We've heard rumours that Valve (the company behind the uber-popular Steam PC gaming store as well as video games such as Half Life and Portal) were preparing to enter the gaming hardware market, and now Valve head honco Gabe Newell has confirmed those rumours. The Steam Box is coming.
Valve are looking to put a gaming PC in your living room next year that would boot directly to Steam's Big Picture mode, the recently-released controller friendly front end for Steam that offers a console-like experience."I think in general that most customers and most developers are gonna find that [the PC is] a better environment for them," Newell told Kotaku.
"They won't have to split the world into thinking about 'why are my friends in the living room, why are my video sources in the living room different from everyone else?' So in a sense we hopefully are gonna unify those environments."
The Steam Box will likely aim for mid-range components (which would still make it a match in terms of performance against what we've heard rumoured to be inside the Xbox 720), which would be static and not upgradeable in the same way that a standard PC is. In this sense, it'd give PC game developers a standardised model to fine tune their games against, as oppossed to the fragmented nature of PC hardware as it stands today. While this would be a great way for casual gamers to get into PC gaming, it will irk those who love tinkering under the hood with their games, and who often shell out for up-to-date PC hardware. Keep in mind that being able to regularly update your hardware is one of the key reasons to own a gaming PC in the first place.
However, Newell also suggested that Valve wouldn't be the only company making Steam Box style gaming PCs, with other manufacturers seeming keen to corner the living room gaming PC market. Indeed Alienware have already produced the mad X51 machine, itself offering limited upgrade potential. Perhaps they and other manufacturers will approach hardware upgrades more open mindedly? But of course, any component upgrade takes away the potential sale of a totally revamped next-gen model, which could turn PC gaming into the sort of generational console war that has proved such a money spinner for Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony.
It's an interesting proposition to be sure. There's a lot of firsts on the table here; the first download-only console with games stored in the cloud, widespread "cross-platform" gaming with PC's (if you consider the Steam Box a console and not a PC). We'll be keeping a very close eye on what Valve get up to here.