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Still Alive: Kim Swift And Erik Wolpaw Talk Portal
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Still Alive: Kim Swift And Erik Wolpaw Talk Portal

March 25, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 6 of 8 Next

What do you think about -- and I know this is a business-y question -- download versus retail-type stuff right now? Obviously Portal came out for both. I played it on my 360, but I don't know if people played it more on one than the other, or which you think is the better delivery platform.

KS: I think to each their own. Me personally, if I'm buying a game on the PC, I want to download it through a service like Steam. It just makes my life easier. If I'm sitting around one afternoon and I'm like, "Oh, I'd like to play such-and-such game," I can just go and download it real quick, as opposed to, "Oh, I've got to get dressed and go to the store." It's nice.

EW: From a business standpoint, I'm not sure which is better, but personally, I just want to download games, and not have any box or physical media that I have to store somewhere.

I've been complaining recently about the retail market and how all publishers and developers by extension seem to be afraid of GameStop and kind of kowtow to them and let them make decisions, when they're making way more money off of games than anyone in the industry.

EW: I'm not even aware of the...

The used game market.

EW: Oh, the used game market.

Yeah. They're the only people who make money on that thing. It was like the plurality -- not the majority -- of their business this year.

EW: Really? I didn't know that.

Oh yeah. There's some graphs and stats out there.

EW: Because I've never bought a used game from GameStop, because they're always four dollars less than the full-priced game. I'd buy one off of eBay or something.

KS: I'd buy them if they were significantly less.

EW: Well, someday. Like 20 years later you can get a Super Nintendo game for five bucks or something, but usually used game-wise, I just go through eBay. But that's interesting to know, that they're making so much money now on used games.

You have a good job, is the thing. A lot of people don't, so that four dollars is like, "Oh, why would I get the one that's four dollars more?" When it's a difference of four dollars, GameStop is making like forty percent more.

EW: That seems like a big markup. My big thing with new versus used was whenever I'd go into GameStop, it always surprises me that the used prices aren't significantly less than they are. Although it's one of those things... it's also the prejudice that I have of "it's used." But with games, it really isn't any different if it's used.

KS: Well, I guess it could be scratched or something.

EW: But that's the difference between working and not working. I guess just to make GameStop case, it's not like used underpants or something. It's just as good.

KS: (laughs) That was non-sequitur.

EW: Well, you wouldn't want used underpants or gently-worn underpants.

If you washed them?

EW: Yeah. That's why I do buy games from GameStop. It's convenient.

So how did you get involved with Valve? How long have you been there?

EW: A little bit more than three years now. I had worked at Double Fine, then I left Double Fine, and moved back east, and I was just doing freelance writing. Honestly, it was just like one day I got an e-mail from Gabe saying, would I want to come down to work at Valve? So I came down and talked with him.

It seems like they do a fair bit of outreach and looking around for people. Is that your perception?

KS: Well, yeah. The fact that the team, obviously with the exception of Wolpaw, were assembled not that long ago, and they picked us up at a job fair. There was a general...

Valve is always looking at the modding community to see the new and interesting ideas people are making. The Counter-Strike guys came out of the modding community, and the Team Fortress guys with Day of Defeat. It's all people in the modding community.

A lot of people talk about how it would be great if you could hand-pick the people to work on a specific game, like you do in the film industry. Like, "I want to get Steven Spielberg to direct, and so-and-so to star." It seems like maybe Valve is almost trying to do that, by not necessarily finding established people, but finding new people that are good.

EW: Except once you get there, then you stay. It's not like teams come together and then break apart again after the project. It's somewhere in the middle. Valve does aggressively recruit. I think game companies in general do that a lot, but Valve seems to generally be more aggressive about it. People talk in Valve a lot about who's out there and who we should hire and who we want to work with.


Article Start Previous Page 6 of 8 Next

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