Sun May 8 06:59:05 PDT 2011

valve isn't going to make a console

UPDATE: 2014/1/16

Well, looks like I was totally wrong. I thought the chances of Valve seriously moving to Linux were so remote that I didn't even mention it.

A persistent rumor on 4chan[1] recently has been that Valve is going to release a games console, which would presumably take the form of a locked down commodity PC, which would use their Steam content delivery platform. (For both of my readers who aren't familiar with modern gaming, think of, in order, Apple, the iPhone, and the iTunes software store.) Following the established naming scheme, I'll refer to Valve's hypothetical console as the Pipe. Or maybe Concorde it up, call it Pipe.

Even I, with my legendary propensity to confidently assert the inevitability of events on the basis of how much I'd like them to take place, rather than anything resembling their actual probability, have a hard time believing in this rumor.

Here's the problem: If the Pipe is going to use Steam, then it has to run Steam games natively. And Steam only runs on Windows and OS X, which means Valve would have to buy million-unit licenses for one of those operating systems.

Except that Microsoft already has a console. Why would they enable a competitor?

The alternative is OS X. Except that Apple has a long history of never ever licensing their OS, and suing the crap out of anyone who tries to install it on unauthorized hardware. Even if they were friendly to licensees, the fact that I used the iPhone as an example of just this kind of scheme indicates that this is a core competency of the company, something they would never farm out to someone else. Steve would want all of the money, not a pittance to be made from a fiercely bargained contract to just sell one component.

No matter how hard I want it, the Pipe just ain't gonna happen.

1: Incidentally, this:

The backstory: For the last week there's been about a million threads a day about Brink, a not-terribly-interesting-looking cover-based-shooter by international ultra-conglomerate, ZeniMax Media. Typically you only see threads for games that have actually been released, or display even one single new gameplay element. The anomaly is obvious, and other people have commented on it.

It is not as if guerrilla advertising is unknown in the gaming world. Time and time again large companies decide their advertising dollars are best spent lying directly to individual gamers in online forums, rather than lying on big impersonal billboards. My accusation is not a shocking revelation. This has happened, you know, on previous occasions.

And it is not as if this is a thing of the past. The Terraria morons are advertising on (spamming) 4chan as we speak.

Guerrilla advertising is hard enough to combat when posts are associated with names, and the administrators actually have a will to fight. An anonymous forum lacks the first, and getting banned for complaining about advertising would seem to indicate a lack of the second.

The conspiracy theory starts here: Just where does 4chan get its money? It obviously consumes massive amounts of bandwidth, but has minimal advertising, and donations are (no kidding) refused. Other imageboards hold hysterical fundraisers and frequently die, but 4chan soldiers on, immortal, an apparent perpetual motion machine. Moot does not appear to be Bill Gates, who can fund an outrageously unprofitable venture for pure kicks. The money has to be coming from somewhere.

In fact, 4chan would make an ideal platform for guerrilla advertising. The users are anonymous, and so are the administration staff. 4chan is neither a public company, nor a nonprofit, so their financial records aren't published. They're about as transparent as a lead brick. Selling discussion threads would be both profitable and invisible. Banning malcontents such as myself could be a premium feature.

But hey. Maybe I'm just paranoid.

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