Valve is one of the biggest companies in all of gaming, but they often prefer to stay out of the spotlight.
Although most know it as the development studio behind Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2, Valve is much more than just a games studio. The Washington state-based company has a long history of modifying existing games and developing new series based on them. Besides that, Valve has the most popular PC gaming platform in Steam. Here’s a look at the mysterious nature of Valve Software, one of the most important companies in video game history.
The story of game developer Valve Corporation
In 1996, two Microsoft employees by the name of Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington decided to quit their jobs at Microsoft and start a video game development studio. Two years later, Valve released their first game titled Half-Life. It was an immediate success and formed the backbone of what Valve would become.
After Half-Life, the studio will officially release popular Half-Life mods such as Team Fortress Classic, Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat, etc., all based on Half-Life engine. After using a modified Quake 2 engine for his work on Half-Life Valve, he would release his own in-house engine called Source sometime later. Source remains one of the most iconic game engines even in 2022. Recent single-player titles from Valve and Dota 2 all run on the Source 2 engine, and CSGO is also expected to switch to Source 2 soon.
Valve also owns Steam, the world’s largest online digital game store. Launched in 2002 to allow Valve to update its games over the Internet, it now brings in around $3 billion or more every year.
What sets Valve apart from other developers
The first thing that separates Valve from other developers is its business model. Although known as a game developer, Valve actually makes most of its money from the Steam digital storefront. The Digital Games Retail Marketplace is the default platform where studios can publish their games. Valve’s own software tends to be free and monetized through cosmetics. Dota 2 effectively invented the seasonal battle pass and CSGO greatly innovated on the loot crate concept.
Valve is also famous for its silence. With few exceptions, Valve developers rarely talk about the company’s plans. The “show, don’t tell” system works well for most projects, but it can be frustrating to be a fan of the company’s service games like CSGO and Dota 2, or a mystery project like the infamously famous Half-Life 3.
The last big difference between Valve and most other developers is that it almost exclusively uses its own engine for development. Source and its successor Source 2 run each of Valve’s most popular games. Other developers also sometimes use Source as an engine for their own games.
Valve gets into gaming hardware with Index VR and Steam Deck
In addition to software, Valve also manufactures gaming hardware related to PC games. Valve launched the Vive virtual reality system in 2015 alongside Japanese developer HTC. It was the first room-scale virtual reality system made available to the general public at a triple-digit price. Valve would independently release an updated system called the Valve Index in 2019.
For gamers without a computer, Valve also offers the Steam Deck. The handheld is designed for playing PC games on the go, although some games are better suited to the Steam Deck than others. Valve previously worked with computer manufacturers to sell PCs called Steam Machines 2015, but that program soon died out.
Does Valve still make new video games?
Valve has transitioned from a game developer to a retailer, but the company still makes new video games from time to time.
Valve’s most recent game release is Half-Life: Alyx, a virtual reality game released in early 2020. Valve more recently created Aperture Desk Job as a tech demo for Steam Deck, but it’s not exactly a full version of the game. The studio also released several Dota 2 spinoffs in 2018 and 2020, but Artifact and Dota Underlords failed to catch on and seem to have been quickly abandoned.
Valve is often said to be working hard to produce new games, but information is scarce and dubious. The company is also famous for canceling many games and projects. Everything the studio does today could be thrown away tomorrow, so don’t expect too many new Valve games anytime soon.