After many rumors over the past few months over a ‘Steam Box‘, Valve confirmed at the VGA’s last Friday that they do indeed plan to get into the hardware business. According to Valve’s CEO Gabe Newell, Steam’s Big Picture mode (their redesigned UI for TV’s) was only the start, and that gamers should start seeing dedicated Steam hardware as early as next year. Right now their goal is to figure out how to make computers function just as well as the other devices in your living room.
Newell tells Kotaku that the reaction to Big Picture mode was extremely positive, and that they’re now trying to get it working on the Linux version of Steam which they hope to bring out of beta soon. Once they have a fully functioning version of Steam running on an open source operating system like Linux, the company will have much more flexibility in designing and producing their own hardware solution. He adds that other manufacturers will likely follow with similar hardware running Steam, running head to head with dedicated consoles from Sony and Microsoft.
He mentions how both average consumers and developers will likely appreciate these dedicated PC’s and that they hope to unify the separate environments that consoles and PC’s reside in.
“I think in general that most customers and most developers are gonna find that [the PC is] a better environment for them,” Newell said. “Cause 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.”
Newell does state, however, that their hardware won’t be as open or customizable as other packages that will likely be released. Their goal is to create a very specific hardware solution that will work for everyone.
“Well certainly our hardware will be a very controlled environment,” he said. “If you want more flexibility, you can always buy a more general purpose PC. For people who want a more turnkey solution, that’s what some people are really gonna want for their living room.
The nice thing about a PC is a lot of different people can try out different solutions, and customers can find the ones that work best for them.”
Finally, the Valve chief does mention that work on their next-generation Source engine continues and that it will be completely compatible with next-gen consoles. He says that, “Hopefully that’s gonna give us some interesting opportunities on the game side.”