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.