Valve readies living room PCs to rival next-gen game consoles

By on December 10, 2012, 10:30 AM

There have been several hints that Valve is working on its own hardware over the last few months. There’s the Steam’s TV-centric Big Picture mode, which recently came out of beta, work on a Linux port that could power "open hardware platforms" and flip-flopping references to a console-like gaming box. But now Gabe Newell is making no secret about the fact that the company will start selling PCs for the living room next year.

How far along they are on the project is unclear. Valve's CEO and co-founder offered no specific details on the hardware but said it would be a “very controlled environment” in order to provide a consistent user experience. “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,” he said.

Newell also said that Valve probably won't be the only vendor. Other companies should start selling PC packages for living rooms next year, designed to run Steam right out of the box and compete with current and next-generation consoles from Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony.

I think in general that most customers and most developers are gonna find that [the PC is] a better environment for them, because they won't have to split the world into thinking about 'why are my friends in the living room, why are my video sources in the living room different from everyone else?' So in a sense we hopefully are gonna unify those environments.

Source: Kotaku

Earlier this year it was rumored that Valve was working on a PC gaming console dubbed the Steam Box. The system was expected to ship with a proprietary controller with swappable components in addition to being compatible with a range of existing USB peripherals and even with rival gaming services. Under the hood it was believed to include an Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of system RAM and an Nvidia GPU.




User Comments: 27

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TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Sony and MS should be shaking in their boots at this prospect. No way either one of their console makers can compete with the Steam catalog.

2 people like this | Guest said:

Instead of Steam Box they should call it Sauna

9Nails, TechSpot Paladin, said:

You're right Tom. I've been using Steam for a very long time now. And their weekend specials adds value to the platform. Their delivery has been consistent. They're flexible, unlike the console players. And their cloud service stores some of my game settings between systems (so I can continue a game I started at home over lunch on my work PC).

Gabe can be a bit wacky at time, but I think he really understands gamers. And this looks like a killer app to me. Time well tell if there's room for a 4th platform in my livingroom. But I'm already thinking that this will be my future game platform.

SantistaUSA said:

Sony and MS should be shaking in their boots at this prospect. No way either one of their console makers can compete with the Steam catalog.

I guess it will depend on how much they will charge for the hardware, no changes for me though as I have my computer hooked up to my 55" TV since 2008 and I've been enjoying the best of all gaming plataforms :-) Even though I won't have to buy their hardware, I'm excited to see what they have to offer!

Guest said:

I'm happy gaming on my 27" 2560x1440 monitor with my GTX 690, but I hope this is successful and Valve wrecks havoc on Sony and Microsoft. I love Valve, they're the only "good" gaming company left.

Ranger1st Ranger1st said:

I'm going to build a Linux box just for this.. This will be my gateway drug to hard core linux over 'the windows' maybe..

Blue Falcon said:

That sounds like a good idea but there are 4 potential concerns for console gamers:

1) Controller support on the PC is still very poor. Yes, it works with things like xpadder but some games either don't support the controller. Valve would almost need to introduce its own controller and make sure it works with 99.9% of Steam titles and do so seamlessly, like it does on consoles. Even if the controller works well, imagine a PS3/Xbox 360 gamer migrating to Steam and wanting to use a controller for a COD game in multi-player? He'd get murdered by a PC gamer using a keyboard and mouse. Suddenly you end up with console players competing against PC gamers with superior controls in FPS titles. Not fun for newcomers.

2) Price. How can you ship a cheap box with Core i7, 8GB of DDR3 and a good Nvidia GPU and not go way above $500? You also need MS's OS and a decent PSU since these components would use more power than a traditional console.

3) Longevity. If this box can't be upgraded, what happens when PC games get more demanding? Console developers use tricks like downscaling resolution, optimization by coding directly to the hardware, balancing graphics and framerates. That's how PS3/360 can still play modern games 6-7 years after release. Even a GTX680 will start chugging in next generation games at 1920x1080 in most likely 2 years, maybe 3 at most.

4) Overall experience. Despite how stable NV drivers and MS's OS are, there are still not as stable or smooth as a turnkey console experience. Look how many games have bugs, issues/driver problems at launch. I realize that console games also have patches and have issues, but PC games are much more problematic. Most PC gamers don't mind waiting for a new driver update to make a game run smoother or fix stability issues, etc. but when you get a console, since the hardware is the same for all Sony or MS consoles, the developers probably spent more time debugging than NV ever can. If Steambox is fixed, then you run into issue #3 right away as PC's won't get the same developer optimization once the hardware is no longer fast enough.

Some of these points have to be addressed before Steam truly can be a Sony/MS competitor.

