In a recent interview with Ben Kuchera, who brought up the used games mess and the pertinent topic of piracy, Valve guru Gabe Newell slammed what he terms "draconian DRM systems or anti-piracy systems", arguing that in many cases piracy has little to do with pricing models and more to do with better service.
"To us it seems pretty obvious that people always want to treat it as a pricing issue, that people are doing this because they can get it for free and so we just need to create these draconian DRM systems or ani-piracy systems, and that just really doesn’t match up with the data."
Newell went on to suggest that the systems put in place by publishers and distributors are often punitive in nature, designed to punish rather than looking to incentivise. It's this that he proposed pushed consumers into looking for better services elsewhere. Newell highlighted staggered releases and delayed localisation as part of the reason some might look outside of official channels.
"A lot of times the systems that are put in place when you’re just trying to punish your evil customers for maybe doing something that’s not in their terms of service end up driving people towards service providers who don’t, right?" he continued. "So, you know, if I have to wait six months to get my Russian language translation and where I can get at this other guy on the street who will give me my Russian translation right away, it seems pretty obvious when you talk about it in those terms how the pirate selling pirated DVDs has a higher product than some of the people who try to DRM their way out of not giving customers what they really want."
When asked if Valve had ever considered imposing a standardised set of DRM tools on Steam to put an end to the issue altogether, Newell responded in the negative, saying that his company "tend to try to avoid being super dictatorial to either customers or partners". He did say, though, that they often present data to third parties that highlight the negative effects of DRM.
"Recently I was in a meeting and there’s a company that had a third party DRM solution and we showed them look, this is what happens, at this point in your life cycle your DRM got hacked, right? Now let’s look at the data, did your sales change at all? No, your sales didn’t change one bit. Right? So here’s before and after, here’s where you have DRM that annoys your customers and causing huge numbers of support calls and in theory you would think that you would see a huge drop off in sales after that got hacked, and instead there was absolutely no difference in sales before or after. You know, and then we tell them you actually probably lost a whole bunch of sales as near as we can tell, here’s how much money you lost by bundling that with your product. So we do that all the time."
it all comes down to the consumer, and Newell made the point that sometimes all that it needed is a change of perspective, stating that he felt treating the customer as an opponent "on the other side of some sort of battle" is all wrong. He went on to state that it's far better for companies to look to create value for the customer rather than make it difficult for them to actually access the content they've bought.
"I think that we have a lot more credibility now with developers on issues like this simply because there’s so much data that we can show them where we say look, we’ve run all of these experiments, you know, this has been going on for many years now and we all can look at what the outcomes are and there really isn’t – there are lots of compelling instances where making customers – you know, giving customers a great experience and thinking of ways to create value for them is way more important than making it incredibly hard for the customers to move their products from one machine to another."
We love you Gabe. [PAR]