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Microsoft: Steam Box Not a Threat; Prototypes in 4 Months

By - Source: BBC News | B 57 comments

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.

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Top Comments
  • 15 Hide
    madjimms , March 7, 2013 12:08 AM
    Although PC is my personal favorite for gaming, its very beneficial to the hardware & gaming industry to have multiple competitive platforms like this to become popular as well.
  • 12 Hide
    cewhidx , March 7, 2013 12:35 AM
    I think that a Steambox will be a good thing. That said, if it cant play my library of games that are Windows based, I'll have no use for it. I can already run my pc on my television, and play any game with controller support from my couch in 1080p & in 3d. For me to invest in this would definitely have to mean compatability with games already in my library.
  • 11 Hide
    shikamaru31789 , March 7, 2013 12:18 AM
    I still am failing to see how they plan to market the Steam Box. There's the Linux issue, Steam has a comparatively small library of Linux titles. There's the price/performance issue, for instance, Valve has said that the Piston would be one of many Steam Boxes (including their own), but it is expected to cost like $900, and yet it only has an APU, it could fall behind minimum requirements in just a few years. Why would a console gamer pay $900 for a system that'll be outdated faster than their $400 console, why would a PC gamer pay $900 for a Piston when they can build a system with 2-3 times the power for the same price? Yes, it's small, but you can get a much more powerful systems that is still small enough to easily fit in a living room. Yes, Valve is working on their own Steam Box as well and getting more price/performance will be easier with a larger form factor than the Piston, but I still don't see how they can compete with consoles in price/performance since consoles are usually sold at a loss. Is Valve willing to sell Steam Boxes at a loss and hope to make back their loss in Software sales?
Other Comments
  • 15 Hide
    madjimms , March 7, 2013 12:08 AM
    Although PC is my personal favorite for gaming, its very beneficial to the hardware & gaming industry to have multiple competitive platforms like this to become popular as well.
  • 7 Hide
    kitsunestarwind , March 7, 2013 12:11 AM
    No app ecosystem might be a good thing, most gamers are there to play games, and considering that every other device has a million apps (tv's, phones, tablets, laptops, media centre's, other game consoles) who needs another device with all the same apps on it.

    I dedicated upgradeable console like device with good games might hit that sweet spot of gaming in the lounge room without being bombarded with everything else
  • 0 Hide
    Unolocogringo , March 7, 2013 12:11 AM
    No thanks I'll keep my folding/gaming computer.
    I have a WII for the wife and grandkids and a PS3 for a media center but no games for it.
  • 8 Hide
    JamesSneed , March 7, 2013 12:11 AM
    I wish them luck. A good gaming platform for Linux, why should MS be scared. /sarcasm

  • 11 Hide
    shikamaru31789 , March 7, 2013 12:18 AM
    I still am failing to see how they plan to market the Steam Box. There's the Linux issue, Steam has a comparatively small library of Linux titles. There's the price/performance issue, for instance, Valve has said that the Piston would be one of many Steam Boxes (including their own), but it is expected to cost like $900, and yet it only has an APU, it could fall behind minimum requirements in just a few years. Why would a console gamer pay $900 for a system that'll be outdated faster than their $400 console, why would a PC gamer pay $900 for a Piston when they can build a system with 2-3 times the power for the same price? Yes, it's small, but you can get a much more powerful systems that is still small enough to easily fit in a living room. Yes, Valve is working on their own Steam Box as well and getting more price/performance will be easier with a larger form factor than the Piston, but I still don't see how they can compete with consoles in price/performance since consoles are usually sold at a loss. Is Valve willing to sell Steam Boxes at a loss and hope to make back their loss in Software sales?
  • -3 Hide
    rawoysters , March 7, 2013 12:20 AM
    This may end up being in one of those "dumbest things said in the last 10 years" articles a decade from now. I'm a PC gamer for life, but Gabe and Steam have shown they know how to do things right.
  • -1 Hide
    JamesSneed , March 7, 2013 12:26 AM
    Quote:
    I still am failing to see how they plan to market the Steam Box and actually expect a success. There's the Linux issue, Steam only has a small library of Linux titles. There's the hardware/price issue, Valve has said that the Piston would be one of many Steam Boxes, but it is expected to cost like $900, and even then it only has an APU, it'll fall behind minimum specs in just a few years. Why would a console gamer pay $900 for a system that'll be outdated faster than their $400 system, why would a PC gamer pay $900 for a Piston when they can build a system with 2-3 the power for the same price? Yes, Valve is working on their own Steam Box as well, and getting more price/performance will be easier with a larger form factor than the Piston, but I still don't see how thay can compete with consoles in price/performance since consoles are usually sold at a loss. Is Valve willing to sell Steam Boxes at a loss and hope to make back their loss in Software sales? That'll be difficult with all of the Steam Sales where they're bound to be losing money on Software.


    I'm guessing here but if Steam just breaks even or only looses just a little money it will be a huge success down the road. The biggest rod block for Linux and Mac's is gaming. If they are able to get enough future games to support Linux and possible Mac i.e. no Direct X then they will increase their sales in software. If they can set this catalyst off it should provide a lot of revenue down the road. We shall see, I am with you it will be an uphill battle.
  • -4 Hide
    sykozis , March 7, 2013 12:31 AM
    shikamaru31789I still am failing to see how they plan to market the Steam Box and actually expect a success. There's the Linux issue, Steam only has a small library of Linux titles. There's the hardware/price issue, Valve has said that the Piston would be one of many Steam Boxes, but it is expected to cost like $900, and even then it only has an APU, it'll fall behind minimum specs in just a few years. Why would a console gamer pay $900 for a system that'll be outdated faster than their $400 system, why would a PC gamer pay $900 for a Piston when they can build a system with 2-3 the power for the same price? Yes, Valve is working on their own Steam Box as well, and getting more price/performance will be easier with a larger form factor than the Piston, but I still don't see how thay can compete with consoles in price/performance since consoles are usually sold at a loss. Is Valve willing to sell Steam Boxes at a loss and hope to make back their loss in Software sales? That'll be difficult with all of the Steam Sales where they're bound to be losing money on Software.