3 people like this | Alvaro Alvaro said:

That sounds like a good idea but there are 4 potential concerns for console gamers:

1) Controller support on the PC is still very poor. Yes, it works with things like xpadder but some games either don't support the controller. Valve would almost need to introduce its own controller and make sure it works with 99.9% of Steam titles and do so seamlessly, like it does on consoles. Even if the controller works well, imagine a PS3/Xbox 360 gamer migrating to Steam and wanting to use a controller for a COD game in multi-player? He'd get murdered by a PC gamer using a keyboard and mouse. Suddenly you end up with console players competing against PC gamers with superior controls in FPS titles. Not fun for newcomers.

2) Price. How can you ship a cheap box with Core i7, 8GB of DDR3 and a good Nvidia GPU and not go way above $500? You also need MS's OS and a decent PSU since these components would use more power than a traditional console.

3) Longevity. If this box can't be upgraded, what happens when PC games get more demanding? Console developers use tricks like downscaling resolution, optimization by coding directly to the hardware, balancing graphics and framerates. That's how PS3/360 can still play modern games 6-7 years after release. Even a GTX680 will start chugging in next generation games at 1920x1080 in most likely 2 years, maybe 3 at most.

4) Overall experience. Despite how stable NV drivers and MS's OS are, there are still not as stable or smooth as a turnkey console experience. Look how many games have bugs, issues/driver problems at launch. I realize that console games also have patches and have issues, but PC games are much more problematic. Most PC gamers don't mind waiting for a new driver update to make a game run smoother or fix stability issues, etc. but when you get a console, since the hardware is the same for all Sony or MS consoles, the developers probably spent more time debugging than NV ever can. If Steambox is fixed, then you run into issue #3 right away as PC's won't get the same developer optimization once the hardware is no longer fast enough.

Some of these points have to be addressed before Steam truly can be a Sony/MS competitor.

1. They're already developing their own controller. Also, "Big Picture ready" games are guaranteed to work with controllers.

2. Mid-range hardware, mass production and possibly selling hardware at a loss.

3. Great optimization due to standardization. A new version of the hardware every 2 to 3 years. PC games allow you to lower the graphic settings, so you could upgrade whenever you feel like it.

4. There has to be some bad for all the good, lol.

Littleczr Littleczr said:

I am also exited. This would mean more game selection for my PC. Heck I might buy it for my nephew as a birthday present and play with it a bit.

Blue Falcon said:

Alvaro,

"2. Mid-range hardware, mass production and possibly selling hardware at a loss."

Ya, interesting to see how this Steam box will compare to a budget HTPC around an A10 APU for instance.

Twixtea said:

I think if there's any company able to do this it would be Valve.

Ofcourse it will take more next year.

I would expect it to ship around 1 year after it gets confirmed.

I Imagine Valve waiting for the new PS and XBOX to ship, to see what they're up against.

Maybe in ~~2-3 years?

By that time the new Playstation and XBOX will also be on the market, and Valve will analyze and see if they can succeed in offering something the PS and XBOX does not.

I really hope they can deliver it, I love playing PC games on the TV.

I just don't know what kind of sense the steambox would make to people who have a good gaming laptop ready to be hooked up to the TV, or just a normal PC like the Alienware thingy dedicated to game on the TV?

It's hard to imagine what they'll come up with, but Valve can revolutionize

3 people like this | Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

That sounds like a good idea but there are 4 potential concerns for console gamers:

1) Controller support on the PC is still very poor. Yes, it works with things like xpadder but some games either don't support the controller. Valve would almost need to introduce its own controller and make sure it works with 99.9% of Steam titles and do so seamlessly, like it does on consoles. Even if the controller works well, imagine a PS3/Xbox 360 gamer migrating to Steam and wanting to use a controller for a COD game in multi-player? He'd get murdered by a PC gamer using a keyboard and mouse. Suddenly you end up with console players competing against PC gamers with superior controls in FPS titles. Not fun for newcomers.

2) Price. How can you ship a cheap box with Core i7, 8GB of DDR3 and a good Nvidia GPU and not go way above $500? You also need MS's OS and a decent PSU since these components would use more power than a traditional console.

3) Longevity. If this box can't be upgraded, what happens when PC games get more demanding? Console developers use tricks like downscaling resolution, optimization by coding directly to the hardware, balancing graphics and framerates. That's how PS3/360 can still play modern games 6-7 years after release. Even a GTX680 will start chugging in next generation games at 1920x1080 in most likely 2 years, maybe 3 at most.

4) Overall experience. Despite how stable NV drivers and MS's OS are, there are still not as stable or smooth as a turnkey console experience. Look how many games have bugs, issues/driver problems at launch. I realize that console games also have patches and have issues, but PC games are much more problematic. Most PC gamers don't mind waiting for a new driver update to make a game run smoother or fix stability issues, etc. but when you get a console, since the hardware is the same for all Sony or MS consoles, the developers probably spent more time debugging than NV ever can. If Steambox is fixed, then you run into issue #3 right away as PC's won't get the same developer optimization once the hardware is no longer fast enough.

