"Half Life" and "Left for Dead" developer Valve has played on the emotions of gamers before, many of whom have been rendered numb by the fact that it has been years since the last "Half Life" release. For instance, Valve chief Gabe Newell himself responded to a haiku written by a gamer who asked about the development of the next "Half Life" games with a haiku of his own back in 2011.
Once Gabe Newell teased the gaming world with the above "Half Life: Episode 3" release, the precedent of Valve directly toying with its fans had been set. This begs the question of whether the teasing would continue. If you take a look at certain details in Valve's recent Steam hardware and software announcements, that indeed may have happened.
The three circles below on Valve's Steam announcement page symbolized three different announcements: Steam Machines, SteamOS and the Steam controller. However, they could have easily compressed these announcements into one event.
The cat below, found on the Steam announcement page, has a pair of whiskers on one side of its face, but three whiskers on the other.
The controller found on the Steam annoucement page, which is located to the right of the above cat, has three buttons on the right side. However, the announced Steam controller looks nothing like the illustration below, nor does it have three buttons on its right edge.
To cap it all off, Valve also referred to upcoming announcements of AAA games coming "natively to SteamOS" next year.
There's a running joke about how Valve can't count to three, which refers to the company's refusal/inability to push a video game series to a third release. For example, we've had "Half Life," "Half Life 2" and even smaller episodic titles like "Half Life 2: Episode 1" and "Half Life 2: Episode 2." Between 2004 and 2007, Valve released "Half Life 2," "Half Life 2: Episode 1" and "Half Life 2: Episode 2," but no whiff of "Half Life 3" or even "Half Life 3: Episode 3" since then.
The same goes for the "Left For Dead" franchise. We've gotten "Left for Dead" and "Left for Dead 2," but no "Left for Dead 3." "Left for Dead" and "Left for Dead 2" were released quite close together: the former in 2008 and the latter 2009, but no full "Left for Dead" releases have arrived since 2009. It'll be interesting to see what the reaction will be if and when either "Half Life 3" or "Left for Dead 3" have been announced.
There is a chance that gamers have reached a point where they no longer care about "Half Life," much the way "Duke Nukem Forever" fell flat after being delayed for years, finding itself in a world that had long passed them by once it was released. The nature of "Left for Dead" as a multiplayer-centric series gives it an extended lifespan. However, "Half Life" has and always will primarily be a singleplayer experience. With so many competing game franchises for gamers to choose from and new consoles releasing next month, Valve could be on the verge of forcing "Half Life" into irrelevance after neglecting its fanbase for roughly so long, if they haven't done so already.
Could Valve be poking fun at gamers and critics alike by featuring the number three so prominently in its recent announcements? What do you think? Sound off in the comments below.