Once upon a time there was a little developer called Valve. Valve was seen as the “scrappy rebel” of the gaming industry; they weren’t as big or powerful as some of the bigger developers, but they were just as influential. Valve showed the importance of a game’s story with Half-Life and Portal. Valve’s made huge splashes on multiplayer gaming with Counter Strike, Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead and DOTA 2. They were essentially gaming’s Pixar, a company that could do no wrong and had a legion of die-hard fans. In recent years, Valve has risen in power and is now one of the most powerful companies in the industry; with this rise in power, Valve’s image has started to crack and the question comes up… Has Valve lost its soul?
One of the biggest changes to the company was the introduction of Steam. Steam is perhaps the most important thing Valve’s done; it brought PC gaming from being a dying niche to something that not only rivals console gaming, but is in the process of overtaking it. I can’t stress how important Steam has been to gaming, in the future it’ll be looked upon as a major milestone in the history of the industry. But at the same time, it’s been a double edged sword for Valve. On one hand, it has helped progressed the industry as well as making Valve a ton of money and giving them a lot of influence. But on the other, it seems the company has shifted from being a creative powerhouse to being focused on Steam. Instead of producing original content, Valve now seems perfectly fine with selling other peoples’ games. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is a far cry from the Valve of yesteryear.
The majority of Valve’s focus on their own properties right now seems to be solely on DOTA 2 and CS:GO. This is great for fans of those games, as they’re getting constant support and update so that they can be the best games possible. It also makes sense for Valve from a business standpoint, as both games are two of the biggest names on the E-sports scene and there’s a ton of money to make from that. Both DOTA 2 and CS:GO are leading the push for E-sports to be seen as an actual sport; both games have had huge competitions broadcast on TV. So it’s obviously in Valve’s best interest to support these games, but it’s sad to see them seemingly devote all of their time to just two games.
It’s been three years since the release of Valve’s last game, DOTA 2. It’s been five years since the release of their last single player game, Portal 2. It’s been nine years since the release of Half-Life 2: Episode Two, a game that ended on a huge cliffhanger that’s left fans hanging ever since. Valve’s developmental output is saddening to say the least and as of now, there’s no official end in sight. It’s even worse as a console gamer, who’s a huge fan of Valve’s work; to me, Valve is basically non existent now. Valve always seemed like they care a tiny bit about console gamers, even if the console versions weren’t as good as the PC versions. But now that their focus is on Steam and E-sports, they’ve seemingly left console fans in the dust with no new games to play. You don’t know what I’d do for a new Left 4 Dead or Portal.
In Valve’s absence, new games have taken up the roles Valve’s games played. Overwatch has replaced Team Fortress 2 and might even be more popular than TF2 ever was. A plethora of story based games have wowed gamers since the last Half-Life. Plenty of indie games with a clear influence from Portal have come and made gamers think. This says a lot about Valve. It shows how great and influential all of their games are, their games have inspired countless others to put their own spin on Valve’s ideas. But it also shows that Valve really needs to step it up in the gaming department. They’re Valve! They can’t become a relic of a better time, they have to be at the forefront of gaming. They have to be pushing the boundaries of creativity and showing everyone else how it’s done!
I hate to say this, but Valve’s become stagnant. A company that was once beloved for its uniqueness has become another faceless corporation. But there’s a chance can go back to what it once was. The Xbox division over at Microsoft became very stagnant for a while, but fans knocked it down a peg and now it’s producing a variety of good games. That’s what I want to see Valve. They can keep supporting Steam and their E-sports titles, but I want to see more from them. I want to see new IPs that aren’t like anything we’ve seen before. I want to see sequels to old favorites. I want the Valve I love back. There already seems to be some hope for that, as there’s been plenty of Left 4 Dead 3 rumors floating around in the past year. Valve’s twentieth anniversary is also taking place on August 24, so maybe they have some surprises for us. Just don’t leave your console fans completely in the dust, please Valve?