Day Of Defeat - Impressions

Valve Entertainment had a Day Of Defeat weekend, where you can play the game for free for a weekend. The game itself is not that interesting, but the promotion itself highlights the strengths and weaknesses of the Steam software distribution platform (and others like it). I think Steam is rather innovative, so it's worth commenting on.

[FYI: Day of Defeat is a squad-based, first person shooter for Windows based on the Half-Life 2 'Source' engine that is a WWII era capture the flag style game.]

Steam shows its strength first through the fact that this promotion exists at all. The steam interface makes it very easy to download and install new software, so users are more likely to try out demos and other software that isn't necessarily going to stay on the machine. Steam is a built in marketing tool for valve to direct-market games to gamers. It's safe to say that such a promo could have happened before Steam, but it wouldn't have been as convenient for users, and hence penetration wouldn't have been as deep.

Along with this innovation comes a drawback. Primarily this is due to the multiplayer, cooperative nature of a game like DoD. The pool of players grows quickly, but the quality diminishes. Player quality diminishes in two respects: first, game play knowledge density decreases. This means that a smaller fraction of players really knows how to play, making it hard to get a coherent game going. Second, transient play seems to decrease maturity density as well. Because players have no intention of sticking around, they mic spam, cuss, TK and do all kinds of nasty stuff.

Question: does making the demo easier to install decrease the quality of play? Wouldn't it be ironic if it turned out Steam increased promo penetration by 50% but users disgusted with the experience bought 50% fewere licenses?

I think so.

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