Valve co-founder Gabe Newell: Linux is a “get-out-of-jail free pass for our industry”

Valve co-founder Gabe Newell just gave a 30-minute keynote at the DICE 2013 Summit in Las Vegas. He didn’t make any huge product or game announcements — sorry, Half-Life 3 fans — and rather focused on how Valve is re-thinking what games are and how you sell them.

You can watch the speech in full above (skip to 26-minute mark). Here are some of the main points he brought up:

  • He began by giving two main points: “The P.C. ecosystem is going to expand into the living room,” and that “the game business will increasingly be focused around building and exchanging digital goods and services.”
  • Newell said that the PC has struggled with input in terms of keeping up with devices like the Wii and iPad. But he did add that the PC has “really been the center of innovation in video games,” and that the PC already has a big ecosystem with lots of investment of other multimedia services like Hulu, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • He said that when Valve has moved its games to the free-to-play platform, they’ve seen a 10x increase in users and 3x increase in revenue. “Photoshop should be a free-to-play game,” he added.
  • He talked a lot about user-generated content and the importance of it. Newell said Valve has people who are making $500,000 a year selling content in the Steam Workshop. “Years ago, a game’s content was privileged. Now we’re seeing users doing a better job of generating content than we are. It’s all about enabling that productivity and engagement.” He also thinks that users should be able to go in and create their own versions of stores that can sit on the front end of the Steam store.
  • He said that Steam for Linux gives people freedom to innovate on an alternate operating system. “It’s a get-out-of-jail free pass for our industry if we need it,” he said. We’ll assume that he’s referring to Windows there. It’s no secret that Newell is not a big fan of Windows 8.
  • He mentioned that Valve is developing console form-factor PCs — a.k.a. the Steam Box — much like the one shown off at CES last month.
  • Newell said he thinks there’s a place for cloud gaming in the future, but “not as a core architecture for delivering games to consumers.”
  • Newell did mention the threat of Apple. “I’m not so scared about consoles, but about Apple. They have device scale and a natural path to the living room.”

Yesterday, Newell was on stage and confirmed that he has plans to work on a ‘Half-Life’ and ‘Portal’ movie with director J.J. Abrams.

Newell has made headlines in the past few months with his theory of the gaming PC moving into the living room. Newell has discussed “stronger-than-expected” reactions to Steam’s TV-friendly “Big Picture” mode and said he expects PC companies to soon start selling computers designed to hook up to your TV and run Steam immediately.

Newell also said recently that Valve will build its own gaming computer, but added that its hardware package “will be a very controlled environment.”

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  • guest

    “I’m not so scared about consoles, but about Apple. They have device scale and a natural path to the living room.”

    What I’ve been saying for some time. The company now best positioned to “own the living room” in addition to gaming overall isn’t Sony, Nintendo, or Microsoft. It’s Apple. Nobody would have predicted that a decade ago. And they did it without the huge losses incurred by Sony and MS. That’s smart strategy in action.

    • Nicholas Loomans

      I wouldn’t call it a smart strategy so much as dumb luck.

      • anon

        Exactly, and they already tried to get the living room. The Apple TV was a bad piece of hardware in practice running even worse software.

      • John Bitme

        Uh. It’s dumb luck that they designed the first tablet and smartphone with mass-market appeal, even though tablets were considered dead and smartphones an established market? And then made those devices stream to people’s TVs?

        • Nicholas Loomans

          People had done these devices before and were currently doing them, but that wasn’t what I meant.
          The ‘natural path to the living room’ was predicated on casual games and apps on devices. Steve Jobs hated putting apps on his iDevices and it took Apple ages to acknowledge that people used their stuff for gaming.
          My opinion anyways.

        • Joe_HTH

          Linda, I realize you’re probably one of the Apple sheep, but Apple didn’t invent any of those categories. As for Apple TV, it’s been complete failure to this point.

    • Joe_HTH

      You’re an idiot. Apple TV is an abject failure, getting trounced in sales by an Xbox product that is three times the cost. It also does not offer anywhere near the quantity or quality of services and entertainment that Xbox Live offers. Microsoft is in a far better position than Apple in this space.

      “And they did it without the huge losses incurred by Sony and MS.

      More ignorance and stupidity. Microsoft has been making a killing on Xbox, and the Xbox division has been profitable for 6 years now, pulling in almost 400 million in profit last quarter. You need to get a clue.

  • Steven Ortiz

    Consoles need to die. They keep holding back the type of realism only PC hardware can deliver. Holding on to consoles is like a lot of people holding onto 1980′s cars.

