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Valve Wants to Make PC a Better Entertainment Platform

By - Source: The Seattle Times | B 55 comments

The Seattle Times previews Valve's Steam Box.

Image: Seattle TimesImage: Seattle TimesA number of hands-on previews of Valve's Steam Box are starting to appear, one of which is from the Seattle Times. The paper states that Valve didn't really want to overhaul the entertainment PC business, but felt that the big industry players were dropping the ball. That's where the studio's Steam Box initiative comes in, consisting of a "console," controller and Linux-based operating system.

"We think the PC OEM space ought to have been doing this for quite some time," Valve designer Greg Coomer said. "Really, every year you could watch one PC OEM or another say, 'We are going to build the entertainment PC for the living room' and build something that lives under the TV. They would often do pretty well at cooling or industrial design, but that was only a fraction of the problems they need to solve for customers to have a good entertainment experience in the living room."

The paper also states that to battle heat and noise, Valve developed a series of baffles to better handle cooling and airflow in its Steam Machine PCs. Valve also developed the Linux-based SteamOS that will be light while also looking and feeling like a polished, consumer electronics system. And unlike Amazon's Fire OS, which is a forked version of Android, users will still have access to the underlying Linux platform. Users will also be able to load Windows onto the Steam Machines like any other desktop PC.

"It isn't until this coming year, when there are going to be enough of those pieces that all work together that we can say in a credible way to all of our customers — 'Hey, if you're one of the people who likes to play games in the living room, and we know there are a lot of you — now we have enough dots connected that we think you should try this,'" Coomer said, referring to the new controller, SteamOS software and Steam Box offerings.

The Seattle Times reports that the new Steam controller feels like the new PlayStation 4 controller, with distinctly curved handles. Instead of analog sticks, the device provides touchpads that are clickable, and can sense the speed, direction and pressure of gestures. Developers who have handled the controller are "intrigued," but gamers used to Xbox-type controllers may be faced with a learning curve.

"The fact that the input device is something you can pull apart and play with is fantastic — both for us as developers, but also as gamers and people who like to tinker," Hannes Seifert, head of Copenhagen studio IO Interactive, told the paper via email. "Bringing traditional PC gaming to the couch shows incredible ambition, but if anyone can pull off something like this, it's probably Valve."

Agreed. To read the full preview, head here. Meanwhile, Valve has confirmed that SteamOS will not have exclusive titles, including Half-Life 3.

"Whenever we talk to third-party partners, we encourage them to put their games in as many places as possible, including not on our platforms," said Valve's Anna Sweet. "Because we think that customers are everywhere, and they want to put their games wherever customers are. That would go against our whole philosophy, to launch something that's exclusive to SteamOS or Steam machines."

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Top Comments
  • 17 Hide
    vertigo_2000 , November 5, 2013 7:20 AM
    Google for more information.

    They aren't preventing you from using a KB+M... the controller is for your traditional console kiddie.

    It's not a "gaming device that does nothing else". Hulu and Netflix will probably show up. You can also load Windows onto the machine.

    I don't understand why people can't grasp the concept. It's not difficult to understand at all.
Other Comments
  • 17 Hide
    vertigo_2000 , November 5, 2013 7:20 AM
    Google for more information.

    They aren't preventing you from using a KB+M... the controller is for your traditional console kiddie.

    It's not a "gaming device that does nothing else". Hulu and Netflix will probably show up. You can also load Windows onto the machine.

    I don't understand why people can't grasp the concept. It's not difficult to understand at all.
  • Display all 55 comments.
  • 5 Hide
    vertigo_2000 , November 5, 2013 7:46 AM
    It's really no different than PC gaming has been. PC's have a wide range of hardware (MB, GPU, CPU). PC gaming still exists. And guess what, many games are already configured for KB+M or a controller. The SteamOS gives developers better access to the hardware to make better use of the resources.
    What's wrong with booting multiple OS's? Windows 7 and 8 both boot in less than 30 seconds (especially with a decent SSD). So you're playing a game and decide to get some work done, you shut down SteamOS and boot into Windows. 30 seconds later you load whatever piece of software you want and continue on your merry way. It would probably take you 30 seconds to shut down your console, get up off your couch and move to where your desktop is anyway.
  • 4 Hide
    kenh536 , November 5, 2013 7:47 AM
    "Sorry, can't play without a keyboard and mouse.
    Sorry, don't want to have a dedicated gaming device that does nothing else.
    Sorry, if I wanted a console, I'd buy PS4 or Xbone."
    1 You can use a kb/mouse.
    2 Install Windows and its a PC, play steam like you always have.
    3 Then buy one.

