Valve doesn't have any plans to get into the subscription gaming space made popular by Microsoft with its Xbox Game Pass service, but wouldn’t stand in the way of the company bringing the PC version to Steam according to CEO Gabe Newell.
“I don't think it's something that we think we need to do ourselves, building a subscription service at this time,” Newell told our sister site PC Gamer (opens in new tab) in a recent interview. “But for their customers it's clearly a popular option, and we'd be more than happy to work with them to get that on Steam.”
It sounds like the ball is in Microsoft’s court on this one, though. “We've talked to people there quite a bit about that topic," Newell continued. "If your customers want it, then you should figure out how to make it happen. That's where we're at."
But we wouldn’t get our hopes too high on any imminent progress. An unspoken stumbling block is likely to be Valve’s 30% take of anything sold through Steam. While it’s not clear exactly how that would apply to Game Pass subscriptions bought directly from Microsoft but used on Steam, one thing is obvious: Valve wouldn’t be putting time and development resources into the challenge without expecting something in return.
There’s some precedent for this: EA launched its EA Play subscription service on Steam back in 2020, but at the time of writing only the basic service is supported, with the more expensive EA Play Pro remaining exclusive to the company’s own Origin launcher. It seems likely — though unconfirmed — that EA would simply lose too much commission to Valve on the pricier option.
Notably, Newell only said that a subscription service wasn’t on Valve’s radar “at this time,” and these things can change quite quickly. Game Pass has shaken up the industry rapidly, and rumor has it that Sony will soon be launching its own PS4 and PS5 rival combining the best bits of PlayStation Plus and PS Now into one service with tiers priced between $10 and $16 per month.
Notably, the company was also once dismissive of the idea that it would follow Microsoft’s lead and launch a subscription platform for its games — or at least for first-party titles. “We are not going to go down the road of putting new releases titles into a subscription model,” PlayStation boss Jim Ryan told GamesIndustry.biz (opens in new tab) back in 2020, adding that it didn’t feel sustainable.
“So putting those into a subscription model on day one, for us, just doesn't make any sense. For others in a different situation, it might well make sense, but for us it doesn't.”
That might mean Sony’s offering is a touch underwhelming when it launches, or it might mean the company has completely changed its tune. If the rumors are correct, we’ll find out which is true in the next few months.