Last week has proven to be quite the landmark for Valve, as they made three announcements revolving around the Steam platform. First, Valve announced SteamOS, a Linux-powered operating system that based off the company’s most popular gaming service. Second, Valve revealed “Steam Machines,” hardware designed to integrate SteamOS. Lastly, Valve unveiled a controller optimized for Steam Machines.
Valve’s main objective is clear, as per their official website: “The Steam Universe is expanding into the living room.”
As the videogame industry enters a new generation, gaming companies are trying to redefine and dominate the living room experience. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo dominate this space. As of this writing, another company comes into mind: Ouya Inc. Just like Valve, Ouya Inc. vowed to enter the console market and conquer the living room by designing a console that would act as both an alternative and competitor to the console trinity. But, unlike Valve, some critics were quick to dismiss the Android-based Ouya console as a serious contender. So far, critics and gamers alike are looking forward to Steam coming to the living room.
Valve is no stranger to providing users with television experience; Steam has Big Picture Mode, which allows PC titles to be played on the big screen. SteamOS and Steam Machines appear to be an extension of Big Picture Mode, as users would experience PC gaming, as well as music and movies, all within the comfort of their living rooms. Matt Peckham, TIME Magazine’s videogames and technology correspondent, mused in his article eight reasons Steam Machines would conquer the living room (and five reasons it won’t). Amongst the reasons supporting Steam Machines were the following: Steam Machines would likely be upgradeable; Steam houses one of the largest gaming communities; the rise of “native” Linux gaming. And as far as Linux gaming is concerned, Peckham notes that particular pro can be a con for Valve: the majority of the 100 Linux games on Steam’s websites are lesser-known titles. One of Valve’s challenges with Steam Machines is to get developers to design Linux-exclusive and native titles.
What’s also interesting about Valve’s announcement for Steam to enter the living room is the time—there’s only a month left until both the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One are released to the public in November. In an interview with Eurogamer, Microsoft corporate vice-president Phil Harrison says his company is keeping a keen eye on Valve, for all the right reasons. Harrison applauds Valve’s eagerness to cater to gamers’ interest in console-based experiences with Steam Machines. While Harrison regards Valve’s Steam Machines as “competition”, it’s safe to say Valve’s prospective console also acts as an attention-taker from the impending release of the Xbox One (and the PlayStation 4). The news is still hot; everyone’s wondering what Steam Machines will look like, the malleability of SteamOS, and even the games released for the new technology. Valve’s Steam announcement was vague, but arguably worked in the company’s favour. Of course, more information about SteamOS, Steam Machines and the Steam controller will become available, but the idea is Valve has detoured gamers from the road to the highly anticipated next-generation consoles.
Valve said they are collaborating with multiple partners to distribute a variety of Steam Machines (all of them running SteamOS) in 2014. Perhaps Valve would include the much-awaited sequel, Half-Life 3? Keep your fingers crossed.