A pirate is just a customer you haven’t met, claims Valve

I’ve often said that while many publishers and developers whine about piracy and the PC market, there’s a little company called Valve which rarely seems to bitch about it. Valve’s Jason Holtman may provide a clue as to why that is, as he’s revealed the developer’s philosophy that pirates are just “underserved customers.”

“There’s a big business feeling that there’s piracy,” explains Holt. “[But] pirates are underserved customers … When you think about it that way, you think, ‘Oh my gosh, I can do some interesting things and make some interesting money off of it.’

“[At Valve] we take all of our games day-and-date to Russia. The reason people pirated things in Russia is because Russians are reading magazines and watching television — they say ‘Man, I want to play that game so bad,’ but the publishers respond ‘you can play that game in six months…maybe.’

“We found that our piracy rates dropped off significantly [by releasing in Russia]… [There are] tons of undiscovered customers…”

Valve is a company that seems to truly know how to cultivate and appreciate customer loyalty. While screwing over EA or Activision doesn’t sound like a big deal, I think it takes a real special breed of arsehole to rip off Valve. It’s great to see a company that understands the power of loyalty, and works with its consumers, instead of against them. 

Maybe a few other companies should stop just sitting there thinking “poor me” and actually do the same kind of good work.

Jim Sterling