Valve is arguably one of the most influential studios in the gaming industry. Many of their properties such as Portal, Left4Dead, and Team Fortress 2 were considered instant classics. Their most famous series, Half Life, set the stage for every FPS that came after it by introducing features so intrinsic to the genre that we can scarcely remember a time without them. And yet, in the modern age things feel a little different – it’s been years since Valve has released an original title and jokes like “Valve can’t count to three” pervade the Internet. Even Half Life, their flagship franchise, has gone an entire decade without a release to tie up the massive cliffhanger gamers were left with.
Valve obviously isn’t hurting, though. Despite some competitors cropping up in recent years the Steam platform is still the main way most PC gamers buy their games. They’re even making an effort to pick away at the console market by introducing Big Picture Mode, SteamOS, and hardware like the Steam Controller. In addition to Steam, Valve is also still making money off of some of its older titles like Team Fortress 2. With all of this cash flowing in, many people have speculated that they’re simply not interested in producing any new titles.
Despite the accusations, Valve insists that they are, in fact, still making games. Even though many have written it off as vaporware, Valve has never officially stated that they’ve stopped development on Half Life 3. They’ve also gone on record stating that they’re developing new titles for their heavily-pushed virtual reality platform, although to date the only VR content they’ve released have been short demo-like “experiences”. Two years ago they released a DOTA 2 beta built on the Source 2 engine – the follow up to the famed Source engine that had driven their most famous games. Although this way a ray of hope, Source 2 has never been released to outside developers and to date has only been used on the aforementioned beta and an update to Counterstrike:GO.
Perhaps the most damning evidence is that recently Chet Faliszek, one of Valve’s most prolific writers, left the company. He was one of the writers responsible for Half Life, Portal, and several other of Valve’s most beloved games. All the other “original” writers have long since left, meaning that Feliszek’s departure was especially hard felt. A big part of why those games got big in the first place where their unique and engaging story lines, and now it’s an open question whether Valve will ever be able to deliver that again.
I’m sorry to say it, but I think Valve’s hey day as a game studio has passed. I have faith that they’ll continue to be a powerhouse through their Steam platform, but as for original game content I just don’t see it – we might get one or two lackluster titles but that’s it. But who knows? If there’s one thing Valve has always been good at its surprises – if there’s one developer who could pull off an unexpected comeback it would be them.