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Valve Reveals Steam Machines Program, Protoype Testing

By - Source: Valve Software | B 34 comments

On Wednesday Valve Software revealed the second part of its invasion into the living room: the Steam Machines program for hardware vendors, and a prototype that will be shipped to 300 Steam users this year, all powered by the SteamOS platform revealed on Monday. The company also launched the Steam Universe community group that plays a big part in the beta test eligibility.

"Entertainment is not a one-size-fits-all world. We want you to be able to choose the hardware that makes sense for you, so we are working with multiple partners to bring a variety of Steam gaming machines to market during 2014, all of them running SteamOS," Valve states.

Previous talk indicated that Valve was heading in that direction so that gamers can easily upgrade the components when needed instead of locking into a complete hardware set for nearly a decade (that's an exaggeration, I know). The Xi3 Piston box showcased during CES 2013 back in January seemingly indicated that this would be the flagship model thanks to the way users can pull and insert component boards on the fly. This form factor may still be on the Steam Machines list.

As for beta testing the prototype, Valve hasn't spilled the beans on the hardware. Potential candidates must join the Steam Universe community group, agree to the Steam Hardware Beta Terms and Conditions, make 10 Steam friends, create a public Steam Community profile, and play a game using a gamepad in Big Picture mode. Users can log into Steam before October 25 to track their current status towards beta test eligibility.

"While these products are still in development, we need your help," Valve states. "As always, we believe the best way to ensure that the right products are getting made is to let people try them out and then make changes as we go. We have designed a high-performance prototype that’s optimized for gaming, for the living room, and for Steam. Of course, it’s also completely upgradable and open."

A small number of users (30 or less) will be chosen based on their past community contributions and beta participation. The remainder will be chosen at random from the eligible pool, the company said. Valve also promised that additional information about the prototype specs will be available soon, but keep in mind that there will be several boxes to choose from, with an array of specifications, price and performance.

"You can complete the steps in any order. Once you’ve completed all of the steps, you’ll be awarded a special badge, and you’ll officially be among the pool of people from whom we’ll choose beta participants / hardware recipients," Valve states. "On October 25th, the list will be locked. So complete the quest before then! Your help is critical to our design process. Your feedback will shape both the new OS version of Steam and the new category of gaming machines that will run it."

A brief FAQ reveals that prototype testers will be allowed to share info about their experience with the beta units, and post pictures and opinions online. "That really is the whole point," Valve states. "The input from testers should come in many forms: bug reports, forum posts, concept art, 3D prints, haikus, and also very publicly stated opinions."

Valve claims that nearly 3,000 games will be available to play on the prototype boxes, hundreds of which are already running natively on the SteamOS platform, with more to come. The rest will work seamlessly via in-home streaming, the company said.

For more information about the Steam Machines program, and to enter the beta program, head here. Part three of Valve's living room assault will be made on Friday.

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  • 5 Hide
    jd_w98 , September 25, 2013 11:01 AM
    Sweet. I heard that Amd is upping their Linux drivers because of this so even if this does fail, it will help people who want Linux on Amd systems :p 
  • 2 Hide
    trolltuner , September 25, 2013 11:13 AM
    Totally signing up for this beta test. Finally a head on approach to the console market...
  • 5 Hide
    bustapr , September 25, 2013 11:43 AM
    as said on the steam livingroom page, no specs have been announced. Rauelius post is false. rumors =/= fact.
  • -1 Hide
    shikamaru31789 , September 25, 2013 12:16 PM
    If they can release a Steam Machine with specs that are comparable to the Xbox One and PS4, in a small enough form factor to sit on a small-medium sized entertainment center shelf with room for proper ventilation, at a competitive price, I might just get one.

