Valve Software: A fractured, out-of-touch company

Valve Software: A fractured, out-of-touch company

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve started getting increasingly concerned that Valve isn’t actually the benevolent, gamer-focused company everyone thinks they are, and that not only do they not have a clue what the fuck they’re doing, but they’re completely out of touch with reality.

Haha, just kidding! I’ve actually been thinking that for a long time. It’s just that recent events have provided a hefty amount of evidence which points in that direction, and this little article is my way of sort of verbally thinking through those events.

Two things happened recently. First, a few weeks ago, a post popped up on Reddit from “victor_h”, who – in his own words – was “a translator and ex-moderator from the Spanish Steam Translation Server team”, or STS. I’m not going to reiterate the entire lengthy story here, but the short version (again, in Victor’s own words) is that a Valve employee “also known for being the Head Admin and creator of STS, has been harassing, lying, discrediting, creating an oppressive, intimidating environment, and overall doing questionable things that have finished with several mods being kicked, a strike of the whole Spanish team that’s still going, and another Valve employee being illegally fired for complaining about these unlawful activities.”

In short, Valve were using the community to translate their games for free. This isn’t exactly unheard of; paying for full translations often costs more than it’s worth, particularly outside of the “major” languages like English, French, German, Italian, Russian, etc. I mean, paying money to professionally translate an entire game into, say, Uzbek… well, I’m not certain you’d make your money back.

They probably did a better job than when Tomb Raider accidentally lost the English language version for awhile.

It’s a sticky situation. Getting people to do, for free, what others actually do professionally is hardly ideal, particularly for those who are trying to make a living out of it. (It’s the same with games journalism, even. Plenty of people are willing to do the work for free, or in exchange for free review copies, which kinda devalues the entire market for those of us who try to make money out of it. Why pay someone for an article when you can have someone shit one out for free, if they’re going to get you the same number of hits and the same amount of ad revenue?)

But on the flip side, paying a large amount of money to translate something into a relatively minor language probably isn’t fiscally sensible, so either that language doesn’t get a translation, or fans do it themselves. Setting up a community and a system for fans to actually do this… well, that seems vaguely sensible.

Not only that, but some of the “official” translations have reportedly been utterly bloody horrible. As I’m only fluent in English I can’t verify that, but a few others in the same thread backed that up, along most of the other details within the initial post. Alas, I don’t have concrete proof of any of it. The subreddit mods apparently do.

(With all of that said, I don’t think Spanish is a “minor” language, so it’s somewhat mind-boggling that such a thing is necessary, even with the multitude of dialects and little alterations to the language in each of the countries that speak it.)

final fantasy v - 6
And you could even argue that the fanslated version of the game was better than some of the subsequent re-releases.

To clarify, I’m not saying that people translating games for free, out of a love of the game, is a bad thing. It’s a very, very hard call to make, with positives and negatives for a lot of people. Fan translations are how we played Final Fantasy V before it finally got an official Western release on the PlayStation a full decade later. On the other hand, Valve getting people to translate Dota 2 into Spanish for free… well…

What I am criticising is the methods allegedly used by said Valve employee to get this done. I strongly suggest you read the full thread for yourself, but it involved false promises of paid contractor work, unexplained removals of long-standing community members, an (alleged) illegal firing of a Valve employee for whistleblowing, and then the removal of the entire STS team. And, naturally, absolutely no comment from Valve.

Which, in the simplest possible terms, is total bullshit if there’s any truth in it. This is the first little debacle.


The second debacle is one I actually followed myself as it unfolded, which was Dota 2‘s Shanghai Major tournament.

In the simplest possible terms, the Shanghai Major has been a complete clusterfuck from the start to, um, right now. Massively delayed matches, streams randomly going down, streams lagging, issues with audio levels, mics not working, mics being left on when they shouldn’t be, mics being replaced with loud static, interviews being muted, teams being able to hear the Chinese casters inside the booths, delays because of the staff losing equipment, the arena closing before the matches can finish, the opening ceremony being cancelled, and so much else I could honestly write an article about it…

… and then there was one rather big event when the English stream’s host was fired, mid-broadcast, on day two.

