Gabe Newell Calls Linux a ‘Get-Out-Of-Jail Free Card’

Posted on February 8, 2013 8:30 AM by Rob Williams

If I had the chance to choose someone from the gaming industry to sit down and listen to, it’d be Gabe Newell. Sure, he’s produced a couple of games that I’ve enjoyed immensely – but that’s not the reason. Rather, he seems to just “get it”, and gets what gamers want. He doesn’t rush his games because he’s not willing to risk tarnishing the nearly squeaky-clean company image that he’s worked so hard to build. He’s also full of insight, and doesn’t mind talking about the future. Oh – and he speaks his mind.


Last summer, he famously called Microsoft’s then-upcoming Windows 8 OS a “catastrophe”. He felt so strongly about that, that it was one of the driving forces behind the decision to port Steam to Linux, a process that’s currently in an open beta stage. At the DICE 2013 Summit in Las Vegas, he had further interesting thoughts about Linux:

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

That statement seems to suggest that there could be a time when game developers are tired of dealing with certain down-falls on Windows and can use a truly open Linux to build things back up. As much as I am a fan of Linux, though, something like that is a pipe dream at this point. Linux is great, but I think there’s a lot of work to be done before companies en masse decide to flock to it. It’s really hard to break free from what’s familiar when the target OS suffers quite a bit of fragmentation. Things would be easier if there was just one Linux OS, but that would of course be a horrible – and impossible – thing at the same time.

That said, the state of Linux on Steam at the moment is good, and a couple of new games are being added each week. It might take a while, but this could in fact cause other major publishers to take Linux more seriously. And I hope so, because I’d love to hear a Richard Stallman rant about EA’s ridiculous DRM on Linux.

That Linux comment wasn’t the only interesting thing Newell talked about at the conference, though. He also confirmed that he’s been in talks with J.J. Abrams about creating a Half-Life or Portal movie, and also talked about a couple of other gaming trends which we’ve heard from him before. It’s well worth checking out if you have 30 minutes to kill.

  • Marfig

    Gabe Newel talk is indeed an excelent 30 minutes well spent and he approaches many of the points of another talk he gave recently at a Texas university:

    Besides Linux, which I fully agree, there’s however troubling thoughts to his vision of computer gaming in the future and the direction Valve seems to want to take with its own games. I’ll disagree with you Rob on the matter he knows what gamers want.

    Well, obviously he does know what gamers want as a mass of consumers. But there are large groups of gamers who won’t appreciate his ideas of gaming markets where players can trade and make a few real dollars of in-game objects (I suggest anyone interested to take a deeper look at the Texas talk where he explores this concept in more detail, which also discuss btw changes to the Steam platform). Not because there is anything inherently wrong with that approach. But because these type of game systems invariably tend to affect the game design and become transversal to all aspects gameplay.

    Now, not everyone wants a game that requires the trade of goods to become playable. This is in effect a game with microtransactions. Whether Valve plans to take a percentage of the sales is irrelevant. What’s relevant is that we have a game that clearly can’t offer a successful experience to gamers if they don’t take advantage of said market.

    If this is what we can expect of future Valve games, that gaming studio will become irrelevant to me. And while I have no doubt there will be a huge market for its games, 60% of the global gaming market adopting these games, means that close to 10 million gamers won’t. So, I think Gabe Newell knows only what the majority of gamers want and that’s the only group he plans to have something to offer. I won’t argue against that, but I prefer companies who develop as a result of their passions and in the process end up with all sorts of products that can cater to a wider audience. Not companies that develop first by establishing the value of their game.

    • Rob Williams

      I haven’t watched those videos, but generally speaking, Valve hasn’t had interest in selling things in its games that can give an unfair advantage to players. In Team Fortress 2, the company DOES offer weapons, but from what I understand, none of them are overpowered. Rather, they’re just “different”. At the same time, these same weapons can be had through regular gameplay.

      I’m fine with that kind of thing. I might personally have no interest in purchasing any of it, but I am not going to fault the company for taking advantage of that sales mechanic. It’s been proven many times over that gamers WILL buy this stuff. I just don’t. And though I don’t, I haven’t yet felt like it’s affected me.

      Sadly, most F2P titles are not like that.

      • Marfig

        Well, that’s true. Gabe nowhere made any mention these would be gameplay changing items. And in retrospect it is indeed unlikely he will introduce that idea onto Valve games. Well, except perhaps on games where that type of feature is expected. MOBA, MMOs, maybe even ARPGS.

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