    I do have some reservations about the Steam Machine though due to it's open nature. If it's designed for gamepad use but mouse/keyboard is allowed, mouse/keyboard players will have a distinct advantage in competitive shooters. There's also the similar problem of people with higher spec Steam Machine's being able to turn on higher FOV, giving them an advantage in competitive shooters. If Steam can find some way to add in matchmaking options that allow you to be grouped with other gamepad players and players with similar FOV, they should be able to solve those problems. I also want them to add some value to achievements, like Sony and Microsoft have. And of course there's the problem of Steam OS being Linux based and Valve not yet announcing which games are being ported to SteamOS.
  • 2 Hide
    jrstriker12 , September 25, 2013 12:23 PM
    Quote:
    various computer manufacturers for the Steambox.
    Acer SC-D17
    AMD A10 6800k CPU(using the built in Radeon Graphics)
    8GB DDR3 2133
    500GB Hard Drive
    System about the size of the current Xbox 360
    $399
    Asus K-Mesa 303
    Intel Core i5 4430
    16GB DDR3 2133
    Radeon R8-270x (next Radeon 7870 replacement)
    1TB Hard Drive
    Box Shaped, small enough to fit in an entertainment center, but big enough to upgrade the GPU/CPU yourself
    $699
    Alienware Aperture Level 1
    Intel i7 4770k
    16GB DD3 2400
    2TB Hard Drive (with space to add another)
    256GB SSD for the main OS
    2x Geforce GTX 760 in SLI
    About the size of a tiny Micro-ATX PC on it's side.
    $1699.99
    *
    Systems built on SteamOS will be locked to it in the same way that ChromeOS is locked to Chromebooks. You can install other Linux Distros but Windows installs will not be possible. These are the three main Beta units that Valve will be shipping/offering to 300 Beta-testers.


    What's your source?

    The current Steam Machine page (http://store.steampowered.com/livingroom/SteamMachines/) says:

    "Can I hack this box? Run another OS? Change the hardware? Install my own software? Use it to build a robot?
    Sure."

    Doesn't seem like these machines will be lock down at all.
  • -1 Hide
    jrstriker12 , September 25, 2013 12:24 PM
    Quote:
    If they can release a Steam Machine with specs that are comparable to the Xbox One and PS4, in a small enough form factor to sit on a small-medium sized entertainment center shelf with room for proper ventilation, at a competitive price, I might just get one.

    I do have some reservations about the Steam Machine though due to it's open nature. If it's designed for gamepad use but mouse/keyboard is allowed, mouse/keyboard players will have a distinct advantage in competitive shooters. There's also the similar problem of people with higher spec Steam Machine's being able to turn on higher FOV, giving them an advantage in competitive shooters. If Steam can find some way to add in matchmaking options that allow you to be grouped with other gamepad players and players with similar FOV, they should be able to solve those problems. I also want them to add some value to achievements, like Sony and Microsoft have. And of course there's the problem of Steam OS being Linux based and Valve not yet announcing which games are being ported to SteamOS.


    I wonder about the competitive price thing since most consoles were sold at a loss - at least initially.

    Are steam machine manufacturers going to be willing to take the hit that MS or Sony might?
  • 2 Hide
    catfishtx , September 25, 2013 12:34 PM
    I will have to buy a gamepad and make ten friends. At least we don't have to share gameplay, post to someone's wall, or something else stupid.
  • -1 Hide
    shikamaru31789 , September 25, 2013 12:52 PM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    If they can release a Steam Machine with specs that are comparable to the Xbox One and PS4, in a small enough form factor to sit on a small-medium sized entertainment center shelf with room for proper ventilation, at a competitive price, I might just get one.

    I do have some reservations about the Steam Machine though due to it's open nature. If it's designed for gamepad use but mouse/keyboard is allowed, mouse/keyboard players will have a distinct advantage in competitive shooters. There's also the similar problem of people with higher spec Steam Machine's being able to turn on higher FOV, giving them an advantage in competitive shooters. If Steam can find some way to add in matchmaking options that allow you to be grouped with other gamepad players and players with similar FOV, they should be able to solve those problems. I also want them to add some value to achievements, like Sony and Microsoft have. And of course there's the problem of Steam OS being Linux based and Valve not yet announcing which games are being ported to SteamOS.


    I wonder about the competitive price thing since most consoles were sold at a loss - at least initially.

    Are steam machine manufacturers going to be willing to take the hit that MS or Sony might?


    Yeah, that's the problem really. I priced my own Steam Box in an HTPC case a few months back when the Xbox One was first announced because I was trying to decide if I should switch to PC this generation. It came out to $650 or 700, and the specs I picked may still be too low to match the PS4 and Xbox One due to optimization on consoles. If none of these Steam Machine manufacturers are willing to sell at a loss, I don't think they will be able to match the consoles on price/performance ratio.
  • -1 Hide
    jrstriker12 , September 25, 2013 2:03 PM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    Quote:
    If they can release a Steam Machine with specs that are comparable to the Xbox One and PS4, in a small enough form factor to sit on a small-medium sized entertainment center shelf with room for proper ventilation, at a competitive price, I might just get one.

