Anyone who has a gamer in their life, or is one, knows that it is impossible not to think of Valve when thinking of video games. The technological, game-development giant is one of the gleaming icons for those who think about indie developers today, starting up their own tiny studios in the hopes of one day being just as massive. Valve is a success story that isn’t cut off before a third installment, and one that any company can aspire too.
It began in August 24, 1996, with ex-Microsoft employees Mike Harrington and Gabe Newell setting off from the conglomerate to focus on game development. A license to the Quake engine later and these two unassuming gents would be producing the wildly popular Half-Life and be setting on their way to fame and fortune. From Half-Life, Newell and Harrington would later come to produce the Source engine, the game engine that all Valve games are created on e.g: Left 4 Dead, Half-Life, Team Fortress 2, Portal, DOTA 2, etc. Every one of these games is one that many gamers reading are already smiling and nodding at – Valve is as much a staple as Nintendo, these days.
One of the most notable features of Valve games has always been their modability. Players could impose their own mods, patches and changes easily through the Source engine and Valve even opened up a mod community for everyone to enjoy. Therein came the foundation for Steam, Valve’s platform to streamline games straight to players, host mods, forums and one of the biggest game communities in the world. Steam is a recognized platform with hundreds of thousands of games available on it, the majority of which are not from Valve itself. In fact, the indie game development market has gotten an ineffable boost and exposure from a service Steam offers calls Greenlight – a service that lets the community vote on games that they would like to see featured on Steam. In short, Valve is one of the most notable companies that have taken customer interaction to such a high level, and that, along with its own line-up of highly rate games, has contributed greatly to its success.
Of course, that is not to say that Valve has flown to success without issue. They have seen a few lawsuit issues in their time, once with their original distributor, Sierra Entertainment over them distributing Valve’s games in internet, pay-to-play cafes. They also had an issue with Blizzard, the company behind World of Warcraft, when they sought license over DOTA 2. In all cases of their legal woes, things have been settled fairly amicably. Their data and security have been tampered with twice in the history of the company, once in which the data for Half-Life 2 was leaked online and the other in which the forums and community were compromised.
Now, in more current times, Valve continues to innovate and work with the community that it has formed. Some of their projects include: SteamVR, a virtual reality helmet in the same vein as the Oculus Rift, Steam Machines, an answer to console gaming made more personalized by allowing people more choices in what they get, and the announcement of the Source 2, an upgrade to the legendary Source engine.
What ultimately is it that has made Valve so successful? In short, they have many innovative and humble associations with their brand. Whether it is Gabe Newell’s amiable participation with the people that love Valve’s games or their constant upkeeping with modern technology, Valve keeps themselves open to their customers and, in the same turn, keeps their customers open to the new and exciting things coming from developers all around the world. In short, Valve laid out a platform that allowed a community to build itself.
Much like a social media start-up, the interaction, accessibility and creativity all come together to make for an industry giant. With the gaming community growing by the day and the technology to keep up with it following suit, one can only wonder how Valve will use its many advantages to stay on top.