In every area of technology, we have figureheads. For the desktop, laptop, and now even smartphones, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs should both be names that ring bells. For our internet and social networking, someone like Mark Zuckerburg is viewed as the key example. For many years now, and especially for those of us with personal computers, gaming has been represented very well by a man named Gabe Newell.
Gabe Newell isn’t the genius behind the Xbox, PlayStation, or any Nintendo consoles. Gabe Newell isn’t behind any of the games in the Call of Duty franchise. What Gabe always has done is care about PC gamers and deliver the things we want and expect from his company, Valve. In this post, I’d like to give MakeUseOf a proper introduction to the world of Valve, Steam, and Gabe Newell himself.
Who is Gabe Newell?
Gabe Newell is a Harvard University dropout who worked with Microsoft for 13 years. After leaving Microsoft, Gabe and a friend (and fellow Microsoft employee) named Mike Harrington decided to build up Valve Software, their own game studio, in 1996.
The first game that Valve would begin developing was one built off of the Quake engine. It was called Half-Life, and lives on today as one of the greatest first-person shooters ever. Since then, the Valve team has put out several other game series, such as Counter-Strike, Portal, and Left 4 Dead. These games resonate with FPS fans worldwide.
More famous and beloved than any of the games that his studio has designed is the digital distribution platform that Valve has managed to put together. Steam is a project that has grown from being that thing that came attached to Counter-Strike 1.6, to playing host to the internet’s biggest gaming storefront and community.
What is Steam?
MakeUseOf features a whole heap of articles on the subject, and you’ll be pressed to find a gamer who isn’t a huge fan of Steam. It is a client from Valve that handles digital distribution, rights management, and communications for a community of more than 50 million gamers worldwide. The platform has seen over 6.6 million concurrent players and holds onto a huge majority of the digital distribution market in gaming.
Steam is an application that is available for Windows, OS X, Linux, and is slowly moving its way into consoles. On your desktop or laptop, Steam can be downloaded, and you can create a free account in just minutes. With this account, you have immediate access to thousands of games through their storefront (including some that are free) and a community of millions of gamers.
Steam allows you to immediately purchase, download, and play a game. You can log in to your Steam account from any computer and get access to your synchronized content. It’s as close to having a gaming console within the cloud as we’ve ever seen. That being said, Valve is even pushing their way into the console market with the announcement of Steam Box. The future for Steam is huge.
Why do gamers like Gabe Newell and Steam?
Gamers are a hard crowd to please, and running the biggest digital distribution platform for video games can’t be easy. Digital rights management is a tough thing to deal with, but it seems as if Valve and Steam have mostly always managed to please and impress the gaming community with decision after decision. But how?
Gabe Newell and Steam both have a cult following behind them that seem as polarized as Gabe’s own views on the competition around him. One reason that gamers love Gabe is because he isn’t shy about voicing his opinions on hot topics in technology and gaming. Gabe has called the PlayStation 3 a “waste of everybody’s time” in the midst of harsh criticism against the console. The Xbox Live service has been dubbed a “train wreck” by Gabe. More recently, Gabe pointed to Windows 8 as a “threat to the usually open nature of PC gaming.”
Another large reason that Gabe has such a crazed following behind him is because his studio has put out some awesome games. Valve does great work, and Gabe ensures that the quality of games that they ship is always as high as possible. From a corporate perspective, Gabe is looked at as one of the good guys. Valve strives to avoid DRM and they regularly run game giveaways and encourage modifications and the development of add-ons for their games.
Gabe is an active part of the gaming community. Valve makes games because they love them, and he values giving work to people who are truly creative and those who enjoy what they do. Gabe has been known to respond individually to emails sent to him from gamers, and he doesn’t take his billionaire fortune for granted. He is genuinely a good person from the perspective of the gaming community.
Should I like Gabe Newell and Steam?
Are you a PC gamer? Do you value easy access to thousands of games? Do you want to spend your money with a company that seems conscious of what gamers want? If so, Gabe Newell and Steam should be close to your heart!
Gabe has his own fan club over at Reddit, and looking through the first few pages can offer dozens of additional reasons on why you should like the guy. Everyone likes huge sales on games, right? Steam has one every single summer, and unfortunately you just missed it! Thankfully, there are always more.
What do MakeUseOf readers think about Gabe Newell, Valve, and Steam? I’d be interested in your opinions in the comments section below. Drop me a line and we’ll talk about it!