In one corner, we have the beloved Half-Life 3. In the other stands the meticulous money-maker: Dota 2.There’s a difference between a “bad game” and a “game you don’t like.” If you hate a title, that doesn’t make it bad, by any means. While I don’t enjoy Half-Life 2, I respect the series. It made much progress for interactive storytelling and world-building within the gaming industry. I just don’t like playing it.
There’s a fine line there, where a player can withhold adoration/loathing and look at a game objectively. I say this not to be “holier than thou,” but to illustrate a point. I hate playing Half-Life 2. Half-Life doesn’t suck.
I would have loved to see a third full entry to the Half-Life series—to see how Valve would innovate the market next. Yet Valve has many ventures lately. They run Steam, the largest digital distributor of PC games. They develop new tech, from various VR gadgets to the Steam Link and Steam Controller. Valve also maintains a few multiplayer titles, such as Team Fortress 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Dota 2.
At The International 7, Valve’s global Dota 2 championship held earlier this month, the company announced a brand-new game. Their latest project is Artifact, a digital card game based on Dota 2. Players in many different circles see this as a blatant cash grab. It’s especially disappointing for fans who hoped for a new Half-Life teaser. You can literally hear the crowd sigh as the teaser plays. Artifact now carries a stigma; it hasn’t even launched, nor does it have a proper gameplay trailer. Yet it’s “the new way Valve operates.”
…Valve is turning their backs on narrative-based content. In search of larger profits, they’re adopting multiplayer titles laden with microtransactions.
While that feud raged on, Marc Laidlaw’s latest blog post (SPOILERS for possible future Half-Life games) hinted that a new Half-Life game may never see the light of day. With that, a wildfire was set ablaze. Artifact was one thing, but the NDA on Half-Life 2: Episode 3 is up. Marc was the game’s lead writer, and his publishing of its plot summary signals the end of the franchise. All those precious HL2Ep3/Half-Life 3 memes seem to have been for naught. Fans are furious. The post has further proven the theory many players created after Artifact‘s reveal.
From their point of view, Valve is turning their backs on narrative-based content. In search of larger profits, they’re adopting multiplayer titles laden with microtransactions. It’s a fair assumption: The International 7 had a prize pool of around $25 million. These pools grow thanks to player purchases of a seasonal “Battle Pass”, but only 25% of these profits go towards the prize. The other 75% presumably goes to Valve, or towards the event in general. Not to mention that fans buy cosmetics and loot-crate-style Treasures throughout the year. Valve is filthy rich, thanks to Steam transaction fees, marketplace items, and Treasures.
While most Half-Life fans are placing their anger on the shoulders of Valve, a decent number have taken aim at the company’s other gaming endeavors. Most notably, Dota 2 and its fanbase have come under fire. From Reddit comments to Steam reviews, fans are furious. Dota 2 is garbage, built to feed money to Valve. Its fans are unsuspecting dolts, responsible for the death of Half-Life 3.
As I said, it’s a thin line between disliking a game and calling it literal trash. Many emboldened fans are currently having trouble with this distinction. Yet their logic makes no sense: Half-Life 3 and Dota are not mutually exclusive. Valve can make both: this isn’t the fans’ fault. If anything, the money raked in by Dota should be funding Half-Life 3, not stealing its thunder.
Valve could hit two markets at once… They’re choosing not to.
Yes, Valve is smart by developing for its money-making franchises. But the idea that it’s dropping Half-Life 3 for financial reasons is ludicrous. Though it would cost a small fortune to finish, the game would garner many new sales due to its legendary status. Valve could hit two markets at once: multiplayer fans, and singleplayer gamers. They’re choosing not to.
Dota 2 fans like Dota 2, and will spend their money any way they see fit. A few negative reviews won’t stop their post-TI7 high. Often times, these players are in a separate subset than the ones who’d buy a new Half-Life. They’re not taking money from one product and pushing into another. It’s a separate audience. No Overwatch fan yells at World of Warcraft fans when the game feels imbalanced.
I’m not saying the supposed cancellation of the Half-Life series is a good thing. It’s not—it’s tragic. “Valve sucks.” But we’ve seen the gaming community create the wrong narrative before. Marc’s script may not be the only one, and his post may not mean anything. Even if it does, Dota 2 didn’t kill Half-Life 3. Valve did. I admit, many fans out there understand this. Yet it’s important that we ban together as one, instead of point fingers at the wrong culprit.
Want someone to get mad at someone? Go for Valve, and Valve alone. Stop buying Steam games, start some social media campaigns, and talk trash on Reddit. Don’t deride fellow gamers due to a difference in taste. Don’t belittle their choices and spending habits. In fact, don’t blame Dota 2 at all. Valve is wholly capable of developing several games at once, thanks to the sales so many despise. Either Valve hasn’t found the innovation and inspiration to finish Half-Life 3, or they don’t feel like it. Choose your narrative.