Newell argues for living room PCs, local game streaming

— 10:13 AM on February 8, 2013

On the first day of the DICE Summit, Gabe Newell and J.J. Abrams took to the stage to discuss storytelling in games and movies—and to announce that they're working together on both. Newell had the spotlight to himself on day two, and his keynote address was filled with interesting tidbits about PCs in the living room, local and cloud-based streaming, input hardware, and the future of gaming content. The 36-minute video is worth watching if you have the time.

Newell sees a future for the PC in the living room, and he expects we'll see a good/better/best series of options there. The baseline "good" devices will use in-home streaming and start at $100, he says. Eventually, the price will go down to zero. Better devices will presumably host games locally; those machines will cram PC guts into console-sized enclosures and be priced about the same as an Xbox or PlayStation. Then, you'll have higher-end systems for folks willing to pay a premium to get the absolute best experience.

While he doesn't mention where Steam hardware will fit into the equation, it's easy to see how the first two tiers could be served by Valve-branded gear. Indeed, Newell points out that the pursuit of mobile markets by chip makers has made it easy to build small, quiet PCs suitable for the living room.

Steam may be a cloud-based service, but Newell believes game streaming should be handled locally. Audiences will become more sensitive to latency over time, he says, and so will new hardware. I suspect that may be a reference to the input technology Valve is working on behind closed doors. Hmmmm.

On the subject of games themselves, Newell reveals that titles that move to free-to-play models typically see a tenfold increase in audience and a threefold increase in gross revenue. He also reveals that the Team Fortress 2 community generates 10 times the amount of content that Valve does for the game, noting that the quality is as good or better than what's produced internally. Games should be viewed as "productivity platforms for goods and services," Newell contends—and that has very interesting implications for the future of the PC.

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