That’s kinda an inside joke. but anyway. What would be a better way than to avoid doing real work this morning than to daydream about what I’d do if I owned valve :D My assumptions are as follows:
1) Valve probably have a large stockpile of cash, or at least access to such cash at good terms
2) Valve want to grow.
Because I enjoy theoretical empire building (not real empire building, because I enjoy working from home, and that kinda limits one’s galaxy-conquering potential), I’m going to imagine how best to achieve global domination if I owned the company. Here are my thoughts.
Thought #1: Let someone else worry about hardware.
Make no mistake, valves VR experiments are jaw-droppingly amazing. And the idea of a steam machine in the living room is cool, and making a gamepad that PC gamers actually like is a worthy goal. These are all worthy goals, but the thing is, they are hardware, and outside the realm of the ‘low-hanging fruit’ that I think would make a more sensible business move. As I understand it, valve are (very sensibly) avoiding building anything, just providing design and encouragement to actual hardware builders. This makes a lot of sense, but I think as a result it will not achieve as much as they think. The design and R&D but not the implementation seems like a job half done. Either try to take on the console manufacturers (and set aside a minimum of a billion dollars to do that), or don’t. I get the impression that they are doing this stuff purely because it’s cool, which is kinda awesome, and the sort of thing only a privately owned company can justify.
Thought #2: Casual Games.
Steam only has a limited cross section of games. They are mostly ‘core’ hardcore gamer games. Not the sort of stuff that BigFishGames and the other casual portals stock. Why not? It seems to me that a re-skinned ‘steam-casual’ client that wasn’t quite so serious looking, that focused on casual games could probably crush BFG and it’s ilk and takeover that section of the market too. I suspect Valve have a bigger marketing war-chest than BFG’s new owners. This is nothing but a marketing change, Valve already have the back-end for selling games to people, supporting community etc, it’s a no-brainer.
Thought #3: Video
Twitch and youtube are great, but why can’t I just watch the lets-plays of a game inside the steam client or website? Surely there is a big market opportunity there? If I’m browsing steam and find a great game, then want to see gameplay video, and leave the site/client to go to youtube, who knows if I’ll ever return? That seems like a leak in the sales funnel to me that could be easily fixed. Maybe the downside is bandwidth costs, but if youtube can justify it purely on ads, then surely valve can based on sales? Maybe their PC dominance is so great that everyone who leaves for youtube comes back to buy anyway? (or do they just watch cat videos instead?)
Thought 4: TV
I bought and enjoyed Indie game the movie through steam, and enjoyed their e-sports documentary. Frankly steam is better than the iplayer or itunes. Why can’t I buy breaking-bad through steam? They are experts at content delivery and sales. A video game isn’t *that* different from a TV show download. I was very surprised that more movies didn’t show up on steam. I bet they’d sell a lot of copies of Battlestar Galactica, Firefly etc to people who already own them, just to have them on steam.
Thought 5: Content
Content is king? or is it? it depends which pundit is popular this week. One thing is true though, 100% of something is more than [UNDISCLOSED_PERCENTAGE]% of something. Valve produce games in-house, but not many. There are plenty of devs that need funding. Currently they go to kickstarter. You can see where I’m going here right? You want funding for your game, maybe valve will fund the game and buy out your company? Valve is a huge distribution portal and a (relatively) small game developer. Nudging towards being a publisher seems a logical step.
Thought 6: Pay what you want.
Why isn’t this an option? Lets be honest, Valve could crush every single indie bundle this time tomorrow, simply by including PWYW + Charity bundles. It’s amazing they haven’t done so.
So why do I think they don’t do most of this stuff? Maybe the enlightened long term self interest of ensuring a vibrant market. That sounds like hippy bullshit, but it was widely speculated that Microsoft deliberately let apple stay in business back-in-the-day, so that they weren’t totally crushed by the government for being a monopoly. Sometimes it’s in your interest to keep other companies in business. That’s one reason. Another is just being nice guys. Public companies can’t do this, but they may well take the attitude that crushing The Humble Bundle and BFG would be a dick move. I suspect more likely is that the people at valve just want to do what is cool. VR is incredibly cool. Steam machines are cool. Negotiating with TV company lawyers and marketing match-3 games is not cool. Maybe nobody in the company is volunteering to do that. They don’t *have* to make any more money, or grow at all, so where is the incentive to do anything that they aren’t passionate about? I can kind of relate to that.