Newell: "If we have to sell hardware we will"

Valve MD shares views on hardware development, pricing and wearable computers

Valve co-founder and managing director Gabe Newell has given a candid assessment of the current hardware market, and revealed that if no one else will make innovative hardware, Valve will.

"If we have to sell hardware we will," he told Penny Arcade.

"We have no reason to believe we're any good at it, it's more we think that we need to continue to have innovation and if the only way to get these kind of projects started is by us going and developing and selling the hardware directly then that's what we'll do."

He admitted that the team would actually prefer that the people with the experience in building and shipping hardware were the ones doing it, but explained it was such a key issue to Valve that they might have to step in.

Intriguingly one of the areas that company had an interest in was wearable computers, but that it wanted to bring its own development style and openess to the process.

"We're thinking of trying to figure out how to do the equivalent of the [Team Fortress] incremental approach in software design and try to figure out how would you get something similar to that in the hardware space as well," he continued.

"The sort of old method of, you know, let's go make a giant pile of inventory and hope that some set of applications emerge to justify this giant hardware investment doesn't seem to be the - very consistent with what we've seen to be the fastest ways to move stuff forward, so we're trying to come up with an alternative to that that gives us the ability to iterate more rapidly."

The outspoken industry veteran also attacked the subject of pricing head on, and said free-to-play should be a wake up call to the industry. That allowing gamers to explore the world and pay their own way is often more successful than a fee just to enter it.

"Pricing is one of those things where a lot of people are still approaching it in almost a pre-Internet fashion instead of seeing that there's actually an opportunity to do a better job of delivering the right stuff to the right customer for the right combination of pieces."

In the interview Newell also spoke about rewarding engaging players with cheaper entry into a game, and his frustration at that lack of MMOs like World Of Warcraft on the traditional consoles.

Valve has recently moved into the mobile market with a beta release for its Steam app, and at the start of 2012 boasted a significant growth in Steam sales for the seventh year in a row.

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Latest comments (13)

K. Al-Hurby Producer/Designer 5 years ago
A Valve console? - Shut up and take my money!

Fanboy aside, am I crazy to think that they would actually succeed in that market? I'm taking Gabe with a pinch of salt, but the thought of a Valve cosnole sounds amazing.
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Jonathan Doyle Writer 5 years ago
I too would like them to shut up and take my money.

The ARG/augmented reality implications of that are mouth watering.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 5 years ago
Now we have technologies such as Thunderbolt, which effectively turn PCI-Express into an outside bus. Modular Valve console ftw.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Klaus Preisinger on 21st February 2012 12:25pm

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Show all comments (13)
Pier Castonguay Programmer 5 years ago
I was intrigued with the "Valve could make a console" part, but a wearable one? I'm not too fond of the idea of a augmented reality MMO, just give us what you excel at, good single player immersive campaigns of action games.
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Stephen McCarthy Studying Games Technology, Kingston University5 years ago
wearable computers.....

I do not think the tech is at that point yet. (ok, phones are computers but i thinking more powerful here)
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Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 5 years ago
Valve doesn't have the culture to do this. You need an engineering culture. Valve's engineering is subpar (spoken as a person who has a few thousand hours using their Source SDK). They state on their Source engine wiki they are "making a new set of tools" - but you can't just make a new set of tools and then call it a day. You need a culture of continuous improvement - as Epic has demonstrated.

Valve's strength is more marketing and game design.
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Andrew Green Programmer, Codemasters5 years ago
Team Fortress + wearable computers = another way to sell us hats
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@Tim : continuous improvement from Epic often meant broken codebase for their customers. Still, The source SDK tools are indeed old/cluncky. But the steam client itself is a well designed piece of software.
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Ruud Van De Moosdijk VP of Development, Engine Software5 years ago
Strangely enough at the last Casual Connect in Hamburg every single company attending/speaking came to the same conclusion: Free-to-Play is disastrous for the games industry. Yet Gabe is saying we should do it more? Easy to say when you have Valve's bank account...Free-to-Play leads to no revenue and many, many companies will go bankrupt this year. That is my prediction, and if anyone remembers it on december 31st feel free to slap it in my face if I'm wrong :)
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Tamir Ibrahim Programmer, Splash Damage5 years ago
"Free-to-Play leads to no revenue"

For some this may be true (but then who is to say they would have made money by not being Free-to-Play?), but for others this is clearly false. Apart from the many handheld & facebook free to play games that have made plenty of money several online & MMO games which are alive today and making money would be dead in the water if they did not switch to Free-to-Play.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tamir Ibrahim on 22nd February 2012 11:11am

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Frankie Kang Producer / Consultant, First Post LLC5 years ago
Valve PC + Half Life 3 Episode 3 = insta-buy!
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Sergio Rosa "Somewhat-Creative Director", Domaginarium5 years ago
They'd need a lot of third party support for this. Valve takes forever to release a game and releasing a game for their console every other year is not exactly good business.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 5 years ago
One thing I'd like to point out: "making hardware" is not the same as "making a console". It may be that they're looking at input options - joypads/joysticks/mice. Certainly, the wearable computers concept is just as much about input as it is about running a game. And in this sense, I'd say Valve is the equal of Nintendo; they're looking for functionality that improves gaming, rather than just new hardware for the sake of it.
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