James “2GD” Harding has been involved in eSports for rather a long time. He hosted numerous Dota 2 The International tournaments, and is a large part of why that particular scene is as big as it is now. He brought in a lot of the talent that currently works in broadcasting Dota 2, sorted out numerous problems, and generally improved matters for pretty much everyone involved. It’s fair to say that his resume should probably include “made Dota 2 casting big and profitable.”

He’s primarily an entertainer rather than an analyst, which was what made him good as a host: he’s charismatic, and is very, very good at getting people into their comfort zones and open up. He’s also rather like a gigantic schoolboy: when he’s hosting, you can expect swearing, light-hearted insults aimed at players and casters, dirty jokes, and razor-sharp wit. And, yes, he often goes too far, but then that’s pretty subjective.

james harding

He stopped hosting Dota 2 after TI4, back in 2014. He was invited back to host the Shanghai Major, which I rather liked; although I’m relatively happy with the slightly more po-faced nature of the recent tournaments, there’s a certain chaotic camaraderie to James’ hosting that makes all of the between-game segments worth watching. Obviously, that’s also subjective; quite a lot of people hate his hosting. He is, to put it mildly, a divisive figure.

He opened up the Shanghai Major with the word “cunt” and a joke about disabled pornography. Probably not ideal for China, and he was warned for this, after which he backed off from that sort of comment. On the second day, one match was delayed for nearly two hours; he kept the panel going for a further hour, asking the panel which member of which team they’d most like to stand in for, etc. It was an interesting, off-the-cuff segment that offered a bit of insight into players and teams, while also being hilarious (assuming you’re into that sort of humour). Eventually, he cut to a break. As it turned out, he was meant to have cut to a break a long time prior.

At this time, most comments online were that the Major was a complete shambles, but at least James was keeping it alive and making it worth watching. After all, seeing the panel banter in light-hearted fashion was an awful lot better than seeing a still screen with SHANGHAI MAJOR written on it for a couple of hours. In the eyes of most, he’d gone above and beyond to make the tournament worth watching. Indeed, barring chatter about the (eventual) games, pretty much all positive talk about the Major was about him, even with some of the controversial stuff he said.

During that break, he Tweeted that he’d just been fired, and wouldn’t be returning as host. At first, this was assumed to be a joke. Then it was confirmed by multiple other parties. People assumed that it was down to Perfect World (the Chinese partner for Dota 2, responsible for the running of this tournament) and that they’d put pressure on Valve. James Tweeted that, no, it was Valve who fired him.

James noted that he was going to make a statement explaining his side of things, but he wanted to sleep on it. During the period in which he was asleep, Gabe Newell – co-founder and managing director of Valve, and patron saint of the PC – went onto Reddit and posted the following:

“Two things:

1) James. We’ve had issues with James at previous events. Some Valve people lobbied to bring him back for Shanghai, feeling that he deserved another chance. That was a mistake. James is an ass, and we won’t be working with him again.

2) As long as we’re firing people, we are also firing the production company that we’ve been working with on the Shanghai Major. They will be replaced, and we hope to get this turned around before the main event.”

gaben on shanghai
For posterity.

Which, um… wow. At the time of writing, this is the only response Valve have made, publicly, about the situation.

It gets slightly worse when you read James’ response, and discover that (apparently) Valve employees asked him to put his public statement “on ice” for the time being. Hoping this could all be sorted out privately, he did so. And then he woke up and read that post from Gabe.

At the time of Gabe’s post, we assumed that James must’ve publicly fucked a cat backstage or something. I mean, Gabe seems angry. And “James is an ass”? Jesus.

dota 2 kitten
I’ve been fired for making that comment, by the way. Paul calls me an ass quite a lot, though, so that at least is nothing new.

