Valve's domination of digital distribution dangerous - Gearbox CEO

Randy Pitchford says Steam creates "conflict of interest" and exploits smaller developers due to lack of competition.


Gearbox Software got its start in the industry back in 1999 working hand-in-hand with Valve, creating add-ons for the Bellevue, Washington-based developer's influential Half-Life series. Still, despite those beginnings, Gearbox president and CEO Randy Pitchford is wary of the control his former associate has on the future of digital distribution, itself considered by many to be the future of the game industry.

Randy Pitchford
Randy Pitchford

In an interview with Maximum PC, Pitchford addressed the benefits of downloadable game services such as Steam, saying that it would be dangerous to let Valve run away with the digital distribution business.

"Steam helps. As a guy in this industry though, I don't trust Valve," Pitchford said, noting that his misgivings arise from the fact that Valve directly competes with Gearbox in the first-person shooter genre. He continued, "I, personally, trust Valve. But I'm just saying, honestly, I think a lot of the industry doesn't."

Pitchford went on to note that his concerns would be assuaged were Valve to spin off Steam into its own business entity. "There's so much conflict of interest there that it's horrid," he said. "It's actually really, really dangerous for the rest of the industry to allow Valve to win. I love Valve games, and I do business with the company. But, I'm just saying, Steam isn't the answer."

"Steam helps us as customers, but it's also a money grab, and Valve is exploiting a lot of people in a way that's not totally fair," he continued. "Valve is taking a larger share than it should for the service it's providing. It's exploiting a lot of small guys. For us big guys, we're going to sell the units and it will be fine."

While Valve is the preeminent player in PC game distribution, Steam does have a number of competitors. Namely, Stardock operates the Impulse downloadable game service, and publishers such as Electronic Arts often distribute PC titles through their own Web sites. Valve had not responded to requests for comment concerning Pitchford's statements as of press time.

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