Gabe Newell, the head of Valve Software, hinted to students in New Zealand that the company might expand its Steam platform, or at least some games, to the console space later this year. The comment is vague at best, but at least it shows that the owner of one of the largest game distribution platforms has not given up its living room gaming plans.
Earlier this week, Gabe Newell spoke to students at Sancta Maria College in Auckland, New Zealand, and was asked whether Steam would be "porting any games on consoles, or [would] it just stay on PC?" The response was imprecise, but we cannot really expect anyone to disclose business plans at an event like this.
"You will get a better idea of that by the end of this year... and it won't be the answer you expect," Newell said. "You'll say, 'Ah-ha! Now I get what he was talking about.'"
Valve's track record with game consoles in particular and living room gaming in general has been bumpy at best. On the one hand, the company successfully ported its games to consoles from Microsoft and Sony in the past, including the very successful The Orange Box on Xbox 360 and PS3. On the other hand, Valve's Steam Machines initiatives has failed, just like its console oriented SteamOS. Valve's Steam Link, which allowed to stream games from a local PC to a TV, has also failed to get popular enough for the company to keep selling the product.
For gamers, getting their Steam libraries on consoles would be a thing of dreams. It's unclear how Steam would work on those systems, though, as Nintendo, Xbox and Sony all run their own exclusive stores on their platforms. Furthermore, far from all Steam games have versions for consoles, and developing a Windows or Linux emulator for Xbox or PlayStation is one heck of a task. Streaming games to consoles might be a way into the living room for Valve, but controller options may be an obstacle there.
Newell has been living in New Zealand since March 2020, when he was stuck as the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Since he doesn't often do big appearances in the games industry, it makes some sense that a bunch of New Zealand students were the first to hear his thoughts on upcoming announcements.