Artifact is Valve’s first new game in years, but it’s just the start of the company’s return to games.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Valve simply did nothing but run Steam and develop hats for Team Fortress 2. However, alongside the announcement of a brand-new competitive card game called Artifact, company head Gabe Newell confirmed that Valve would be re-entering the software industry with a slew of new titles.
No, there was no news on Half-Life 3, but if Valve comes back to software development and publishing, there’s still a sliver of hope left.
Speaking at the announcement of Artifact, Newell explained that “Artifact is the first of several games that are going to be coming from us”. Of these games, three will be in VR, as Newell revealed in an interview with Eurogamer. “Right now we’re building three VR games,” he explains. “When I say we’re building three games, we’re building three full games, not experiments.”
So why the delay on making games? Turns out, it’s because Valve was scared about how things in the PC space were trending. It saw a world where the likes of Microsoft, Facebook and Google were all trying to lock people into “the kind of closed, high margin ecosystem that Apple’s done”. Creating a closed platform for PC is a bad thing, not just for Valve’s business, but also for consumer freedom. It set out to destabilise that.
To do so, it released mini PCs known as Steam Boxes, developed the TV-style Steam Big Picture and worked with HTC to bring the open SteamVR platform to the masses with the HTC Vive. Now that’s all out of the way, Valve feels it’s in a space where it can flex its creative muscles once more and now has the hardware knowledge to create experiences that are rich and interactive “Now there’s pretty much no project in the hardware space that we wouldn’t be comfortable taking on,” Newell explained.
Interestingly, Nintendo’s game development prowess was one reason for why Valve decided to steer itself down such a winding path.
“We’ve always been a little bit jealous of companies like Nintendo. When Miyamoto is sitting down thinking about the next version of Zelda or Mario, he’s thinking what is the controller going to look like, what sort of graphics and other capabilities [will the platform have]. He can introduce new capabilities like motion input because he controls both of those things… That’s something we’ve been jealous of, and that’s something you’ll see us taking advantage of subsequently.”
Going by Newell’s statement, it seems that Valve is really focused on bringing something new to PC gaming instead of simply hashing out the same experiences everyone’s been having before. He feels most strongly about this in the VR space – making me very excited to see what they’ve been cooking up in their development kitchen.
“VR is not going to be a success at all if people are just taking existing content and putting it into a VR space,” Newell explained – potentially taking a dig a Bethesda’s VR efforts with Doom VFR, Skyrim VR and Fallout 4 VR. The way Newell sees it, “nobody’s going to buy a VR system so they can watch movies”, so why would they do it to play the games they’ve already played?
“It feels like we’ve been stuck with mouse and keyboard for a really long time and that the opportunities to build much more interesting kinds of experiences for gamers were there, we just need to expand what we can do.”
For Newell, Valve’s departure from games wasn’t really ever a departure from games. “It’s not about being in hardware, it’s about building better games. It’s about taking bigger leaps forward with the kind of games that we can do.”
Artifact probably won’t be that game. As a card game with a $1m competitive tournament attached to it for its first year, this is purely a play into Hearthstone’s territory now Valve has smashed the MOBA market with DOTA 2 – Valve’s last game.
Valve isn’t done with hardware though, but now it’ll go “hand-in-hand with software design”, meaning you should really keep an eye on what Valve is up to in the coming months.