Valve is a company that simply gets marketing.

The beloved developer is taking a highly unconventional approach to generating buzz for Portal 2. Not sure exactly what I’m referring to? Let’s have a chat:

Not long ago, a mysterious countdown timer appeared on the Aperture Science website. Instead of counting towards Portal 2’s official release date of April 19th, the numbers steadily ticked closer to a different date – April 15th. Our questions were numerous. “Will we get our hands on Portal 2 earlier than planned? What if this doesn’t actually have anything to do with Portal? Are we about to get linked to an infamous Rick Astley video?”

Yesterday that timer reached zero. Was Portal 2 released? Well, not exactly…

The site was updated with a brief message from GLaDOS who, in very goofy and technical terms, commanded us to begin playing games from the Potato Sack – a collection of discounted indie games currently available for purchase via Steam. As more and more people play these games, GLaDOS’ power meter slowly climbs. When that gauge is full, Portal 2 will be ours. Pretty cool, right? If we scratch the backs of some talented and under-appreciated indie developers, Valve will in turn scratch ours by chipping away a few days of waiting for Portal 2.

Apparently the internet didn’t think so, because it was pissed off.

I read a lot of gaming news. A lot. And in nearly every story regarding Valve’s ploy, the comments were largely negative.

“Fuck you, Valve. You just want more money.”

“I’m not buying into this bullshit. Valve is too damn greedy.”

I also follow a lot of prominent industry developers and journalists on Twitter, and several of them were upset about Valve “taking advantage of its fans.” But who really stands to lose anything over this?

Nobody. Absolutely nobody.

The important thing to remember is that you aren’t obligated to buy a damn thing. If you don’t give Valve a single cent between now and Tuesday, Portal 2 will still arrive at the same time and for the same price. No harm, no foul.

If you’re a core gamer who follows the industry news closely, you probably don’t mind throwing down a couple bucks for one of the Potato Sack games – or maybe even $39 for the whole bundle.  Hell, you probably already own Super Meat Boy or Killing Floor or AudioSurf.  By purchasing and playing these great indie titles that gamers really need to play, you work toward the goal of achieving Portal 2 sooner. A win for Valve, a win for the indie developers, and a win for you, the Portal 2 fan.

Even if you’re a jaded hater of Valve’s marketing approach, you’ve lost nothing. In fact, you can only gain from the situation. While you’re bitching about Valve and anxiously waiting for Portal 2, other gamers are working hard toward unlocking the game early – an unlock that you too will benefit from.   So if you’re a complainer who isn’t even planning on buying the game, well… prepare to be forever alone.

If nothing else, Valve’s marketing accomplished two things:

1. It got people talking about their product, which is the whole point of marketing and PR.

2. For a day, my friends list was not full of people playing Call of Duty. For a day, people were experiencing fantastic indie games that really deserve more attention.  That’s an incredible victory, no matter how brief.


  1. I agree. Although I’m not really into this whole thing, it’s amazing how many people are at the moment. Valve is #Winning.

  2. I feel the reason for the bitterness towards Valve is from an anti climatic countdown. I was involved from the beginning of the week searching easter eggs, looking for clues, having a great time. One of these clues told of something happening April 15th. Then suddenly a countdown appears. What this countdown led to nobody knew. Was it an early Portal 2 release or something entirely different? But it was most definitely something cool because Valve never lets down. Then I waited in anticipation waiting for the countdown to end barely breathing. Then the countdown stopped. I immediately refreshed the page and saw……… another countdown. A countdown to another countdown? I was on a high and in a split second crashed. I understand this is a marketing ploy for indie gamers which is really cool but the second countdown SHOULD have been the first. Everyone wins here yes, but I still feel a little used.

  3. Brian, Thanks for writing this article. and good job! Especially the link to the GLaDOS@Home wiki page: – that article explains exactly how GLaDOS@Home works, and what gamers need to do to maximize their efforts in unlocking Portal 2.

    I wasn’t going to buy The Potato sack, but after reading this I will. no joke.

    thanks again. now let’s all find those hidden potatos!