"To be really concrete, 10 times as much content comes from the user base for TF2 as comes from us," [Valve CEO Gabe] Newell said. "So we think we're super productive and kind of badass at making TF2 content, but even at this early stage, we cannot compete with our own customers in the creation of content for this environment. The only company we've ever met that kind of kicks our ass is our customers. We'll go up against Bungie, or Blizzard, or anybody but we won't try to compete with our own user base, because we already know we're going to lose.
"Once we start building the interfaces for users to start selling their content to each other, we start to see some surprising things," Newell added.
gabe-newell-steam-box-talk-ut (Trigger warning for ablism)
On the one hand, this is sort of inspiring because it's a corporate leader who Gets It about fanwork being valuable. Team Fortress 2 players are actually making money from their creations.
On the other hand, it's really not "democratic" so much as it's an entire market completely owned and controlled by one company, which exists at that company's whim. TF2 fans have no legally-recognized right to the title, or to sell their in-game hats for it.
EVE Online's players at least have a democratically-elected, officially-recognized council, with a say in what goes on in New Eden (and with representatives whose character can reflect that game's brutal playerbase (TW for suicide)). All that TF2 fans have is an unusual privilege.
Newell goes on to talk about how all of your MMO achievements are tied to one company:
The future of the Steam marketplace, Newell said, is to ensure that goods can be more permanent in a player's collection; that they can be transferrable and exchangeable between titles. He called to fault the MMO model of player progression: Characters level up, purchase new items, then when you play a new game, everything you worked for is gone. Game creators currently have a "whimsical notion" of player's property rights, Newell said.
"It's like, 'Hey, I'll sell you a house, and you can do a bunch of work, paint it and put furniture in it, and then, when you go to a new house, we're going to burn that one down,'" Newell said.
It's ironic that he should say that, though, because that's how the whole of Steam works. Buying games from Steam is like renting a game console at the store and leaving all of your purchases there with it, and losing access to them forever if your identity changes or you get banned somehow. I had to abandon several games because my account was forever tied to an old, pre-transition identity, and there wasn't a way to change that which I saw.
I'm glad that someone's thinking about how these things affect people, and taking their rights seriously instead of being classist and ageist. I'd feel a lot better if it wasn't a white cismale guy in charge of a corporation and trying to figure out how to make money from it, though.