updated 03:20 pm EST, Mon February 20, 2012
Valve Software may leap from games to devices
Valve Software founder Gabe Newell in an interview Monday disclosed that his company was considering getting into hardware. While careful to couch it for Penny Arcade as contingent on what the rest of the market did, the Portal and Left 4 Dead co-creator divulged that the company might make its own wearable computing. The company had already been experimenting with the technology, Newell said, and it would get involved if there weren't signs partnerships or independent work didn't step in first.
"If we have to sell hardware we will," he said. "We have no reason to believe we’re any good at it, it’s more we think that we need to continue to have innovation and if the only way to get these kind of projects started is by us going and developing and selling the hardware directly then that’s what we’ll do."
Wearables like eyepieces were considered ideal since the technology had some possible advantages. Having a view so close to the eye made for a "hundred inch iPad" but used much less power than the tablet. Augmented reality would get a boost, although it wasn't necessarily the primary intention.
Part of why Valve had become involved at all was to avoid the classic chicken-and-egg problem of hardware development, where a large effort had to be spent on hardware with no guarantees that the hardware would follow suit. Ideally, an "incremental" model like Team Fortress 2 was ideal, where features trickled out and kept users interested.
The mention of hardware prospects is an unusual twist for Valve. It has had hardware labs for some time, but primarily to test input methods for its own games rather than to develop its own products.