As part of an exclusive feature interview with Gamasutra, 3D Realms' Scott Miller has called for Valve's Steam digital distribution service to spin off as a separate company, suggesting: "I would rather there emerge a leader in the market that isn’t associated with a game company."
In the interview, Miller also discusses the Triton download service which 3D Realms initially aligned itself with for the release of Prey, and which closed down, explaining: "From the ashes of Triton, there’s a company starting up that will do things much better. Triton had some internal problems that hurt them from the beginning. They were a dead man walking situation from the start."
But further discussing Half-Life creator Valve's entry into the PC digital distribution market, arguably the current market leader, Miller advocated: "I’m not a big fan of using Steam, because I’m not a fan of a strong competitor of ours having access to our download stats and revenue totals. I’d rather keep that private. Not only that, but we’re lining their pockets as well."
He continued: "I’d love to see Steam spin off as their own company. That would be a smart move. That removes the conflict of interest issue and it would give Steam focus as a separate company. Since they’re buried in Valve, if Valve doesn’t do well for a game or two, Steam will get cut before their internal game development. They have to consider Steam secondary. I don’t know why they hang on to Steam as an internal thing. They’d probably rule the game industry if they did. A truly independent company is going to come along, and I know of a couple of start-ups. I think one of these companies will emerge as the product leader and they should be able to take Steam’s spot."
On the future of digital distribution in general, the 3D Realms head commented: "My overall impression is that digital distribution is definitely going to be a huge force in the future. I’ve said for quite a while that the next generation consoles will have this built in from the start. Day one releases will be available online. I think brick and mortar places will lose a lot of business this way. Microsoft and Sony have to be saying “if we cut out the retailers, we get a bigger piece of the pie.” There’s no issue with it, you just need to get people bigger hard drives. Digital delivery is going to be a key part of console revenue."
[UPDATE: Bizarrely enough, and despite Miller's comments about Valve's download service, the official Steam homepage has been updated with the news that: "Prey will be available Thursday, November 30 on Steam for $49.95. Previous purchasers of the retail or downloaded editions of Prey can activate a copy on Steam at no cost by using their existing product key."]