It’s not every day Valve co-founder Gabe Newell gets up on stage to have a chat, let alone unveil whats going on inside his mind but he did just that at Casual Connect in Seattle. At the video game conference Newell took part in an interview with Ed Fries, former Microsoft Vice President of Game Publishing.
During the interview, Newell tried to explain how he sees the industry panning out as Microsoft, Apple and others move towards closed ecosystems. To sum up the first part of the interview, which talked about game distribution, he talked about creating value for other players, going on to say “We think the future is very different [from] successes we’ve had in the past. When you are playing a game, you are trying to think about creating value for other players, so the line between content player and creator is really fuzzy. We have a kid in Kansas making $150,000 a year making [virtual] hats. But that’s just a starting point.” It essentially ended up boiling down to Gabe’s tried and true idea that “This isn’t about videogames; it’s about thinking about goods and services in a digital world.”
When the talks drifted toward open platforms vs closed is when Gabe Newell let loose a bomb if you will, “The big problem that is holding back Linux is games. People don’t realize how critical games are in driving consumer purchasing behavior.” and that “We want to make it as easy as possible for the 2,500 games on Steam to run on Linux as well. It’s a hedging strategy. I think Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space. I think we’ll lose some of the top-tier PC/OEMs, who will exit the market. I think margins will be destroyed for a bunch of people. If that’s true, then it will be good to have alternatives to hedge against that eventuality.” He went on to state “In order for innovation to happen, a bunch of things that aren’t happening on closed platforms need to occur. Valve wouldn’t exist today without the PC, or Epic, or Zynga, or Google. They all wouldn’t have existed without the openness of the platform. There’s a strong tempation to close the platform, because they look at what they can accomplish when they limit the competitors’ access to the platform, and they say “That’s really exciting.”
There you have it, gaming is a driving force in consumer purchasing behavior and Windows 8 looks to be a catastrophe as Microsoft moves towards the walled garden approach. To put it bluntly, it seems Newell has once again shown a fundamental understanding that many companies seems to lack. Gaming is important, it is a driving force in the consumer space. Not to mention that in general open platforms can allow for greater creativity and the exploration of interesting ideas that just don’t materialize on closed source platforms. I myself must admit if Linux could properly run all the games I have on Steam I would happily switch to the open platform. It is also interesting to think that if Linux did support users favorite games, would you keep using Windows or would you make the switch?
Among these discussions at Casual Connection, Newell made sure to talk about the evolution of touch interfaces and even made note of wearable computers. You can find more on the interview at the source below.
Updated the post with another quote to better elaborate on what Gave Newell was trying to say.
Valve is not only a game developer, producing megahits like Portal 2, it owns and operates Steam, which is the largest consumer-focused digital games distribution platform in the industry. By some measures, it may be valued at $3 billion.