Bundled in with The Orange Box as an experimental bonus, Valve's Portal has proved the surprise hit of the year. And the strategy has attracted admiring glances from Gearbox Software boss Randy Pitchford, who reckons it could be the way forward for his studio.
"What I like most about Portal was that it's a quick sample of a game," he told Eurogamer TV. "To me what that suggests is, that can be a business. That we can invest in creating these kinds of things, include them in bigger products, and there are people that will love those in their own right, even if it's only a two-hour experience."
Pitchford was over in London to show off the first playable build of WWII shooter Brothers In Arms: Hell's Highway (read Rob's impressions elsewhere), but regretted that the strict focus of that title did not afford him the freedom enjoyed by Valve with The Orange Box.
"I think that [Portal] might influence me in the future," he revealed. "There are brilliant things we're doing with Hell's Highway, amazing things technologically, but we also have to confine ourselves to the authenticity of the subject."
And he expressed a clear preference for the Orange Box model over standalone releases on Xbox Live or PSN, adding: "Xbox Live is neat, but why not include something of that scale in with your game? That's neat added value. If it can affect the purchase decision of the customer, you can rationalise what it costs to develop.
"I would love to do because it's fun and a great opportunity to play with gameplay elements that might be a little bit outside the scope of your core game."
As a former 3D Realms developer, Pitchford also hailed Portal for representing the realisation of ideas he says the team had been working on years ago for PC and 360 shooter Prey. "I worked on Prey in its first incarnation," he said. "And what Valve did with Portal was part of the concept of what we originally imagined with portals, and those were the puzzles that we hoped were part of the gameplay. I didn't see a lot of that come through in the final version of Prey."
Gearbox is currently keeping itself busy beyond Brothers In Arms with sci-fi shooter Borderlands, an Alien-based FPS, and a Wii update of the brilliant Samba Di Amigo. You can hear more from Randy in the next Episode of the Eurogamer TV Show.