1. This isn’t something I’d buy, I don’t think, but if Half Life 3 is the launch title, then I’m very much behind it! ;-)

  2. I get both excited and nervous when I hear about Valve taking risks like this. Because it’s really exciting if a company as awesome as Valve can pull off something this cool, but I do worry about something bad happening to one of the few mainstream gaming companies that seems to treat their customers with some measure of respect.

  3. Agreed. But I wonder if this rumored move might be less out of a desire to compete with consoles, and more out of a fear that general-purpose PCs (at reasonable prices) might be in danger of disappearing within the next 10 years as mass-market manufacturers find more profit in the slick closed ecosystems that iOS and the Metro side of Windows 8 deliver. (i.e., Steam has a similar incentive to offer this sort of alternative as Google did/does with Android, primarily as protection of their core business, not primarily as an extension of their brand.)

    Counter-argument: shouldn’t all the clunky in-house legacy Windows business applications out there be enough to save us from that future? (Counter-counter-argument: wouldn’t large corporate IT departments love to see everything rewritten for closed systems with little chance of user error/tampering?)

  4. Recycling the comment I mde on MeFi about this:

    Apple’s (or perhaps more accurately, Steve Jobs’) way has, much to their success, to dictate to their users. Admittedly, they think hard about what their users should be able to do, and they design things beautifully to achieve those things, but they have also worked to create a very closed, controlled ecosystem where they make the decisions and thanks to their clout, everyone else pretty much has to go along with it. Users, developers, content producers and lots of other groups have gone along, because, hey, that’s where the money is, and there are clear benefits to keeping things simple.

    Valve has an entirely different mindset — and it’s one that Gabe Newell has stated explicitly over and over again in interviews, so it’s not a secret by any means. It sounds simpleminded, but it actually does dictate the way they do things, rather than being a Vision Bullet Point that so many companies pay lip service to — to provide the best service and experience to its customers that it can.

    But to do so, Valve’s also been a consistent champion of openness and inclusiveness. That’s been good for their business, of course, it’s not all lollipops and unicorns. Doing things like making Mac versions of PC games available on Steam for any game that has cross-platform versions for no extra charge seems like a good example of that. Steam has almost singlehandedly been responsible for the boom in indie games in recent years, made PC gaming (which many were declaring dead a few years back) vibrant again, contributed to actual growth of Mac gaming, has paved the way for digital distribution as a viable model (a lesson that Hollywood and others refuse to learn from, surprisingly), and has shown quite clearly that a significant (if not overwhelming) number of people who pirate games will actually pay for them if you make the barriers to doing so low enough.

    Granted, they’ve also made staunch anti-DRM people like me come to accept the idea, for better or worse, provided it is invisible, non-restrictive for reasonable use, and does not cause more problems that it solves. Game companies like Ubisoft, with their ludicrous DRM measures that limit number of installs, require single-player games to authenticate constantly to flaky DRM servers, and treat paying customers like thieves, just don’t get it. The simple DRM Steam implements (leaving aside other forms of it packaged into the games by individual publishers) actually allows them to add value. I’ve rebought old games just so I could have them in my Steam library, and paid for games I long ago pirated as well, and install them on demand when and where I want, without needing physical media. The whole social ecosystem around Steam just sweetens the bitter pill, detractors could well say, but I personally find almost everything Valve does as a company rewards me for patronizing them, and I will continue to do so. Much as I love Apple’s products, I often feel punished for being locked in to their ecosystem.

    So I find it hard to believe that Valve, if they do this, will make any attempt to lock in customers to their own hardware in any way. After all, the box, if it exists, will just be a PC. Presumably a powerful, well-designed, good-looking PC, but it would just be a way to make it easy for customers who want to use their giant TV screens, who like the idea of console gaming but want to play all their games from the sofa, if they choose, who can’t be bothered to build or buy their own PC for the purpose, and give them what they want in a nice, easy box.

    You have to guess, as I do, that Valve talked with the Big Boys about working together, has probably talked with the recording industry and Hollywood for that matter, and not liked what they’ve heard. I would imagine that if they do this, they’re doing it because of Gabe Newell (and the company as a whole) insisting on the road to success being paved with providing the best service possible to customers, and that just wouldn’t be possible with Steam being folded into a larger, restrictive, customer-antagonistic model.

    It also subverts the whole Apple/Sony/Xbox way of doing things nicely, if they go about it the way I think they will. Make sure it’s easy to run Origin or GoG or whatever other digital download service clients you like. Serve the customer, do not try to herd them like stupid sheep into a single corral, give them choices, and make sure your own services add so much value that they want to use them, but don’t cut off the option to use others.

    It’s brilliant, and if they do it, it might just work. I hope it does, because it shows that Valve understands that there are at least as many grownup, intelligent game enthusiasts as there are whiny children playing games these days, and that treating your customers with respect can pay off. And, like most things Valve does, it would fly in the face of companies like Ubisoft, or EA, or yes, Apple, who too often treat their users like naughty children.

    If Apple and Microsoft and Sony have walled gardens, then what I’m hoping Valve might be creating is a well-watered oasis, with unlimited potential to grow, stay open, and benefit everyone who cares about games.

  5. Debunked. (shh, don’t tell metafilter.)

  6. But what if they’re LYING?

  7. Oh, surely possible, but the rumors printed on The Verge — and they probably should have been called speculations rather than rumors — were pretty specific about the GDC2012 timeframe. So even if Valve is secretly working on hardware so they can maintain relevance in an awful post-general-computing world of tomorrow, this article was still totally just linkbait. (And so was this FPP?)

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