    "If a Steam Box doesn't run Adobe and Autodesk software, it in fact does nothing else except play games.
    And how can you load Windows onto the machine. Don't games need Steam OS to run? Do you mean booting with multiple OSes? How is that convenient?"

    If dual-booting is inconvenient for you, just install windows and play games as you always have on steam big picture while still having access to all your other programs. Its a PC, its their Steam OS+ controller that make it different.
  • -6 Hide
    stevejnb , November 5, 2013 7:50 AM
    I just don't see how this is an attempt to make the PC a "better entertainment platform." You take this Steambox and SteamOS will run a small fraction of what an existing PC does, with no exclusive content, and likely slightly faster - and all under Valve's careful watch. If you ask "what does this do that a PC doesn't already?" you'll come up with a very short list, contrasted to a very long list of things current PC's do that anything with a Valve OS on it won't.

    What does this lead me to believe? This is Valve's PR spin on them wanting to have a bigger piece of the PC pie, moving up from just a service they control completely to an operating system that they control.

    SteamOS will be great for certain types of gamers who want to squeeze every last drop of power out of a machine for the games that SteamOS does play. Steamboxes will *possibly* be a good console alternative for people who want to play PC games. Making the PC a better entertainment platform though? Not really. The PC already does far more than SteamOS/Steamboxes will do, so I'd consider it more a step back for all but a very select group of gamers. Nice angle for Valve to sell it on though.
  • -1 Hide
    crewton , November 5, 2013 7:59 AM
    All hail GabeN our lord and savior for opening the gateway to peasants that they might see the truth and revel in it.
  • 6 Hide
    demonhorde665 , November 5, 2013 8:00 AM
    why is it so hard for people the get the concept behind this. IITS STILL A PC. its not proprietary hardware like a console , you can load a new vid card , cpu or even a new main board into it . you can install windows on it you erase the steam OS if you hate it or you can just run it as a full Linux system ITS NOT A CONSOLE, but it is a good step towards making PC gaming viable competition to the consoles.

    (and before you blast me like an idiot , I don't mean competition powerwise I mean competition market wise. and Any PC fan would be an idiot to not acknowledge the fact that consoles definitely hold the bigger market share in gaming than PC.) and yes I play PC games almost exclusively so this is not just a console fan boy spouting fanboy BS. This is just a fact of life.
  • -9 Hide
    killerclick , November 5, 2013 8:04 AM
    1. Do you think every game available for Steam OS will also be available for Windows?
    2. Do you think developers who were/are reluctant to make PC games will be more or less likely to make PC games if Steam Boxes take off?
    3. If they do make games for PC and Steam OS, what makes you think those games will be better ported to the other OS than those made for Xbox or PS4? The problems are usually connected to controls/UI and limitations of consoles.
    4. What makes Steam Box a PC? That it runs a flavor of Linux? So does Android.
    5. What's wrong with booting multiple OSes are those 30 seconds. I'm playing Hearts of Iron or making a mission in Arma3 on one display, while a video is playing on YouTube on another display. I get an email so I pause the game and read the email, then do something about the email, then just continue the game. Switching between games and other things takes half a second on Windows, but would take minutes (save/exit game + shut down + BIOS checks etc + boot) with dual booting. I got an SSD years ago because I don't want to wait for five seconds while a web browser loads, I'm certainly not going to wait 45 seconds to switch between OSes so I can do a few minutes of work.
  • 3 Hide
    demonhorde665 , November 5, 2013 8:07 AM

    what you are not understanding is the fact that the steam box will be designed as a way to entice developers back to PC development. more developers = better entertainment potential. further more the steam box is a PC not a pc like device. it will do EVERYTHING a PC does or can do.
  • 1 Hide
    vertigo_2000 , November 5, 2013 8:14 AM
    @killerclick... sounds like you're not the target demographic for a SteamBox. Congratulations, you don't have to buy one. /s
  • 2 Hide
    ericlj , November 5, 2013 8:27 AM
    No Steam OS exclusives.
  • 2 Hide
    ericlj , November 5, 2013 8:29 AM
    This is a completely open platform. Not a console.
  • 1 Hide
    ericlj , November 5, 2013 8:32 AM
    No Steam OS exclusives.
  • 1 Hide
    stevejnb , November 5, 2013 8:33 AM

    what you are not understanding is the fact that the steam box will be designed as a way to entice developers back to PC development. more developers = better entertainment potential. further more the steam box is a PC not a pc like device. it will do EVERYTHING a PC does or can do.

