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The purpose of this tournament, is it community-focused, or is it for you to get a sense of how the game is functioning, or both?
GN: Every one of our decisions tends to be multiply-determined. It was a great milestone for the team. I think it's a useful way of showing people where we're at with the project. It was like, "Okay, we haven't done this before. It's actually interesting. We're going to learn stuff that'll impact what we do with Counter-Strike Go. It'll probably affect some of the things we do in the future with Team Fortress." Somebody floated the idea, and the speed with which everybody said "That's a really good idea" was what convinced us to do that.
It also seems that e-sports is riding higher right now than before.
GN: We're not big followers of the e-sports scene, so we don't have super informed opinions about e-sports.
Does it interest you as a company?
GN: I think putting on The International interests us a lot. I think building the technology that you need to run a tournament like this interests us a lot, especially as we move that into Steamworks. So there are clearly some really valuable things.
Suddenly MOBA is a genre, right? Though I don't know if you guys consider Dota 2 MOBA -- that's what [League of Legends developer] Riot calls it.
GN: We usually call it an "action RTS", just because that seems to make a lot of sense to customers. If you say that, they have a pretty good idea what you're talking about. I don't even know what MOBA stands for.
Multiplayer Online Battle Arena.
EJ: I knew that!
GN: I didn't.
EK But yeah, naming your genre, especially a young one, is just tool to kind of help explain to customers what kind of game you have.
GN: I also like the acronym for ARTS -- Action RTS.
That's more charming, I think.
GN: I don't think the name of the genre matters -- as long as customers know what you're talking about.
No it doesn't, but the rise of the genre matters, I think.
GN: Yeah, and I think it's great. I mean, I personally am a fan of these kinds of games, so it's great, as more people are trying out different ideas to move it forward.
Whether or not you do decide to go free-to-play with this, you've been pretty public about the positive side of free-to-play. Do you see that as the way forward, or is it just going to be a project-to-project kind of decision?
GN: I think for each project and for each community you need to do what's right, and I don't believe that there's a one-size-fits-all strategy. All of this stuff changes -- what makes sense today, what makes sense five years from now... There are too many times over the years where everybody in the industry says, "Well, that's it -- we're all going to be doing this."
EJ: We've figured it out; it's over.
GN: I'm still trying to recover from the "everything is going to be an MMORPG, and everybody else will die", or "everything is going to be a Facebook game." So I just think the key thing is to think about your customers, think about how they're going to participate in the community, what are the different ways they create value, and make sure those pieces are all linked together.
Do you think that certain things are going to be squeezed out of relevance? Single player retail games, anything like that?
GN: You always end up looking so stupid any time you make those predictions, right? Because all you're doing is guaranteeing that you're going to be embarrassed two years later when you have that quote read back to you. So I'm pretty sure that we're not doing a lot of 2D games. Although you have FarmVille! They'd probably argue that it's not a 2D game.
Speaking of having your quotes read back to you...
EJ: Uh oh, here it comes!
You were pretty adamantly, initially...
GN: I blame Erik!
...not into the PlayStation 3, but then you came in and ended up putting Steam on Portal 2 to an extent. Were you happy with how that went, in the end?
GN: Yeah! Well, and more in particular, I'm happy with what the customers are telling us, and our Portal 2 customers on the PlayStation 3 are really happy. So I feel good about that.
Do you think they're happier than your Portal 2 customers on the Xbox 360?
GN: I think that they're going to be more happy in the future as we take advantage of the capabilities that we have on the PlayStation 3 that we don't have on the 360.
It definitely seems that Sony is more willing to allow those things.
GN: I think that Sony's made a really smart set of decisions about their approach, and that they'll continue to garner more and more benefits from that approach going forward.