Valve co-founder and Managing Director Gabe Newell hinted that his company may be planning an expansion into the console space soon.
While speaking on Monday to students at Auckland, New Zealand’s Sancta Maria College (the rough equivalent of a Catholic high school in the US), Newell was asked, “Will Steam be porting any games on consoles, or will it just stay on PC?” The answer, as recorded by Reddit user Odysseic, was a vague gesture at unspecified plans. “You will get a better idea of that by the end of this year… and it won’t be the answer you expect,” Newell said. “You’ll say, ‘Ah-ha! Now I get what he was talking about.'”
“The answer you expect” would probably be “we’re sticking with PC games,” so any answer involving console plans would definitely be unexpected. But the lack of specifics in Newell’s statement has left a lot of Valve-watchers guessing.
What to expect
Newell could simply be pointing to console versions of existing or upcoming Valve games; the company has ported its games in decades past with releases like The Orange Box and the Left 4 Dead series. A PlayStation VR port of Half-Life Alyx would certainly be exciting for players who don’t want to invest in a VR-capable PC and headset. Console ports of older free-to-play titles like Dota 2 or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive could also help expand the already significant PC player bases for those games, though adapting either for a console controller could prove difficult (unless the Steam Controller gets some unexpected console compatibility).
Newell has complained in the past about the stifling restrictions of developing games for consoles, though. “Our DNA tend[s] to not work well when someone is trying to insert a lot of process between us and our customers,” he told Eurogamer in 2017.
More broadly, Newell’s answer might point to attempts to bring a version of the Steam storefront to consoles in some form. That seems unlikely, since it would require console-makers to release their monopoly control over downloadable games on their consoles. But with multiple lawsuits trying to break through that kind of platform-holder control in one way or another (including one focused on Steam itself on the PC), anything is possible.
Or maybe Newell was suggesting that Valve plans to revive its Steam Machines program, getting behind a line of SteamOS-powered living room consoles once more. Given the quick market death of that effort, though, this is probably the least likely bit of speculation at the moment.
Newell remains extremely publicity-shy, even by the standards of secretive game industry executives, so making news while talking to a group of New Zealand grade-schoolers (rather than, say, at a press conference) is not that out of character. Newell has been living as a self-described “COVID refugee” in New Zealand since March of 2020. He has announced plans to apply for residency in the country and even support a local concert series (though not a Valve satellite office).
Elsewhere in his talk, Newell committed to further Team Fortress 2 updates and squashing persistent cheating problems in Counter-strike: Global Offensive. You can view the full recording (with very hard-to-hear audio) using the links in this Reddit post.