Valve

Discord announces 90/10 revenue split for self-published titles on upcoming games store

Posted by | discord, epic games, Gaming, Valve | No Comments

After gaming chat app startup Discord announced in August that they were building out a games store, today, they’ve detailed that they’ll be pursuing a very competitive 90/10 revenue split for self-published titles in 2019. In addition, the company revealed that they now have 200 million active users on their chat app, up from 130 million users in May.

The announcement follows a storefront launch from Epic Games last week with an 88/12 revenue split. Valve’s Steam store had typically offered a constant 70/30 revenue split for all developers regardless of the revenues they were pulling in. The company recently announced that Steam would give a more favorable split to devs pulling in more revenue.

Discord called up some of their thinking in a company blog post:

Why does it cost 30% to distribute games? Is this the only reason developers are building their own stores and launchers to distribute games? Turns out, it does not cost 30% to distribute games in 2018.

Steam’s efforts are largely focused on holding onto big developers, but indie devs now have to balance what advantages they’re earning by establishing their central home on a platform filled with tons of titles that’s also taking a more substantial cut.

This leaves some room for Discord to attract the self-publishing indies, though it’s still an uphill battle for the company that’s up against some big competitors.

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Fortnite-maker aims for Steam’s head with Epic Games Store

Posted by | epic games, fortnite, Gaming, Steam, Valve | No Comments

Fortnite-maker Epic Games is capping off their insanely successful 2018 with an even more ambitious product launch: a desktop games store built to take on Valve’s Steam Store.

The store, which is “launching soon” on PC and Mac, is going to be an attractive proposition to game developers with a revenue split that leaves them taking 88 percent of revenues on the store.

“As a developer ourselves, we have always wanted a platform with great economics that connects us directly with our players,” Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney said in an emailed statement. “Thanks to the success of Fortnite, we now have this and are ready to share it with other developers.”

Valve’s Steam Store is by far the most dominant presence in online PC game sales; they’ve enjoyed years of prosperity with rather light rivalry from competing stores that haven’t been able to match the scale of Steam. Valve, in a very conveniently timed announcement yesterday, announced that it was rehashing its revenue split with developers in a bid that they hope will keep higher-earning developers on the platform. While Valve will continue to take an App Store-like 30 percent from sales of game makers with less than 10 million in revenue, that figure drops to 25 percent until they hit 50 million revenue, from which point the slice drops to 20 percent.

It’s a more complicated revenue split that obviously benefits successful game makers more so than indies. For Valve, holding onto big-game publishers is mission critical. Epic Games already has the benefit of a close working relationship with many major PC game developers that are using the company’s Unreal Engine to build their titles.

Epic Games earns money with their Unreal Engine by taking a slice of revenues from game makers. Generally that share is 5 percent after the title is released, though Epic also does deals with developers for higher upfront costs with a lower royalty rate. Publishers like EA, Sony Interactive, Microsoft Studios, Activision and Nintendo have titles out that are built on the Unreal Engine.

A big sell for developers using Epic’s game engine is that the company says it will forego that Unreal revenue cut for any sales of the titles in the Epic Games Store. Depending on the early success of the game store, this could be a big threat to other game engines like Unity.

A 12 percent overall revenue slice for Epic Games is incredibly competitive and could have left a lot of big developers grumbling about the 30 percent cut they were missing out on because of Steam’s take.

Epic Games has notably eschewed storefront revenue splits on Fortnite wherever they can. The app isn’t on Steam for starters, but even on Android, users are forced to download it directly from the Epic Games site as well. This kind of highlights the sway that big studios hold in the market. This year that studio happens to be Epic Games, but in the future that will be some other studio and Valve likely doesn’t want the next blockbuster side-stepping their storefront.

Valve still has a lot going for them. Their store is a massive presence, and die-hard users already have a library of titles built up with little incentive to switch unless their favorite game makers are the ones to decide to shift their allegiances.

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Valve changes revenue-sharing tiers on Steam

Posted by | Gaming, Steam, Valve | No Comments

Valve announced new Steam rules over the weekend. It might sound like a small change, but it’s the first time the company is changing revenue-sharing tiers.

Before the change, Valve would keep 30 percent of all revenue on Steam, including full games, DLCs, etc. Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo also take similar cuts on their own consoles.