    • http://playstationlifestyle.net/ Paulmichael Contreras

      Yes, because all that matters when you play a game is how pretty the polygons look. Not ease of setup, nor playing on a level field when playing multiplayer, nor guaranteed, consistent playability of every game for your platform. Come on, consoles definitely have their upsides.

      • http://eaglehooves.deviantart.com/ Eaglehooves

        You could argue that Valve is making a case for PCs streamlining setup, and that a “Steam Box” could provide a minimum hardware standard, while leaving the door open to extreme graphics for those who choose to go above and beyond.

        Either consoles will start doing more PC things or PCs will become more living room friendly, but the tech industry is not a fan of the status quo.

        • http://playstationlifestyle.net/ Paulmichael Contreras

          Ah, but when talking about consoles you’ve moved into the entertainment industry, where they are very much fans of the status quo. I think the main thing that will continue into the next generation of consoles is that the PS4 will still include the ability to swap out hard drives. Though Microsoft made plenty of money charging exorbitant amounts of money for their hard drive upgrades, so I’m sure Sony is considering going the same route, unfortunately…

        • Joe_HTH

          Steambox is DOA. Consumers and casual gamers don’t give a damn about a Steambox. The only people that would be interested in a Steambox already have a Steambox, called a Windows PC. Many of these people have created home theater PCs that are already connected to their TVs in their living rooms. Not to mention Steambox is going to be expensive, because OEMs are not going to lose money to subsidize this ridiculous product. It also won’t run 95% of the games available on Steam.

          • symbolset

            Microsoft thought they could do an end around the GabeN. They might have remembered that he used to be the guy who did that for them and play him a little different. But no.

    • David Wonderly

      When a PC capable of gaming catches up in low prices like consoles, they will become more attractive. You can’t get a gaming PC for $300 like you can a console. It’s that simple.

      • rootninja

        You can get a PC of the xbox360/ps3 vintage for under $300 no problem. The current generation of consoles are getting quite long in the tooth. I mean come on, the xbox 360′s video card is a modified Nvidia 9800gtx for crying out loud.

        • Nathan O

          Well the thing is 7 years old

        • Jones

          Whilst this is true you do forget the fact that consoles can access their hardware directly while PC’s, because the target hardware is unknown, have to suffer relatively enormous bottlenecks to do the same thing.

          There are all sorts of tricks you can do on the consoles that you have to go via layers of annoying rubbish on PCs to achieve the same. Easiest way to proove it, get a similar spec PC to a 360 or PS3 and run a game that is available on both, you will notice the console one is far far better.

          So, it is incorrect / pointless to directly compare PC hardware against consoles as console power comes a lot from the direct access and clever tricks employed by developers that just cannot be done on PC.

          Of course an expensive PC blows a console out the water through sheer brute force.

        • Ballofsteel

          The Xbox Xenon GPU has a similar architecture to the x1800 ._. not a 9800GTX. 9800 GTX came out way later than the xbox. If by Ps3, it has a gpu like 7800 with ROPs like 7600

  • lacinyC

    Linux is the future of PC gaming.

    Valve will blow everything up and gather most of the market shares with their move towards open platforms.

    • Derp

      Because that has been so true of everything Linux over the past 30 years of claiming they’re better. Users still have to be able to figure out the operating system in order to play the game; Linux will never accomplish that.

    • Joe_HTH

      LOL! Linux isn’t the future of squat, except the future of dead platforms with 1% market share. Nobody is going to waste money porting games to an irrelevant platform. OS X has at least 6 times the market share of Linux, and it still gets very few games.

      • symbolset

        Maybe you’ve heard of Android/Linux, the platform that shifts 2 million units a day, has a billion user installed base and is looking to be the default OS for client systems everywhere?

  • Anony Mous

    The future is VR videogames outside in the open. Where people run about and are physically and mentally in the game. Without physical exertion you just don’t get that wonderful endorphin rush that comes with victory.

    Americans should be bored of sitting on their fat asses by now, anyways. The future of gaming is outdoors.

    • Thomas

      You hardly played a game recently, did you?

    • Joe_HTH

      Let me guess, a stupid European. I’ve been to Europe many times, and I’ve seen a lot of fat asses over there. You’re one to talk.

  • v_volker

    The Lord has spoken!

  • Joe_HTH

    LOL! Gabe Newell is a fat idiot. If he thinks OEMs are going to lose money on his stupid Steambox product, which can’t run 95% of the games for Steam, he is crazy as hell. It’s time for Microsoft to squash his lard ass.

    • symbolset

      Microsoft decided to “squash his lard ass” while he was still a loyal Windows developer with their Windows App store that Steam isn’t welcome in. The Steambox is his response to Microsoft’s attempt to take his money.