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."