The co-founder of Valve, Gabe Newell, has been stuck in New Zealand basically since the pandemic began. And because the developer and business leader has been having a great time in the country — and most of his Seattle-based colleagues are still stuck at home — it’s logical that Newell, and Valve, are starting to practically think about the logistics of living in New Zealand permanently.
In a lengthy new interview, Newell told TVNZ that there is “a lot of interest at a grass roots level inside of the company” to have some employees relocate to New Zealand. “[New Zealand has] been great at keeping the epidemic under control,” Newell said.
Newell said there were no plans last year to open a New Zealand branch. but the ongoing pandemic — and its handling in the United States — seems like it’s changed the appetite for relocation. Newell confirmed that he personally will continue seeking citizenship in New Zealand “for the foreseeable future”, and his application for residency has been granted in principle.
That said, there’s a lot of moving parts. Before Valve actually uproots more of its staff, one of the key factors will be the length of the pandemic.
“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,” Newell is quoted as saying. “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.”
New Zealand already has a groundswell of talent in game development and associated industries, but a bigger question now is supporting infrastructure. Something Newell mentioned directly was healthcare, something the United States has historically failed at.
“There’s this new requirement, where it would be really nice if they had amazing public health infrastructure. You’ve never really had to worry about that before when setting up a software company, but it’s about to become a critically valuable thing. It’s as if there’s a new element that’s been discovered called Not-Stupidium, and New Zealand is one of the world’s producers of it. So how New Zealand ends up deciding to take advantage of the fact that it has this resource, right, you can just collaborate more effectively when you’re doing it face to face.”
The most realistic possibility is that this year’s International, Valve’s mammoth Dota 2 global tournament, will be held in New Zealand. Newell said the constant mutations of COVID mean “It’s a realistic possibility and it gets more realistic all the time” that New Zealand will be the only country where Valve could actually plan to hold the International.
“Hopefully the procedures can be put in place so that becomes feasible — like, you know, this is what the quarantine would look like,” he said.
Gabe Newell also spoke about playing games in the interview, including his current passion, Ancient Planet Tower Defense from Moonlight Mouse. “I have this horrible problem where I just min-max the hell out of things … I’ve just been obsessed with trying to figure out all of the possible ways to play that game.”
He also spoke about turning his travelling companions into Dota 2 players, and that Valve has a chunk of employees who are huge fans of Apex Legends.
“I think I’ll enjoy playing it, which is good, but I also think there’s a bunch of things I’ll learn as a video game developer from playing it,” Newell said.