Valve stands out as a good example of how free content can generate sales, customer loyalty, and keep the game popular and the community thriving.
I agreed with everything you said up until this.
Valve is definitely not on the better side of companies as far as consumer friendliness and value goes. Do you know the story behind "Left 4 Dead 2?" I purchased the first L4D for the PC under the impression that there was going to be free DLC coming out later in the Winter season. Valve released bits and pieces of new gameplay through patches, but it was always late (the first real DLC came out during April in the way of "survival mode") and was never as large as promised (such as new campaigns, weapons, enemies, etc.).Then, lo and behold, they announce a "Left 4 Dead 2" set to release only a year after the first one at the beginning of this summer. At full price and not even a rebate offered to purchasers of the first game, no less! All this without ever keeping their original promise for the first game. After a huge protest on the Steam gaming community, Valve finally had no choice but to honor players' angry pleas to continue to support L4D. They did this out of coercion, not goodwill.
Also, the ultra-successful free mods on the Half-Life engine such as Team Fortress Classic or Counter-Strike were not made by Valve, they were simply mods made by programmers and offered for free on their websites. Allowing modification on the engine was a norm for PC games at the time, so applauding Valve over something so simple is unnecessary. In addition, Valve ended up buying the rights for both mods and releasing their successors, CSource and Team Fortress 2, as additional DLC to Half-Life 2.
I have no problem with what Valve did with CSource and TF2, but the L4D2 thing just pissed me off. I am a huge fan of their games, but I would not consider them the Mother Teresa of game developers.