But, um… no. From what we can tell – and this is all from James’ account published a little later, because as I said, Valve have made no other comment – it’s basically because of what we saw. Now, maybe James’ suspicions that a particular Valve employee has taken offence at James and done his best to get James blacklisted are correct. Maybe Gabe saw the stream and hated the jokes. Maybe there was pressure from China. Maybe lots of things, and I could write a lengthy post on what he did right and wrong, and so on. But the thing is, for the purposes of this article, it doesn’t actually matter.

You don’t fire your host mid-stream. You don’t fire him by texting his best friend and telling him to do it. You don’t leave him to work out if he’s getting paid for this, or if he’s getting a flight home, or what. You cite contract, or clause, or reason. And you definitely don’t announce it on Reddit, publicly calling the guy out as “an ass.” Was he an ass? Sure, that’s part of his charm! But I don’t think that’s how Gabe meant it.

dota 2 ti3 bruno
The happier, more professional days of TI3, when streams didn’t die randomly and everyone had fun.

Asking someone to hold off on their statement so that you can attack them on Reddit is a dick move, but I’m also fairly certain it wasn’t intentional. I suspect it’s simply a case of Valve not knowing what Valve is doing. Someone, completely independently, asked James to hold off. Someone else, completely independently, called him an ass on Reddit. At least, that’s the only explanation I can think of which makes any sense.

As an aside, it’s also worth noting that – according to James’ statement – he was sharing a hotel room with someone else; back in TI2 days casters weren’t being paid; back at TI4 there was discussion of the hosts and casters only being paid based on how many digital signatures they sold on items, essentially making the hosts of the biggest eSports prize pool in the world work for a crowd-funded commission…

It’s kind of like Salesman, except with Dota trinkets instead of Bibles.

But, again, I’m not here to talk about that. It’s just the second bit of proof I mentioned. And to clarify, I’m also not talking about whether or not James should’ve hosted. That’s a whole other thing. This is just me pointing out that Valve handled the situation unbelievably poorly for a company of their prestige, in their position.

Here’s what I want to talk about: Valve simply isn’t working. For all the talk about how Gaben is the patron saint of PC games and Valve can do no wrong (except for their inability to count to three), Valve does a lot that’s wrong, and I think a large part of this is down to their famous corporate culture.

Most of what follows is based on old information, so things may have changed. Bear that in mind, although I’ll still sprinkle a few “apparently”s throughout.

Gabe is still the head honcho, mind you.

Valve apparently has a flat management structure. If you work at Valve, you don’t have a “boss.” Gabe is in charge, but you don’t “report” to him; everyone is a peer, and everyone decides on things together. Which sounds perfect.

This is actually sort of like how PC Invasion operates. Paul is in charge, but most decisions – particularly anything editorial – are joint decisions between all of us. We’re all responsible for the site and its direction. We don’t always agree, but we usually manage to work things out between ourselves. The difference is that there are only a few of us, and we’re not a multi-billion dollar company.

To quote former Valve employee Jeri Ellsworth’s infamous discussion about Valve’s structure on the Grey Area podcast: “The one thing I found out the hard way is that there is actually a hidden layer of powerful management structure in the company and it felt a lot like high school. There are popular kids that have acquired power in the company, then there’s the trouble makers, and everyone in between.”

high school musical
Probably with less singing and dancing than this, though.

I think that this has been highlighted both in these decisions, and in some well-known decisions of old, like the wondrous Paid Mods debacle. At this point, Valve seems to be completely out of touch with their community. They’re out of touch with the public, and quite possibly the real world. They make very, very silly decisions without thinking things through, and repeatedly backpedal. There’s seemingly very little communication within the company because there’s no management or structure, and there’s almost no communication outside of the company.

