What Valve did

A week ago, Valve announced Portal 2. If you didn’t play the first Portal, well, I’m really sorry. Go play it, I’ll wait. It’s not a long game.Portal 2 is the sequel to 2007's Portal, which won 70 industry awards including numerous Game of the Year awards.

Done? Good.

The announcement came after a short marketing ploy. Valve owns Steam, a software delivery system (it also does licenses and lifetime management. I wonder if we can register Isolator as a game for better licensing management. But I digress). So they used Steam to deploy an update – it changed the ending of the first game, plus adding an achievement. And it “installed” clues. To what? To what’s coming.

Now, why is that cool?

1. Almost never done before.

2. It comes from Valve only to people who have Portal installed. As Seinfeld asks: “who are these people?”. These are hardcore fans, who have a 3 year old game installed on their machine. Or people who just purchased Portal recently. Two audiences that will probably benefit the most from the news.

3. Short campaign. 2 days after the download, the announcement came. In the age of the Internets, with the Valve community (and specifically gamer community online) people already tried and guess what the clues mean in less than 24 hours.

4. Everything Valve does is cool.

Valve has not blew its marketing budget on this. It’s still going to use all the regular channels to advertize the upcoming game. But in less than a week (and I guess some weeks of preparation) they created the buzz in the right place, for the right audience. And kept, nay increased, their coolness.

Let’s turn that into the “real” world. In the real world, us developers stay away from “market-speak”. We’re cynics (I know I am), we don’t believe what companies tell us. When we do, it’s only after we tried products or services ourselves.

But Valve did a few things differently, and as a casual observer, I’m writing a post about it, increasing the buzz. I’m now part of the Valve marketing effort, just because I care. We do this for things we really like. We tell other people and spread the word. Social media works.

And I can’t wait for Portal 2.

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