How Valve Went from AAA Developer to Glorified Market-Owner

How far the mighty have fallen. Once-legendary developer Valve are now a shadow of their former selves.

Right out of the bat, we here at CLICKON Gaming need to admit to one thing: the following which you are about to read is 60% based in observation and 40% based on the ire we experienced when we uncovered that Half-Life 3 was not to be. Salt is the flavor of the season.

With that said, it does warrant insight into observing how one of the industry’s most prestigious gaming studios has utterly shifted their modus operandi over the last decade to morph into a company that is hardly recognizable.

When many gamers think of Valve, they think of the company responsible for such ingenious franchises such as Half-Life, Portal, and Left 4 Dead. Of course, they would be incredibly remiss to leave out the likes of Counter-Strike, Team Fortress 2, and – of course – Dota 2.

Valve have had some monster hits on their hands, but as time goes on it seems that they’ve transitioned away from narrative-based romps and planted their flag squarely in field of endless online matchmaking.

With the amount of revenue being generated by their eSports behemoths Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2, it’s no wonder that the only thing on the horizon from the developer is a card game based on the world and characters of Dota 2.

With their eSports babies raking in boatloads of cash and Steam continuing its dominance of the digital distribution market globally, Valve have had the opportunity to pursue other avenues within their company. As such, we’ve seen everything from the likes of the Steam Link to the HTC Vive come out of their developmental doors – the only problem is that neither of those are games.

Far be it for one to say that company should only maintain its status quo and operate in the same manner eternally, but what’s happening to Valve may indeed be looked at a case example of how detrimental success can be.

Through their vast monetary assets, Valve have been able to tackle new projects – but these projects have taken them farther and farther away from what brought them there to being with. Throughout their history, they’ve always shown themselves to be a company that would push itself to test the limits of their software, hardware, and the conception of the norm as it stood.

Now, it’s hard not to look at what they’re doing with a pang of regret – with the growing sensation that they’ve sold-out somehow. With the posting of the Half-Life 3 plot synopsis by its head writer online, it paints a picture of company that no longer sees a profitable venture into the world of narrative-based games – only of those that can be put on a global stage and played in some manner of competition.

While most developers must keep the idea room active and turn out successful games to keep the lights on, Valve’s got Steam. Steam, at this point, is Valve’s money-printing press. With the platform already so established and entrenched in the digital distribution market, Valve can sit back and comfortable reap the millions they do.

It’s hard to shake the feeling that the company has become a little too comfortable with its success. Without any new releases on the horizon, it seems that all we’ll get from them are just piecemeal updates to the games they’ve already plopped down in the market.

There is always, of course, the possibility that Valve will unveil something crazy and unexpected down the road – but that probability is looking less likely as time crawls on.