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Gabe Newell almost went blind, now a 'near-billionaire'

Forbes profile says Steam owns two-thirds of PC download market

Valve boss Gabe Newell has been profiled by Forbes, in an article which gives as much away about his personal struggle with adversity as it does his company's massive profitability.

The report reveals that Newell almost went blind from Fuchs Dystrophy, a congenital disease that slowly destroys the cornea.

Newell had double cornea transplants in 2006 and 2007, to fix what he called at the time his "dead-people eyes".

"The thing that snuck past my defenses was that not only could I see again but I could see better than I ever had before," he told Forbes. "I felt like I was in a fantasy story. It reminded me of how fast the future is coming at us and from what unexpected directions."


Since then, Valve has grown to attract 30 million customers - which Forbes estimates is "half to 70% of the $4 billion market for downloaded PC games".

Newell claims that Valve is "tremendously profitable" and that, per employee, the firm is more profitable than Google and Apple.

Forbes reports: "Various sources value the company at $2 billion to $4 billion, which is reasonable, considering the $4 billion to $6 billion valuations being put on Zynga, the maker of Facebook game hits FarmVille and Cafe World. Newell owns more than half of the business, making the Harvard dropout a near billionaire, if not one already."

The article contains other interesting tidbits, such as the fact Newell says around half of his employees started their careers making mods - and that a onetime manager of a Waffle House in Florida is now a lead software developer on Half-Life. In addition, it reveals that publishers earn a gross margin of around 70% on Steam, compared with 30% via retail stores.

Newell adds that Valve has deliberately avoided trends like mobile, Wii-style motion games and Facebook games.

"If we tried to blaze new trails of our own and ride all the latest trends, we'd likely be bankrupt by now," he says.

EA CEO John Riccitiello gives his own impression of Newell: "I think Gabe is brilliant. He's one of the smartest people I know... He has some sharp insights for what makes good games and for what's around the corner in technology."

[ SOURCE: Forbes ]