The Future of DLC via Valve's Gabe Newell

In an interview last month with G4TV at E3 09, Valve’s Gabe Newell and Doug Lombardi discussed Left4Dead, Left4Dead 2, Team Fortress 2, DLC, and chose not to discuss Portal 2 or Half Life 2: Episode 3.

But over the course of the interview it became readily apparent that Valve is having a lot of issues with Microsoft over DLC. Throughout the interview, Gabe Newell discussed the benefits of delivering content over Steam to PC users. Laying the cards on the table, he said that essentially, Valve is being handcuffed by A) the fact that DLC isn’t free, and B) some users won’t have the same content.

Left4Dead 2 is the result of the Valve team's desire to improve upon Left4Dead from their own playing experiences

Left4Dead 2 is the result of the Valve team's desire to improve upon Left4Dead from their own playing experiences

He reiterated over and over again that on the PC, the owner’s have the space, and every piece of DLC is free, and so, every single player of Team Fortress 2 or Left4Dead has the exact same updates across the board. But, he makes the point that on the Xbox, because content isn’t free, some players may choose to not download an update and that causes a problem wherein Valve has to figure out how to make sure that if there is a level with a new weapon available, that only people who have access to that weapon can use it. So, Valve has a two-fold job in which not only do they have to try and convince Microsoft to allow free content upgrades, but on the reverse side of that, they have to figure out a way for their system to sort through people who have upgrades, those who don’t, and those who don’t even have a hard drive. Essentially, even if they manage to be able to deliver free upgrades to everyone, people with a 360 Arcade won’t be able to download those upgrades and thus will have to play against each other.

Team Fortress 2's PC users are constantly updated with new content, and universally have the content because it's free. The Xbox requires DLC to cost money, which creates a massive problem for Valve

Team Fortress 2's PC users are constantly updated with new content, and universally have the content because it's free. The Xbox requires DLC to cost money, which creates a massive problem for Valve

The interview, which can be found here, is fascinating and quite extensive. It gives lots of insight into why Left4Dead 2 is in production, and into the workings of Valve. It’s also fascinating because it raises the question of: how does a great game company that wants to continuously improve its games and provide lasting value to its customers work with a company that requires users to pay for said upgrades, leaving levels of inequality within the playing base?

How can Microsoft change their next Xbox to make DLC more accessible and more open to the community?