But the PC is a different market. You can install any app you want and you’re not limited to Steam for your digital games. While Steam is still the dominant platform, there are now many alternatives, such as GOG, Discord’s store and more. Game publishers also have their own stores, such as EA’s Origin, Activision Blizzard’s Battle.net and Ubisoft’s Uplay.

In other words, Valve is now facing competition from other companies and game publishers themselves. Some big titles aren’t available on Steam (Fortnite, Overwatch, League of Legends…) and game publishers increasingly feel like they don’t get much out of Steam.

That’s why Steam now takes a 30 percent cut on sales under $10 million, then a 25 percent cut on sales between $10 million and $50 million, then a 20 percent cut on sales above $50 million. Valve wants to show big-game publishers that it is willing to give them a bigger cut if they list their popular games on Steam.

Of course, independent developers will think that the rich are getting richer with this move. And they’re right that it won’t change anything for small games. This is a message for big video game companies.

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Valve is discontinuing the Steam Link, at least the hardware part

Posted by | Gadgets, Gaming, TC, Valve | No Comments

Valve has quietly updated the Steam page for the Steam Link. The message says that Valve is discontinuing the Steam Link. The device will become unavailable once all units have been sold.

When Valve introduced the Steam Link in 2015, your TV setup was completely different. Google, Amazon and Apple had just released Android TV, the Fire TV and tvOS. Smart TVs weren’t so smart. In other words, you had no way to install an app and run it on your TV.

The Steam Link was a tiny box with an HDMI port, USB ports, an Ethernet port, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and more. It could only do one thing — you could connect the Steam Link to a Steam client running on a powerful computer and play games on a different screen. Even before the Nintendo Switch, companies were thinking about ways to play the same game in multiple ways.

And if you were wondering why the Steam Link has yet to receive an update, you now have the answer. The company is switching to a software strategy.

“The supply of physical Steam Link hardware devices is sold out. Moving forward, Valve intends to continue supporting the existing Steam Link hardware as well as distribution of the software versions of Steam Link, available for many leading smart phones, tablets and televisions,” the company says on the store page.

You can still find devices on third-party retailers, but they’ll soon be all gone.

Going forward, you’ll be able to install the Steam Link app on your phone or Android TV device (including on the Fire TV if you side-load the app). You can then launch a Steam game on your PC and play it on your TV.

Unfortunately, Apple currently refuses to allow the Steam Link app on the App Store. I really hope that Apple is going to change its mind because it would be a pretty good gaming and entertainment system.

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Discord is launching a game store

Posted by | discord, Gaming, Steam, TC, Valve | No Comments

Just a few weeks back, Valve moved into Discord’s turf a bit with a dramatic overhaul of Steam’s chat system.

Today, Discord is returning the favor by playing with the idea of selling games through its namesake chat platform.

The company says it’ll launch a beta of the game store later today, though it’ll initially be limited to a small slice of its user base (which now sits at 150 million users). More specifically, the beta will roll out to just 50,000 users from Canada at first.

It’ll be dabbling in game sales on two fronts: they’ll directly sell some games, while other games will be added perks for its Discord Nitro subscription service.

Whereas Valve has massively increased the number of games on Steam over the last few years by opening up to third parties through things like Steam Greenlight or (more recently) Steam Direct, Discord is pitching this as a more “curated” offering with a slimmer number of options. At least at first, they say they’re aiming for something that feels more like “one of those cozy neighborhood book shops” — which, on day one of the beta, translates to 11 games.

The games it’ll sell first:

  • Dead Cells
  • Frostpunk
  • Omensight
  • Into the Breach
  • SpellForce 3
  • The Banner Saga 3
  • Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire
  • Hollow Knight
  • Moonlighter
  • This is the Police 2
  • Starbound

While 11 games may not seem like much, you can bet they’ll offer more than that in time. See that screenshot up top? You don’t dedicate an entire tab in some of your app’s most prime screen real estate unless you’re hoping to make it a key part of your business.

Taking things one more step forward, Discord is also getting into (temporary) exclusives — or, as it calls them, “First on Discord” games. While it doesn’t mention names and none will roll out with today’s beta, Discord says it’ll soon highlight select indie games that’ll be available only on Discord for the first 90 days-or-so after their respective launches.

