Rumor: Valve working on Steam Box, a PC gaming console

By Lee Kaelin on March 5, 2012, 11:00 AM

Details are beginning to emerge that Valve may be working on their own gaming hardware platform. As you know Valve is an industry pioneer that beyond creating A-list games like Half-Life and Left 4 Dead, placed their bets on the now hugely popular game distribution service Steam. The rumors about a hardware console started to unravel when Gabe Newell, co-founder of the company spoke to Penny Arcade in a recent interview.

He was quoted as saying, “if we have to sell hardware we will,” which seems to have sparked a heightened interest in the firm’s future plans. Now according to the Verge, their sources have revealed that the game developer has been secretly working on gaming hardware for the living room.

In the same recent interview Newell also commented, "we’d rather hardware people that are good at manufacturing and distributing hardware do [hardware]. We think it's important enough that if that's what we end up having to do, then that's what we end up having to do."

Further evidence in the form of a patent filing by Valve last year adds to the speculation. The new “Steam Box” is likely to ship with a proprietary controller, possibly even allowing for swappable parts going by the details (below), as well as offering compatibility with a range of existing USB peripherals.

The release of the Alienware X51 could be yet another hint of things to come, as the dimensions would be ideal for making the “Steam Box” according to the Verge. They believe the firm has been working on hardware specs, which might include an i7 processor, 8GB RAM and an Nvidia GPU. If it becomes a reality, it will play standard PC titles, as well as allow rival gaming services like EA’s Origin to be installed and used.

Valve also announced at last year’s GDC their new Steam “big picture” mode, which consumers are still waiting to see released. In an announcement at the time, the game house touted, "with big picture mode, gaming opportunities for Steam partners and customers become possible via PCs and Macs on any TV or computer display in the house."

The potential new device may also be looking to take on set-top TV devices like the Apple TV, and not just compete with existing consoles like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. In either case, we assume there would be a considerable price difference, and yet it proves the battle for dominance in the living room is merely beginning.

Secret meetings are said to have been held at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, where Valve demonstrated a hand-built version to potential future partners. It is possible more news will follow at this week's Game Developers Conference, but it may not be until E3 later in the year that we get to find out exactly what Valve has been working on.




User Comments: 26

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Guest said:

I love Valve, but this has fail written all over it.

Guest said:

How has this gotten fail written all over it???? explain!

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I don't see it as a fail either. Build a relatively decent box, make it connectable to the Internet and viola! Access to Steam's extensive catalog. Hella lot easier than shopping for DVD's to load into your XBox or PS3. And if the box is powerful enough, provides a higher quality viewing experience and also access to PC driven DLC and mods that stand-alone units don't get.

H3llion H3llion, TechSpot Paladin, said:

TomSEA said:

I don't see it as a fail either. Build a relatively decent box, make it connectable to the Internet and viola! Access to Steam's extensive catalog. Hella lot easier than shopping for DVD's to load into your XBox or PS3. And if the box is powerful enough, provides a higher quality viewing experience and also access to PC driven DLC and mods that stand-alone units don't get.

Yep, that makes me wannna ... Errr yeah anyway xD

It would be great if you could mod the Console with new and better hardware or something :X

I think this really does have great potential, Valve is my favourite company together with Rockstar ^^

Guest said:

I don't see how the first guest sees even a glimpse of fail with so much win. I could see this taking off very well. Especially if they allow me to log into my Steam account and play my existing PC games through this console. I bet it will support mouse and keyboard on launch. I've never been much for console gaming, but this could bring me to the dark side.

Staff
Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

I believe Valve has done more for PC gaming than Microsoft, Dell and EA have done together in the last decade. So regardless of whether the rumor is true or not, I wouldn't discard a potential project of theirs ahead of time either.

Justgivemeaname said:

Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of Valve. I've bought every game that Valve has made and enjoyed them, and knew I would enjoy them simply because it was Valve who made them. But from what I've read about this, the Steam Box is just going to be an overpriced prebuilt PC.

Guest said:

It's fail because it further bridges the gap between console and PC gaming which is a bad thing IMO. I've said it many times before because it bears repeating: PC isn't dying, it's being murdered systematically.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

If it's fully compatible with your entire current Steam library, and has slick enough components, at a decent price point to compete with consoles directly, it could stand a chance. You have the advantage of being able to lock in and standardize components, and only support a few resolutions, so it's easier to optimize a system to give it some longevity.

