For decades, each new video game console has offered exclusive games you couldn't play anywhere else. Nintendo has Mario. Sega had Sonic. Microsoft has Halo. But Valve, developer of Half-Life, Portal, Team Fortress, Left 4 Dead and Dota 2, says it won't play its trump card. Though the company plans to launch a line of Steam Machines in mid-2014, it won't make any of its hotly-anticipated games exclusive to the platform.
"It's against our philosophy to put a game in jail."
Doug Lombardi, Valve's longtime public relations guru, says that simply wouldn't be the company's style. "It's against our philosophy to put a game in jail and say it only works on Steam Machines," he told The Verge in an interview at the company's headquarters. "It works best on Steam Machines, perhaps ... but to get to exclusives or anything else just wouldn't be our style," he says.
When we bring up the fact that Steam got a huge wave of adoption when the company locked Half-Life 2 to the digital distribution platform, Lombardi admits the precedent, but hints that the company ended up regretting that decision. "That may or may not have been a good idea given the condition that Steam was in at the moment," he says.
While noble and perhaps even necessary if Valve wants to promote an open platform, the decision could limit SteamOS's early momentum. Presently, the overwhelming majority of PC games are built for Windows. While Valve's Anna Sweet tells us the company's been talking to partners for three years about Linux gaming and that some of those companies will announce support at CES, we don't know if those games will be any more exclusive.
Still, it won't necessarily be a chicken-and-egg problem where console buyers are waiting for game developers to support Linux, and game developers are waiting for people to buy Linux consoles. Valve says every Steam Machine will ship with SteamOS — so even if buyers purchase a predomininately Windows box, they could be supporting the initative.
Note: Half-Life 3 itself was an off-limits topic, but Lombardi responded to a question about exclusivity for its franchise sequels.