THE SUCCESS of digital games distribution service Steam means Valve can't commit time to work on the Half Life universe.
Steam has been a huge success since Valve CEO Gabe Newell revealed it to the great unwashed in 2002. Newell opened the Steam games service up to Linux and Mac fanbois as well as PC gamers, and most gamers agree it is the best port of call for gaming. Not just because it has triple A action titles to please the lowest common denominator, but because Steam also offers a community channel and distribution service for cash-strapped independent developers.
Other games publishers have tried and failed to launch anything as good as Steam, but Valve is also a games developer and herein lies the problem. Steam has become so big that it is in danger of swallowing the time that Valve's team needs to work on Half Life 2.
In an interview with Industry Gamers, the top brass at smaller Steam competitor Stardock has dubbed the issue "Valve Time". Brad Wardell at Stardock said he sold the retail arm of his company because it held up his team's progress on developing titles.
"Steam's had an effect on their own development schedule. There's not been a new Half-Life in a long time; a lot of people have complained about that," said Wardell.
"When one of your groups is so ridiculously profitable, every business instinct you have is to throw all your best people at it, because that's what's making the money," he added.
Valve has released new titles like the brilliant Left 4 Dead and Portal series, but it acquired other teams that had already developed the technology for those franchises. It threw cash at Turtle Rock to produce Left 4 Dead and gave jobs to the modders who came up with Portal. However, Valve itself hasn't been working on the digital elephant in the room, a new Half Life.
The best PC series ever made, Half Life been on Valve's backburner since Half Life 2: Episode 2 was released in 2007, and that was really only an engine extension for Half Life: 2, which, we can't believe, is nearly ten years old.
Before you say Duke Nukem Forever, Valve hasn't been swallowed by its own ego in the same way that George Broussard was at 3D Realms, leading to the 12 year delay. But at least Broussard was actually working on something for all that time. Newell hasn't even formalised an announcement for Half Life: Episode 3, which he last mentioned in an interview with MTV last year. Half Life 3 hasn't been given so much as a sniff or whiff of information by Valve.
It could be that Valve is once bitten, twice shy. The company was very open with the development of Half Life: Episode 2, releasing material for fanbois to savour. But then Valve was hacked and gave away much more than it intended for fanbois to savour - the source code was pilfered an leaked all over the Internet. Since Newell doesn't want Half Life splayed all over the web, he is cautiously keeping his cards close to his chest.
But let us be clear on one thing. As good as Steam is, Half Life is even better. µ
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