Meanwhile, the company is also testing the idea of building up its premium subscription add-on, Discord Nitro, into a game subscription service. Whereas the $5-per-month service previously primarily got you a few mostly aesthetic perks like animated avatars, a special profile badge and bigger upload limits, the same 50,000 players mentioned above (or, at least, those on Windows) will get access to a rotating set of games.

The first games hitting the subscription beta:

  • Saints Row: The Third
  • Metro: Last Light Redux
  • Darksiders: Warmastered Edition
  • De Blob
  • Tormentor X Punisher
  • Dandara
  • Kathy Rain
  • GoNNER
  • Kingdom: New Lands
  • System Shock Enhanced Edition
  • Super Meat Boy

While many of those games aren’t exactly new (some of them are 5+ years old), a lot of them are really great games (I’ve lost days to Super Meat Boy) that not everyone has gotten around to playing. It’s a solid way to pique people’s interest in giving Discord a bit of money each month if the GIFs and badges weren’t quite enough.

Oh, and for good measure, Discord is making itself a launcher — that is, you’ll be able to sort and launch most of the games on your computer right from Discord, including games purchased elsewhere and even those, notes the company, that require another launcher to run. If that’s not a shot across the bow in Steam’s direction, I’m not sure what is.

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Valve’s answer to Discord is now live for everyone

Posted by | chat, discord, Gaming, Steam, TC, Valve | No Comments

Just a month ago, Valve announced Steam Chat — an overhaul to its aging chat system, and the company’s answer to rapidly growing competition from apps like Discord. At the time, it was a beta limited only to those who were granted access.

Today it’s opening up to all.

As Devin put it when the beta features rolled out, the previous chat system “may as well be ICQ.” It was useful for a quick chats, but it felt much too limited for anything beyond that.

The new Steam Chat, meanwhile, takes a huge step toward being a modern chat offering. It groups contacts by the game they’re playing, shows whether or not they’re currently in-game or in a match, offers easy access to your “favorite” contacts and allows for big group chats and persistent channels. It supports inline media (GIFs! SoundCloud! YouTube!), encrypted voice chat and has both a browser-based client and a client built into Steam.

Will it kill Discord? Probably not.

While it might stymie the losses of the more casual players who might otherwise find their way over to Discord, it’ll be tough to sway anyone who has already come to call Discord home. Many Discord gaming groups have deep roots, with many of them having elaborate channel setups and relying on bespoke customizations like bots that help them schedule matches or raids.

If you want to check out the new chat system and already have Steam installed, just pop into Steam and tap the “Friends and Chat” button in the bottom right.

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Valve sets sights on Discord with updates to Steam Chat

Posted by | discord, e3 2018, Gaming, Steam, TC, Valve | No Comments

Discord has risen among the ranks of gamers as the most common choice for game-related communications. And it’s easy to see why: it works well and the competition is pretty dismal. But Valve is looking to keep users in-house with an overhaul of the chat options on its game platform Steam .

It’s a welcome change, one of many that Steam’s users have surely been asking for — the platform, while convenient in many ways, is also incredibly outdated in others. The friend and communications options may as well be ICQ, and let’s not get started on the browser.

Today’s news suggests that Valve has not failed to hear gamers’ cries. The revamped chat is very Discord-like, with text and voice channels listed separately, in-game details like map and game type listed next to friends and a useful quick list for your go-to gaming partners. There’s also a robust web client.

Voice and text chat is all encrypted and passed through Steam’s servers, which prevents the NSA competition from monitoring your squad’s tactics during PUBG games and griefers from tracing your IP and ordering a hundred pizzas to your door (or worse).

It’s long past due for a platform like Steam, but more importantly it lets them keep Discord in check. The latter, after all, could conceivably grow itself a game store or promotions page in order to subsidize its free services — and that would be stepping on Valve’s turf. Unforgivable.

That said, it’s far too late for Steam to steal away Discord’s users — it’s been adopted by far too many communities and the benefits of switching aren’t really substantial. But for people who have not yet installed Discord, the presence of a robust chat and voice client within Steam is a powerful deterrent.

It’s currently in beta, but you can request access here (web) and here (Steam). No word on whether they are developing a whole system of chat icons based on those wiggly little egg-people in the top image. (Please.)