That said... The control side of it could be the kiss of doom. PC has one major thing going for it, that helps to set it apart from consoles, and that is the precision and flexibility offered with a mouse/keyboard control scheme. Force all of your PC games to be dumbed down to the limited console gamepad, and you lose that edge that might be keeping gamers glued to the PC platform. Rather than re-inventing an already limited control scheme like the gamepad, why not work on a comfortable and effective mouse/keyboard controller that you can sit on a couch and easily use? Bring the PC control experience to the living room, make it competitive with a console in price and simplicity, and you might open up quite a niche market. Force the PC to conform to console limitations, though, and you risk ostracizing your current consumer base while losing any advantages that make PC gaming unique.

ikesmasher said:

Thats awesome, if it worked well it would virtually replace any need I had for a desktop, because my laptop can handle everything but high end gaming just fine.

Ranger1st Ranger1st said:

Beyond the accessibility of your existing steam account, at $699 price point for the Alienware product alone.. that machine better not be proprietary in HW; At $699 I want to be able to upgrade my CPU or/and GPU.

The one failing of the traditional consoles is they are built with outdated specs from the initial launch and they go downhill quickly from there. Being able to keep the Steam box 'fresh' and mostly up to date is a HUGE selling point for me.

Guest said:

PC gaming isn't dying, and this is pretty much evidence of the contrary. Exclusive PC titles, on the other hand, most definitely are dying/dead unfortunately, with multiplatform being the future, but with PC taking an increasingly bigger slice at least. At present, PC sales of a given title are generally about the same as the 360 figures, and well ahead of the PS3. I can only see the PC's share of the market growing, and things like a Steam "console" (in fact just a glorified HTPC with gaming capability) will accelerate that growth.

Butch said:

Not sure how this would be different than what many people are doing now...simply hook a PC up to your TV and add a controller? What am I missing?

If there is: Proprietary hardware? Bad. Limited PC functionality? Bad. No mouse/keyboard? Bad.

Contrary to popular belief most people that use consoles (at least people I know) are not on consoles because PC's are too expensive, it's because the PC is too hard to keep running ie. drivers, malware etc are all big problems for them typically because their kids are downloading and surfing and answering "yes" to every pop-up presented to them. This is the real problem hurting PC gaming IMO. If SteamBox can fix that problem without too much locking down, it may stand a chance.

I just do not see this as something that would really takeoff, but I've been wrong before. I hope it is successful because anything that can be done to compete with the kiddie-consoles is beneficial to us PC gamers so that we can get back to more sophisticated and innovative games rather than dumbing everything down as is the current trend.

Guest said:

Its a great idea but yeah whats the difference to moving my tower to my tv it is basically a half decent pc which you can play games on xbox and ps are the same but are outdated now are due for an upgrade, but if this steam console/pc is $699 no chance i would rather buy an onlive system and stick to my current ps3/pc, but make it affordable ps3/xbox price point and maybe make a loss on the console but make it up in game sales amazon style.

Guest said:

if possible take the same route as onlive but with steams larger game catalog.....:D

psycros psycros said:

Guest said:

if possible take the same route as onlive but with steams larger game catalog.....

"with big picture mode, gaming opportunities for Steam partners and customers become possible via PCs and Macs on any TV or computer display in the house."

Pretty clear this is exactly what they have in mind. Steam lends itself directly to game streaming. Of course there's no reason you couldn't do this on the PC you already have and I'm sure it will be available to any Steam user. Not everyone wants to play PC games on their TV (in fact I'd say most PC gamers don't). However, look at how difficult it is to get an HTPC set up that supports all those different formats, has proper surround sound, etc - its a nightmare. The best HTPC I've seen is a modded Xbox. There are plenty of folks who would jump on a $600 do-it-all product that has access to console, PC and Mac games as well as all those VoD services. With Steam you could have the option to download *or* Stream PC games, which is a major advantage over OnLive. I think what Valve is working on here is something that many of us have dreamed about : one set-top to rule them all. If Steam goes stream (heh heh) it will probably all but kill OnLive, which would be a shame. Maybe Valve could just buy OnLive and assign their people to develop the game streaming. How cool would that be? And I agree totally about the PC control options. It needs IR Blaster, HID and all of that out of the box. I will never, ever play a PC game with a console controller - I can barely stand to use them for actual console games!

If they sell this thing for $600 it will do pretty well. If they sell it for $400 or less, it will do *insanely* well.