This is, let’s not forget, the company that runs Steam, the digital distribution platform that essentially has a monopoly on digital distribution… and they still haven’t gotten around to decent customer support. They have a veritable money-making machine in Steam, which is why they can experiment with concepts and take all the time they like releasing games… and they still try to crowd-fund their casters. Which is actually understandable, because companies don’t tend to get rich by being generous, but by appearing to be generous, which Valve is really good at.

Valve have been sat on Free Parking for awhile now.

It also highlights the problem with the flat structure – namely, that it really only works either when your company is small and tight-knit, or when absolutely everyone is honest and above board. The first example above, if accurate, indicates exactly what can happen when someone abuses the power. The second example does so too, if James’ belief that one single person who dislikes him was responsible for his firing is accurate. As I said: Valve doesn’t know what Valve is doing.

I don’t know if it is true. I probably never will. Valve doesn’t comment.

I suspect that the utter shambles Valve repeatedly makes of things can be traced back to both a lack of communication (in and outside of the company – and for the record, I have never received a response to any of the emails I’ve sent Valve) and a lack of management. As far as I know, they don’t have a dedicated PR department; I believe there is one single person who deals with PR. I’m assuming they don’t have a department for managing eSports tournaments and the like. There isn’t one person who’s in charge of, say, making sure that the company running the English stream for the Shanghai Major knows what the hell they’re doing, or decides whether you want a serious host or an edgy host, or coordinates caster contracts, or does any of the other stuff that a major company is actually expected to do.

They decided to put James in as host of the Shanghai Major, with Icefrog – gaming’s own version of Banksy, and the designer of Dota 2 – telling James to “be himself.” A day and a half into it, they decided they didn’t like James and summarily fired him via a text message from Gabe Newell, after he’d been hosting tournaments for them for years. They must’ve known what he was like. If they didn’t, that’s their own silly fault. If they wanted him to behave differently, then they probably should’ve said so, rather than the only Valve representative noted as giving him any direction saying “be yourself.” The fact that they couldn’t even wait until the end of the day, or until the end of the group stages, is even more bizarre and otherworldly.

If you google for “otherworldly Gaben”, things like this happen.

They decided that paid mods were a brilliant idea with absolutely no problems, and then backpedaled on that decision within days. They decided that what Steam really needed was an MP3 player built into it, and not, say, the ability to sort your games catalogue by date of purchase, or installed games by file size. They introduced Greenlight so that they didn’t even have to curate Steam anymore. They forgot about Diretide, and only responded as to why there was no Diretide a week after people started complaining. They’ve made countless boneheaded decisions, again and again, as though they have no clue as to what people want or how people are going to react.

Mind-bendingly stupid decisions are nothing new for large companies, but most of these decisions are exceptionally bizarre, as even a cursory glance at their community would give them some indication about what is or isn’t important, and what is or isn’t liked. But Valve is out of touch with everything but themselves. They seemingly exist in a bubble, completely secluded from the outside world, and seem mystified when their grand decisions aren’t lauded as genius. And even within that bubble, Valve doesn’t appear to know what the hell the rest of Valve is doing.

The most useful and regularly updated source of Steam news: not affiliated with Valve in any way.

Valve appears to be a company where everyone is in charge and no-one is in charge, and this tends to mean that important decisions can get stalled forever, and terrible decisions can be made as snap judgments.

Valve is a company that doesn’t pay attention to its own fanbase, and doesn’t communicate with it. It’s a company renowned for absolutely appalling customer service. It’s a company that seemingly craves mainstream coverage for Dota 2 over pleasing the people who contribute daily to the game’s popularity. It’s a company seemingly struggling under its own bloat, lack of management, lack of direction, and lack of communication. If it weren’t for the fact that their actual successes – Steam, Dota 2, Team Fortress 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive – still make them an amount of money that can be measured in metric fucktonnes, I suspect they would’ve collapsed years ago.

