Profit Storming: Valve Shares Revenue With Toolmakers

By Craig Pearson on June 28th, 2013 at 5:30 pm.

I'll bet real-world hat sales don't pass money onto the loom makers.
When they’re not spinning around and around in their expensive chairs, weaving hats, or thinking up other ways to not make games that people want (“Shall we all got to Hawaii this week, or shall we crack open that HL3 design document?” “Aloha! Aloha! Aloha!”), Valve’s brain drones are at least attempting to create a community of people that can earn a living from making and contributing to games. Sometimes it’s a bit broken, like Greenlight is right now. Other times it can be so successful that Valve can afford to share the wealth between organisations that contributed to the success, but had no way to monetise their involvement. So now, when a community item in Team Fortress 2 or Dota 2 is sold in either game’s store, it’s possible for some of Valve’s take to be directed to the likes of Blender and Polycount. Ooh, just thought up a new word for it: Valvetruism.

It’s all in the item maker’s hands. When they submit to the market, they’ll be presented with a list of organisations to share some of the profits of the sale. This list of specially selected providers has been drawn from the the places that the creators have used to make the items, so if they modeled it in Blender then they can decide to pass on a small percentage to them. It’s all done via sliders, and looks like this.

Valvetruism in action

The money will be drawn from Valve’s take, which is lovely of them. And this has nothing to do with a Half-Life 3 ARG, btw. So stop looking at the pixels.

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36 Comments »

  1. Kollega says:

    Not sure what to think about this. I don’t like Valve, but at least they’re sharing some of their huge money pile with other people who help their community.

    EDIT: I’ve decided to change the comment to something a lot less offensive to people who like Valve, because it’s a battle i cannot hope to win. So screw it.

    • maximiZe says:

      What a shitty first comment to be reading.

    • mygaffer says:

      Well I can understand why you hate Valve. Their Steam client is always online DRM! I mean, well you CAN go without internet for 90 days if you lose it unexpectedly, and sure, you can put it in a permanent offline mode if need to, like you are traveling or something. But still, right?
      Also, all those deep discounts on games, that sucks, it makes me spend too much money… um, is what I WOULD say if I didn’t hate Valve so much.
      Also they try and not focus on games, they’ve got all this social stuff so I can chat with my friends and get into games with them and stuff, who cares about that, I just want to game, jeez.
      Then they do this terrible Cloud Sync stuff, just because I game on two computers does’t mean I want access to all my saves and settings. At least not all of the titles are Cloud enabled.
      Beyond that I just hate Valve because of all the times they have screwed over developers. They take 30% of the price you pay, an you believe it?! And updates are free, so a publisher can just put out a broken game knowing they can fix it later and push out as many patches as they want to, even if they are a small indie developer.
      There is more terrible stuff I could say about Valve but you get my point.

      • monkwon says:

        Has the 30% ever been confirmed by Valve? I’ve seen this figure mentioned multiple times on t’net, but never confirmed.

        From my (possibly incorrect) reading of their terms, developers have to go through Greenlight and only when they pass through that do they get details of the royalty terms, with a NDA, after the developer is already committed to it. Seems a bit weird.

        If the figure is 30%, is that worth it? I mean 30% is a lot, but there is also a lot of people on Steam.

        • El_Emmental says:

          30% is a rule-of-thumb estimate, the % depends on the game/studio (even if it’s often *around* 30%).

          Games that are owned by publishers (and sold at retail) get a different contract (Valve get a smaller cut on EA, Activision & co titles), than the small indie game who can’t get a retail publishing (at least not yet).

          Indie devs never spilled the bean (it’s in the NDA), but some indie devs mentioned how it was closer to 30% (than any other %, be it 50% or 10%).

          nb: retail publishing is between 10% to 30% for the developers (= 70% to 90% for the rest of the chain, which includes the publisher, the distributor, the retail chains, etc), often includes having to give up the IP (Intellectual Property) to the publisher, and it is much more difficult and tiresome to get published through the retail chain if you’re independent and/or making a game that is different from the rest.
          Meanwhile, Steam never ask for the IP, give more than twice of the usual % devs get from a retail deal, and is trying to improve its selection process (Greenlight could become “okay” after a few updates).

          That’s why Valve taking around 30% to pay up the bandwidth, the server maintenance, the exposure, the tools (given to devs), the services added to the platform (Cloud, Workshop, Community, etc) is a fair deal, much fairer than the vast majority of deals you’ll get in the retail world.

          That’s also why the main developer of Gunpoint thanked people for buying directly on his website (using the e-store solution “Humble Store”, provided by the Humble Indie Bundle people, taking a very small cut (or none) out of every transaction), but finally told them that it would be better to buy it on Steam now: the cut Valve takes is small enough to make it financially viable for him (and he already made enough money from sales), and the exposure on Steam (in the Top Selling section, but also on Steam Community activity feeds) is vital to make the game a hit.

