Valve on how community helps against piracy

As you all know by now, Destructoid has been hanging out with Valve, bothering Chet Faliszek and Doug Lombardi with an endless stream of questions. We’ve had a full interview and some interesting industry tidbits, and we’re going to close with a follow up to a discussion we had with Lombardi about used games. Namely, how far a good community goes to tackling the problem of videogame piracy.

“I think community springs up as kind of the reward you get as a developer or publisher for keeping your customers in mind and for providing a level of service, whether it’s for new DLC post-launch, or mod tools, or answering emails,” explains Lombardi. “You know, Gabe [Newell] tries as hard as he can to answer every email he gets from customers, whether it’s just a ‘thanks for your mail’ or a longer reply. He really does reply to a lot of mail, and if he can’t get to it, he makes me and Chet reply to it. We just try and stay in touch with folks and provide a higher level of service.

“… Affinity to a game [and] affinity to a developer comes from keeping them in mind, putting them first, putting yourself in their shoes and saying, ‘If I were a customer of Team Fortress or Half-Life, what would I expect from Valve, what would I want from Valve and how much of that can we reasonably do?'”

“I think all of those things, from end to end, are all connected. They’re gonna help you find crooks if you get ripped off [the Half-Life source code debacle], they’re going to promote your games to their friends and tell them to buy it, they may buy it for their friends for a birthday or Christmas, and chances are if they like your games and a part of your community, they’re probably not returning your games or pirating them.”

Perhaps Electronic Arts can remember that the next time it bemoans the problem of piracy and used games. It’s a simple fact that people don’t want to rip off studios they like. A big company like EA and Activision, that flaunts its disregard for the consumer, can’t expect sympathy or guilt from the fanbase. Encouraging a community is a very good way of tackling piracy … although I’m sure having a platform like Steam helps as well.

Jim Sterling