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Valve would consider hardware development to drive innovation
Valve would consider hardware development to drive innovation
February 20, 2012 | By Mike Rose




Valve's Gabe Newell has suggested that the company may begin its own hardware development in the future, as this may be the only way for it to push innovation in its games.

In an interview with Penny Arcade, Newell explained that, while he would rather use hardware from other manufacturers, he would definitely consider developing hardware inside the company if necessary.

"If we have to sell hardware we will," he noted. "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 added, "It's definitely not the first thought that crosses our mind; we'd rather hardware people that are good at manufacturing and distributing hardware do that."

However, he concluded, "We think it's important enough that if that's what we end up having to do then that's what we end up having to do."


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Comments


Simas Oliveira
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Imagine a valve box, dedicated gaming PC disguised as a console. Pad support, mouse+keyboard support, cheap, steam library, semi-open platform (as opposed to sealed-shut XBL and PSN platforms). Not a bad idea...

Cody Scott
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or watch them turn to a more console developer business strategy.

Sergio Rosa
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With such long develop cycles, they'd need to get third parties making games for their hardware, or work faster, because owning a piece of hardware that gets one-two games each year doesn't sound like good business.

Michael G
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They could be a prototype company, developing the risky tech and then selling them to whoever thinks they can be developed further.

Benjamin Quintero
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Another distraction from working on HL3. Remember when Valve made games? That was cool...

Eric Weis
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Remember 2011, when Valve made one of the best games of the year?

Gil Jaysmith
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Do not be Mr Entitlement, or else old Spectrum owners like me will start banging on about Fornax and Gath, and then we'll never get anywhere.

Benjamin Quintero
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@Eric, to be clear. Valve-proper hasn't done anything since Team Fortress. Both Portal and L4D were developed by new teams or external developers that were assimilated and supported. So either Valve-proper all but left the company or they simply moved on to support them or Steam, and HL3 is the next Duke Nukem. Either way no, Valve has not made anything in a while but yes, one of the many mod teams and/or studios they've bought up has.



Nothing against Valve, love their games. But it's been a while.

Kevin Cardoza
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Benjamin, I'm sorry, but your claim is highly misleading if not a complete falsehood. For starters Left 4 Dead 2 was completely made in-house as Turtle Rock had already left. Also, do you really think Valve just hired 3 kids right out of Digipen and then those students went on to make Portal all by their lonesome? Did the original Left 4 Dead even look close to a full-price product before Valve came in? Do you really think the dozens of artists employed by Valve just sat around goofing off on a failed HL3 build while 2 artists who made TAG did the texture work of Portal 2 on their own? Also, who did the writing and scenario work for all these games? Oh, that's right, the writing team that has been working there for years.



All of the games that have been released have been made by the Valve team in it's entirety and to suggest otherwise is folly. The only difference is they hire people who prove they have good ideas - and then help them formulate them into bigger projects by incorporating them into their existing team - instead of just hiring random people with a resume and telling them what to work on.



Also, I hate to break it to you but Valve-proper is currently working on a new Counterstrike and DOTA 2. You're probably assuming Icefrog was developing that entire game from scratch so I just thought I would clarify that for you.

Benjamin Quintero
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Kevin, yes that's exactly what I meant. Icefrog was in a corner building the game by himself *eye roll*.



You are digging too deep into my words (or maybe not deep enough). My point is that Valve is no EA, they have a small and fixed resource. Every little "distraction" is chipping away at that resource. Steam, L4D, Portal, HL, DOTA, Team Fortress, Counter Strike. That's a LOT of IP's that they've bought up over their many years in business.



As a result (as you've said) many of the "proper" members have NOT been sitting around doodling cartoons. They've been (as I said) supporting each new IP that rolls in, migrated to Steam support, or shuffled into some other distraction.



Again, all good games, but it kind of stings to leave a franchise on a cliff-hanger and say "we'll be back in 5-10 years, just wait! it's going to be great!" You'd never see this happen in film or frankly any medium; after 3 years in film, its grounds for a reboot. So for me, it's all going to be a "distraction" until they sit a write an ending that feels complete, even if they leave holes for the obvious sequel to arrive in another 10 years.



