Game Direction and Blown Minds with Gabe Newell

As I try and analyze where the game industry is going and what it means for your career, Gabe Newell of Valve came down from Asgard to give us his insights on gaming at the DICE summit.  He certainly had a ton of insights to share, and I thought I’d take time to deconstruct what he said.

Fortunately arstechnica has their usual roundup here, so let’s look at the highlights.

The Living Room TV is The Next Frontier:
This is a pretty big “duh” in my book – the television has become a big monitor in front of the couch and that’s great territory to work in.  Newell says he thinks there’s going to be “tiers” of integration, which sounds likely to me.


  • Developers and hardware folks will have to consider the television in their plans.
  • For developers, the TV experience can help spread the popularity of games, but gives them one more viewing perspective to worry about.
  • I think this is a crazy enough area that there won’t be clear paths for awhile – just look at Roku, Hulu, Apple TV, the GameStick, etc.

The Possibility of High-end Living Room PCs:
This I agree on as well.  People will spend insane amounts of money on living room media equipment, and a high-end PC that is a media system (or a media system that’s a high-end PC) will be par for the course.


  • There’s going to be a market for hardware for the TV, and someone should jump on pre made, user-friendly media systems.  I’m looking at you GameStop, you need the foundation.
  • This inevitability will also permanently change what PC’s are.  They’re going to move into multifunctional living room devices and merge into consoles.
  • This trend will merge Console and PC eventually.

The Controls Of a Living Room PC Raise Questions:
Yeah, this is tough.  How do you make controls work for a TV-as-monitor approach?  I see this as further complicated by the fact that games exist on multiple devices.


  • The control question of TV PC’s has yet to be answered since no one is quite sure what the question is; innovating on the question and the solution provides opportunity.
  • A game developer who understands multiple possible control metaphors has a big advantage in the market.
  • I’d say Microsoft is ahead of the game here with their Kinect investment.

You Can’t Compete With Your Customers:
Newell notes that game players can churn out content at an incredible rate, to the extent that they’re competing with the developers or vice versa.  This has changed game economies.  I agree here.


  • Game developers and game players are now very fuzzily separated.
  • There are more game players than developers, so you are basically outnumbered.
  • I also see game-content-creation as normalizing.

Monetization Needs To Change:
Newell got pretty mind-blowing here by suggesting central gaming economies, trade among games, the ability to post bounties as quests in games, etc.  I think he’s really on to something here that gaming itself is an economy, but one that has sub-economies.  Smart people can find ways to link the economies and profits.


  • We really don’t know how to monetize games yet and need to use our imagination.  I feel a great deal of relief in just saying this, frankly.
  • Gaming’s ecosystem/economy is further becoming integrated with in-game and inter-game economies.  Embracing that is important – and is a space for innovation.  Of course it’s also a space to screw up in, so good luck.
  • Newell seemed big on free-to-play, with monetization via tools and commerce.

Changing Steam
Newell continued to get mind-blowing buy suggesting Steam could become a storefront for gamers, and someday Valve might not even be curating it.  He wants to eliminate barriers.


  • Newell loves to blow people’s minds.
  • Steam’s continuous evolution isn’t done – which means other App stores need to pay attention.
  • Steam’s possible transformation opens up many business opportunities.

I think Newell had a lot to say, and you’ll want to read or watch his comments in-depth.  But there’s a lot to chew on.

I took great comfort in hearing his words for two reasons; they expressed we’re in unknown territory and they expressed imagination in trying to ask how it runs.  I know the first feeling, but a lot of my writing lately has been more a lack of imagination and an attempt to study and understand the situation.  We need to pair the unknown with the imagination to fill in the blanks.

If you’re in a gaming career now, its weird, confusing, and strange.  If you’re trying to do an indie title it’s “here there be Dragons” on the map.  It’s OK, you’re not alone.

But it’s your imagination that is probably going to save you, because we need to think differently.  We’re not going to have much choice – but you can choose now to rethink your gaming career, monetization, and where you’re going.  You can dream up the next steps – even if they’re wrong at least you’re moving forward by choice.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at