In the latest console generation, Valve expanded its PC focus to include Xbox 360 and PS3 ports of popular games like The orange box, Portal 2and the Left 4 Dead series. However, in a wide media roundtable this week, Valve’s Gabe Newell said the consoles’ “walled garden” isn’t a place he’d like to revisit. However, some of its complaints seem a bit outdated now that we are well into a new console generation.
Newell suggested that people he’s worked with on the console side seemed a bit retrograde in their thinking about business models. “We get really frustrated when we work in walled gardens,” he said, as reported by Eurogamer. “So you try to talk to someone who does product planning on a console about free-to-play games and they say, ‘Oh, we’re not sure if free-to-play is a good idea’ and you say, ‘The ship has left.’ “
That console’s free-to-play resistance may have been more true in 2012, when Valve last ported a game to home consoles (Counterattack: GO). However, in the years since, both Sony and Microsoft seem much more willing to embrace full games that can be played without paying a dime. Popular free-to-play PC titles like World of Tanks, hawkenand To beat all do well on both the PS4 and Xbox One. Both console makers have also invested in a few free-to-play exclusives in recent years: gigantic and Happy Wars on Xbox One and Planet side 2 and Let it die on the PS4, just to name a few.
Newell said he is also annoyed by the red tape that prevents the release of quick updates on consoles and mobile platforms such as iOS. “There have been instances where we have updated products five to six times a day [on Steam]he told Eurogamer. “When we did the original iOS or Steam app, well, we sent it, we got a whole bunch of feedback and like the next day we are ready to do an update. We haven’t been able to get that update for six months!
“I’m sure other people are hugely successful in those environments, but some sort of our DNA usually doesn’t work well when someone is trying to bring a lot of process between us and our customers,” he continued.
Complaints like this were common in console development in 2012. Fez developer Phil Fish expressed complaints about the high cost and long wait times for “recertification” of simple patches for console releases, especially on the Xbox 360. Those complaints were shared by many other independent developers, some of whom described the console update process as ” unbearable.”
In the years since, however, there are signs that Microsoft has taken steps to streamline the Xbox publishing process. Since 2013, the company has let developers self-publish on the console (rather than forcing them to use Microsoft as an intermediary). Microsoft has also eliminated fees for certification and title updates, and the ID@Xbox program that replaced Xbox Live Arcade has taken steps to streamline that “unbearable” certification process.
Whatever the changes to the console environment in recent years, Newell’s past experience with non-PC platforms has clearly left a bad and lasting taste in his mouth. On the other hand, if we had direct access to tens of millions of potential customers through our own PC platform, we would probably also be suspicious of the hassles associated with other platforms.