Gabe Newell has been hanging out in New Zealand (opens in new tab) since March, shielding himself from the pandemic by staying in a country that's handled it remarkably well. Life is comparatively normal there—though the 3-week streak of no cases was recently broken (opens in new tab)—and apparently the Valve co-founder wants to help studios relocate to the country, at least temporarily.
Newell was Geoff Keighley's special guest in a Game Awards Zoom meeting on Sunday, where he discussed New Zealand, the pandemic, Valve and VR. Most of the chat is under NDA, but some snippets have been shared.
Valve News Network (opens in new tab) reports that Newell is planning a meeting with the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, to possibly discuss moving Valve and other developers into the country, escaping the trials and tribulations of designing games while working from home. The actual paraphrased quote that VNN's Tyler McVicker shared is vague and doesn't actually mention Valve, but it's hard to imagine he wouldn't be interested, given that he's spearheading this initiative.
"Because I've been going on a pro-New Zealand campaign lately, I'm probably going to be meeting with the Prime Minister," Newell said, "and one of the positions I'm going to be arguing for is that, given there is something super valuable that has been created here in New Zealand due to the hard work of the population of New Zealand, there is likely a large want to temporarily relocate production teams into the country."
Newell also suggested that the coronavirus has knocked productivity at Valve down by 50-75 percent, and that it hadn't really come up with a solution to the big changes that working from home forces upon developers. Another reason he might want it to relocate to New Zealand.
While Newell has been in New Zealand for most of the year, most of Valve is stuck at home in the US. So who would be relocated? Everyone? Just development teams? Nobody has any idea when things will go back to normal globally, which also makes it hard to settle on some dates for when this temporary stay would end. I suspect a lot of staff would balk at the thought of being separated from their family during this tumultuous time, too. Organising something like this just seems like a nightmare.
Will New Zealand become the temporary heart of the videogame industry? I think it's safe to say that it won't. Still, it's nice to see Newell keeping busy while he's on his extended stay in the country. He's also been raising money for charity, and he's helping to host a—currently postponed—free concert (opens in new tab).