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Valve’s relationship with its customers is a collaboration, Newell says

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As the line between customers, products and service providers blur, it's important for Valve to realize its relationship with its community is a collaboration, founder Gabe Newell recently told The Washington Post.

Speaking with the publication, Newell said that people are often creating content "as much as they are consuming in the experience." This feedback loop makes players as valuable as the people behind their games.

"For us, it's a lot easier to realize that the experiences we create for people are really a collaboration between all of the members of the community," Newell said. "This sounds a little bit touchy-feely granola, but it's pretty concrete. When you have kids making six figure incomes making art assets inside the framework that you created and they're able to sell digital goods and services around the world, it's pretty concrete that you have to recognize that you are in a partnership with your customers. It's always a collaboration."

This idea of teamwork is especially prevalent in Valve's upcoming Steam controller, which the company plans to workshop, Newell said. Using the controller as a starting point, customers can build on that model for very specific things: size, features and so on.

"Don't think of it as a hardware or a software issue — or a game or operating system problem," Newell said. "Think of it as a community of customers: How can you take these systems and build cycles out of them. It's great that we have our software as a way for people to add value to it, and the hardware should be the same way. We started off with giving people models of our characters, and now we're starting off giving people models of our circuit diagrams for our controllers and the Steam Machines.

"They'll start innovating. They'll do a bunch of obvious stuff, they'll do a bunch of terrible stuff, and they'll do a bunch of amazing stuff that's hugely valuable and illustrates why the open community-oriented approach is the right one for a wide variety of post-Internet services and products."

The full interview is available on The Washington Post's website. In the first half of the publication's interview, Newell commented on Valve's tendency to hire modders and what he believes is a useful skillset.