Eurogamer: Last week Microsoft cut the price of 360 in the UK and Sony didn't make any changes to the pricing structure for PS3 in Europe - what do you make of the current generation of consoles so far?
Gabe Newell: The one that personally I find the most fun - this is an odd thing to say, because we don't have any development for it - is the Wii. That's the one I have at home. I think that their decision to invest in new input is right and sort of a jab with a stick to the rest of the industry about what makes games fun and what we should be thinking about. So I think it's been super-impressive what they've done. In eight months they've just passed up 360 [with sales], so it seems like they're selling them as fast as they can make them, and I think it's going to continue to be very successful for the foreseeable future.
Eurogamer: Obviously it's a very different sort of control system, but does it give you ideas for things you could be doing with PC products?
Gabe Newell: Yeah, it's actually - there are sort of like false things to be worried about as a PC developer, and I sort of want to point out: where did all the graphics come from for the current generation? They're all PC-derived graphics, and I think that's a testament to the volumes of scale and the amount of capital investment going on in the PC space. That's why I'm not very worried. The thing that does worry me is input, because there is no Nintendo equivalent in the way there's an NVIDIA or ATI on graphics technology, living in the dog eat dog world of the PC space to drive all this technological innovation. There's no equivalent on the input side. So maybe Microsoft can step up there, or Logitech - that's where I feel, as a PC game developer, more exposed, in the fact that nobody can do anything other than mouse and keyboard and expect to be successful. I was just over there seeing the [Wii Fitness] board on Nintendo's booth, and I've got input envy! There are all these cool things, but it's been years since someone's come to us and said 'let's talk about building a controller that would be better than just a mouse and keyboard for what you're doing'. Nobody's even trying any more. I think that's a big exposure for us PC-focused game developers.
Eurogamer: And you'd like to see it, obviously.
Gabe Newell: Oh absolutely. I'd love to see somebody do some leadership there.
Eurogamer: To change tack completely, how do you think Orange Box will do given it's coming out just a few weeks after Halo 3?
Gabe Newell: I think that it's going to do very well. I've got a lot of confidence to say it's the best FPS on the platform that it's on. If they had to pick an FPS of the year for 360, I think Orange Box will do very well.
Eurogamer: On that sort of note, Midway recently said that Stranglehold cost USD 30 million to make. How much investment's gone into The Orange Box?
Gabe Newell: I don't know. We don't track that. One of the nice things about being an independent developer is we just keep everybody busy. We're making lots of money, and we just focus on what we're trying to build and then build it.
Eurogamer: So there's no mentality of having so many copies to sell? Even at a higher level?
Gabe Newell: No. We're trying to make the decisions that a gamer would if they were given the opportunity to run a games company. I think that the harder questions for us are making the bigger games versus the time it takes - that's a much harder choice for us than 'oh, we have to stop spending money on this title'. We've never really even had a conversation internally where we say 'we've put enough money into this - let's just cut it off'. That's not even a conversation that happens at Valve.
Eurogamer: Last time we spoke you said you were scratching your head about - your phrase was - "a more comprehensive entertainment experience" that would bring together disparate elements like trading cards, DVDs, games, etc. rather than separating them, sort of the opposite of the way Pokemon currently works. I was curious as to whether you'd had more thoughts on that.
Gabe Newell: Well right now we're doing these free movies for TF. They're short movies, and it's really interesting to see how people are reacting. Right now people seem to love them. Is that the novelty of them, or is there really something there where millions of people are going to want to watch these things? So we're using these TF character shorts as an opportunity to explore that in more detail. Right now, people seem to like them a lot. We haven't made them pay for them yet, so maybe that'll change, but that's the test that we're using right now.
Eurogamer: Are all nine TF2 shorts coming out before release?
Gabe Newell: I'm not sure we'll get them all out before release, though we're hoping to - I mean, it's a lot of work, so. We think people will enjoy them whether it's before or after the release. It's more a question of - you know, just as we're editing them, are we happy enough with them to get them released.
Eurogamer: You did mention the possibility of charging for them or putting ads in them - do you see that happening? Is that going to happen in the current run?
Gabe Newell: No - the first nine will all be free. How you find out whether people really like something or not? People will tell you they like something when it's free and then as soon as you say 'okay give us a dollar' they're like 'I didn't really like it that much! Go make more games! Stop f***ing around with these movie things!'
Gabe Newell is co-founder and managing director of Valve Corporation. The Orange Box is due out on 12th October for PC and 360, with a PS3 version reportedly following shortly after. Tom Bramwell really did use "elucidating" in a sentence.