It’s weird to say this, but what Valve really need is some degree of management – or at least a couple of independent departments with actual management, like a PR department, a customer service department, and some sort of eSports department. There need to be clear liaisons to the casters and hosts. There needs to be a lot of agreed-upon stuff. Valve might get by with a flat management structure, but unfortunately that’s not how the rest of the world does things, and this is clearly causing problems when Valve poke a hole in their bubble and try to interact with the rest of the world.

the prisoner rover
Insert your own joke about ‘Number 3’ here.

It’s weird to say this, too, but the fact that they aren’t a publicly traded company also probably contributes to this. Yes, we all hate it when companies make terrible decisions because shareholders demand high profits… but Valve have no shareholders to answer to, and with the amount of money their products appear to bring in they can essentially do whatever they like, with the only checks and balances being the law and the public. And with Steam being so essential to PC gaming these days, the public abandoning Steam would be staggeringly self destructive. Valve are in a position of incredible power, and that’s a very, very dangerous thing.

Now, maybe they have all of these things hidden away in secret. We don’t know. They don’t talk to us. They don’t talk to anyone, except to make very rare statements – and, sometimes, to go on Reddit and call an employee an ass.

Valve is broken. But as long as they have Steam, they’ll keep making money, and nothing is likely to change. That’s bad for everyone, but honestly, I’d say it’s worst for Valve.

I’ll let you know if I get banned from Steam for this.

The Shanghai Major and Valve are also discussed in this week’s Podcast.

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  • Tim McDonald

    Tim has been playing PC games for longer than he’s willing to admit. He’s written for a number of publications, but has been with PC Invasion – in all its various incarnations – for over a decade. When not writing about games, Tim can occasionally be found speedrunning terrible ones, making people angry in Dota 2, or playing something obscure and random. He’s also weirdly proud of his status as (probably) the Isle of Man’s only professional games journalist.

    • Freakydemon

      Seems quite the statement to make when you ignore all of their successes such as being on the cutting edge of VR, making gaming more viable on linux distro’s, producing some of the most highly praised games and of course creating and maintaining the benchmark digital distribution system, games community hub, mod hub, etc Steam. As long as they maintain and develop Steam to be a program I actually want to use, sell me cheap games, make good games and push the PC platform forwards, I don’t really care how they function as a company.

      • qlib

        All companies should be criticized when deserved but it is weird that only a few articles about Valve mentions anything about how they are pushing PC platform forward. They are working on open gaming platform, open standards and open source tools to anyone able to make games. That doesn’t help only Valve but everyone, including Valve’s competitors and of course gamers. They want to spread games everywhere possible. As a result we are able to play games with a PC operating systems we prefer; Windows 7/8/10, Linux/SteamOS, OSX and hopefully more in the future.

        I think those are extremely important things especially times when Microsoft is planning to do totally opposite; UWA and UWP. They work hard to tie PC gaming tightly on their operating system/platform and specific proprietary tools and software versions. If they are able to get support from 3rd party developers they are able to build an exclusive market on PC platform. Just like in console market at the moment.

      • Lumi

        Nobody is saying here that Valve doesn’t do good in some areas. The point here is that many people and journalistic institutions tend to give Steam and Valve a huge discount when it comes to fuck-ups. I think it’s only right that someone steps up and starts showing the dysfunctional issues with the company. X rights don’t compensate for X wrongs. You need to strive for excellency everywhere all the time. We don’t expect you to achieve it all the time and everywhere, but you need to strive for it. What is shown here and what I totally agree with is, because Valve does good things for the community here and there it allows itself not to care about the bad it does. And that simply shouldn’t happen.

        • Freakydemon

          Well they clearly do care or they wouldn’t invest any time into these events and problems or backpedalling on fuckups. Not caring would be not hosting any of these events at all or not caring about the low quality shitshow the shanghai one was for example. Not caring would have been powering through with the paid mods debacle. This all seems like rather overemotional reactions to me.

          • Lumi

            It might have cared about those, but does it care about the loads of terrible games that greenlight is introducing into steam? Does it care about the lack of quality, copyright infringement games and other early access promises that never went anywhere?

