Approximately four months of pre-orders, totaling approximately 21K copies, brought Valve over $350K in revenue at the cost of running servers and consuming bandwidth. That's not even sales of the game, but pre-orders. And that's a single game among thousands.
Without giving direct numbers, Newell told us, "The PC has been going gangbusters lately. Steam revenue's up 50 percent year-over-year, which tracks closely to overall what's happening in PC." Operating Steam is a very lucrative business.
So much so, in fact, that Valve's entire business is built around Steam. "But Valve's a game developer! Why isn't Valve making games?!" you ask with a crowbar in one hand, a headcrab hat sitting atop your dome.
The short answer is, well, Valve is making games. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and DOTA 2 are primary examples: Valve is still making games, but only insofar as they're experiments in new models for Steam. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is, "Here's how to make a successful eSports shooter on Steam!" DOTA 2 is, "Here's how to make a successful eSports MOBA game on Steam!"
With Steam Machines/Controller, Steam VR/Lighthouse and Steam Link, Valve is making a big push into physical hardware. Why? Because it all rolls up into Steam.
You may have noticed Steam's search functionality adding support for VR games back in December 2013. Or maybe you used Steam's in-home streaming functionality, which started beta testing one month earlier in November 2013? Or maybe you've got your own gaming PC in the living room, running Steam's living room-friendly Big Picture Mode, first introduced back in 2011?
All of these initiatives serve one purpose: Extend the reach of Steam. The hardware Valve just announced, from its $50 game-streaming box (Steam Link) to its VR headset collaboration with HTC (the Vive), all directly rolls up into Steam. It's the one common denominator among all these variables, and Valve's been setting up foundations for this push across the past several years.