Buyin' gaems is serios bizness.
Subject:Concern about EA's involvement
Dear Mr. Newell,
Let me start off by thanking you for all the work you and your company have done on your games, including Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead. I enjoy these games very much and look forward to pretty much anything you create in the future. I also enjoy how the Steam distribution platform works, as it offers a way to purchase games easily without the hassle of manually installing and authenticating a game.
Several months ago, just before the Electronic Arts/Maxis game Spore was released, a large group of acquaintances and I pledged to give as little money as possible to EA, as we disapproved of their over-extensive use of DRM on PC games. I had been looking forward to Spore since it was announced more than three years ago, but Spore's SecuROM was just so limiting that I didn't want to buy it. Not only didn't I care for the game anymore, I actually disliked EA enough to pledge to stop funding them at all.
The past three months have been excruciating. A countless number of EA games have been released, most of which I've been looking forward to for years. But through it all, I've forgotten about those games, remembering how frustrated my friends have been when they can't authenticate the new EA game they bought, or when the disc key code provided was missing a letter. I don't want to give my money to a company that thinks that limiting the people that buy a game will stop other people from stealing it.
I had purchased a Steam Gift copy of Left 4 Dead from one of my friends the day it was released. I have enjoyed the game very much. However, I recently saw the TV advertisement for Left 4 Dead. The first thing about it that I noticed was the large EA logo in the center of the screen. I was previously unaware that EA had anything to do with this game, and had hoped that they were only involved in the production of physical copies of the game. I still feel the need to know the truth.
How was/is EA involved in your games? Do they just produce the discs and boxes, or are they responsible for the content as well? If I had purchased Left 4 Dead through Steam, how much of the $50 would have gone to EA? If I had purchased the Xbox 360 version, how much of that $60? When Mirror's Edge comes out for the PC in January, will it be on Steam? If so, how much of that $50 would go to EA, both the developer and publisher of that game?
I know some of these questions may be impossible to answer, given the contracts that large corporations like EA tend to have. Please, any information on this subject would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for your time, both in answering this letter and in creating your games.
UPDATE: Gabe responds fast, yo.
Left 4 Dead is developed entirely by Valve. Steam revenue for our games is not shared with third parties.
Around the world we have a number of distribution partners to handle retail distribution of our games (i.e. make discs and boxes). EA is one of those partners.
As far as DRM goes, most DRM strategies are just dumb. The goal should be to create greater value for customers through service value (make it easy for me to play my games whenever and wherever I want to), not by decreasing the value of a product (maybe I'll be able to play my game and maybe I won't).
We really really discourage other developers and publishes from using the broken DRM offerings, and in general there is a groundswell to abandon those approaches.
UPDATE AGAIN: Hi, reddit and Kotaku users. If you leave a comment, I will try to respond. If I don't respond right away, I'm probably playing TF2 or something. :)