Let the proper team come back together and finish what they started instead of supporting distractions, that's all I'm saying. If Blizzard can be one of the top grossing developers with maybe 3 IP's, I certainly think that Valve is in a good position to slow down on buying up more distractions, at least for a brief 18 months.

Kevin Cardoza
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I agree with you that it's dissapointing that we have had a series we love stuck on a cliffhanger since 2007 with no conclusion in sight. However, it sounds to me like the team was sick of just doing Half-Life material for well over a decade and needed a break. They aren't forcibly being distracted. The last thing I would want is a Half-Life 3 made by Valve while their hearts weren't in it. I also appreciate the fact that they aren't like Blizzard and are willing to come up with new IP.



I also think that Valve are having difficulties consolidating the fact that they always have worked as a close team who iterate constantly on ideas while the games they like to make are expected to be affairs of hundreds of people and millions of dollars.



However, please don't claim that I completely missed your point. Your two posts are there clearly to see and it's very obvious that I didn't misinterpret anything. I don't even understand what you mean by "Valve-proper". Just as they have hired new people, there are plenty of people responsible for working on the Half-Life series who no longer work there, so it's a weird request in general. On the contrary, I think the change in staff might bring new fresh ideas to the series. At the very least, as I just mentioned, the resource requirements to make an FPS in 2012 are much higher than it was in 2004.

Benjamin Quintero
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I agree with what you are saying. By "proper" I really only meant the team (whoever remained, was hired on, actively designing, etc) that was working on HL3 after HL:EP2, assuming they still use Cabals. It is entirely possible that they never even started on HL3 because of fatigue, but with trickling news and hints over the years it's hard to know if they just dropped it for another time or never started it to begin with.



I agree that I would not want an uninspired sequel either, and I probably would not want to work on the same IP for over a decade. I can understand that. It's a tough pill to swallow though. Even the links between Portal and HL seem to turn the knife a little :) but whatever they do (whenever that happens), I'm sure it's going to be great.

Chris OKeefe
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Gabe Newell uses his imagination; news at 11.



I love Valve, I love Steam, and I think Gabe is rad and a brilliant businessman. And because of that, I hate to be cynical, but is this really newsworthy? He described a far-fetched hypothetical situation in response to a question, because I'm pretty sure Gabe is not the kind of person to discount any possibility. But in terms of reporting things which have a very remote chance of happening, this one takes the cake.

Bart Stewart
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To take this seriously for a moment: what hardware would promote more/better innovation than existing PCs?



In other words, what hardware could Valve include in (or remove from) current PCs that would make it easier for Valve to sell more games by creating new kinds of gameplay? And what new kinds of gameplay require hardware other than that found on current PCs?

Darcy Nelson
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A PC and Mac-ready Kincect/Move/Wii thing? < shot in the dark

Matthew Mouras
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I think he's just speaking toward possibilities as someone above posted. What is the context? Perhaps he was just saying, "Yeah... if there's a need, we'll fill it." Nothing here seems remotely concrete to me. It's just Valve being open to deliver value to consumers... business as usual.

Bob Johnson
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He mentioned Biometrics as an example of an input device.



And he mentions that it takes a game built for the new hardware to best get it into the marketplace instead of just launching hardware and hoping someone does something with it. Give folks a reason to buy it day one.



Maybe you could call it the Nintendo model.

Jonathan Jennings
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say what you will but a console that has access to a service that offers even a quarter of the discounts of steam would be a dream come true for me . they make games and I am sure they wouldn't have too much trouble stirring up third party support.

Bart Stewart
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Not to belabor the point, but so far no one has clearly identified any feature that a "Valve console" or "portable Valve player" would have over existing PCs and laptops.



Consider: a Valve device would no doubt use Steam for authentication and content updates (and advertisements). So your Valve console would have to be attached to your phone line... and how would that work at all for a portable Valvebox?



Further, a Valvebox -- just like XWiiStations -- would be instantly obsolete. Valve games would be tied to specific iterations of the hardware, maybe playable on future iterations, maybe not. And how does being tied to instantly-obsolete hardware support "innovation" in game features? As it is now, by designing for general PC hardware, Valve can make games that run (and sell) for years, and that run faster/better all the time -- what could be worth giving that up?



I'm not blindly resistant to the idea that there's some kind of hardware Valve could make that would enable the design and development of more innovative games than they already make. I'm just not seeing what that might be, and so far no one here is clearly stating any possible examples of hardware that would accomplish that goal.

