Gabe Newell learned about business from his first employer, Bill Gates, "that success in software comes from getting outside developers to write programs that sell more copies of your own". Gabe Newell is listed as the 271st employee at Microsoft, and he shares something in common with the founder Bill Gates, as they both dropped out of Harvard University. Newell dropped out of Harvard after being talked into joining Microsoft by Steve Ballmer, who at the time was Head of Sales. Newell spent thirteen years working for Microsoft, because of this he became a "Microsoft Millionaire" (A term used to recognize someone who's earned over one million dollars working at Microsoft), Newell described his job at Microsoft as the "Producer of the first three releases of Windows".
While Newell worked at Microsoft, he was running program management on the Windows OS, specifically, Newell held several positions in the Systems, Applications and Advanced Technology divisions that worked on the first two releases of Windows and was a driving force in the introduction of Windows NT and server edition.#
Work at Valve
In 1996 Newell and co-worker Mike Harrington left Microsoft as "Microsoft Millionaires" with fortunes from the success of Windows. Newell was inspired by Michael Abrash, another employee of Microsoft, who left to work on Quake at id Software. Together, Newell and Harrington founded Valve Corporation, signing the LLC agreement on the same day Newell got married.
Two years later they released their first game, a sci-fi FPS called Half-Life. According to his bio at valvesoftware.com, his most significant contribution to Half-Life was his statement "C'mon, people, you can't show the player a really big bomb and not let them blow it up."
Newell's role at Valve is Managing Director of Game Development with an emphasis on technology rather than game design. Newell was particularly involved with the creation of Steam, a digital game distributor initially released in 2003 and becoming the largest of its kind, with hundreds of games and over 30 million accounts.
Throughout the years Newell has also been somewhat of a "talent scout." Valve listens to consumers and pays close attention to the modding and independent game communities. Because of this he discovered mods and indie games that went on to become hugely successful Valve games. Valve discovered Counter-Strike, Team Fortress, Portal, and Dota 2 in this manner. Gabe Newell is much more open and honest with the video game community than is normally expected of a company owner. He can also be reached through his email and answers the majority of them, even some of the joking emails.
Gabe also relies on his community for ideas, suggestions and feedback. He actively reads the Steam Forums and various other message boards, and has been known to post and even ask for assistance when it comes to Valve related issues. As an example, this topic from a while ago when someone stole the HL-2 Source Tree.
Newell lives with his wife, Lisa, and two sons in Long Beach, Washington along, close to the Valve Corporation headquarters in Bellevue, Washington outside of Seattle. His home includes a knife collection with about 600 knives.
When he founded Valve he was already a millionaire due to his Microsoft stock. As of 2012, his net worth was estimated at $1.5 billion. According to Forbes, Steam controls half to 70% of the 4 billion market for downloaded PC games. Newell said that Valve is, per employee, more profitable than Apple or Google.
For obvious reasons, Newell does not usually discuss what games he plays. From information available on Steam and pieced together from various interviews, some of his favorite games include World of Warcraft, Day of Defeat: Source, Diablo II, Super Mario 64, and Team Fortress 2. Newell owns a special Team Fortress 2 item entitled the "Ban Hammer," a level 9001 "Mallet of Banishment." When equipped, it bans any player that he kills. The Ban Hammer acts as a humorous security measure for extreme cases of malicious behavior in Team Fortress 2 servers.
- "George Lucas should have distributed the 'source code' to Star Wars. Millions of fans would create their own movies and stories. Most of them would be terrible, but a few would be genius."
- Newell was once quoted as claiming that developing processes for the PS3 in general was "a waste of everybody's time" and "a disaster on many levels ... I'd say, even at this late date, they should just cancel it and do a do over. Just say, 'This was a horrible disaster and we're sorry and we're going to stop selling this and stop trying to convince people to develop for it'." Ironically, Gabe went on to announce Portal 2 for the PS3 in 2010.
- "If you don’t have a good idea of what the player has going through their mind that’s important, you’re going to be a terrible game developer. If you don’t recognize that for a multiplayer game that the community of people playing that game has just as big an impact on the experience of somebody coming into that game as the game rules themselves do, then you’re going to be a terrible game designer."
- "You're in our world now" (referring to Valve)
- "It's one bad apple in a massive, massive barrel full of good ones."
- "I think that Windows 8 is kind of a catastrophe for everybody in the PC space."