Valve has earned a reputation as one of the most groundbreaking and innovative development studios in the video game industry. Over its nearly 24-year lifespan, the company has produced some of the most genre-defining titles in gaming, across an impressive array of genres.
However, Valve’s reputational and financial success today enjoys a double-edged sword. With the lucrative system the company has had in place for quite some time through the Steam Marketplace, contemporary Valve titles are in short supply.
How Valve Became a Success
Valve’s rise to the forefront of the saturated world of game development hasn’t been meteoric, but the result of consistent, high-quality production over the decades. A few years after its creation by Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington, ex-Microsoft employees, Valve launched half-life: a first-person shooter widely regarded as one of the most groundbreaking titles of all time. The company has identified and acquired popular mods to develop into standalone versions. For example, during this period Valve acquired the developers of the two Team Fortress and Counter-Strike, two games that would also go on to be a resounding success under Valve.
With the advent of Valve’s versatile Source game engine, Half Life 2 was released in 2004, achieving levels of critical acclaim that surpassed its predecessor. To play the title on PC, gamers had to download Valve’s own delivery platform called Steam, which launched in 2002. Steam started out as a digital launcher only for Valve titles, but soon began hosting as well. third-party titles. As a result, Valve’s business scope has expanded exponentially.
Valve released well-received episodic sequels for Half Life 2, with episode one and episode two released in 2006 and 2007, respectively. In what was arguably Valve’s golden year, both Gate and Team Fortress 2 also released alongside Half Life 2: Episode 2 in 2007. Valve then released left for dead and Left 4 Dead 2 in 2008 and 2009. With these games each excelling as first-person shooters, arena shooters, puzzle platformers, and co-op survival experiences, Valve’s versatility was impressive.
The popular Counter-Strike: Source received its next iteration in 2012 with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. A more tactical and serious arena shooter, Global Offensive would become one of the creators of microtransaction games, offering players the chance to unlock rare skins that could be sold for real money on the Steam Marketplace. With individual players spending thousands of dollars on CS: GO for these skins, as well as the equally significant in-game savings of titles such as Team Fortress 2Valve has crossed a new frontier of video game revenue.
Compounding this success, the Steam platform has quickly become the number one showcase for PC gaming. With the platform commanding up to 70% of total PC game downloads in 2011, Valve had stumbled upon an untapped goldmine that would lead to a complete shift in values and output. Steam alone generated $4.3 billion for Valve in 2017, the need for Valve to keep producing games at the same pace is therefore gone.
How Valve Works Today
After the success of the Steam platform, people only have to look at what titles Valve released after 2012 to see its changing values. While 2013 DOTA 2 proved to be Valve’s popular foray into the MOBA genre, it is seen by many as marking the end of Valve’s focus on game production/development.
Valve is now more focused on increasing Steam’s market share, and it’s trying to do that in a number of ways. For example, Valve recently launched the Steam Deck console. The Portable Steam Deck was developed to revolutionize PC gaming by making it much more mobile, giving gamers the ability to play their Steam game library on the go. With the revenue Steam generates for Valve, it’s clear that developing new games has become a priority.
While Valve can’t be blamed for this shift in core values, it’s a shame to see such a promising catalog of titles remain in a perpetual state of emptiness. With hopeful fans of potential Half Life 3 being constantly teased for over a decade, the profit margins Valve already has in place can help even the most optimistic fans rationalize the lack of new Valve securities.
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