What is Valve announcing next week?

Valve's new announcement is looking to bring Steam into our living rooms. Is it the Steam Box, or something else?

Article by Mike Williams, .

Valve has launched a brand-new website, teasing the expansion of the "Steam Universe" in 2014. The simple webpage mentions the "living room" and Steam's existing Big Picture mode, so many are assuming that a Steam Box announcement is forthcoming.

"Last year, we shipped a software feature called Big Picture, a user-interface tailored for televisions and gamepads," the site reads. "This year we've been working on even more ways to connect the dots for customers who want Steam in the living-room."

Even more surprising is the page isn't teasing one announcement, it's teasing three.

"As Gabe mentioned a few days ago, we will be talking next week about the steps we're taking to make Steam more accessible on televisions and in the living room. Specifically, we have three announcements to make beginning with the first one on Monday morning," a Valve rep told Kotaku.

Three announcements, what could they be?

Steam Box

The first mention of the name 'Steam Box' was back in March of 2012. The Verge broke the story that Valve's hardware aspirations had become a reality: the company had decided on a hardware spec, with other hardware manufacturers stepping up to build the boxes.

The move would lend the PC markets some of the benefits of the console space, without actually locking consumers to a specific set of hardware. Valve would be the arbiter of those specs; what it decides are the specs for Steam Box 2014 or 2015 are what PC developers will aim for as a baseline. 'Do all of our features work on the current spec of Steam Box?' would be a valid question for developers if Valve stepped up.

Valve SteamBox prototypes shows at CES were simply PCs in small cases.

But what kind of software would the fabled Steam Box run? Probably a Valve-tweaked variant Linux.

Valve president and founder Gabe Newell has been an outspoken opponent of closed operating systems, especially Microsoft's recent Windows 8, which he said was "a catastrophe for everybody in the PC space" back in mid-2012. At LinuxCon 2013 earlier this week, Newell called Linux and open source the "future of gaming" and mentioned using hardware to bring Linux into the living room.

Is Valve strong and big enough to shift the market away from Windows to Linux? I'm a bit skeptical, but that's because my temporary forays into the world of Linux distros haven't been fruitful. For me, they all had the same problem early Android versions had: there's some promise, but I'd have to spend far too long getting there. Windows remains the largest operating system by far according to Valve's own Steam hardware survey. The biggest Linux distro, Ubuntu 13.04 64-bit, is used by only 0.40 percent of Steam's userbase.

But what if Valve's new Linux-based operating system had a ringer?

Half-Life 3

People have been waiting for Half-Life 3 - or even Half-Life 2: Episode Three - since the release of Half-Life 2: Episode Two in 2007. The original plan was to have each of the Episodes roughly six to eight months apart, but obviously that hasn't worked out. Since the release of Episode Two, the next Half-Life has become mythic for fans.

Where have you been Gordon?

The last peep of any new Half-Life is from a month-old Reddit Ask Me Anything involving a user who toured Valve's offices. The user asked the tour guide about game and was told that it's still very early at this point.

"If I told you anything about it you'd just have more questions. We only have elements. Bits and pieces of game. No structure. No story," said the tour guide.

If Valve is being tricky, a new Steam Box-exclusive Half-Life 3 could be a good banner to fly, in the same way Microsoft uses Halo to bring users to its consoles.

TV Streamer

Google's Chromecast streams video to your TV for only $35

Like Google's recent Chromecast device and the upcoming PlayStation Vita TV, Valve could have hardware allowing you to stream Steam's Big Picture mode to a small, cheap device you'd attach to your TV. This would provide a an option for those who already have all the PC hardware at their disposal.

Such a device wouldn't be Valve's focus, but like the Vita TV, it could provide an extra point of entry into the Steam ecosystem.

Something Completely Different

For all we know, Valve could be planning something else that could really up-end the entire gaming industry. The company employs very smart people and lets them do whatever they want within reason. Who knows what they've thought up in the past few years? Valve has already filed patents for a modular controller and has been messing with using biometrics for gameplay for years.

