Valve Talks Hardware, DRM, The Future

Co-founder and managing director at Valve, Gabe Newell has said that if necessary, his firm would make its own hardware in order to "continue to have innovation."

The long time game developer and Microsoft alumni has been involved with some of the most innovative games in the past couple of decades, including the original Half Life and its sequels, as well as offshoots like Portal one and two, Counter Strike and Zombie shooter Left 4 Dead; so when it comes to staying ahead of the curve, Mr Newell knows what he's talking about - but hardware?

This hint at potential future developments came about as part of an interview with Penny Arcade, where the line that sparked interest was "If we have to sell hardware we will. 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 was however, keen to point out that in reality, Valve would rather have traditional manufacturers produce hardware, as they're good at what they do. That said, Valve works with a lot of prototypes, developing in-house technology in order to trial new things on future systems. From what has been said, it seems that if Valve spotted an opening in the market that wasn't being looked into by other firms, there's no reason it wouldn't capitalise on it.

One of the big talking points as part of the interview was wearable technology - a naming convention Mr Newell said most were keen to avoid. Large displays controlled by the body, the melding of the real world and the virtual, all of which could open some interesting avenues for more active gaming. Take the text based tag games that were around a few years ago and combine that with augmented reality visuals and you could have something quite interesting.

When asked about Digital Rights Management (DRM), Mr Newell echoed what seems to be - hopefully - a growing opinion among games developers: that it just isn't worth it. He described the closed nature of consoles and PC DRM as "frustrating" and that in talks with certain developers, he'd shown them sales figures of before and after a game's copy protection had been hacked - there was little to no difference. Taking the tack that the game maker would have lost sales due to the poor public outlook of DRM, as well as having to pay staff to deal with support calls, there are serious revenue losses attached to online passes and CD keys.

Encapsulating it quite well, Mr Newell stated: "It's a really bad idea to start off on the assumption that your customers are on the other side of some sort of battle with you."

Mr Newell has in the past described his distaste for the way Sony and Microsoft have put together their platforms, making it difficult for developers. Console exclusives and similar ties to single platforms merely mean that less customers experience the product - it doesn't lead to increased revenue. One caveat he hinted at in the interview though, was that if one manufacturer would become much more open, it would provide a massive influx of development as it gives other companies room to try new things.

As well as stating his own use of an iPad 2 and that he hopes someone will develop an improved tablet gaming interface, Mr Newell finished up with a warning for manufacturers of consoles. If innovation stops and interesting, new content is no longer being made, they will fall by the wayside like Commodore, Sega and Atari. Listening to consumers and remaining fluid and ever changing is the way forward.

Fortunately not everything needs to change all the time though, as that beard is quite awesome - hopefully it will stick around for a while.

Image and Interview source: Penny Arcade