Apparently, We Can Thank Doom For Valve’s Existence
Before Billionare Gabe Newell was fabulously wealthy thanks to having co-founded Valve, he was a lowly, less obscenely rich Microsoft employee who worked for Bill’s house for 13 years. When he left to found Valve, he created what, as the recently leaked Valve employee handbook suggests, appears to be a company that is essentially the perfect employer (if you’re a genius level enough to even qualify). Bloomberg talked to Newell about Valve’s corporate culture, among other things, but perhaps the most interesting thing to come out of the interview, as Kotaku noted, is the fact that Newell’s decision to leave Microsoft was inspired by the Internet’s first enormous time-sucking gaming phenomenon that could get you fired if your boss found you playing.
Yes, Doom is the reason we have Portal. But it isn’t for the cash-in-on-a-trend reasons you might be assuming. It had a little to do with an examination of Windows market share. “At Microsoft, we had very little visibility into the actions of our customers,” newell said. “You know how a lot of computers came with Microsoft Office pre-installed? There was concern among people who were working on Microsoft Office that people would buy computers and reformat their hard drives and install MS-DOS instead of Windows. So said well, let’s go look at what our customers have on their PCs. We weren’t going to just ask them. It was a really expensive thing to do. The good news that came out of that was that I think at the time, 20 million people in the U.S. were using Windows.”
That’s a giant number of people – I remember when the transition to GUI interface really set in and even then it was still kind of a shiny new novelty. 20 million people must have sent their jaws dropping to the floor. Until, that is, they looked at the rest of their data. “[W]hat was so shocking to me”, Newell continued, “was that Windows was the second highest usage application in the U.S. The number one application was Doom“. Yes, you read that right. Americans really were wasting as much time as their bosses said they were.
This seems to affected how Newell viewed his own situation. “[Doom was] a shareware program that hadn’t been created by any of the powerhouse software companies. It was a 12-person company in the suburbs of Texas that didn’t even distribute through retail, it distributed through bulletin boards and other pre-Internet mechanisms. To me, that was a lightning bolt. Microsoft was hiring 500-people sales teams and this entire company was 12 people, yet it had created the most widely distributed software in the world. There was a sea change coming.”
So there you have it. Thanks, Doom, for making Gabe Newell decide to switch careers. It’s enough for us to forgive that awful movie.