Gabe Newell, CEO and founder of Valve, owners of Steam, one of the largest digital distribution markets in the PC industry, offered his thoughts regarding the NFT phenomenon and the people behind it. In an interview offered to Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Newell made a clear distinction between the technology that powers NFTs and the people that are currently in the industry promoting it.
To validate the technology behind NFTs, Newell stated:
You have to separate the underlying technology versus which actors are utilizing that technology. It’s like if you’re a chemist, and you’re looking at nitrocellulose, you’re like ‘Oh, yeah, we can do some really interesting stuff with that’ … The underlying technology of distributed ledgers, and the notion of digital ownership, and shared universes, are all pretty reasonable.
However, this seems to conflict with opinions some in the gaming community hold about the use of NFTs, and the stance Steam has taken regarding games built on these technologies. Some in the industry have attributed the backlash as part of a general lack of knowledge about these tools. This is the case with an executive of Ubisoft, who stated he believes gamers don’t understand the benefits of adopting NFTs.
The vision that Newell has about the people currently in the NFT industry is less positive. On this matter, Newell stated:
The people in the space, though, tend to be involved in a lot of criminal activity and a lot of sketchy behaviors. So it’s much more about the actors than it is about the underlying technology or the rationale for what we’re doing.
Crypto, Volatility, and Fraud
Newell also talked about the issue of Steam accepting crypto payments for its services. It was one of the first to include bitcoin as a payment method, but it suspended this option back in 2017 due to the rise in fees and the volatility of the price of bitcoin. Newell also touched on this subject, stating:
At one point Steam was accepting cryptocurrencies for payments. And it turned out that it just made customers super mad. There was the issue of volatility. Volatility is a bad thing in a medium of exchange.
Also, Valve’s CEO concluded by saying that the “vast majority” of the transactions made with cryptocurrency on Steam were fraudulent, with people using “illegal sources of funds.”