        • Jon Jones.

          “Nobody is saying here that Valve doesn’t do good in some areas.”

          Nobody is saying here that Valve does do good in some areas either. The whole piece is just unbalanced Valve bashing. That is the point.

          • Lumi

            That’s because Valve gets enough praise from everyone out there, no need to mention it here.

            • Jon Jones.

              That is not how balanced journalism works.

              • Lumi

                Balanced Journalism doesn’t exist. Even when it’s not subjective the fact of reporting something that is inherently positive or negative affects the content. Otherwise, such as to be balanced journalism you’d have to report a bus crash as follows: Dozens die in bus crash. Coffin makers are happy.

          • Jack Pott

            This piece is about what they do badly, not what they do. It’s only bashing because there are aspect of their business that need criticising. If there were none there would be nothing to complain about.

      • Asgard

        And yet all of these are clearly exist for Valves ambitions to become the PC gaming platform instead of what “gamers want”. And as the writer noted they are very good at disguising these things as the customers “benefit” which is a very strong property of Google too.

        They do all those things because they have loads of money piling up.

    • Yosharian

      And not a single mention of HL3. Shame on thee.

      • Paul Younger


    • Nasarius

      How the hell do you hire someone like that and then push the panic button when they act exactly as you’d expect? If that’s not the sort of thing Gabe wanted, what was he thinking?

      I’ve seen the ultra-sanitized over-produced official Blizzard Hearthstone streams (including one where it was hilariously obvious that everyone was instructed not to use the term “nerf”), and it can get a little dull. But at least it’s well managed and everyone understands what’s expected of them.

      Interesting thoughts about the management structure. Greenlight is a problem that still hasn’t properly been solved, by the way. Gabe admitted it was broken like two years ago, and the only significant change is that they seem to have lowered their standards in terms of what’s accepted.

    • Ossi Hurme

      Original Half-life was good game. After that if the company had gone under it wouldn’t have affected me in any major way. Ok maybe digital sales wouldn’t be what they’re today.

    • Lumi

      What you say is quite accurate! But may I add the recent choices Steam made with removing flash sales during their sale periods? It all seemed to have been done in order to be fair to games that don’t make it to the flash sales and all whilst promising to have the best discounts right from the start.

      What we all could see though, are discounts which aren’t as low as they would be for titles on a flash sale. Furthermore, I’m certain many users started acting just like me during these new sales: look at the games in your wish list, decide if the discount is good enough, get the game or not and then forget about the sales for the rest of the week.

      Flash sales, would keep me going back to see if the games I wanted were achieving a price which they would not get anywhere else nor for a long time. Sometimes, it would even push me to an impulse purchase, due to an appealing price on a game I hadn’t even considered to by during that sale. I’m sure many more users felt that way and changed their attitude towards sales similarly to me.

      Besides statistics showing that overall purchases were lower in the past autumn and winter sale (no flash sales) as opposed to the last summer sale (with flash sales), the additional, unprecedented new lunar year sale showed just how much revenue Valve lost during those sales without flash sales. It was so bad they needed to make three sales in quick succession…

      I don’t know who came up with the “great” idea of removing flash sales, but according to Valve’s statement it was aimed at adding visibility for those games who wouldn’t go into flash sale, a.k.a. in the name of fairness. But now, instead of a 100 games or so getting a chance at being in flash sales every sale and getting extra visibility, we have every game at the same level. Over ten thousand games on the same level. It’s fair indeed, but those complaining of lack of visibility didn’t get that fixed at all. It would have been much more logical to add more games to the flash sales list, if visibility was the goal of the change, but besides visibility apparently there were also complains about the aggressive discount requirements.

      Either way, the PC community has gotten used to a certain price for their games, especially since there are so many out there, they cannot purchase them all full price. If Valve changes the rules of the game, then players start playing accordingly, but seems like there again, Valve didn’t know what it was doing.

