PowerPlay was a technological initiative headed by Valve Software and Cisco Systems to decrease the latency for online computer games. Gabe Newell, the managing director of Valve Software, announced the project in January 2000 and after 12 months the project was quietly abandoned.
PowerPlay was described as a set of protocols and deployment standards at the router level to improve performance. It was claimed that a player with 1000 ms ping was able to play against another player on a LAN connection with no noticeable disadvantage. Initially the protocol was to be released with PowerPlay 1.0 focusing on Quality of Service (QoS) and later a revision, PowerPlay 2.0 that would focus on functionality. Cisco and Valve intended to deliver a single dial-up service in Q1 2000 in the United States with a 30-day free trial with a bundled copy of Team Fortress modified to support PowerPlay. Despite never deploying the dial-up plan featuring PowerPlay 1.0, Valve announced in January 2001 that the standard had indeed been finalized.
The standard was to involve purchasing PowerPlay approved Cisco hardware and infrastructure that had adequate bandwidth and QoS standards that prioritise PowerPlay gaming packets at the expense of all others. Gabe Newell conceded that Internet service providers (ISPs) would bear the brunt of this expense:
The ISPs are going to need to spend a fair amount of money to be compliant with PowerPlay. But how they get that back is up to them. Some will have a tiered service, and some will just try to recoup their investment through reduced customer churn and customer acquisition.
I had a long talk with a couple people from Valve about the PowerPlay initiative, but they couldn't give me enough specific technical details for me to endorse it. I'm all for improvements in networking infrastructure, but at this point, there isn't anything actually there, just an intention to improve gaming. They need to tell me SPECIFICALLY what I am supposed to be endorsing. At some point, bits have to go into packets and routers need to make decisions on them. Changes at that level is what I want to hear about, not strategic company relationships.