Linux Gaming News

PC is ‘centre of innovation’, says Newell

by Seth Tipps

Valve founder outlines his company’s plans for the platform

Gabe Newell has given his second DICE talk in as many days, outlining Valve’s plans for expanding the PC ecosystem.

In the past year Valve has gone public with its plans for hardware development, switched focus to Linux, and is now talking about making Steam an API rather than an corporate-controlled store.

“We think there is going to be a fairly significant sea change of what we think a game is,” said Newell.

To Newell this rapid pace of change is all part of the platform that has defined his company since its launch.

“Over the last decade or so, the PC has really been the centre of innovation in our industry,” said Newell.

“Whether it’s MMOs, social gaming, free-to-play, or 3D graphics hardware, it’s really come out of the open competition that’s possible when you have things like the PC and the internet.”

The company began a revolution in distribution with the launch of Steam: the first major platform for digital distribution.

This has the founder thinking about games and gaming as an economy shaped by the holders of the platform.

In the past this has meant Windows, but Newell has already spoken about his fears that Microsoft is taking its operating system to a more closed model that would damage these economies that have thrived due to the open nature of the PC.

“[Linux] is something that we’re going to continue to expand on,” said Newell.

“It’s sort of a get out of jail free pass for our industry, if we need it.”

Newell says that one of the big advantages of the PC is its power as a developer platform that allows for rapid adoption of new technologies.

The birth of streaming entertainment services gave the PC yet another use, and by taking the platform to the living room Newell thinks developers will be more able to adapt to changes in these new technologies.

“There’s no evidence at all that innovation is slowing down,” said Newell.

The first option for this living room expansion is the currently available solution of plugging an HDMI cable into a television, a feature which costs the user about $100.

The issue Valve is trying to solve is standardising input models with manufacturers so that customers can have a painless experience when adopting this low-cost solution.

The second option is a console-like form factor PC in the living room designed to work with a large screen: the heart of Valve’s partnership with Xi3 and the reason behind Steam’s new big picture mode.

The third option is pretty straightforward – a more expensive living room box – playing to the scaleability of the PC.

When all is said and done, Valve hopes to have an ecosystem that is capable of harnessing the power of the biggest resource available to the PC: its community.

“Our customers have defeated us, not by a little, but by a lot,” said Newell, speaking of the massive ammounts of user-generated content now available for games like Team Fortress 2.

While Valve flatters itself with the idea that it can compete with any game developer out there, it can never hope to compete with the volume of content produced by users.

So much the better, says Newell.

“Economies get better the bigger they are.”

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