    I do have some reservations about the Steam Machine though due to it's open nature. If it's designed for gamepad use but mouse/keyboard is allowed, mouse/keyboard players will have a distinct advantage in competitive shooters. There's also the similar problem of people with higher spec Steam Machine's being able to turn on higher FOV, giving them an advantage in competitive shooters. If Steam can find some way to add in matchmaking options that allow you to be grouped with other gamepad players and players with similar FOV, they should be able to solve those problems. I also want them to add some value to achievements, like Sony and Microsoft have. And of course there's the problem of Steam OS being Linux based and Valve not yet announcing which games are being ported to SteamOS.


    I wonder about the competitive price thing since most consoles were sold at a loss - at least initially.

    Are steam machine manufacturers going to be willing to take the hit that MS or Sony might?


    Yeah, that's the problem really. I priced my own Steam Box in an HTPC case a few months back when the Xbox One was first announced because I was trying to decide if I should switch to PC this generation. It came out to $650 or 700, and the specs I picked may still be too low to match the PS4 and Xbox One due to optimization on consoles. If none of these Steam Machine manufacturers are willing to sell at a loss, I don't think they will be able to match the consoles on price/performance ratio.


    The only way to make up the price/performance difference may be the streaming functionality that is offered in steam OS, but unless steam will host its own streaming service, that still depends on have in nice GPU sitting in another, more expensive PC.

    Overall the whole concept is interesting but I'm not sold just yet.
  • 0 Hide
    Durandul , September 25, 2013 2:18 PM
    Why would any steam box manufacturer sell at a loss? Not that I would dislike it if it happened, but it wouldn't make business sense. The reason consoles sell at a loss is because they make up for it in game purchases. For the manufacturers to make money selling at a loss, Valve would have to refund them as people purchase games.
  • -1 Hide
    shikamaru31789 , September 25, 2013 2:30 PM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    Quote:
    Quote:
    If they can release a Steam Machine with specs that are comparable to the Xbox One and PS4, in a small enough form factor to sit on a small-medium sized entertainment center shelf with room for proper ventilation, at a competitive price, I might just get one.

    I do have some reservations about the Steam Machine though due to it's open nature. If it's designed for gamepad use but mouse/keyboard is allowed, mouse/keyboard players will have a distinct advantage in competitive shooters. There's also the similar problem of people with higher spec Steam Machine's being able to turn on higher FOV, giving them an advantage in competitive shooters. If Steam can find some way to add in matchmaking options that allow you to be grouped with other gamepad players and players with similar FOV, they should be able to solve those problems. I also want them to add some value to achievements, like Sony and Microsoft have. And of course there's the problem of Steam OS being Linux based and Valve not yet announcing which games are being ported to SteamOS.


    I wonder about the competitive price thing since most consoles were sold at a loss - at least initially.

    Are steam machine manufacturers going to be willing to take the hit that MS or Sony might?


    Yeah, that's the problem really. I priced my own Steam Box in an HTPC case a few months back when the Xbox One was first announced because I was trying to decide if I should switch to PC this generation. It came out to $650 or 700, and the specs I picked may still be too low to match the PS4 and Xbox One due to optimization on consoles. If none of these Steam Machine manufacturers are willing to sell at a loss, I don't think they will be able to match the consoles on price/performance ratio.


    The only way to make up the price/performance difference may be the streaming functionality that is offered in steam OS, but unless steam will host its own streaming service, that still depends on have in nice GPU sitting in another, more expensive PC.

    Overall the whole concept is interesting but I'm not sold just yet.


    Yeah, the rumor I heard was that the SteamOS streaming technology was licensed from Nvidia's streaming technology from the Shield. So there isn't some streaming service allowing you to stream full games from more powerful hardware in a cloud. So you'd need a more powerful PC elsewhere in your house in order to stream games to your Steam Machine, and even then you have to deal with latency issues inherent of streaming technologies.

