Valve Commitments

By Max Woerner Chase

In this post:


Valve... Commitments... That's just it, isn't it? It kind of seems like they don't. Commit, that is.

Over the past week, Valve first bowed to external pressure targeting visual novels, and then, if I'm understanding things correctly [1] reversed course. I don't know exactly what changed things on Valve's end, but my money is on the backlash being louder than the initial pressure.

Valve's overall trajectory is so weird. They walked away from making excellent [2] games to do tech support, and seemingly nothing else, for the storefront they built to sell their games.

In any case, it looks to me, as a random outsider, like Valve cannot currently make the promise that it'll maintain its commitments and stick to a principle, any principle. What this means to someone planning to sell a game is, knowing that Valve is willing to throw publishers/developers under the bus, it's not prudent to rely on Valve financially. This is not a call for a boycott; boycotts usually involve not doing something one may want to do, and one should not, going forward, want to put their eggs in Valve's basket.

The alternatives I'm focusing on right now are itch.io, Humble Bundle, and GOG.com. For my part, since I am working on various bits of software I wouldn't mind putting up for sale, I'll probably want to focus solely on Itch to start with, and put anything I get on there in the near future as PWYW. In general, it seems like Itch is a good entry point, I'd personally be interested in using Humble's tools if I make more of a name for myself, and GOG is honestly a little pie-in-the-sky from my perspective, but right now it's certainly a more palatable gatekeeper than Valve, especially since it's not (currently?) effectively a monopoly.

For any independent developers reading this, if you have an audience, you should be gauging their feelings to inform your decisions, rather than solely trying to work this out from first principles like I just did.

One concrete thing I want to do in response to all this is, when one of the current features winds down, I want to replace it with, I go on Itch each week to look for a game that I have something interesting to say about. Support independent voices, try to do substantive game criticism. Everyone reading this, if you're not already, please think about doing something like this as well, putting your own stamp on the discussion. Because there are so many people out there who get marginalized and erased, and if that happens to you, I think a powerful defense would be, to be able to point at your reaction, to whatever art or event was meaningful to you, or indeed to point at your own art, and to say something like "I'm here, and this mark I made on the world would not exist if I were not exactly as I am."

(I also just now turned off all marketing emails, that's a thing anyone can do. Go to "Account details", "Manage Email Preferences", and opt out selectively, or just switch it all off. If you're stronger than I am, you can delete your account outright, but I lack the fortitude right now.)

[1]I'm a couple layers removed, so this is doubtful.
[2]Not all Valve games are excellent, but I'm not here to drag games I've never played.