Valve Software founder sees big gaming future for Apple

Steve Jobs never had a lot of interest in the video game world, but that didn’t stop Apple from accidentally becoming one of the most influential companies in the industry. Apple logo

Now, the founder of Valve Software, makers of the acclaimed “Half-Life” series and Steam digital distribution system, says he believes Apple could make Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo’s consoles irrelevant at some point in the future.

“I suspect Apple will launch a living room product that redefines people’s expectations really strongly and the notion of a separate console platform will disappear,” said Gabe Newell at the WTIA TechNW conference Tuesday.

It’s a bold prediction – and Newell noted he has no advance knowledge of Apple’s plans – but Newell’s track record makes him worth listening to. Valve’s bet on Steam, long before digital distribution had come of age, has made the company the industry leader in PC game sales.

Apple, of course, has severely disrupted the handheld gaming business with the iPhone and iPod Touch. Sales of the Nintendo 3DS have been weak for a number of reasons, but one of those was consumers opting to spend their money on a multi-function device, rather than a dedicated handheld game system.

The living room is the battleground of consoles – and many have been adjusting their strategies to expand their audience. Sony has added original programming to the PlayStation 3 in recent years and Microsoft last week announced 40 content providers it was partnering with to stream live and on-demand programming through its Xbox 360.

Apple, too, has an interest in the living room. The company’s Apple TV hasn’t been an overwhelming hit to date, but has a respectable user base. If Apple were to blend that system with a gaming device that does redefine expectations, as Newell, predicts, it could represent a paradigm shift in the industry.