Gabe Newell says Steam doesn't need a Call of Duty guarantee from Microsoft 'because we trust their intentions'

Gabe Newell in a Valve promotional video, on a yacht.
(Image credit: Valve software)
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Regulators worldwide have been looking closely (opens in new tab) at Microsoft's proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard, and one series in particular has become a focal point. Call of Duty is now so big, say opponents of the deal, that this series in itself could be a competition concern. Their argument is that if Microsoft completes the deal and, a few years down the line, makes COD exclusive to Microsoft services, it risks materially harming competitors and the wider gaming landscape.

Whether you buy that or not, it's one of the biggest question marks over the deal, to the extent that Phil Spencer and other Microsoft execs are currently falling over themselves to talk about Call of Duty's glorious multi-platform future. "Take it off PlayStation? Why we'd fire anyone who even suggested such a thing!"

I made that quote up for a laugh, but you get the drift: Microsoft has offered Sony a 10-year guarantee, which of course Sony will not accept, and yesterday brought the news it had made a deal with Nintendo (opens in new tab) regarding putting COD on Switch (which will certainly be interesting to see: I love my Switch but no way is it going to run the recent Modern Warfare 2).

In a sign of how nervy the suits are getting about COD's potential for scuppering the deal, Microsoft has been trying to go even further than this: it recently offered Valve a "long-term Call of Duty commitment" with regards to the Steam platform, which the series has only just returned to after a hiatus of many years, but Gabe Newell says, eh, it's good. We trust you. 

"We’re happy that Microsoft wants to continue using Steam to reach customers with Call of Duty when their Activision acquisition closes," said Newell in a statement provided to Kotaku (opens in new tab). "Microsoft has been on Steam for a long time and we take it as a signal that they are happy with gamers' reception to that and the work we are doing. Our job is to keep building valuable features for not only Microsoft but all Steam customers and partners."

That's relatively boilerplate, but Newell goes on to put things in the most Valve fashion possible, and make it clear he doesn't really see Call of Duty's success as a problem.

"Microsoft offered and even sent us a draft agreement for a long-term Call of Duty commitment" said Newell. "But it wasn’t necessary for us because a) we’re not believers in requiring any partner to have an agreement that locks them to shipping games on Steam into the distant future b) Phil [Spencer] and the games team at Microsoft have always followed through on what they told us they would do so we trust their intentions and c) we think Microsoft has all the motivation they need to be on the platforms and devices where Call of Duty customers want to be."

Clear as you like: and doubtless rather a kick in the teeth for Sony's lawyers, who are currently trying to tell anyone who'll listen that Microsoft acquiring Call of Duty is a potential death-knell for competing platforms. This has always been Valve's style, a rising tide lifts all boats attitude towards gaming on PC and an unwillingness to engage in hand-wringing about the future direction of travel. And of course Gabe Newell thinks well of Microsoft: he worked for it on the first versions of the Windows operating system in the 1980s, before leaving in 1996 to co-found Valve.

Expect the above to be cited in innumerable submissions as Microsoft tries to get this deal signed-off in various jurisdictions: and Gabe Newell can probably expect a very nice Christmas card from Redmond this year, to boot.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."