making a decision about what should or shouldn't be available," said Newell.

"It's just, you want to use this distribution facility? It's there. And customers decide which things actually end up being pulled through. So Steam should stop being a curated process and start becoming a networking API."

This is of course a big risk for Valve, which has become famously wealthy as a result of its pioneering sales platform, but Newell thinks the rewards are greater.

"The stores instead should become user-generated content," he said.

"Other companies can take advantage of this as well, but if a user can create his own store -- essentially add an editorial perspective and content on top of the purchase process… then we've created a mechanism where everybody, in the same way we've seen a huge upsurge of user-generated content with hats, we think that there's a lot of aggregate value that can be created by allowing people to create stores."

At the heart of all this is the idea that a store is content itself, not merely a means of delivering content; If a user is enjoys the store, they are more likely to buy.

How much more could be sold if a store was curated by game celebrities like 'Notch', Old Man Murray, or even Gabe Newell himself?

"A store is just another piece of content that can be created that creates overall value for all of this collectively," said Newell.

"I'd buy stuff from Yahtzee. I would buy everything from Old Man Murray."