I’ve worked in the digital marketing industry for nearly a decade. Not that I’d consider myself a marketer; my job qualifications can be applied to any industry, but it just so happened I worked for digital marketing companies for 9 years in two of my last three employers.
One thing that is prevalent in digital marketing is the concept of a landing page. Sometimes it is a sub-site on their main site, in the form http://bigcorp.com/promotion, but often it is a temporary domain name in the form http://bigcorppromotion.com. It is almost always self-contained graphically (since it is often designed and hosted by a third-party agency), has information and a call to action (going to the client’s main site or signing up for more information, etc), and is mainly used as an aggregate endpoint for other promotions such as TV adverts, press releases, email campaigns, etc. In the last decade, I’ve been responsible for registering hundreds if not thousands of domains for landing pages. Most are left to expire after the campaign is over, usually within a year, sometimes two.
I am also an unabashed Valve fan. I own all of the games they have produced or otherwise touched in some way (though I’m on the fence about Dota 2, which I have absolutely no interest in whatsoever). My first 3D graphics card (a 3dfx Voodoo3 2000) was for the purpose of making Half-Life look prettier. I own a copy of Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, which is apparently very collectible today. I have a collectible plush headcrab that would sit on an overhead truss at work and threaten visitors.
The thing is, Valve is not used to failure. Nearly everything it touches turns to gold (after Valve Time has run its course, of course). And by extension, Valve doesn’t really do temporary campaigns; if it launches a web site, it’s usually for a property that will be popular for the next decade. Therefore, Valve doesn’t churn through domain names.
One example of a failure is Half-Life Uplink, though in this case it was a self-imposed failure. I quite liked Uplink; it was a free Half-Life demo and rather short, but it featured a storyline and gameplay that was not included in the full Half-Life game. Think in the style of Half-Life 2: Lost Coast, but for the original Half-Life. I have no idea why Valve chose to disown it, but it has not been mentioned by them in over a decade, and is the only Valve-produced game not to be found in the Steam catalog. I maintain halflifeuplink.com, a site that explains Uplink and is also a place to download Steamlink, a project of mine to easily install and integrate Uplink into Steam. (As far as I can tell, halflifeuplink.com was never registered before I registered it a few years ago.)
This evening I was browsing through some old gaming news sites, and came across an article mentioning Valve’s PowerPlay initiative. It was a 1999 industry effort, chiefly between Valve and Cisco, to make online (at the time, dialup) gaming more usable, presumably by changing the core of how the Internet operates. Officially it was a failure, and Valve quietly swept it under the rug. However, a few concepts (reducing the effects of lag on gameplay, anti-cheat mechanisms) were later integrated into Valve’s future games directly.
However, I noticed the news sites linked to a landing page at the time, powerplayinfo.com. I checked WHOIS, and amazingly, the domain was free. This is, as far as I can tell, the only piece of Valve history they have let slip through the cracks. I browsed through archive.org for some historical perspective, and found the contents of the original landing page. It also appears they let it lapse sometime in late 2001 or early 2002, and was in the hands of domain squatters for much of the decade.
But it was free now, so I decided to re-register it. I have no plans for it specifically, just to keep it as a piece of Valve historical memorabilia.
(The only other related site I can think of is gameoftheyear.com, a landing page for Half-Life which eventually went dark mid-last decade. However, that domain was managed by Sierra (later purchased by VUG), who managed the distribution of Half-Life at the time, so it was never Valve’s to begin with. Interestingly, it looks like it expired and was released this year, and was re-registered by someone in China in March. Its site currently has no content.)