      • darkChozo says:

        From what I’ve heard, 30% is fairly standard for a retailer’s cut. I have no real idea of how true this is beyond hearsay.

        And wow, besides the (completely legitimate) DRM issue, those are some really petty reasons to hate Steam.

        • Lemming says:

          He was being sarcastic. Everything he listed was a good thing.

          • darkChozo says:

            I was iffy on whether the Poe’s Law potential here. At least two of those are legitimate issues to have with Steam, and several more are things I’ve heard pretty consistently (re: RPS every time Steam launches a new social feature).

            I will admit that I somehow overlooked some of the, ah, clarifications on the first bulletpoint, however <_<.

          • Lemming says:

            @darkChozo

            Fair enough, let’s meet in the middle and say what he listed could be perceived as positive :)

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        Ouch. Sarcasm isn’t your strong suit, I see.

      • MarcP says:

        “I mean, well you CAN go without internet for 90 days if you lose it unexpectedly”

        Never worked for me even one minute, the times my ‘net went down.

        I’ll give you I’ve been lucky enough it didn’t happen to me since the last year, so if things have truly improved since then, I wouldn’t know. But of course, even back then, there were plenty of fools claiming everything was fine, going with the ridiculous idea any problem they haven’t experienced personally doesn’t exist.

        “Then they do this terrible Cloud Sync stuff, just because I game on two computers does’t mean I want access to all my saves and settings.”

        It was nice of Cloud Sync to override my settings without asking when it was first introduced. Sure, I’d like to have the same settings on my fully powered desktop with mouse+kb and on my weak work laptop lacking the numpad, Cloud Sync. By all means, please replace my laptop saves, with different RPG characters I spent hours on, with my desktop saves (ok, this one thankfully didn’t happen to me, *because* thanks to other people getting screwed, I was aware Cloud Sync would do that if I didn’t disable it).

        “And updates are free, so a publisher can just put out a broken game knowing they can fix it later and push out as many patches as they want to, even if they are a small indie developer.”

        God forbid you, the player, might not want to update, either because you don’t have the bandwidth available, or feel the changes impact your experience negatively. No sir. You don’t own your games, you rent them for our service, and you’ll play as the developers want you to play. New is always better. Can’t run our new and improved software at a decent performance anymore? Upgrade your computer, scrub.

        I like Steam, the advantages more than make up for the inconvenients; but nonetheless, some of your arguments are terrible. Sarcasm can’t really work when as a whole you make yourself sound like a sycophant.

        • Lemming says:

          Did you unplug your router? I think they’ve fixed it in recent years but Steam always used to have a problem going offline if it detected any kind of network connection, so if you unplug the cable/wireless from Router–>PC, it would go into offline mode no problem, but if your internet was down, it would detect the router anyway and see that as a good enough reason to stay connected.

        • El_Emmental says:

          “Never worked for me even one minute, the times my ‘net went down.”

          By doing all the required things (such as checking the ‘Remember password’ options, having the games at “100% Ready”) ? And it affected all games ? With the exception of the router issue (Steam detecting a live connection, but actually without Internet at the end), I haven’t stumbled upon any other Steam Offline complete blocking (on the PC version, that is), from all the people who had issues with the Offline Mode (and talked about it on forums, chatrooms, ingames).

          “No sir. You don’t own your games, you rent them for our service, and you’ll play as the developers want you to play. New is always better.”

          It has always been the case, you own a license and a support (physical or digital) to install/run the software related to that license. You only own the license, and that license can be suspended or revoked for (almost) any reason), from the accounting software solutions of the 80s, to the video games of the 90s.

          The only thing that changed since the 80s/90s is the Internet. The copy protection (and the limits put on the application BY THE RIGHTSHOLDERS) were always there, having Internet just allowed them to phone home.

          And intrusive “solutions” like StarForce or SecuROM (and all the others) were there, way before the first beta of Steam was released to the public, blocking thousands of people from using various software, simply because they had the wrong CD/DVD reader or installed some software deemed “wrong” by StarForce/SecurROM and the likes, so the “protection” blocked the software.

          “Can’t run our new and improved software at a decent performance anymore? Upgrade your computer, scrub.”
          First, I’m quite surprised a developer would go as far as updating a game to the point of either making it so graphically complex, or completely breaking its optimization, that the players can’t run the game anymore (even at lower settings). Then, if such thing happens, the person you should hold responsible for the mess (and ask for a refund if a solution is not found), is the rightsholder (= publisher/devs) who decided to do that.

          Steam only distributes the latest version provided by the developers to the Steam platform (= that’s why some games are updated first on the devs’ website, then later the Steam version is updated), and allow its users to not automatically update the game (if they’re short on bandwidth, or want to keep their current version), you can’t blame Steam for the developers’ decisions.