      Any analyst, economist or sociologist would have told them the outcome of the removal of flash sales. And all sales after the initial autumn sale have tried to make customers look at their catalogue more often than they would on their own. During the winter sale we got trading cards for going through our suggestion queues and for the lunar year we got some weird “exploration” choosing thing going on to look at various games, but all of that just doesn’t catch on. We all know that the discounts offered are not as good as they would have been with a flash sale and we all know how to keep our wallets shut.

      Valve said flash sales would never be back, but I foresee two things if customers continue as they have until now: Valve will either start doing many more sales throughout the year or it will cave and start doing flash sales again. Though my money is on the additional sales, since pressure from the developers might keep the flash sale door shut.

      • Andrew

        We have refunds now which is why we don’t have flash sales. Too many people refunding to get the cheaper price than the price they got it for due to a recent flash sale.

        Maybe there is an alternative – who knows?

        • Lumi

          I don’t see why the refunds are an issue. If people have bought the game within 14 days and haven’t played over the 2h limit, why shouldn’t they be allowed to get the game for the flash sale price like anyone else?
          Without the refunds, people would just be more careful and wait for the flash sale anyway, leading to the game’s profit being the same. Granted now there are those who go for the refund rodeo. I myself would still wait as I find the procedure tedious…
          In any case, the obvious solution would be to make products on sale non-refundable. We have that for clothes and other stuff on sale (we still get to have warranties). I don’t see why the same rule couldn’t apply to video-games. Might be a legal issue that I’m unaware of, but otherwise there is your alternative.

          • Freakydemon

            Because some poor sap has to go through all the refunds that happen during flash sales. It’s curious people complain the sales are less all consuming, gamified events that trick you into impulse buying. How many of you have bought games on a whim you never would have if you had the entire sale period to mill it over at the same price? I’ll tell you for a fact my library and backlog would be a lot smaller.

            • Lumi

              Actually, refunds that are within the conditions of less than 2h played and 14 days since purchase can be refunded with no questions asked. Hence it’s an automated system…

              • Fade2Gray

                If they kept the old flash/daily sale system after implementing the refund system you would run into situation where people would be constantly refunding games thought out the sale. Anyone who bought a game during a sale that ended up going on a deeper discount (flash or daily) later during the sale would have no reason not to refund it and immediately repurchase it at the cheaper price. This would have been an unnecessary hassle for both the customer and Steam. Worse, anyone who had just bought it before the flash/daily and already played for more than the two hour limit would have been raising hell about how unfair it was that some people could refund to get the better price, but they couldn’t. Ending flash and daily sales wasn’t altruism or Steam looking out for their customers. It was a simple response to the new reality of a world where their new refund system existed.

              • Lumi

                I disagree. Flash sales were known and its only people’s own fault if they can’t wait to see if the game they want goes on a deeper sale. I am confident that there aren’t that many stupid people out there and the cases where refunds were asked or would have been asked for different pricing reasons wouldn’t be that high.

    • Jack Pott

      Good analysis of the valve bubble.

    • Harrison Ford

      Valve’s pathetic customer service, no curating and monopolistic nature was enough for me to ditch them as a service, moving to GOG dot com and even Origin, the former the gold standard in customer service and DRM free games and the latter has a damn good customer service and a very good, light-weight client. Steam is a pest.

      • Lumi

        I have to disagree. Although Valve does many wrongs, especially in the customer service area, it has the biggest digital store around because its platform is bloody brilliant. Nowhere else can you share your library with other computers of friends or family. I still believe that Steam is the best platform for games out there.

        • Harrison Ford

          No, that’s too Steam-fanboi-centric for me, their customer service isn’t bad, it’s simply not there. You have a problem, you solve it. And you can easily share your library with friends or family on other platforms, it’s not a Steam exclusive. Even if that was true, that doesn’t make Steam good. It’s still got a disaster of a client, slow and bloated, it’s still pushing turds for games, it’s still a non-curated mess, it still pushes DRM, it still siphons information from your computer, it still has the single worst – no, nonexistent – customer service out there. No, Steam is far from being the best, but they do have the largest selection of games. Though most of them are scams, turds and waste of money and time.

