In an email, later confirmed as authentic, posted to forums on Half-Life2.net, and a later follow-up on the forum thread, Valve boss Gabe Newell confirmed that the company intends to offer an optional subscription which will grant members free additional content for Half-Life 2, delivered over the Steam digital distribution system.
This content would include Valve’s official modifications such as Counter-Strike 2 and Team Fortress 2, and any other content released officially for the game during its life span – which will also be made available to non-subscribers for an additional fee.
The subscription plan is entirely optional, but according to Newell, “we’re pretty sure that the $9.95 guys are going to get the better value, as we’ve been pretty good over the years at generating a lot of content.”
The company is also planning to offer three different SKUs of Half-Life 2 at launch, with a basic version of the game stripped of its multiplayer and mod capabilities being the cheapest, followed by a “standard” edition which includes these capabilities, and a “collector’s edition” which will feature what Newell describes as “lots of cool bonus stuff”.
Some of these versions will be available for download on Valve’s own Steam service, which is sure to be watched with interest by publishers and retailers alike – as it represents the first concerted effort by a developer to bypass the traditional value chain and deal directly with its customers.
However, both gamers and interested industry observers may have to wait longer than expected to see Half-Life 2. Although Vivendi maintains that the release date for the game is “TBC”, and Valve issued assurances at ECTS last week that the game would make its ship date at the end of September, UK retail chain GAME this week informed customers who had pre-ordered the game that it has slipped back to November.
It’s not clear whether this is based on new information received by GAME which is not being circulated widely by Vivendi, or whether the company is simply responding to earlier rumours that the game had slipped – which were denied categorically by Valve.