    Being on Linux gives them the advantage of OpenGL.....which means there won't be the concern of the next game coming down the line choking the GPU to death... OpenGL doesn't require near the processing power that DirectX does.
  • 12 Hide
    cewhidx , March 7, 2013 12:35 AM
    I think that a Steambox will be a good thing. That said, if it cant play my library of games that are Windows based, I'll have no use for it. I can already run my pc on my television, and play any game with controller support from my couch in 1080p & in 3d. For me to invest in this would definitely have to mean compatability with games already in my library.
  • -2 Hide
    shikamaru31789 , March 7, 2013 12:46 AM
    Quote:
    Being on Linux gives them the advantage of OpenGL.....which means there won't be the concern of the next game coming down the line choking the GPU to death... OpenGL doesn't require near the processing power that DirectX does.

    You are right about OpenGL using less proccessing power than Direct X, so maybe the hardware in the SteamBox will be able to play games longer than I suggested before. What I'm getting at here, is that with the SteamBox using Linux, multiplatform titles that release on both Windows and consoles won't be playable on the Steam Box without porting the game to Linux. If the SteamBox can't play the same multiplatform games that a console can, there's not much incentive for console user to switch over and miss out on all the AAA titles they already know and love. Nor is there much incentive for a PC user to get one when they already have a PC, especally if they already have an HTPC they can use for gaming in their living rooms. Yes developers could make Linux ports of multiplatform games, but there's not a huge amount of incentive for developers to do that unless the SteamBox really takes off and pushes Linux along with it, because right now the Linux install base isn't big enough to offset the difficulty of porting in most developers eyes. Afterall, the PS4 and Xbox Infinity are basically scaled down PC's, that means developers have access to 3 platforms they can port between easily, then they've got two platforms where the ports are a bigger challenge (Wii U, SteamBox), seems to me most developers are going to pass over the Wii U and SteamBox for multiplatform games.

    I think the SteamBox has an uphill battle to fight, so I can see why Microsoft isn't too concerned right now. Yes, the SteamBox could become a big threat in the future if enough developers back it, but for the time being it seems like a niche device to me.
  • -1 Hide
    hakesterman , March 7, 2013 1:20 AM
    " No thanks I'll keep my folding/gaming computer. I have a WII for the wife and grandkids and a PS3 for a media center but no games for it. "


    Having a PS3 with no Games is like having a Car with no Engine. I will cry for you before i go to bed tonight.........
  • 0 Hide
    p05esto , March 7, 2013 1:30 AM
    hakesterman" No thanks I'll keep my folding/gaming computer. I have a WII for the wife and grandkids and a PS3 for a media center but no games for it. "Having a PS3 with no Games is like having a Car with no Engine. I will cry for you before i go to bed tonight.........

    PS3 for media center? That's lame, the PS3 sucks for that purpose, there are tons of video formats it doesn't support. Only a poor bastard that can't afford $99 for a WDTV would rely on the PS3. If you're not gaming especially there is zero point, I don't get why you would do this to yourself?
  • 2 Hide
    anathema_forever , March 7, 2013 1:34 AM
    i see steam box being an indie platform with a little more high end to it than normally in those. If that goes well we might start seeing some 60 dollar games on it in the future.
  • 0 Hide
    lpedraja2002 , March 7, 2013 1:51 AM
    Wow games that react on your pulse rate sound pretty cool. I hope it doesn't mean worse accuracy and chance of death due or heart attack cause that would make it impossible for me to finish any game lol.

    Also, I hope their steambox is decently equipped or that it has room to be upgraded. I can only hope that a starter version is something like a custom made mini-Itx case designed to fit even the most powerful cards like the freaking Tiki!
  • 2 Hide
    unksol , March 7, 2013 2:23 AM
    In what world is left 4 dead horror? I don't even want to get into it measuring how "aroused" I am... Or adjusting my "experience" based on it.
  • 3 Hide
    billgatez , March 7, 2013 2:40 AM
    Tipicaly when compines say something is not a Threat. It is. I would not be supprised if both Sony and MS are keeping a close eye on what could become a serous competitor.
  • 0 Hide
    Shin-san , March 7, 2013 2:47 AM
    I'm curious how powerful it will be. Based on the size in that picture though, I will expect it around the Wii-U level, unless they do cloud game streaming
  • 5 Hide
    aramisathei , March 7, 2013 3:13 AM
    Microsoft didn't think iPads and tablets were a big threat either.
    Just sayin'.
  • -1 Hide
    24oz , March 7, 2013 3:26 AM
    Valve is making Steambox just to mess with MS and give them something to think about.not enough support for Linux from game devs at the present time.
  • 2 Hide
    zybch , March 7, 2013 3:54 AM
    aramisatheiMicrosoft didn't think iPads and tablets were a big threat either.Just sayin'.

    It wasn't. EVERYONE with an iPad ALSO has a PC. Its utterly useless as a sole device. Its ONLY use is as a media consumption/crappy gaming/bad web browsing tablet.
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