Steam Box prototypes should be available for testing by the summer.
Don Mattrick, president of the Interactive Entertainment Business of Microsoft, recently spoke at TechForum earlier this week, revealing that the Redmond company doesn't consider Valve Software's entry into the living room, the Steam Box, a potential threat. He did admit, however, that Valve is "doing some innovative stuff."
"The scale of products and things that are being brought to market are probably a little bit richer when I look at Sony, Nintendo, Apple, and Google," he said.
From the outside, Valve's Steam Box and Microsoft's upcoming Xbox Infinity are worlds apart. We haven't seen anything official regarding the latter, but Valve is shooting to eliminate the one-hardware-set-per-six-years (give or take) scenario by offering a system that owners can easily upgrade. However, it's also supposedly based on Linux, meaning users can't expect to get their Windows and Mac-based Steam purchases to run on the portable rig.
Meanwhile, Valve boss Gabe Newell told the BBC ahead of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) Games Awards that Steam Box prototypes are expected to be offered to customers for testing within the next four months. Currently the studio is working with partners to "nail down" how fast the device can be made.
"We'll be giving out some prototypes to customers to gauge their reactions, I guess, in the next three to four months," he said. "There are noise issues and heat issues and being able to [deal with] that while still offering a powerful enough gaming experience is the challenge in building it."
Valve also still needs to finalize how the console's controller will work. The BBC mentioned something about sensors to measure the gamer's body states.
"If you think of a game like Left For Dead - which was trying to put you into a sort of horror movie - if you don't change the experience of what the player is actually feeling, then it stops being a horror game," Newell explained. "So you need to actually be able to directly measure how aroused the player is - what their heart rate is, things like that - in order to offer them a new experience each time they play."
Eat that, Microsoft.
Currently there's no projected price tag, nor any indication of what will be available at launch. Lewis Ward from IDC said that Valve will likely produce an impressive machine, but at this point there doesn't seem to be a surrounding app ecosystem – which offers, Hulu, Netflix, Pandora etc. -- as seen with the other consoles.
"Valve will be unable to subsidize its console in the same way the other manufacturers do, so that remains a major unknown," Ward points out.
Based on the new report, there's a good chance Valve may officially introduce its Steam Box platform in June at E3 2013. That's just a guess, but given that Microsoft and Sony are finally showing their console cards, Valve may need to call their bluff with a completely new, competitive product.