Steam vs. Apple and Gabe to the Future
According to Gaben, the largest threat for the upcoming Steambox will not be home video game consoles, but Apple. Speaking in not one, but two lectures at the University of Texas' LBJ School of Public Affairs, he had some very pointed things to say about Apple, consumers and the entertainment medium as a whole. "I think that there's a scenario where we see sort of a dumbed down living room platform emerging — I think Apple rolls the console guys really easily." Ouch! It's okay Gaben, don't hold back, tell them what you really feel. Harsh words indeed, though honestly, I have to agree with him. Leaving aside the obligatory console/PC pissing contests, the mass market always has, and always will, favoured the simple fix. The success of the mindless action movies of the eighties and special FX laden blockbusters of the current era attest to that fact. The key to success, often, lays in appealing to the lowest common denominator. But that's just my ten cents worth. Have a gander at the transcript below I know it's a lengthy read, but well worth it.
"The threat right now is that Apple has gained a huge amount of market share, and has a relatively obvious pathway towards entering the living room with their platform. I think that there's a scenario where we see sort of a dumbed down living room platform emerging — I think Apple rolls the console guys really easily. The question is can we make enough progress in the PC space to establish ourselves there, and also figure out better ways of addressing mobile before Apple takes over the living room? Companies attempting to make that jump with the PC platform need to sell the strengths of their hardware to find footing in the living room, Newell said — factors like increased hard drive space, customizable form factor and the ability to utilize hardware that the consumer may already own. I think a whole bunch of hardware companies are going to be releasing products in the next 12 months — you'll hear it referred to as Miracast, [Project] Shield from NVidia, or lots of other people. There are going to be a huge set of products that say, 'If you want something that's incredibly cheap, at a price point well below anything that consoles will be able to reach, you're going to take advantage of the PC that's running somewhere in your house.' It's like one of those things where afterwards it will seem like it was very simple, when beforehand, everyone sort of denied that it was possible. "It's like one of those things where afterwards it will seem like it was very simple, when beforehand, everyone sort of denied that it was possible. We're happy to do it if nobody else will do it, mainly because everybody else will pile on, and people will have a lot of choices, but they'll have those characteristics. They'll say, 'Well, I could buy a console, which assumes I'll re-buy all my content, have a completely different video system, and, oh, I have a completely different group of friends, apparently. Or I can just extend everything I love about the PC and the internet into the living room. The biggest challenge, I don't think is from the consoles. I think the biggest challenge is that Apple moves on the living room before the PC industry sort of gets its act together."
All done? Good, because there's a whole lot more. Going back to the video above, because none of the above was contained within. Gaben, sporting a kickass beard and looking a lot slimmer than we're used to (maybe he finally stopped eating the Half -Life 3 code D: and we'll actually see it before the end of time!) spoke candidly about his experience with Microsoft and the formation of Valve. Paying special attention to how the Valve business model is so radically different. Things such as looking for the highest cost programmers who can produce 4000 lines of code a day, over the cheapest that may only produce a quarter of that. A strong commentary regarding value over cost.
I could go on for hours talking about everything, I really could. I know it's a lengthy presentation, clocking in at a meaty sixty-two minutes, but it is well worth your time. It's a fascinating panel, with so much content that I don't know how to pick out the important parts, because it's all important. There will inevitably be raised eyebrows when I comment on one point, whilst neglecting another. So, as best I can, I draw your attention to what Gabe had to say about user involvement. Specifically that Valve will happily go toe to toe with any content developer in the world. Except their own customers. Because they know they can never match us for productivity. Take note of that, because if you show loyalty and commitment to them, as Gabe himself says, there will be vast opportunities for you to work closely and, best case scenario so far, net yourself a hefty paycheque of over half a million dollars, in a year, just for playing Valve games.
But I'd say the biggest news to come out of this is Valve's ultimate goal to separate Steam from the company as a whole. As things currently stand, they simply do not have the manpower to keep up with all of the people who want their products made available. As Gaben put it, Steam has become a bottleneck which, whilst a potentially good thing at times, creating an artificial demand, only serves to screw things up for everyone in the long run. Games aren't out there when they need to be, the consumer has to wait longer, all that kind of thing. So their plan is to make Steam more like an open forum which, eventually, hopefully, will be, I guess, the digital gaming version of EBay. Anyone can put anything on there at any time. Directly, instead of having to wait for the much maligned and much loved Valve staff.
There is more, so very, very much more. Including Gaben showing an overwhelming, untapped ability for genius stand-up, but this is already a dissertation of a news piece. So I shall leave you with one recommendation. Watch the video, all of it. I did, and it was fascinating. For those who do, the whole thing, comment 'boo fish' below to show your E-peen. Everyone else...say it anyway. Because, reasons.