We all probably know Gabe Newell best as the head honcho of Valve. But once upon a time, he was also a World of Warcraft gold farmer.

Speaking to Edge magazine (via PC Gamer) Newell spoke of how Valve began to consider games as “productivity platforms”, and how he decided to farm gold in the MMO as “a sort of proof-of-concept”.

“I was making US$20 an hour farming gold,” he said. “I was making what was a spectacular wage for most people in most parts of the world.”

Steam Workshop came about after that, and Newell shared the story of a kid who made so much money on PayPal by selling Steam Workshop items that his parents called Valve.

“What happened was PayPal pinged the parents and said, ‘Your kid is exceeding our limits of how much money they can put into PayPal per month. They’re probably selling stolen goods or drugs because there’s no other explanation.’

“So the parents called us up and I said: ‘He makes items on the Team Fortress Workshop.

He’s making US$500,000 a year.’

That to us was an indication that this was a helpful way of thinking of games – as platforms – and it’s informed all of our decisions about multiplayer games subsequently.”

Newell also spoke about competitions between game stores in the interview. As reported by GamesRadar, he considers competition to be “awesome for everybody” as it ensures honesty, although it’s “ugly in the short term”. But “in the long term, everybody benefits from the discipline and the thoughtfulness it means you have to have about your business by having people come in and challenge you”.

Newell also revealed that Valve is more concerned with people who try to “preclude competition” than having competition.

Singling out Apple, he said, “If you ask us which is scarier, it’s people falling in love with Apple’s model of controlling everything and having faceless bureaucrats who get to keep your product from entering the market if they don’t want it to, or designing a store in a way that minimises software’s value-add to experience and stuff like that.”

It’s another interesting peek into the mind of the CEO of an important game company like Valve, who released Half-Life: Alyx over a decade after their last Half-Life game. On the gaming storefront, Steam recently hit a record user count a week ago due to the number of people stuck at home because of Covid-19. But with Epic grabbing more exclusives (although some are only timed) and entering the publishing realm, I wonder what Newell will think of this competitor in the future.


 

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