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Valve says removing controversial games from Steam is hard so it’s not going to

Posted by | Gaming, Steam, TC, Valve | No Comments

Internet platforms removing objectionable content from their sites has been one of the more difficult challenges for tech companies in recent years. Valve has also determined that it’s a pretty difficult challenge in their Steam gaming store, but unlike some of the other major platforms on the web, they’ve decided they’re not going to do anything unless the content is actually illegal or, as they put it, “straight up trolling.”

The company has also asserted that “the games we allow onto the Store will not be a reflection of Valve’s values…”

Here’s exactly what else Valve employee Erik Johnson said in a company blog post, which you should read in full here:

Valve shouldn’t be the ones deciding this. If you’re a player, we shouldn’t be choosing for you what content you can or can’t buy. If you’re a developer, we shouldn’t be choosing what content you’re allowed to create. Those choices should be yours to make. Our role should be to provide systems and tools to support your efforts to make these choices for yourself, and to help you do it in a way that makes you feel comfortable.

This post is largely in response to the company’s actions regarding a school shooting simulator (pictured above) that caused the ire of many. Valve removed the title from the store, but said it did so because the creator was previously banned and was a “troll.”

There are certainly plenty of those in the gaming community who would hold tightly to the idea that people will buy what they want to and Valve shouldn’t decide which content makes it onto their PC. Honestly, that could be a pretty ideologically defensible position if you didn’t think about the money changing hands here. The problem is Valve takes a pretty big cut of the revenue from titles sold through the store, so when it says that it doesn’t agree with content, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t want the money it makes from it.

If Valve wants to find objectionable content and then forego their cut while keeping the games available for download that’s one thing, and they can probably stick by the words in their blog post a bit more as a result.

Finding the line in terms of what is okay and what isn’t in gaming is admittedly painfully difficult. You can kill cops and mow down pedestrians in Grand Theft Auto V, which has brought in billions of dollars in revenue single-handedly, but ultimately I think its maker, Rockstar Games, would at least say that they can stand by their game. If Valve isn’t willing to stand by the games they sell as part of their “values,” do they even have values as a company that… sells games?

YouTube is having what seems to border on an existential crisis right now as they have to decide how to monetize videos on their site that contain “objectionable content.” Valve can hide from this kind of a crisis, but they can’t avoid it. Ad-supported models tend to obscure the money exchanging hands, but when someone buys a game on Steam, money goes directly to Valve as an effect.

Valve can ultimately do what it wants here; they can decide that they want to allow ugly content on their store or not, but they can’t act like Steam is just some giant bucket inside of which games just sit. Valve is a multi-billion-dollar business that inhales revenues from every paid title it sells.

Free expression on the web is an awesome thing, even if it seems to suck sometimes, but stores should be responsible for the items they stock on their shelves.

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Europe opens antitrust geo-blocking probe into Valve, others

Posted by | antitrust, asus, bandai namco, capcom, competition law, consumer electronics, Denon & Marantz, eu, Europe, european commission, Focus Home, Gadgets, Gaming, Koch Media, Philips, Pioneer, Steam, TC, Valve, ZeniMax | No Comments

European Commission European antitrust regulators have opened an investigation into the Steam games distribution platform operator, Valve, and five PC games publishers to determine whether geo-blocking agreements between them amount to a breach of the region’s competition rules. Read More

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As eSports popularity explodes, betting needs to be regulated

Posted by | AlphaDraft, ashton kutcher, Column, esports, eSports Events, future of esports, Gaming, iBuyPower, mark cuban, sportradar, unikrn, Valve | No Comments

Fans watch as screens show Yang Jin Hyeob, a professional video-game player, competing against Jeong Se Hyun, not pictured, during the final round of the Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) Sports FIFA Online Championship at the Nexon Co. e-Sports Stadium in Seoul, South Korea, on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015. Video game competitions, known as eSports, have been expanding as gamers seek to shift perceptions around their craft from a basement hobby to a serious money making industry. Photographer: Jean Chung/Bloomberg via Getty Images Esports betting has boomed in the last five years, attracting investments from celebrities, investors and entrepreneurs like Mark Cuban and Ashton Kutcher — even the former NBA Commissioner, David Stern, has talked about it on many forums. Gambling in eSports has charmed stakeholders but it may have created a monster in the gaming industry. As with every growing industry, it’s… Read More

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