          • Lumi

            And here I’m hearing an anti steam crusade. Valve’s support might be slow, since they have such a huge customer base, but they have always solved my issues. Now on Origin I was stuck with a Store in the local country language, which I don’t speak for years, until they finally decided to hear the community and add an option to see the store in English. On top of that I cannot buy anything on Origin with my Visa card although I can use it everywhere else on the internet. The only support reply I got was: use pay pal or too bad for you. On top of that, Steam seamlessly downloads and installs a game, while on Origin you need to download it first and then install the game, adding time and space requirements to the process. I simply cannot see how Origin can compete with Steam, oh wait, yeah they got the on the house games, but that’s the only advantage they got. And how can you call Valve’s games turds? Dota 2, Portal 2, TF2, CS GO and Left 4 Dead are just a few of the games that are still played years after their release.

            • David Warschauer

              i think “harrison ford” the acclaimed star wars star; might be a bit on the jaded side. steam is in no way perfect, but what is?

    • Arclighter

      Great article! We need a lot more of these. Valve is getting Too Big to Fail, and a dose of reality like the one offered up here is just what Valve’s overbearing defense force needs right now.

      I’m so done with Valve and their shenanigans. I’ve been on the fence with the service ever since they started blackmailing users into signing EULAs – it was essentially “agree or lose access to your existing Steam library”, a move that came off as highly anti-consumer to me. Valve has become a restrictive corporate behemoth, and I don’t think the people running it are reliable enough to handle the responsibility that goes along with being part of an industry mover & shaker.

      Greenlight has turned the Steam Store into an overflowing vomitorium where any Tom/Dick/Harry can puke out their latest abortion regardless of care or quality, and Early Access has set a terrible precedent that other AAA publishers are all to willing to follow now. Quality assurance and curation will never be an issue for Valve now, seeing as how it’s slapped those little responsibilities onto the bellies of its user base.

      Valve’s “dead air” approach to communication drives me fucking bonkers. They let controversies stew until the media get involved (From Dust, negative VAC bans, The WarZ, Diretide, Air Control, dear god there are so many of them I could go on), and even then their handling of the issues can be schizophrenic and callously throwaway. The way they communicate with their customers is even worse. Valve desperately needs a real PR department.

      We’re now at a point in history where Steam runs worse than Origin. I never thought I’d write those words. Steam’s software engineers have always just plain sucked at their jobs.

      As of a couple days ago, I’m officially severing my consumer relationship with Valve and Steam. The final kicker for me came in the form of Valve’s recent refusal to support Windows phones in their massive authentication push. The latest policy in that scheme now puts a 15-day hold on Market items, so WP users are left in the dust once again. If you know Gaben’s history with MS, you might agree with me that Gaben is essentially thumbing his nose at a significant portion of his customer base right now (not to mention the poor saps who don’t own a smartphone); I personally don’t want to feed into that kind of attitude, so I won’t be buying Steam-integrated games anymore, and I will be spending my money via Galaxy, Origin, and *gag* Uplay. I certainly won’t be spending any more time in the Steam Store.

      I’ve got a prediction: Valve are in the first stages of creating their very own walled garden (I’m of the opinion that Valve has always had it’s collective fingers crossed when it comes to discussing “open platforms”). They’re panicked due to what Microsoft are doing with Win 10 and the Windows Store, but it’s also giving them ideas. If Valve can manage to finally lock down industry-wide Linux gaming support, then they may well be on their way to becoming the next MS or Apple in terms of consumer ecosystems. The Steam Machines concept – however much of a nonpoint it turned out to be – was just a toe in the water, folks.

      Thanks again for shining the light Tim!