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Is the PC the home of innovation? Gabe Newell thinks so

Is the PC the home of innovation? Gabe Newell thinks so

Sep 19, 2013

 Gaming fans worldwide are often split by their favouritism between PC gaming and consoles. PC gaming is often named ‘elitist’, whereas consoles are viewed as more casual. Gabe Newell has come out to say that he believes that the PC holds the most potential, and is where innovation occurs within the gaming industry. A gaming messiah to some, it seems Steam can currently do no wrong.

“It’s not on the consoles, it’s not on any of the closed systems where any of the innovation is happening; it’s happening to the extent to which openness is embraced by the underlying platform.”

The PC gaming prophet

Gabe believes that openness is equivalent to innovation, as anything is possible. This is why Valve have opted for a Linux-based Steam Box, with other platforms being too constrictive, resisting innovating for the future. They plan to unify the mobile, desk, and living room experiences through Linux. Of course, he is inclined to state that PC gaming is the best experience possible, yet bias aside, the man has a lot of logic on his side.

Devices such as tablets, smart phones, and smart TV’s all challenge the PC. They provide easy access to apps and websites you previously needed to boot your computer up for. And because of this, unless a PC is needed for a specifically lengthy or technical job, people are not using their PC’s. And with this, comes a lack of sales as the alternatives prove to be much more promising, and aesthetically more appealing than the classic powerhouse computer. People just don’t seem to want to sit at a desk anymore when you can browse on a different device in the palm of your hand. PC sales are in double digit declines, and despite all this, Steam is on the up. Gabe claims that Steam is “going up 76% year over year”, despite the recent trends in hardware. Something quite extraordinary.

Yet as the casual and mobile market expands, this questions whether the console is rendered more serious. People who previously bought a Wii for example, may be quite content with playing puzzle games on their iPad. So does that leave console users as a more serious gaming community? When consoles are costing from £350 to £450, it may put off those who are not dedicated to gaming. However, people may also question why they don’t just buy a better computer, and be able to play the same games on there, (except exclusives, of course).

As a platform, the PC allows pretty much anyone to develop and release their own independent game. And Valve is attempting to help this process, with Steam Greenlight. With this, comes a lot of new ideas that AAA titles, mostly released on consoles, cannot replicate. This is partly due to the financial risks, but when games are such huge hits, business is more important than money. But indie gamers who want to make a game for fun are at home on the PC, and have been doing so for some time. It is only with the release of the PS4 and Xbox One that Sony and Microsoft are making a big deal out of indie gaming. Sony dedicated 90 minutes to discussing indie gaming at Gamescom, and is sure to explode. Yet this is old news for those on the PC, years ahead of their console counterparts.


Steam Box: Gabe’s vision of the future


Digital distribution, as a method of selling games, was pioneered by the PC gaming market. Steam, Gabe’s distribution service under the Vavle moniker, was one of the first to offer such a model, and is a colossal success. Also, the free-to-play model that is becoming so popular on smart devices and on consoles, originates from the world of computer gaming. This trend is sure to continue into the next-generation, as many free-to-play games are available at launch, such as PS4’s Warframe and DriveclubThe concept of social gaming, with online multiplayer and co-operative games online only truly made a debut on current consoles, with the original Xbox and PS2 online capabilities being limited. The first console to attempt this, the Dreamcast, was nothing short of a failure. Yet the PC had this function for years. Also, MMO’s are becoming popular on consoles just now, again transferring from the PC, where the genre has been a staple for an age, with games like World of Warcraft and Everquest. Again, next-gen systems are finally getting the true MMO experience, with The Elder Scrolls Online, and recently Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.

These facts show that there is truth to the matter, whatever your opinion on innovation in the industry. If the last few decades tell us anything, then it’s that innovation has largely been made on the PC, with current gaming trends having been commonplace on the PC for quite some time now. Lacking any mystic foresight, it seems Gabe may be correct when he explores how this is sure to continue.

Gabe Newell thinks that it is the innovation of the PC gaming market that has allowed his company to expand whilst the hardware it relies on is becoming less popular. Despite this, they are future-proofing the company to some extent, as news of the Steam Box is fairly imminent, moving their gaming experience from the desk to the comforts of the sofa, on your television. The Big Picture mode is just the start, allowing functionality with a controller, and easier access to your games. Recently they announced Family Sharing, responding to gamers outcries of being unable to lend digital copies of games, and also opening up to ‘borrowing’ games from friends. This could pave the way for rendering the physical format obsolete.

These are bold new moves from the company, and is something that console creators have not considered. If this trend continues, perhaps Sony or Microsoft will adopt it in the near future. Steam is now fully established as software and a digital distribution service, and is genuinely adored by the community. It seems now, if they focus on hardware, and overcome the lackluster appeal of the PC, then their legacy is sure to continue.




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