Valve boss Gabe Newell has been hanging out in New Zealand for the better part of a year now, after deciding in March 2020 to extend a ten-day holiday into an indefinite hideout from the COVID-19 pandemic. (One of the nice things about being a billionaire is that you can do that sort of thing when the urge strikes.) The longer he stayed, the more he seemed to like it: In October 2020, he mused about the possibility of relocating game developers—maybe including some portion of Valve—to the country.
In a new interview with 1 News, Newell said again that there's "strong interest" among some Valve employees about making the move, although he added that there's no plan in place to start bringing people over just yet.
"You don't want to uproot a bunch of families, have them come here, and then the situation gets a bunch better and then they have to turn around and go back," he said. "So that's why getting a better handle on how long the epidemic is going to be affecting our operational decisions is important to that."
Something else that could be moved to New Zealand, Newell said, are major esports tournaments, including The International and CS:GO Majors. Last year's International and Rio Major were postponed because of the pandemic and there's still no date on either, as it remains impossible to hold in-person events in most of the world. But it's "a realistic possibility" that such a thing could be pulled off in New Zealand, where the pandemic is under control, "and it gets more realistic all the time."
"I literally could not, if I had to guess when it would be safe to do an in-person tournament anywhere [else] in the world, it would be very hard for me to say that—whereas I think, with a lot of confidence, we'd be able to plan for that in New Zealand," he said. "Hopefully the procedures can be put in place so that becomes feasible—like, you know, this is what the quarantine would look like."
"As long as Covid keeps mutating, it certainly is increasing the likelihood that we'll be having events here."
Newell also touched on the topic of Half-Life 3 (or, more accurately, the topic of why he refuses to discuss the topic of Half-Life 3) and "Citadel," an apparent codename for something that may or may not be in the works at Valve. Despite his refusal to actually talk about either, he did confirm that Valve has new projects in the works, and maybe more importantly a renewed enthusiasm for game development driven by the success of Half-Life: Alyx.
"We definitely have games in development that we're going to be announcing. It's fun to ship games," he said. "Alyx was great. To be back doing singleplayer games, that created a lot of momentum inside the company to do more of that."
And he weighed in on the subject of Cyberpunk 2077, saying that he "had a lot of fun" playing the PC version, and has "a lot of sympathy with a situation that every game developer finds themselves in."
"All I know is that there are a lot of very happy gamers in the PC space, which are the ones that are most visible to us," Newell said. "There are aspects of the game that are just brilliant, and it shows a tremendous amount of work. It's unfair to throw stones at any other developer, because just getting something as complex and ambitious as that out the door is pretty amazing. The PC version that I played, I had a lot of fun playing."