Valve Wants to Make PC a Better Entertainment Platform

Image: Seattle Times

A 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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  • killerclick
    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.
  • vertigo_2000
    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.
  • killerclick
    The point of having an OS and a certification (what makes it a Steam Box?) is that the developers will come to depend on some aspects of it. If developers find it hard to port the game for the PC and have decent controls (so called Consolitis), will they make games for Steam Box that work as well with both types of controls? Seriously doubt it. If Steam Boxes ship with controllers, games will be optimized for controllers and nothing else.
    Hulu and Netflix were not the kind of things I was thinking about. I don't want to have one device for work and one device for games. 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?

    This is crap, Valve is basically trying to compete with Microsoft and Sony and Nintendo (only give manufacturers and users some leeway on the exact specs of the consoles), and PC gaming is as good as dead if Steam Box takes off.
  • vertigo_2000
    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.
  • kenh536
    "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.
  • stevejnb
    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.
  • crewton
    All hail GabeN our lord and savior for opening the gateway to peasants that they might see the truth and revel in it.
  • demonhorde665
    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.
  • killerclick
    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.
  • demonhorde665

    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.