Opinion: Do we really need a Valve console?

Valve_console_Portal_turrets

One of the staples of a capitalist society is that we’re never shy of multiple options for that thing we love: everything from socks and jocks to TVs and cars. When it comes to gaming, we can choose from Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo’s respective consoles; and that doesn’t even take into account the versatile gaming prowess of the not-so-humble PC that I’m still in love with.

I'd rather Half-Life 3 than a Valve-powered console

But, on the topic of PC, is where things get interesting. If the latest rumours are to be believed, Valve Corporation—the developer/publisher juggernauts behind the likes of Half-Life, Left 4 Dead, Portal and Steam—are reportedly set to throw in a contender for the next generation of consoles. For the full rundown on what exactly this PC-meets-console may be comprised of, head over to this Gameplanet article.

Considering the newfound interest that the PC community is enjoying—something that has waned in the past—the immediate knee-jerk response is that this is just another nail in the coffin of developers showing the PC platform the love it deserves. Granted, the purported console specs err more on the side of a decent PC rig instead of the average antiquated-by-the-time-its-released console but, considering the controller patent Valve submitted, it’s not too much of a leap to see how this could be tied to a upcoming console. Furthermore, if you take Valve co-founder Gabe Newell’s hardware thoughts into account, Valve seems only interested in creating hardware if they absolutely have to.

Kotaku has spoken to Doug Lombardi, marketing director at Valve, directly to confirm or deny the rumours. His response was sufficiently vague, but cryptic enough to suggest that, at the very least, the thought had crossed Valve’s collective mind. The only certainty is that we won’t be seeing it anytime soon.

But a high-end console that competes with the next generation of whatever the big three console developers have to throw at consumers seems dangerous. Even three contenders for the console crown is precarious race that often breaks off into the typical healthy duopoly that keeps the other side honest, on its toes and throwing poorly veiled shots across the bow of their respective nemeses.

For core consoles, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 tend to directly compete—both as first-party manufacturers and via a wealth of online fans (or should that be fanboys?)—but, despite a large consumer base, Nintendo isn’t considered a contender in that race by many people. On the handheld console front, Sony and Nintendo bash it out with their respective devices, while Microsoft has been content to not enter the handheld race; at least not yet.

Furthermore, Valve may be a powerhouse when it to the gaming/digital distribution world, but they’d be left for dead in comparison to the diversified likes of Sony and Microsoft. Outside of games, Sony makes a wide range of entertainment-focused gadgets while also dabbling in movies and music. Microsoft isn’t limited to games either, with their profit margin bolstered by software, smartphones as well as a push towards online tools. Bottom line: Sony and Microsoft don’t necessarily need games to survive, whereas Valve does. Either of the two juggernauts could lean on Valve and it wouldn’t be the first time that corporate professionalism is left at the door and shit gets nasty.

At the end of the day, I’ve been a believer in Valve since before the release of Half-Life. As far as I’m concerned, they’ve yet to take a wrong step and I’d be willing to listen to their left-field plans for the future. In the same breath, with the approach of the Wii U, the anticipated 2012 announcement of Microsoft’s next-generation console, and the inevitability that Sony will follow suit, it seems bizarre that anyone else would want to throw their hat in the ring this late in the game. Valve is already the champion of a platform that’s very dear to my heart, and if Portal 2’s sales are anything to go by—a multiplatform title that sold the most on PC—they just need to keep doing their thing to ensure their dominance on a gaming platform that has the largest install base of all consoles combined.

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