Why Half-Life 3 Will Probably Never Come Out

RoosterTeeth’s news channel, The Know, posted a video last Friday in which they reported that, according to a source inside Valve that they trust but whose identity they cannot reveal (for obvious reasons), Half-Life 3 is being held back by Valve. According to their anonymous source, the game is in development, but it’s being worked on by a very small team of 10 or so. The source also says that a “script” for the game is ready, but that’s it.

Reportedly, the company isn’t interested in the game at all and have moved resources away from the Half-Life 3 project. Why would Valve ever do this? Well, according to The Know’s source, Valve is making so much money off of their other games (like DotA 2, TF2, etc.), that there’s no need for a Half-Life 3 from a business perspective. What’s more, apparently, Valve is so afraid of the backlash they might get, should the game turn out to be less than perfect, that they are simply not willing to risk it.

According to the same source, Valve had a team of around 100 people on Half-Life 3 in 2009, but the numbers have dwindled since then. Resources were shifted in order to complete games like DotA 2, Portal 2 and Left 4 Dead 2 which had release deadlines to meet. Afterwards, the Mass Effect 3 release in 2012 was a critical point in Valve’s decision to shift resources away from the Half-Life 3 project. The said release made BioWare face a lot of internet backlash from the passionate fans of the series and Valve, apparently, took that as an example and didn’t want the same to happen to their banner franchise.

The video goes on to analyze the two major components of the story that they received:

  • Firstly, the premise that Valve is making so much money already, that Half-Life 3 is not necessary to them from a business standpoint.

This first part is easier to check as it’s purely objective. It’s basically figuring out how much money does Valve make versus how much they would make from Half-Life 3. They did this by partnering with SuperData. Their research revealed that Valve made $400 million off of their top 3 titles (DotA 2, TF2 and CS:GO) and a rough conservative estimate of about $330 million off of their 30% cut from all Steam transactions last year. This puts their total revenue for 2014 at around $730 million. For figuring out how much Half-Life 3 would make, they made a rough estimate based on how many copies Half-Life and Half-Life 2 sold and came up with a rough number of about 12 million potential copies sold. Priced as a full retail price of $60 this would bring Valve around $720 million. While this is a lot, Valve makes that much money in one year, basically, from two free-to-play titles and a publishing platform.

  • Secondly, the idea that Valve is too afraid of the backlash that might be generated to release the game.

This part of the story is obviously way more subjective. Valve probably fears all the negativity that they will receive, should the game be below expected standards. And this fear is pretty justified. Stories of developers getting death threats, getting swatted by people circulate the web everywhere. I only need to point you to our article on John Smedley who stepped down as CEO because of the constant harassment he got just because he was the head of a game development company. People can be jerks on the internet and it’s totally understandable that Valve doesn’t want to have to deal with such a thing.

Now, all this is not to say that Valve completely shut down Half-Life 3. The project is not confirmed dead. Valve is probably just looking for a more opportune moment to release it. If the threat of a huge negative backlash simmers down (which is highly improbable, but who knows) and/or if Valve feels financially pressured to release it, we will probably see a Half-Life 3 release. As it stands now, Valve is a privately own company so it’s not being pressured by any investors/shareholders, more importantly Valve is a privately own company which does well, so there’s no need to go public. Considering there’s no financial pressure and there’s no need for Valve to deal with unnecessary negativity, it is probably safe to say that we won’t see Half-Life 3 for a very long time.

The Know has posted a response video yesterday clarifying a few more thing. They addressed the response Marc Laidlaw, veteran Valve writer, gave a reddit user’s email. He said that the fact that Valve has a script ready for Half-Life 3 is simply not true because that’s not how development for Half-Life works. Laidlaw also confirmed this to Bruce Greene from The Know in an email conversation they had. The said conversation neither proves nor disproves anything the guys at The Know reported, but hinted that Valve employees might hold different perspectives on the development process. Marc Laidlaw wouldn’t or couldn’t reveal anything more about the state in which Half-Life 3 is right now. It is believed that the two sources, Laidlaw and the anonymous source, mean different things when they use the term “script”. It is of course impossible to ask the anonymous source their take on the term without compromising his identity.

For more details on the story check out the original video posted by The Know and also the follow-up video. They also provided a transcript of their email conversation with Marc Laidlaw.

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