The Valve business approach is a unique one. Essentially, they recruit a bunch of the best minds, give them a desk with wheels and plenty of freedom to work with anyone they want on any project that they find interesting. Valve CEO and co-founder, Gabe Newell explains that the company works well because of this ethos – but it also means we probably won’t be seeing another Half Life.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Newell explains:
When we started out we were a single-player video game company that could have been really successful just doing Half-Life sequel after Half-Life sequel, but we collectively said let’s try to make multi-player games even though there’s never been a commercial successful multi-player game.
So, rather than a new Half-Life game, we got Dota 2. It’s completely different to Half-Life, and yet Valve did the impossible and made a commercial success out of a multiplayer game. So what comes next? Will we ever see another Half-Life sequel? Well, maybe:
One of the nice things about having pretty distributed decision-making in the company is that it tends to scale really well. You can trust that lots of good decisions are being made all the time.[…] We’ve essentially crowd-sourced supervision of a lot of these decisions to our customers and it works way better than almost any other system we could design. They’re rabid, they’re passionate, and there are a lot of them.
There are definitely enough rabid and passionate fans who are desperate for Half-Life 3, so will that push someone at Valve to make it? Well, maybe. It seems that everyone over at Valve is based on pet projects – not everyone agrees with what other people are doing, but they each have a project that they’re happy to work on. If someone decides to make Half-Life 3, they’ll have plenty of support, but there isn’t any push from “higher ups” to make that happen.
Then we tried to do Steam. There were a bunch of people internally who thought Steam was a really bad idea, but what they didn’t think was that they would tell the people who were working on Steam what to do with their time. They were like “that’s what you want to do with your time, that’s fine, but we’re going to spend our time working on Half-Life 2. We think you’re kind of wasting your time, but it’s your time to waste.
I wonder if working on Half-Life 3 would now be seen as a waste of time – everyone is busy working on SteamOS, Steam Machines, or the next new awesome game/product. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing, to be honest. Of course, everyone who loved Half-Life is desperate for more. However, don’t we also keep complaining about franchises that churn out sequels year after year, selling out. At least we know that we won’t see a half-baked Half-Life sequel – if it does ever get made, it will be a pet project filled with plenty of love and passion.