Billionaire and Valve Software co-founder Gabe Newell is currently stationed in New Zealand, where he's been staying since COVID-19 went from being an outbreak to a global pandemic. He's now organizing a free concert as a "thank you" to the country and making the rounds on New Zealand TV to promote the event—and, over the weekend, he declared a preference for the Xbox Series X over the PS5.
Appearing on The Project, Newell fielded a few questions about gaming and virtual reality while there to promote We Love Aotearoa, the concert being held in Auckland on August 15. One presenter asked Newell which is better, the Series X or the PS5, and Newell quickly answered with "the Xbox."
"I don't have a stake in that race," Newell added after being pressed for an explanation by the show's hosts. "Obviously, we do most of our development on personal computers. But of the two, I would definitely go with an Xbox."
It has been quite a long time since console development has been anything of a major, public-facing focus at Valve. In 2007 Valve and Electronic Arts brought The Orange Box to the Xbox 360 and PS3, and at the time Newell called the PS3's cell architecture "a waste of everybody's time." EA ended up handling the PlayStation release of the Half-Life, Team Fortress, and Portal collection.
A few years later, Newell appeared on stage at a Sony E3 conference to walk back his early criticisms and promote the PS3 version of Portal 2, which went on to launch with Steamworks integration. There, he praised Sony for making the PS3 "the most open platform of all the current generation consoles."
Newell doesn't get into the pros and cons of the Series X and PS5 on The Project, and as he notes earlier in the interview, his big future-oriented focus is on pushing past VR tech to develop brain-computer interfaces. Still, given that the PS5 will support VR while the Xbox Series X will not (at least at launch), it's interesting to see Newell pick the console that ignores the medium Valve has invested so much in.
Since the PS3 and 360 days, Valve has spent a lot of its time developing hardware, from Steam Machines and controllers to VR tech like the Valve Index kit, which launched last year ahead of Half-Life: Alyx last year. Maybe that experience informs Newell's preference for the Series X. Here's hoping another New Zealand TV host gets him to open up a bit more about why he's siding with Microsoft's box.