Asked about a high-profile Steam ban, Valve boss Gabe Newell said the company is still looking into the case, and constantly re-evaluating its policies.
“I think we’re actually checking to find out what was going on with our Russian customer, I got mail from people saying ‘what’s the deal with this?’ So I actually haven’t heard back yet,” Newell said.
“But on its face it seems kind of broken and those are the sorts of things we’re happy to fix. If you’re asking me to render a legal opinion then I’m just not the super useful person to render a legal opinion. I’m actually waiting to hear what the result of that specific instance was. At first blush it sounded like we were doing something stupid and then we’ll get it fixed.”
Newell said Valve has lawyers constantly exploring the troubling question of digital games ownership; many user agreements grant providers the right to withdraw paid-for products without warning or explanation, but the legality of this has never been fully challenged.
“It’s sort of like this kind of messy issue, and it doesn’t really matter a whole lot what the legal issues are, the real thing is that you have to make your customers happy at the end of the day,” Newell said.
“If you’re not doing that it doesn’t really matter what you think about various supreme court decisions or EU decisions. If you’re not making your customers happy you’re doing something stupid and we certainly always want to make our customers happy. And I think we have a track record of having done that.”
In later comments, Newell seemed to be implying that users can trust Steam to treat them fairly whatever the legal situation turns out to be – just as it proved itself a reliable provider, launching at a time when digital game sales were uncommon.
“People were worried when we started using Steam initially because, ‘oh my gosh, if I don’t have my discs what happens when I get a new machine?’” he said.
“And after they’ve done this a couple times they’re like ‘oh my god, this is so much better, I’m so much more likely to lose my discs than I am to have any problem with my Steam account, that seems way better than having a physical token that I use to access my content.’”