If this story’s true, it’s massive. The Inquirer are reporting that sources close to both companies are reporting that Google is about to acquire Valve. Valve is the company behind the hugely popular and genre-defining Half-Life games, but more than that, it owns a content delivery service called Steam.
Steam is about digital distribution. Customers (which include just about every PC gamer there is – 15 million *active* user accounts) log into the service and can buy 440 different games through it – and they do. Steam is one of the few places where people still pay for PC games. It also includes a social network, and instant messenger, and it will patch and launch games that you already own.
If it weren’t for the Sims and EA, Valve would completely dominate PC Gaming. As it is, it mostly dominates hardcore PC gaming – it owns the IP for Half-Life, Counterstrike and Team Fortress 2, all of which are enormously popular. Gamers don’t hate Valve either, unlike EA – Valve is well liked by its customers, and listens carefully to them in return.
So why are Google trying to buy Valve, given that the Goog has almost no link to gaming outside of the somewhat stillborn “Lively” virtual world? They want Steam. They want the capability of distributing 30Gbit of data to an already-formed audience of hardcore PC fans. They want that network of people, and their communications.
The reaction from the gaming community is yet to be seen, but I suspect it’ll be cautiously welcoming. Valve has a lot of fans, and they won’t want to see the company getting Jaiku’d (Google notoriously bought microblogging service Jaiku and did absolutely nothing with it). If Google fund Valve adequately and let it do what it does best – and I see no reason why they wouldn’t – then it makes a great match. Great for Google, great for Valve. Awful for Microsoft, whose Games for Windows service is struggling to gain traction among gamers.
UPDATE: PR chappy at Valve, one Doug Lombardi, says the rumours are “complete fabrication“. Ah well.
Valve (via the Inquirer)