There’s been no shortage of Internet rumors that Valve, most famous for not making Half-Life 3 yet, would eventually create their own hardware for consumers to compete with the big boys, although whether it would be a PC, console or a hybrid of both has been a point of contention. Despite the rumors Valve have steadfastly refused them every time they’ve come around.
So, guess what? Yeah, the rumors were right: Valve’s making their own hardware.
The news comes via Kotaku where one of its employees had a brief chat with Gabe Newell on the red carpet at the VGAs last night where he all but officially confirmed the existence of what we shall for now call the “Steam Box”. Gabe stated that Valve’s current focus is on how to make PCs work better in the living room, especially since the TV-friendly Big Picture interface has been received so well. At the moment they’re planning on getting Steam Linux out of Beta and getting Big Picture running on that as well, giving Valve more flexibility in the process.
Newell is expecting a lot of companies to begin releasing living room PC packages next year, setups that are designed to run on your TV out of the box with minimum effort on the consumers part, allowing them to compete with the consoles far more easily in that regard. “We’ll do it but we also think other people will as well,” said Newell.
But it seems like Valve’s hardware won’t be anywhere near as flexible as your average PC:
“Well certainly our hardware will be a very controlled environment,” he said. “If you want more flexibility, you can always buy a more general purpose PC. For people who want a more turnkey solution, that’s what some people are really gonna want for their living room.
“The nice thing about a PC is a lot of different people can try out different solutions, and customers can find the ones that work best for them.”
Exactly what Newell means by this remains a mystery. Does this mean that the Steam Box can’t be upgraded with new parts, therefore potentially meaning it’s not going to be that much better off than a console? It seems unlikely that Valve would limit themselves in this way considering the big weakness of consoles is that their hardware is fixed. We can off course assume that this package will run Steam straight out of the box, and so perhaps what Newell is referring to is that the hardware won’t be able to run anything else, like Windows, therefore meaning it’s limited to gaming and gaming only through Steam as its operating system. To me this would seem the most obvious answer. Although their interest in Linux raises some interesting possibilities.
Let’s consider other things: anyone can hook up their PC to their TV and then download Steam, and a decent PC these day’s isn’t all that expensive, especially with the likes of Intel having just released their mini-PCs for very low prices. To be competitive Valve would have to offer something at a very attractive price with some pretty impressive hardware, especially if said hardware can’t be upgraded and the system is limited, otherwise most people would just buy a regular PC or console.
I’m just grabbing at straws here, though: exactly what the Steam Box will be or what it’s capable of shall remain a mystery until a leak or Valve officially reveal it.
Now, I wonder if they’d make Half-Life 3 exclusively for it as a launch title…..nah, that’d be stupid, wouldn’t it?