Valve abuses its monopoly hold through distribution choke holds: Trading Cards and Distribution keys

This Article discusses Trading Cards and Distribution keys and how those items were used to achieve full monopoly status and assist some companies in maintaining or achieving their advantages over starting companies and indie developers.

Kathy Rain Example from Steam Charts

Steam Cards

Example 1

While limiting access to to Steam keys for Indie Developers, Valve assists 'preferred partners' with hundreds of thousands of keys while throttling distribution for others.

The Kathy Rain example here was given Steam news coverage right after adding Steam Trading cards and allowed to go free distribution (a $14.99 item). The result was as seen above a 330+ thousand peak and an estimated over 5 million copies being handed out. The estimated card value alone given away to customers being in excess of $750 thousand with up to $150 thousand in micro transactions going to the developer. This distribution also helps display that game and the companies other products be displayed to each of those customers and their friends. Another benefit for sales to Kathy Rain that other developers who pay $100 for distribution almost always can't get. Preferred partners also don't have to pay a publishing fee.

Example 2

Mirage: Arcane Warfare's failed Steam launch got a pair of attempted boosts as you can see one of them above. You can't see the other one because it was so small (arrow on left). The first attempt was Steam giving the failed game a free weekend or week of play and posting it to news in an attempt to help the launch - less than 300 people showed up. A few weeks later Torn Banner added trading cards and Valve allowed them to free forever a second time to attempt to revive the game and you can see the 43000+ user peak achieved by doing so above. Valve typically only does this for preferred partners and external companies they are friendly with. This did not revive the game however and it is no longer for sale.

Example 3

Many times Valve gives millions of keys to larger developers and even not so large ones to hand out as promotions with hardware or software. An example of this is Curve Digital recently having a failed launch on Steam and they were given several hundred thousand to up to a million keys to hand out for Serial Cleaner and then they gloated about having so many owners. Estimated just card sale value for developer $20-30,000.

Dozens of large companies are given millions of keys to hand out with video card, PC purchases, and other deals and bundles while many indies are put in a choke hold on distribution keys.

In summary after years of using Green Light to throttle indie access to the market and offering distribution keys fairly liberally so they could be handed out for free to help Steam get a monopoly hold on the market - Valve has now tightened its noose around many Indie's necks to minimize distribution so that others can thrive.

We would have fought for Indie's and company rights and done our best to get front page Steam access to be evenly spread to all developers. We had demanded in April 2016 that Valve remove Green Light to stop them from throttling publishing rates for non preferred developers and they finally did so a year later. See the upcoming Green Light monopoly throttle mechanism article when it comes up there is a lot that was not immediately obvious that some light will be shed on.

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I've been in the gaming industry for over 6 years and the things i've been through would amaze most people, even those who think they know my story.  Sit back and learn something new or pick up some games and have fun.


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© 2020 by Robert Romine.