Update November 21, 2019: Valve has just announced that instead of a Half-Life "3," it will be releasing a VR prequel called Half-Life: Alyx in 2020.
Update: It appears that, yet again, our hopes have been raised, only to be smashed down upon the cold, hard, rocks of reality. Shortly after this post went up, McVicker deleted the video containing the "five years or so" tease, saying on Twitter that two people have confirmed to him that the email was actually a fake.
It's unfortunate, but it also aptly illustrates the thirst that so many of us have for a new Half-Life, or even just an indication from someone in the know that it's actually (maybe) going to happen. I still haven't received a response from Newell denying—or, because hope dies hard, confirming—the original report, but I'll let you know if and when I do. In the meantime, it looks like we'll be adding this one to the collection.
Will we ever actually see Half-Life 3? Or even Half-Life 2: Episode 3? Probably not. But maybe! Who knows? Valve boss Gabe Newell does, possibly, and he's even got a time-frame in mind. Maybe.
The latest thin Half-Life 3 pseudo-tease comes from Newell himself by way of Tyler McVicker, who's behind Valve News Network, an unofficial but well-informed source of goings-on at Valve. In a new video, McVicker shares a number of user-submitted email replies from Newell, some of them silly meme fodder and others more serious.
The big bit comes at the very end of the video, around the 6:45 mark, when a fan writes, "Was just wondering, will I be able to play [a] new chapter of Half-Life before my life ends? I'm 32 now."
To that, Newell replies, "Just don't die in the next 5 years or so ;)"
That is incredibly imprecise, but it fits with what we've come to expect from talk of the next chapter in the Half-Life series: Eternally hopeful, but couched in the sort of cynical doubt that comes from well over a decade of elevated expectations and dashed dreams. Is it possible that a new Half-Life, be it Episode 3 or HL3 or whatever, arrives at some point in the next half-decade? Sure. Is it likely? That's a different matter altogether, especially when the time frame comes with the "or so" qualifier attached, which could mean just about anything. And that winky face? I have no idea.
There's also the question of whether or not Newell actually sent this email: Valve News Network is a reliable source, but just in case, I've emailed Newell to make sure he definitely sent this email. I'll let you know if he replies.