Making billions in video games

Geoff Pickle, Web EditorIt’s rare that my passion for video games crosses over into the realm of my day-to-day business reporting, but a recent bit of news involving Gabe Newell, co-founder and managing director of Bellevue, Wash-based software firm Valve Corp., has allowed me to mix it up.

With a net worth of roughly $1.5 billion, Newell tied for 854th on Forbes’ recently released list of the world’s billionaires. In case you were wondering, Carlos Slim Helu, a Mexican businessman and philanthropist, retained his ranking for the third straight year as the richest man in the world. Closer to home, Stanley Kroenke, founder of the Columbia-based Kroenke Group, which has partnered on the development of James River Commons in Springfield, ranked No. 358 on the list with a net worth of $3.2 billion. His wife, Ann Walton Kroenke, daughter of James “Bud” Walton and niece of Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. founder Sam Walton, ranked No. 288 on the list with a net worth of $3.9 billion.

Newell, often seen as the face of Valve, makes his debut on the Forbes list. According to Forbes, Newell owns more than 50 percent of the privately held company, which he co-founded in 1996 after cashing in stock options earned while working a decade as a software producer for Microsoft.

As a gamer who uses Valve’s social media and sales platform, Steam, on a daily basis, I was happy to read that Newell had made the list. Though I’m sure he would be the first to admit, as the Valve Web site displays, that the corporation is a team effort, his charisma has been well noted throughout the gaming community. He even responds personally to fan e-mails. How many billionaires would do that?

I stayed up until midnight April 19 to play the much anticipated “Portal 2,” Valve’s 2011 blockbuster video game release. It lived up to the hype. I also count the company’s “Half Life 2” among my favorite games, and its predecessor, the original “Half Life,” is perhaps one of the most influential games of all time.

Valve excels in customer service, and as a customer, that is the most important thing to me. It is one of the reasons why Valve continues to blow its competition away. I congratulate one of the men behind an industry leader in making people happy. To reference the first “Portal” game, the cake may be a lie, but Gabe, you’ve earned yours.

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