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Varoufakis Drunk On Red Kool-Aid

August 14, 2012

Yanis Varoufakis’ (Valve) has posted his fourth blog entry, this time on the topic of Valve’s management structure and today’s (and the future’s) corporate world.

…Whatever the future of Valve turns out like, one thing is for certain – and it so happens that it constitutes the reason why I am personally excited to be part of Valve: The current system of corporate governance is bunk. Capitalist corporations are on the way to certain extinction. Replete with hierarchies that are exceedingly wasteful of human talent and energies, intertwined with toxic finance, co-dependent with political structures that are losing democratic legitimacy fast, a form of post-capitalist, decentralised corporation will, sooner or later, emerge. The eradication of distribution and marginal costs, the capacity of producers to have direct access to billions of customers instantaneously, the advances of open source communities and mentalities, all these fascinating developments are bound to turn the autocratic Soviet-like megaliths of today into curiosities that students of political economy, business studies et al will marvel at in the future, just like school children marvel at dinosaur skeletons at the Natural History museum. I trust that Valve’s organisation will become, if not a central chapter, at the very least an important footnote in this historical turn. …

When I read this I see red, pun intended.  I will not argue with his understanding of the inherent problems with behemoth corporations, nor the plausibility and economic importance and benefits of open source communities, direct and instant access to millions (not billions) of customers, and “the eradication of distribution and marginal costs”.  However, to his prediction of the future I say, “bunk!”  He seems to be forgetting that, while wholesalers/retailers provide a service, someone, somewhere actually has to produce a product that someone else wants to buy.

Is Dr. Varoufakis, and Valve, even aware that they no longer produce software, that their corporation has changed from manufacturer to retailer, and that taking their model and applying it to actual software producers would mean that the video game industry would all but completely disappear? I think he simply finds his current employment so enjoyable that he has no idea how much Kool-Aid he is consuming (washing down, one assumes, that KFC while playing WoW DayZ). Reading his conclusion, I was immediately reminded of the Joy Gresham quote in Shadowlands:

I need a little guidance.  Are you trying to be offense, or are you merely stupid.

P.S. For those who would protest that Valve just released Portal 2 last year, I would say, read this.

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6 Comments
  1. August 14, 2012 9:25 pm

    One critique I’ll give is that Valve still does produce software, it just takes its sweet ass time. Always has, always will. Regardless of who they hired on, they’re still making games and they’re currently working on DotA2. I don’t know if you’ve checked out TF2 on PC but it is radically different from what we’ve played…

    50 official maps, and a shit-ton of weapons/items (http://www.tf2items.com/item/schema/).

    They’re still doing a LOT of things. They’re just all over the place. And their concept of open source and community involvement is brilliant. If that line of thought can catch on more in the industry, we’re in business. I understand companies have to make money. But isn’t there a way to do so instead of merely raping the consumer?

  2. 3Suns permalink*
    August 15, 2012 2:17 am

    Ty, thanks for replying.

    As regards DotA2, Robin Walker et al were so busy playing and enjoying DotA they wanted to go competitive, so they hired DotA’s developer IceFrog to join their company and create the game they wanted to play. In other words, they are basically publishing the game, but will be on hand if there are any development hurdles (my interpretation). Gamescon Interview 2011 via Wikipedia.

    As for TF2, that game was created by any definition by Valve, but the content (maps, hats, game modes etc. etc.) provided since release have been almost exclusively provided by the community (with percentages earned going back to the community), and only polished and officially adopted by Valve.

    Regardless, where we can definitely agree is that Valve is awesome. You think they create the stuff, I think they basically just buy it and bring it to publication – either way, by their hand the AAA stuff comes to market for us to enjoy, and that at the best prices in the entire game industry.

    Also, they continue to evolve Steam, making it better and better. As I mentioned in a thread over at EvAv, nothing would make me more excited than the announcement of a Valve console. Which is strange. Basically, all I want is a hassle free PC that runs the entire library of games offered on Steam, optimized for controllers. The only thing Valve would need to improve is their “party chat” support which I have heard is not as slick as Microsoft’s XBL offerings.

    I want to state that I think their current model of business, buying their games as I call it, is brilliant in every way, just that it isn’t easily emulated, nor does it have an infinite shelf life. They desperately need a new game engine with slick tools if they want to continue to follow their established pattern of find, buy, polish, publish, retail.

    I am sincerely hoping that they do indeed have “Source 2” only a couple of years from our hands. That would be in-house software of huge scope and influence on the entire industry. (I just don’t find it likely in my mind.)

    • August 15, 2012 1:36 pm

      Well, it just baffles me when people constantly state that Valve doesn’t make games any more when in fact they do. They just buy the talent.

      The Source 2 bit is interesting, but I honestly don’t understand the need for new and improved graphics. Take Battlefield 3, for example. On a console, you just can’t see the game for its full potential. It’s the gameplay that’s fun.

      On one hand, I do understand the desire for something new and shiny. But gameplay rules. We can all agree on that. In terms of consoles, I look forward to next-gen more for what developers can do, not for what they can show us.

      And random bit, Day Z may come to consoles at some point: http://www.joystiq.com/2012/08/15/dayz-lead-wants-game-on-consoles-having-meetings-about-it-at/

    • 3Suns permalink*
      August 15, 2012 3:21 pm

      I want to talk more about all of this stuff, but I will wait and hope for a live chat sometime soon.

      Thanks for the heads-up on the DayZ console possibilities. It is a no-brainer, but I’ve no doubt there would be huge obstacles, the server situation being the biggest of them all. Do want.

    • August 16, 2012 6:48 am

      I’ll email you my work schedule next week. We can pick a day to chat. It’s been long overdue. Love ya man!

    • 3Suns permalink*
      August 16, 2012 3:01 pm

      Sounds great!

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