    Oh no, I get that a Steambox is literally just a PC that comes pre-loaded with SteamOS and not Windows. Thing is, while it's possible to load Windows onto it, let's be real - a vast, vast majority of the people who dual boot machines are not going to buy some branded machine for their primary rigs any more than many people are buying $5000 Alienware machines and dual booting them with Linux. The people who do crap like that tend to build their own machines because they are enthusiasts and don't need or want someone to build them a machine at a markup. Valve knows this, which is why SteamOS is meant to appeal to the dual-booting-rig-making-PC-enthusiasts, and the Steamboxes are meant to appeal to the plug-and-play-buy-and-forget-console-gamers. It's not so much what the Steambox is capable of so much as who it's intended for and who will likely be interested in it that I'm making reference to. I mean, heck, you could put Linux on a PS3 last gen, but very few people took that option seriously. Steamboxes are an attempt to break into the living room, not onto the computer desk. SteamOS is more for the computer desk effort.

    As for the whole "entice developers back to the PC"... Are you sure about that? Last time I checked, most of the developers listed that were interested in it were ones who were already developing on the PC. And think about it from a developer perspective... If you build a game for Steambox first rather than Windows, you immediately cut out a vast, vast, VAST majority of gamers your games could potentially reach. To me, this screams that developing games for Windows, which has hundreds of millions, maybe even billions, of potential gamers on it, seems a lot more likely to draw a developer in than a few paltry hundred thousand - or if they're lucky a few million - SteamOS users. What's more, you can develop a game under Steam's roof for Windows, but it seems unlikely you can develop a game for SteamOS that isn't on Steam - which immediately closes that door for developers who don't want to be under the watch of some major DRM company.

    I'm curious to hear your case, but you've got a bit of talking to do to convince me that this SteamOS/Steambox thing is anything more than Valve's attempt to get total control of a gaming platform rather than some idealistic attempt to make things more wonderful for devs or gamers.

    Could you further explain, Demon, how the Steambox is going to significantly entice developers to develop for the PC again? As far as I can tell, the biggest thrust in that direction this gen is the PS4 and XBOX One going x86 and using PC hardware.
  • 1 Hide
    hfitch , November 5, 2013 8:36 AM
    If steambox takes off that makes Pc's dead? I think not. Every time a new console comes out they always say the same thing this is the end of the pc. Well PC are still here. Every new gadget smart phone, laptop, tablet com out they say the PC market is dead. No the environment just changes a little. When online streaming came out they said TV is dead no it just changed. When DVR came out they said Tv was dead nope it just changed. The only thing that dies is if a company does not adapt. Case and point Blackberry and Blockbuster. Even Apple died once to be rescued by Microsoft. I won't get into why Apple sucks and what not thats another story. Cd, records, and takes supposedly dead since mp3 and streaming and lets not forget about Rado supposedly dead as well. None of them are dead. In fact you can still buy tapes which is hilarious. I prefer records though. I am a digital guy. I build my own pcs and laptops. Yet I still love listening to a good record now and then. How many people still love old games from the Atari and NEs days. Will they all end up in a museum sure. Will they stop being sold by brick and mortar places sure. Yet you can buy everything on the internet still to this day. Will brick and mortar places go away of course not. They just need to adapt. Look at Target. They were on the doors of bankruptcy and one tv commercial and rebranding year later they were the hip version of Walmart. Unlike Sears and Kmart which hasn't figured out how to change with the times. You have to adapt to survive and if your not willing to adapt you go the way of Circuit City.
  • -7 Hide
    killerclick , November 5, 2013 8:37 AM
    @ferooxidan You are obviously some teenager, but I will reply for others' benefit.

    1. Every game on Steam will be available on Steam OS if you have a Windows PC handy, and you can just stream it to a TV or whatever. Anyone who wants to play games on their TV already has a console.

    2. Again, if you have a Windows PC handy. Then again, you could just run a HDMI cable to your TV and play your Steam games that way.

    3. The reason ports are bad is irrelevant - the point is many ports are bad, and if Steam Boxes further reduce the PC gaming market, ports will be even fewer and worse.

    4. The fact that you can replace hardware doesn't make it a PC. A Linux server is not a PC. For most purposes, even a Linux desktop is not a PC, or is a very unattractive PC from a market standpoint.

    5. I already have a Windows PC, why would I buy a Steam Box?

    As I said, this is for others' benefit. Please don't bother replying, I feel my IQ dropped a few points from reading your post.
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