          If the developers wanted to “try” something new, or cared about their low-performance users, they could just use the Beta/Alternate version feature of Steam to keep the old version, either with a whole new entry in Steam (plenty of games used/use that), or a scrollable menu in the games’ option. That menu is currently used for Beta, Private Beta and other playtests by many games, it’s free to use for developers.

          Going as far as asking Steam to host all versions, of all the games on the platform, without the authorization of developers (who don’t want to/can’t keep track of 50+ different versions running at the same time, because it’s much harder and much more expensive, so wouldn’t authorize such all-versions service ever), is madness.

          The only game Steam/Valve is responsible of the updates-breaking-performance is Team Fortress 2, with its poorly optimized updates, lack of LOD (Level of Detail) models (low-poly ones) for most of the new hats/weapons. On the other hand, you can disable hats with a tweak, run a vanilla/restricted server and TF2 is now free after ~4 years of good services.

        • vivlo says:

          Did you uncheck “alway take aprt in beta tests” in your steam settings ? (or check, i don’t remember if you should check or uncheck that damned box, it’s true that it’s unintuitive…)

  2. pupsikaso says:

    And here I thought Valve was stagnating, but it turns out that instead of making new revolutionary games they have simply switched to making new revolutionary business models.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      Yeah, this is great news.

      Valve’s cabal structure seems to be pulling the company in many directions at once, some of them extremely positive, some far less so.

    • baby snot says:

      Pogo? Photonic Games?

      Can someone explain why anyone would want direct money their way?

      EDIT: Not sure why this ended up as a reply to you good sir/ma’am, but whatevs.

    • arccos says:

      Given the choice between the universes where either Steam or Half-Life 3 existed, I would pick Steam no question.

      The PC gaming industry badly needs what Valve provides in Steam. PC gaming wouldn’t be all that strong without it.

      • vivlo says:

        come to think of it, that’s true
        …or is it ? i say this when i consider my steam library and the extensive use of friendlist for network gaming. But if there wasn’t that, i’d probably have those friends added in some msn-like, and many little online game libraries like HIB’s. Or maybe those are rare, and it’s a good thing there is steam for a vast amjority of games.

  3. Synesthesia says:

    So, HL3 confirmed then.

  4. mygaffer says:

    Sounds great.

  5. Lemming says:

    Bravo Valve! I wonder what EA would make of this?

    • aliksy says:

      Perhaps a half-assed clone like the ‘ea indie bundle’ ?

    • dsi1 says:

      They would take a percentage of the percentage as altruism tax.

    • Misnomer says:

      Probably wouldn’t make anything out of it because they don’t peddle user made content to other users a la carte.

      Altruism is a weird way to look at this. On the one hand you can say “yay people are earning money doing what they love and can now donate to the free or included tools they use”.

      Or you can say “boo this devalues the work of professional artists by making it a bit by bit scheme” and “boo this devalues the work of people who make great tools and license them by making it a crap shoot dependent on the generosity of people who have made items that are good/lucky enough to be selected as pay items by Valve.”

      Maybe it is good because it gives more people access to the revenue, maybe it is bad because those same people might have had a job with benefits (important in the U.S.) using tools that paid for someone else to have a job with benefits and now they are in a rat race to try to make the best hats and hat generating tools with all the other professionals and hobbyists out there.

      I am neither of those, but I can see both sides and I am not sure I will hold EA’s 9,000 employees as all evil against Valve’s 400 some supposedly “altruistic” employees. Jobs are a good thing too.

      • ResonanceCascade says:

        Anyone who thinks this “devalues” the work of artists or is in any way bad for the tool creators needs to have their head examined. Probably after it is removed from their ample rectum.

    • MacTheGeek says:

      EA is working on this very thing. You get to choose what percentage of the revenue goes to EA.

      The slider runs from 100% to 100%.

  6. lordcooper says:

    Brilliant. Anything that sends money towards the Blender Foundation is fine by me.

  7. Tei says:

    Its easy to pirate a tool (or just forgot to say a thanks you!). Tools are about the worst supported by users software in the world. This is a good thing. More money for toolmakers = better tools. Better tools = better stuff. Everyone wins.

    • Lemming says:

      I’ve always said that anyone thinking about making their own games for a living should ignore the ‘industry standard’ software that costs hundreds and just go with Blender, GIMP, Inkscape, Unity, Gamemaker etc. You just don’t need photoshop, 3dsmax, Flash and the like. Especially if you are working from scratch, you may as well learn how to use the free stuff.

  8. milman says:

    Would love to know how much of the pie these slider bars get to steal.

    Probably crumbs but I don’t even care. The fact this even exists is a good thing.

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