    Valve definitely hasn't sold me on the Steam Machine and SteamOS yet. There are still too many unanswered questions, and I fear that the answers won't be to my liking when they finally do answer them.
  • -3 Hide
    rauelius , September 25, 2013 3:14 PM
    I BUILT a gaming PC (for my bedroom TV) for less than $400 that would stomp the hell out of the upcoming consoles.
    Core i3 2120 - $75 (Open-Box)
    EVGA P67 Mobo - $25($50 w/$25 MiR)
    Radeon 7850 2GB -$85 (came w/ two games I was gonna buy anyway)
    Rosewill Case - $25 (caught it cheap on newegg)
    Rosewill 700watt PSU - $40 (rebates)
    8GB DDR3 1333 - $45
    DVD-RW - $15
    Toshiba 2TB HDD - $85
    Subscription to Steam - $0
    Total for a completely usable gaming PC - $395
    For comparisons, my main machine is a 4.8Ghz Core i7 3770k, with 16GB DDR3 1866 and Two Asus GTX670's in SLI @ 1050mhz core and 7Ghz on memory. Now, I play Metro last light across both very well. The i3 runs it at 720p and the i7 does 1080p or multiple monitors.
    That's the beauty of PC gaming, even a scrappy little i3 can be the foundation for a solid gaming PC.
  • 1 Hide
    Bloob , September 25, 2013 9:35 PM
    Quote:
    Why would any steam box manufacturer sell at a loss? Not that I would dislike it if it happened, but it wouldn't make business sense. The reason consoles sell at a loss is because they make up for it in game purchases. For the manufacturers to make money selling at a loss, Valve would have to refund them as people purchase games.

    I guess they could do what google does with the nexus -line, where devices are sold at a loss, but where google pays the difference to the manufacturer, and makes the money back from services.
  • 1 Hide
    back_by_demand , September 25, 2013 11:06 PM
    In order to compete with other consoles they need more, gaming is just 1 thing consoles do, they are full home entertainment centres - a HTPC can do this too - get those features in SteamOS or the Steambox and we are a step closer
  • 1 Hide
    ricky_d , September 26, 2013 12:03 AM
    Quote:
    In order to compete with other consoles they need more, gaming is just 1 thing consoles do, they are full home entertainment centres - a HTPC can do this too - get those features in SteamOS or the Steambox and we are a step closer


    Last time I checked linux could play music and movies :) 
    Ok, you'll have to install mp3 support yourself because of licensing issues.
  • 1 Hide
    maje90 , September 26, 2013 5:25 AM
    @rauelius
    7850 2GB for 85$ ? where?
  • 0 Hide
    back_by_demand , September 26, 2013 5:30 AM
    ricky_d, it may be Linux but no details if you can get into it or if it uses Linux as a base for a front end that you can't modify - when we know more we can say more, but even if it is boxed off they should have some baked in add-ons to enable such as Hulu, Netflix, etc - something akin to XBMC would be perfect
  • 0 Hide
    back_by_demand , September 26, 2013 5:34 AM
    Wild speculation time and a prediction, for announcement 3 of the week
    Gabe will take the stage, a big screen behind him, flashing up the previous announcements

    1 - SteamOS
    2 - Steambox
    Half Life 3 - available Xmas 2013

    He will stand there and say nothing, soaking up a 35 minute standing ovation, then walk off stage not saying a word
  • 0 Hide
    stevejnb , September 26, 2013 6:20 AM
    What I'm still waiting to hear is will this OS allow for games to be made for it that don't require them to be subject to Steam's DRM and Valve's rules/licensing fees? Keep in mind that for the platform that all of you speak about in such a negative fashion, some upstart can decide to make a game, do so any way they want, and distribute it any way they want, never letting MS or any other publisher see a dime of their money. Will SteamOS offer the same possibility, or is it a case of "If you make a game for SteamOS, it is distributed through Steam and Valve gets a cut - end of story"?

    If this is the case, I have to ask - how is this any different than if MS suddenly said "Ok, you want to make a game for our OS? You HAVE to distribute it through the Windows Store and give us a cut or we won't allow it." Isn't this exactly the type of walled garden type stuff many of you so vehemently oppose from MS, even though they don't actually force anyone to use any of the services that they directly control?
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