Uvindu said:

So would the steam box run windows? If it does then I don't get why you have to buy the team box (basically a whole new PC) when you can connect your normal rig to a TV and play the games

If it doesn't run windows, then does that mean that all the games will have to be ported to valves new platform? Isn't that like a lot of work? Won't all the game developers then have to develop games for this new platform for it to be able to take off?

Am I missing some crucial point?

Guest said:

All you guys rejecting this based on the ability to upgrade it, run another OS or the fact that you can connect your existing PC to your living room TV are missing the point of this. If you're a core PC gamer you're going to keep playing on your PC. This thing is for people who buy consoles or who want an extra cheap PC for gaming for whatever reason. It's meant to be simple plug and play like an Xbox.

The problem I see is this: Console people are tied to their game discs.

They pretty much don't have downloadable full AAA game titles on consoles. They might balk at not getting a tangible disc so they can pretend they "own" the game. They also like to buy and sell used games and rent them. We all know that consoles will be 100% digital soon, as is already virtually true on PC's, but they're just not quite ready for the new world yet.

blimp01 said:

shouldnt they just create their own OS instead? load it onto a hard drive and forget about windows because its just for games

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Guest said:

if possible take the same route as onlive but with steams larger game catalog.....

Great in theory, but I'm not sure how it would work in reality. The sheer number of users and size of the available library would require an absolutely massive hardware backbone to run everything. The logistics seem daunting, to say the least. At the very least, it would completely change the operational dynamic of Steam, require subscription services, etc.

blimp01 said:

shouldnt they just create their own OS instead? load it onto a hard drive and forget about windows because its just for games

I've dreamed of a "gaming OS" for years, like maybe a custom Linux kernel that would give "instant on" and "insert disc to run automatically" console functionality. It's great in theory, but the reality of the situation is that creating their own OS would be one heck of a rabbit hole to start down. You would start out with no compatible gaming titles, and only be able to offer titles as they got fully ported over. Who's going to pay for all of that programming and testing? And who's going to be patient enough to wait for your existing library to be ported over?

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Julio said:

I believe Valve has done more for PC gaming than Microsoft, Dell and EA have done together in the last decade. So regardless of whether the rumor is true or not, I wouldn't discard a potential project of theirs ahead of time either.

True, but (IMO) ironically it is very evident that consoles are the primary target of game development now, which then get ported to PCs, in effect it means that PC gaming is loosing this battle with consoles.

ramonsterns said:

Archean said:

Julio said:

I believe Valve has done more for PC gaming than Microsoft, Dell and EA have done together in the last decade. So regardless of whether the rumor is true or not, I wouldn't discard a potential project of theirs ahead of time either.

True, but (IMO) ironically it is very evident that consoles are the primary target of game development now, which then get ported to PCs, in effect it means that PC gaming is loosing this battle with consoles.

PC isn't losing any battles, we just continue to prove that not all of us are brain dead ****** with no standards who buy all the expensive shinies and are easily amused by mediocre products.

On another note, I probably wouldn't buy it. Pointlessly large CPU/RAM and I heard rumors the GPU was lacking. They should stick to a beefy i5 with maybe 4-6gb of RAM and a beefier GPU.

gingerbill said:

i love valve but i worry for them if they get involved in hardware , surely its just not true? . Maybe it will basically just be a branded PC. Valve have done a lot for the PC so i wish them luck in anything they do.

I'm sick of hearing PC gaming is dying , complete rubbish . The facts speak otherwise , PC game sales are more than 10 years ago. Good games still thrive and sell well. It's just a lot easier for a company to make an average console game than a good PC game that will sell. How many copies will diablo 3 sell? lots and lots , Pc gaming isnt dying just consoles are more popular.

Richy2k9 said:

hello ...

looks like having a PC with Valve label ... nice idea but still a great risk.

Steam is good on PCs, should concentrate on that, well if a Steam Box is out, at least chose a better name & make sure you still support standard PCs & some consoles.

cheers!

Miyasashi said:

If Valve makes it possible to game versus PC-gamers through this box it will be even better than the other consoles.

People could complain about players having (dis-)advantages but then again you could say that about people using a simple mouse/keyboard combination when facing somebody using exceptionally good mouse/keyboard. My brother for example played BF3 on PC and Xbox 360 and was way better on the Xbox version so I'm pretty sure it comes down to preference.

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