Valve Software Steams Ahead with "Half-Life 2"
Posted by jgaudiosi :: Digital Distribution
Valve Software continues to push its digital distribution service, Steam. The creators of "Half-Life" and "Counter-Strike" are releasing the first episode of a trilogy of episodic content that expands the "Half-Life 2" game universe on June 1. With over 15 million games sold worldwide to date, the "Half-Life" franchise has a huge global audience to tap into with episodic gaming. ("Half-Life 2" sold over 4 million copies.) "Half-Life 2: Episode One" is a stand-alone game that does not require gamers to own the "Half-Life 2" game. "Episode One" is available for $20 at retail and via digital download through Valve's Steam service. Valve will ship "Episode Two" by the end of this year and "Episode III" by the end of 2007.
"Given the rapid changes in PC gaming, we expect episodic games will have the same impact on single-player gaming that Counter-Strike had on multiplayer," said Gabe Newell, president and co-founder of Valve. "The frequent releases of upgraded technology and new content works better for both consumers and developers, and is one of the key reasons Counter-Strike grew to be 80% of the online action market. We decided that a follow-up to 'Half-Life 2' delivered in 18 months with our first episode was more in tune with what our customers want than waiting 6 years for another monolithic product."
"Episode One" offers a new single player experience created by Valve, and is designed to be four to six hours in length. Stepping into the hazard suit of Dr. Gordon Freeman, players face the immediate repercussions of their actions in City 17 and the Citadel. Alyx Vance and her robot, Dog, will accompany the player a they attempt to aid in the human resistance's desperate battle against the totalitarian alien menace of the Combine.
In addition to the new single player experience, two multiplayer games are included. And those who purchase Episode One will have free access via Steam to Half-Life 2: Lost Coast, the interactive technology demo that introduces High Dynamic Range lighting to the Source Engine, Valve's award-winning game technology.
Valve offer dozens of games for sale digitally via Steam. The game developer releases every one of it new PC games on Steam as an alternative to retail ditribution. The fact that this high profile franchise is going episodic bodes well for this emerging format. With next gen consoles now positioned to release episodic content like "Grand Theft Auto IV," this faster, more efficient form of gaming should take off in the coming years--first on PCs and then on next gen consoles.