Gabe Newell on Closed Platforms

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It appears Gabe Newell has foreseen an Apple iHome based future and dislikes the direction console gaming is going.  In a recent game panel at some WTIA TechNW conference, Gabe looks at the current gaming trends and offers his own insight into the direction gaming as a medium is going.  Seattle Times

On the platform side, it’s sort of ominous that the world seems to be moving away from open platforms,” he said.

Platform providers that used to use their role to enable developers “instead view themselves as more rent guys who are essentially driving their partner margins to zero,” he said.

They build a shiny sparkling thing that attracts users and then they control people’s access to those things,” he said.

Upon reading this quote the letters EA followed by BF3 kept appearing in my mind though I’m sure Gabe was referring to physical gaming platforms, or was he?

I suspect Apple will launch a living room product that redefines people’s expectations really strongly and the notion of a separate console platform will disappear,” he said.

If Apple took the Ipod mentality and usability and applied it to a networked home device such as the Apple TV, this may indeed become a possibility for a lot of people who like to keep things simple. For the rest of us whether or not it could become a defacto standard remains to be seen.

I consider Apple to be very closed,” Newell said. “Let’s say you have a book business and you are charging 5 to 7 percent gross margins. You can’t exist in an Apple world because they want 30 percent and they don’t care that you only have 7 percent to play with.

This will and will always be an issue when a corporation like Apple creates a clever defacto monopoly.  Market to the people first and foremost, the developers, artists and publishers will have no choice but to use your service.

Steam is built with a very similar business model though in defense Gabe states:

Steam gets a commission if games are sold through Steam, but developers can use its free tools and services and sell their games elsewhere and “we don’t take anything.”

And last of all from the same Seattle Times article – David Bluhms, president and chief executive of game company Z2Live, finally stood up for Cupertino:

I would argue Apple’s system is very open but very proprietary … it’s open with their rules,” he said.

Which makes it about as closed as it gets.

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