After much rumor mongering and speculation, Valve finally showed off its Steam Box—or rather, a variation of it—at CES Las Vegas earlier this week. Manufactured by Xi3 and dubbed Piston, this mini-PC boasts an incredibly sleek and tiny form factor. However, there was a bit of confusion when the Piston was first announced. Was the Piston Linux-based Steam Box that the gaming world has been aflutter about or was Valve working on something else?
In an interview with The Verge, Gabe Newell gave a little more detail on what Valve's plans for the Steam Box are.
First, the notion that this is the Steam Box is false. Rather, there will be a variety of different Steam Boxes as Valve is working with various partners to develop a variety of different "Steam Boxes." Newell explained that Valve would be working on its own version of the Steam Box, the Linux-based console that we've heard so much about, stating "We’ll come out with our own and we’ll sell it to consumers by ourselves. That’ll be a Linux box, [and] if you want to install Windows you can. We’re not going to make it hard. This is not some locked box by any stretch of the imagination. We also think that a controller that has higher precision and lower latency is another interesting thing to have."
When asked about controllers and creative inputs, Newell poo-pooed motion control, saying that, "trying to talk to a game with your arms is essentially saying "oh we’re going to stop using ethernet and go back to 300 baud dial-up." He's much more interested in biometrics and gaze tracking, something that Valve may already be exploring with its VR headset project.
He went on to discuss the future of the Steam platform and emphasized the importance of user generated content. "Right now there’s one Steam store," he said. "We think that the store should actually be more like user generated content. So, anybody should be able to create a store, and it should be about extra entertainment value." As of late, Valve has already been taking steps towards bringing more user-generated content onto Steam through the Steam Workshop, which allows users to generate downloadable content for supported games, and Greenlight, a process that allows users to vote which projects developers have submitted that they want to see sold on Steam.
Newell's plans for the Steam Box's future are ambitious. He plans on having it support more than two screens, running multiple instances of games, stating, "The Steam Box will also be a server. Any PC can serve multiple monitors, so over time, the next-generation (post-Kepler) you can have one GPU that’s serving up eight simultaneous game calls. So you could have one PC and eight televisions and eight controllers and everybody getting great performance out of it. We’re used to having one monitor, or two monitors — now we’re saying let's expand that a little bit."
Ultimately, Valve's version of the Steam Box sounds like a gamer's dream come true. Gabe Newell's now gone on record revealing the company's ambitious plans for the console. Valve's had a history of delivering quality when it comes to games, but in the hardware space, it's still so far untested. Will Valve be able to carry out Newell's ambitious vision for Steam and the Steam Box? Newell's response to his thoughts on whether or not the Steam Box will be able to overtake competitors Sony and Microsoft? " The internet is super smart. If you do something that is cool, that's actually worth people's time, then they'll adopt it. If you do something that's not cool and sucks, you can spend as many marketing dollars as you want, [they] just won't."