Microsoft has three billionaires - Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and Steve Ballmer. Steve Ballmer will soon be leaving day to day operations like Bill and Paul. Of all the other ex-Microsoft employees there are the wealthy who cashed out - Scott Oki, Charles Simonyi, Nathan Myhrvold, Jim Allchin, Paul Maritz, Mike Maples, and many more millionaires. There is though one other ex-Microsoft person who is a billionaire, and what is more impressive is he took his Microsoft millions and turned it into over a billion launching another company.
Some may be impressed by the money, but what is more impressive is how Gabe Newell did things different than most.
Gabe is making lots of noise and news lately launching a game platform on Linux. Gabe knows how to build a game platform as this is what he did at Microsoft 20 years ago.
For 13 years through to the mid-’90s, Gabe Newell was “producer on the first three releases of Windows” at Microsoft. At the time, according to Newell, “it was common wisdom that it wasn’t possible to write a good game in Windows because of, well, unnamed technical reasons.” In 1993 Doom was released, and according to Newell it became the number one most-used program in the entire US, ahead of Windows. When you consider that Id Software was a company of just 12 people, and Microsoft already had hundreds of developers working on Windows, this was quite an achievement.
Newell was disappointed that this game ran in MS-DOS, rather than Windows, and thus tasked some of his engineers to create a Windows port. According to an interview back in 2007, he then apparently called John Carmack at Id Software to say that Microsoft would do the port for free, and thus the port was eventually released as Doom 95. It is possible that the success of Doom, and Doom 95, showed developers that it was indeed possible to write top-notch games on Windows. It’s also worth noting that WinG, the precursor to DirectX, was maturing at the same time — perhaps it was a combination of factors that finally made Windows the de facto gaming platform.
Here is a video where Gabe reflects on the industry.
Watching the video there are many lessons to be learned.
I have an interest following Gabe. Gabe was my first interview at Microsoft. He took one look at my Apple experience and re-routed my whole days of interviews. Within 5 days I had an offer and joined in Apr 1992. My life would be quite a bit different if I had stayed at Apple. I doubt I would have stayed at Apple for as long as I stayed at Microsoft (until 2006).