Gabe Newell says user-generated content is the future of Steam

Valve CEO Gabe Newell has mapped out his vision of digital distribution service Steam’s future, one defined by user-generated content. He described an even more open environment in which users – both content developers and producers – can utilise the service’s core tech to build their own stores.

“Right now there’s one Steam store,” he told The Verge at CES in Las Vegas. “We think that the store should actually be more like user generated content. So, anybody should be able to create a store, and it should be about extra entertainment value. Our view has always been that we should build tools for customers and tools for partners. An editorial filter is fine, but there should be a bunch of editorial filters.”

Newell went on to express his desire to open up Steam’s backend services, making them available as network APIs so that anyone can build on the distribution service’s infrastructure. Thinking about Steam less as a retail channel and more as a multiplayer experience, he continued, will allow Valve to help users more easily find the content producers who are going to improve their game experiences.

“Some people will create team stores, some people will create Sony stores, some people will create stores with only games that they think meet their quality bar,” he said. “Somebody is going to create a store that says ‘these are the worst games on Steam’. So that’s an example of where our thinking is leading us right now.

“Now we’re in this strange world where we have people who are using the Steam workshop who are making $500,000 per year building items for other customers. In other words, there’s this notion that user-generated content has to be an important part of our thinking. We know of other game developers making more money building content for the workshop than what they get in their day job.”

This natural shift towards user-generated content has changed the way Valve thinks about both its role as a distributor, the nature of games themselves and how best to empower their consumers. Rather than build workshops for individual games, then, a more effective strategy is to build one workshop that spans several games.

“If we’re connecting Skyrim and other games,” he explains. “It’s like this notion that there’s just a game seems to be going away; games are starting to look like an instance of some larger experience.”

During the same interview, Newell confirmed that Valve is working the long rumoured Linux-based Steam Box, codenamed Bigfoot, and revealed the company’s plans for biometric controls and mobile.