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Valve's Lombardi Talks Potential Acquisitions, EA's 'Boogeyman'

Valve's Lombardi Talks Potential Acquisitions, EA's 'Boogeyman' Exclusive

August 4, 2008 | By Chris Remo, Staff

August 4, 2008 | By Chris Remo, Staff
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More: Console/PC, Exclusive

If anyone is interested in acquiring Valve, VP Doug Lombardi is "happy to have that conversation," he told Gamasutra in a recent interview.

"By the same token, the company's doing pretty well, and we're really happy with what we're doing," he added.

"So we'll see. I mean, anything is possible."

Valve's relationship with Electronic Arts, who will publish its upcoming Left 4 Dead, is "really good," said Lombardi, especially after what he referred to as "the Vivendi divorce."

"We had been socialized to doing so many things ourselves, whether it's box creation, funding our own development, etcetera," he said, "that when we came to meet with folks about a distribution deal - and I use that phrase intentionally - we were looking for somebody to do a certain set of services that we didn't want to do, or weren't versed in, and nothing more."

All of those "distribution deal" conversations, Lombardi said, were fraught with extra offerings that Valve wasn't interested in taking. "We're like, 'You know, we're really comfortable doing those pieces of the business ourselves, and that's what we want to do,'" Lombardi recalled.

EA's support for Steam, he continued, was part of what sowed the seeds of a healthy relationship.

"EA was very progressive about saying, 'We understand who you guys are. We understand what Steam is. We don't want Steam to go away.' Well, they might want Steam to go away, but they're not asking us to make Steam go away."

The "valuable add" of EA's distribution power to Valve's business was all the company needed from EA. "And [EA Partners] is obviously in a sweet spot right now. I mean, all publishers go through personality changes, and that caused them to be at better points in time," said Lombardi.

"You know, I came out of Sierra, and at the time, Sierra was Half-Life, Homeworld, the Caesar games, and a couple other games that were really great," he continued.

"There were some good people there, and if you asked developers and whatnot, 'What publishers have got things going on?' they'd say, 'Oh, I met the guys from Sierra Studios, and they're really cool, and they've got a bunch of great games.'"

Ubisoft, said Lombardi, has also gone through various cycles - "You know, in the late '90s, they weren't the powerhouse that they are today."

"And EAP has obviously become a powerhouse now, with us, Crytek, Rock Band, the announcement with Carmack and the id guys. So, you know, they're enjoying some great days, and we enjoy working with them."

In Gamasutra's recent interview with id founder Carmack, he said he had prejudices about EA that he discussed ahead of forming a deal with the company, and one of his sounding boards was Valve.

"Yeah, yeah. Well, [Valve managing director] Gabe [Newell] had the same reaction when [COO] Scott [Lynch] and I came home from our roadshow of meeting with all the publishers, and we said, 'We think EA's the right choice.' He's like, 'You've got to be kidding me!'"

But once Newell met with those whom Lombardi called "the people that had impressed us," he relented.

"And we set up the deal so that it turned out that if EA was this evil empire, that it wasn't going to last forever," Lombardi said. "But it's turned out that all those scary stories - which, you know, maybe some of them were true, and maybe some of them are history; I don't know - haven't appeared to us; we haven't seen the boogeyman."

So to Carmack and id CEO Todd Hollenshead, Lombardi had words of advice on EA's strengths. "And, you know, humans aren't perfect. Issues come up. Publishing is hard, and we're doing it internationally, so things come up from time to time," he said.

"The clich that I'm pushing is, it's not the cards you're dealt, it's how you play them. So, when things come up, the EA guys are very honest about it, they're accountable about it, and they're responsive. You can't ask for anything more than that."

[Valve's Lombardi also talked to us about the Turtle Rock acquisition and the company's growth path.]

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