Gabe Newell on the crazy future of Steam

By Dant Rambo |

Valve co-founder Gabe Newell has a grand idea of where the Steam platform should go. He finds the store as it is to be “really boring,” and would like to see users play a bigger role in both the creation and curation of content. He’s also dissatisfied with how Greenlight operates, and hopes to do away with it completely. But this only touches on the surface of what Newell would like to see changed, and he recently outlined his hopes for the platform in a talk at the University of Texas.

 “One of the worst characteristics of the current Steam system is that we’ve become a bottleneck. There’s so much content coming at us that we just don’t have enough time to turn the crank on the production process of getting something up on Steam. So whether we want to or not, we’re creating artificial shelf space scarcity,” Newell said. Greenlight was, ostensibly, an attempt on Valve’s behalf to deal this bottleneck a little bit better. But it didn’t have the intended effect, and Newell’s next idea of how to handle it is a little more extreme.

“So the right way to do that is to make Steam essentially a network API that anyone can call,” he said. “Now, this is separate from issues about viruses and malware. But essentially, it’s like, anyone can use Steam as a sort of a distribution and replication mechanism.”

Full video of the second half of Newell’s talk

The true advantage here, Newell noted, is that the consumer will play a heavier hand in curation on the platform, as opposed to Valve serving as constant gatekeepers.

Taking it further, Newell envisions a future where Steam users can create their own stores.

“The stores instead should become user-generated content,” Newell said. “Other companies can take advantage of this as well, but if a user can create his own store — essentially add an editorial perspective and content on top of the purchase process… then we’ve created a mechanism where everybody, in the same way we’ve seen a huge upsurge of user-generated content with hats, we think that there’s a lot of aggregate value that can be created by allowing people to create stores.”

Put another way, look forward to my forthcoming “Radical Simz” store, where I tell you which train sims work best with which dubstep albums. It’s going to be revolutionary.

Now, despite this being the one and only Gabe Newell, it’s probably best to take this all with a grain of salt. Newell didn’t confirm that any of this was happening for certain, and these ideas and concepts will possibly change as new realities crop up in the games industry. But it’s fascinating all the same, and one can’t help but be excited by the potential of it all – especially my dubstep/train sim store.

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