Bob Johnson
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Well I think the market is ripe for the picking by the first company to make an all digital console and pass the savings onto consumers and developers.



The analogy would be Sony, the PS1 and the cd. Wasn't the cd and its low cost the big reason for the PS1's massive "overnight" success?



But I think Newell was more focused on input devices like biometrics. Like how about Left 4 Dead and something that measures your heartbeat etc?

Bart Stewart
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The idea of carefully chosen peripheral hardware seems more plausible than an entire new gaming device.



Although music peripherals seem to have run their course (or have they?), there probably are some other doodads you could plug into a USB port that would enable different kinds of fun than those available today. Biometrics is one possibility, although that feels a little 1970s "mood ring"-ish to me.



Is the time right for the return of flightsticks? "Half-Life 3: Air Gordon"

Jane Castle
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Anyone remember this debacle?:



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAKuz5eB5jA



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phantom_Entertainment



http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/news/2007/06/true-infinium-stories
-the-73-million-phantom.ars

Chris Melby
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Yep. I saw their booth at E3 years back and something I noticed, is that their so-called console was just a plastic shell with really heavy cables going out the back into an out-of-place 1970 era Sony receiver -- which I'm pretty sure was just a camouflaged PC.



So something like one of these old Sonys;

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-oqx_MkL-NOo/TXvHv7dox_I/AAAAAAAADHk/HlN
fR-REMR8/s1600/front%2Blit.jpg

Chris Melby
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A Valve pc-console -- if that's what Gabe is referring/hinting to -- could stifle innovation on the PC if it took off.

David Peterson
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Perhaps it's not a console, but rather some specialist hardware allows something actually new? I don't see any particular 'innovation' that a Valve-created PC/console would, but it's been a long time since there was any new hardware that actually allowed any new abilities that weren't just prettier versions of what we have now or new variations on user input (Wii/Kinect). AI? Multiplayer? What other areas could use custom hardware?

Jeremie Sinic
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I think instead of actually creating hardware (which as Bart Stewart above mentioned would be rendered obsolete too fast), they could create a label or certification that manufacturers could apply to, such as "Valve-certified".



It could have various levels as well to reflect the actual power of the device.



It would come loaded with Steam.



Gaming-only devices as well as Windows-compatible PCs.



Valve could also require manufacturers to include some specific peripherals, such as a Kinect-like camera.



The goal of all this would be to create visibility and spare customers the struggle of comparing PC specs and prices between hundreds of models, references.



There are already PC gaming brands, but in the end if you are not into PC hardware it can be a daunting task to choose between an Alienware, HP or other gaming rig.

What if people just had to care whether it's a "Valve-certified PC" or not?



As a former console gamer who bought his first "real" desktop gaming PC (custom build) to play "real Skyrim" and accessorily BF3, I can say it took me like a week of active research to actually get a grab of all the components, available brands and figure out what I actually needed. Just look at the motherboards: there are tenths of references from each vendor. It creates such a noise that it's easy to feel overwhelmed, like looking for a needle in a haystack. I actually somewhat enjoyed looking into it but I think most "normal" people would have given up a long time ago.

Ultimately though, I had to ask for some advice from friends, who all had different opinions.

That's when I realized the appeal of Apple and their streamlined line of product (although not for gaming), as well as the appeal of consoles.



Consoles sell because when you buy a console, you don't have to worry if games are going to run well on them or not, and (less and less true, sure) it's ready to play with the push of a button.



So to summarize, if Valve could create something that facilitates overall access to PC gaming, that would surely help a lot of gamers step into the PC gaming world.

Harry Fields
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Diversifying into an area you have absolutely no experience in is probably not the best way for valve to grow. Leave the hardware to the hardware guys and keep the focus on what you guys do best. It's been working thus far, no?

Allen Brooks
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Let's time travel to see what comments Harry left in 2003!



>>



Diversifying into an area you have absolutely no experience in is probably not the best way for valve to grow. Leave the digital distribution to the digital distribution guys and keep the focus on what you guys do best. It's been working thus far, no?

Trevor Howden
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If Valve could make something like a Amiga or Spectrum and make it an open (or semi open) platform it would rock.



Still its risky, I would hate to lose Valve if this turns out to be a flop


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