Valve's first announcement next week could be the gaming industry's automobile or the gaming industry's Segway. There are big expectations from PC fans because Valve and Steam have done well for the PC gaming community. Let's hope the company comes through with something amazing. If not, we'll be here to discuss it either way.

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Comments 9

  • Avatar for ldave #1 ldave 4 years ago
    If they can match the price of PS4/X1 with the Steam Box and it can offer also some desktop functions (browser, office, etc), then I'm interested.
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  • Avatar for metalangel #2 metalangel 4 years ago
    Steam is already in my living room through the magic of an HDMI cable... Skyrim, Sanctum 2, GTA4: EFLC, ArmA3, Sleeping Dogs, Railworks... I never bother with Big Picture though, just doesn't work right for me.
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  • Avatar for EuroDarlan #3 EuroDarlan 4 years ago
    I'm still a little confused about how this will be an attractive proposition without more subsidizing than Valve is probably willing to do, plus, Linux...what's the point of buying a Steam-console if it doesn't run my Windows games? Here's hoping I'm somehow wrong, or it's just a convenient way to wirelessly stream PC video/audio to an HDMI dongle attached to your TV.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #4 MHWilliams 4 years ago
    @metalangel I have the same problem. A media PC hooked up to my TV, but Steam big Picture has been buggy as hell for me.
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  • Avatar for StooMonster #5 StooMonster 4 years ago
    @ldave I don't need or want desktop functions such as running Office on my gaming PC, if I want to do that stuff I use my work computer.

    I think offering all things to all people will only end in disaster, if they are going to offer a rival to PS4/XbOne it should focus on games.
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  • Avatar for Shotofen #6 Shotofen 4 years ago
    My PC mumble friends have commented to me "No one except fanboys care about a Steam Box at this point." I's kind of the same with Half Life 3. There is no possible way it can live up to the hype at this point (unless Valve's designers can pull off some miracle).
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  • Avatar for Captain-Gonru #7 Captain-Gonru 4 years ago
    Perhaps I'm not seeing something here, but what's the point? At a time when the industry is going for "all in one" devices, why would I want something hooked up to my tv that does the same thing my computer does and less?
    And the Half-Life 3 thing... well, it may move SOME units, but ultimately, you either have to give the box away to have enough of an install base to make a profit, or you have to port it to PC and/or consoles, again for the profits. Probably both. And even then, it better be the greatest creation on the history of mankind, or else that rabid fan base of theirs will turn on them.
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  • Avatar for weevilo #8 weevilo 4 years ago
    @Captain Gonru An enthusiast PC gamer is not the target audience for a Steam box I wouldn't think. But if they can build some nice extra functionality into Steam big picture, they'll open a library of thousands of games from the early 90s on with prices that PSN and XBL can't touch (and hopefully inspire some nice competition there to help make things less ridiculous). It's not a hard sell when console owners upgrading to next gen realize they're losing their entire library yet again, including digital purchases.

    As well, if they can make the hardware easily extensible, that could be a nice selling point. I know a lot of console gamers who have purchased several of the same console over the years to get bigger HDs and whatnot. I suspect Valve would want to lock down the hardware and only sell their own upgrade hardware to make it easy to avoid hardware/software conflicts ala Apple, but they could offer several options of common third party hardware with video cards, SDDs and mobo/cpus, so I don't think that's a huge deal for such a specialized machine.

    They have the money behind them to market it well, and it's a great time to enter the market IMO for the exact reason I just mentioned. Why bother rebuilding another transitory library of games, when you can get most of the same games on PC/Steambox.

    If they can nail like a plugin architecture that lets users or third parties extend functionality, as well as provide the basics like a browser and the usual streaming services, while removing all of the personal administration usually required of a PC owner that keeps a lot of people away, they'll have a very nice product on their hands. They'll also need to fix the way that games get added to Steam, since I want to be able to play anything on it, not just the curated games Valve sees fit. They don't need to foster and woo an indie development scene like Sony and MS are having to do, they just need to get out of the way.
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  • Avatar for weevilo #9 weevilo 4 years ago
    Actually there's a lot of noise about them using a version of Linux, so that really limits the launch library to mostly indie games. If that's the case, I think they'll be in a much tougher position.
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