DICE 2013: Gabe Newell's Keynote
At the DICE keynote, Gabe Newell has (to no surprise) made some important announcements regarding the Steam Box. While the hardware specs still remain a mystery, the price point and long-term pricing strategy has been officially announced by GabeN. Nor are the true capabilities and features of the Steam Box clear-cut yet. Beyond the news regarding the Steam Box, Gabe has also given some insights into where he thinks the industry is heading and should be heading.
Steam Box Pricing
Pixel Judge has an in-depth article regarding the Steam Box that can be viewed here. As it turns out the Steam Box will launch with a price point around 100 US Dollars and over time will drop to 80 and then eventually even 0 Dollars. In addition, Gabe Newell used the term "streaming device" a lot in the keynote speech, this in combination with the price point leads to some serious concerns about its actual functionality and features. That being said, we already do know it will run Linux, so clearly it has to have more functionality than just streaming ones games from a desktop PC to the TV (besides, would an HDMI cable not simply be cheaper to do the same?).
Gabe's thesis of the future of gaming
Beyond the Steam Box pricing strategy, Gabe has talked about where he thinks the video game industry is and should be heading. The first point he discussed is the 'eco system of the PC'. Gabe's thesis is that the PC will be making its way more and more into the living room and thus become a greater part of the same space that is currently filled by consoles within consumer minds. The second part of his thesis is that video games will become part of a digital economy in which goods and services can be exchanged.
Valve wants to contribute to the input flexibility of the PC, Gabe thinks that the PC, being the open platform that it is, should also have a variety of input capabilities just like the consoles have. Connected with this is the large number of social services, all of which originated on PC and any future ones will easily come to PC, even if they are implemented first for Smartphones or Tablets.
The living room will become a segmented marketplace with a good, better and best variety of products available for it. Each part of the living room has to be able to connect to each other without issues, this also links in with Valve's vision of a future where the PC will do the "heavy lifting" of the games and these will then be streamed through a device connected to the TV.
Sky is the Limit
Future living room PC devices will scale well in terms of prices. When a consumer wants to go out and purchase a living room PC device, they can customise the hardware they want in it, as such they can purchase one that costs 100 Dollars or go all the way up into 1000 or more. These same consumers will also be more inclined to get into PC gaming as the switch is then very easy and a PC then becomes much more attractive as it is something they will be used to.
Streaming vs. Cloud Gaming
Gabe is a big sceptic of Cloud Gaming. This is due to a variety of reasons, the first of which is that it is hard to distribute out features through a 'Cloud'. In addition to this, if everyone is constantly connected to the Cloud, it will put strain on ISP providers, who in turn will then have to increase their internet prices. Lag will become a bigger issue in the future as the games and hardware will become increasingly sensitive to latency and Cloud Gaming cannot improve latency due to its design.
Valve has created a model that they use to determine what is a good project, or good game to spend more time developing and to determine what areas need further development. Within this model they found that player action and game reaction is core to player fun; shooting a wall and having bullet holes come in it is a lot more fun than shooting a wall and nothing happening. The issue then came with multiplayer, where the biggest value then was not actually game mechanics but simply the other players in the game. Thus, the issue in multiplayer games is how you control the players. What Valve then found is that multiplayer gaming is all about service, such as Steam.
Valve likes to think that they are good at creating content for example, Valve would look at the amount and quality of their content and then look at other companies within the industry and think they are doing it better. However, Valve came to realise that users were then vastly defeating Valve at creating content, not only in the amount of content but also sometimes in the quality of the content. As such, companies need to appreciate the amount and quality that users can create and implement methods for users to generate income on their content. Linked in with this comes issues that Valve then needed to handle with the trading of Team Fortress 2 items as there could be imbalances in trade, liquidity crisis due to people hoarding items, and similar issues.
Increasing User Contribution
Games are slowly moving into a trend where users become increasingly important for the type of content the game will have and the market the game will have, among other elements. This means as a developer, companies need to think of how they can increase the opportunities for gamers to contribute to the game economy.
The DOTA 2 Experiment
Valve wants to see just what developers can do to allow users to contribute to a game economy. For example, Valve wants to create items in-game which users can equip onto their account and then allow for unique drops, banners which can be purchased to support a pro team where part of that revenue goes to the team, etc...
The Success of the PC
Valve is highly dependent on the success of the PC as a gaming platform; as such, they are always looking for ways to increase the PC's popularity and market strength. As well as watching out for any issues that can kill the PC as a gaming platform. For example, Valve does not like the way Windows 8 makes the PC a closed platform, as such Steam has been launched for Linux.
Making Digital Stores Interesting
Valve has a goal of making the Steam store more interesting and fun to use by making it less created by Valve and more created by its users. Linked in with this is removing the boundary between game creators and game consumers, an example of this would be Steam Greenlight.
Gabe's speech comes down to creating and continuing to build towards the openness of the PC and the internet. Valve and Steam would not exist if not for that openness and it can only continue to exist if the platform remains open.