Valve boss calls Windows 8 a ‘catastrophe’

Gabe Newell Valve (Venture Beat photo)

We’re still optimistic about Windows 8 here at Digital Trends, but the same cannot be said for Gabe Newell, the chief of Half-Life developer Valve. Since launching its Steam store and game service for PCs, Valve makes a good chunk of its revenue from owners of Windows machines, but Newell isn’t happy about the future of the platform and is working on ways to make its titles available on Linux.

“The big problem that is holding back Linux is games,” said Newell at Casual Connect in Seattle on July 24 (transcribed by AllThingsD). “People don’t realize how critical games are in driving consumer purchasing behavior. We want to make it as easy as possible for the 2,500 games on Steam to run on Linux as well. It’s a hedging strategy. I think Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space. I think we’ll lose some of the top-tier PCs, and OEMs who will exit the market. I think margins will be destroyed for a bunch of people. If that’s true, then it will be good to have alternatives to hedge against that eventuality.”

Newell also spoke of the tendency of Microsoft and other platform makers to follow Apple’s lead and lock platforms down, making it more difficult, if not impossible, for game stores and services like Steam to prosper.

“In order for innovation to happen, a bunch of things that aren’t happening on closed platforms need to occur,” said Newell. “Valve wouldn’t exist today without the PC, or Epic, or Zynga, or Google. They all wouldn’t have existed without the openness of the platform. There’s a strong tempation to close the platform, because they look at what they can accomplish when they limit the competitors’ access to the platform, and they say ‘That’s really exciting.’ We are looking at the platform and saying, ‘ We’ve been a free rider, and we’ve been able to benefit from everything that went into PCs and the Internet, and we have to continue to figure out how there will be open platforms.’”

Newell certainly isn’t alone in his assessment of Windows 8. Reactions have been mixed so far, but few have been as outspoken. Most seem to believe that Windows will continue on even if Windows 8 is rejected, but Newell’s statements do not come without knowledge of Microsoft. He worked at Microsoft for 13 years and describes himself as “producer on the first three releases of Windows.”

For more information, check out our thoughts on the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

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