Some of these points have to be addressed before Steam truly can be a Sony/MS competitor.

1. They're already developing their own controller. Also, "Big Picture ready" games are guaranteed to work with controllers.

2. Mid-range hardware, mass production and possibly selling hardware at a loss.

3. Great optimization due to standardization. A new version of the hardware every 2 to 3 years. PC games allow you to lower the graphic settings, so you could upgrade whenever you feel like it.

4. There has to be some bad for all the good, lol.

point 4 isn't always good on consoles though? I've seen PS3 freeze constantly and Xboxes?! they had over 50% failure rate at one point. This is Valve, they are producing Steam to run on Linux, all they need to do is create a custom Linux kernel thats extremely simple and design to pretty much run steam and its library of games. and get driver support from the manufacturers.

I'm pretty sure (when you consider how long its taking the next half-life to come out) that unlike the PS3 and Xbox, this will be released relatively polished on comparison

9Nails, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Hardware, as Blue Falcon mentions, can be a problem in the PC market where hardware and game engines are not tightly packaged together and disparities can exist.

To that, Valve has been conducting hardware survey's for years and years. They have hardware trends and averages available for you to view. No doubt Valve is aware of what games customers are buying and the hardware they are using. Even though a small set of that data is represented here, I'm sure Valve has data trends which can be extended predict the future. They themselves are also designing games and want to push hardware forward to take advantage of new features; physics and cloth for example.

http://store.steampowered.com/hwsurvey

I would like to see the hardware updated at least annually so when I do upgrade I'm not buying into an outdated system. I'd also like to see them use a "Windows Experience" rating so you know a 1.0 game will run on any box. And a 5.0 game would require a Steam Box of 5.0 or higher for recommended settings.

Tekkaraiden Tekkaraiden said:

So they are going to complete with consoles by releasing a console? Actually I'd love a pc the size of a mac mini that plays pc games.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

If they had a package like the Alienware X51, but without all of the premium you pay for the Alienware name, it could definitely fit into living room aesthetics. And, let's face it, if you are gaming on a living room PC, big screen from far away, odds are you don't need bleeding-edge graphics cards. This is a different niche than the hardcore gaming fanatics that live to squeeze 140 bajillion fps out of their systems, when 30-60 is perfectly playable. Find a mid-to-high range graphics card that will weather a few seasons of gaming, and you've got a decent gaming rig for the living room environment. In a few years, a simple GPU upgrade can easily give you another year or two, before you have to start thinking about a complete system update.

Valve might do better to work with hardware OEMs and license out the Steambox platform. They could release their own hardware as a reference design, but they'd do better just sitting back and letting the existing market players drive the hardware forward. Just look to Google's strategies on Google TV and Android phones / tablets for a good example of that strategy.

St1ckM4n St1ckM4n said:

This will be interesting. I'm sure all of us techies can convert or just use our existing PCs - Steam Box will just be a simple all-in-one solution for people who like the console experience.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

This will be interesting. I'm sure all of us techies can convert or just use our existing PCs - Steam Box will just be a simple all-in-one solution for people who like the console experience.

Indeed... This is no big deal for techies. I've been gaming from my couch on my scratch-built HTPC for years, without much issue at all. I will say that the Big Picture thing is pretty sweet - one thing that XP (and Windows in general) suck at is 10 foot interfaces. Watching the wife squint trying to read her emails from across the room can be comical (until she sees me snickering, then it's more dangerous than funny!)

1 person liked this | coldsoda said:

That sounds like a good idea but there are 4 potential concerns for console gamers:

1) Controller support on the PC is still very poor. Yes, it works with things like xpadder but some games either don't support the controller. Valve would almost need to introduce its own controller and make sure it works with 99.9% of Steam titles and do so seamlessly, like it does on consoles. Even if the controller works well, imagine a PS3/Xbox 360 gamer migrating to Steam and wanting to use a controller for a COD game in multi-player? He'd get murdered by a PC gamer using a keyboard and mouse. Suddenly you end up with console players competing against PC gamers with superior controls in FPS titles. Not fun for newcomers.

2) Price. How can you ship a cheap box with Core i7, 8GB of DDR3 and a good Nvidia GPU and not go way above $500? You also need MS's OS and a decent PSU since these components would use more power than a traditional console.

3) Longevity. If this box can't be upgraded, what happens when PC games get more demanding? Console developers use tricks like downscaling resolution, optimization by coding directly to the hardware, balancing graphics and framerates. That's how PS3/360 can still play modern games 6-7 years after release. Even a GTX680 will start chugging in next generation games at 1920x1080 in most likely 2 years, maybe 3 at most.

4) Overall experience. Despite how stable NV drivers and MS's OS are, there are still not as stable or smooth as a turnkey console experience. Look how many games have bugs, issues/driver problems at launch. I realize that console games also have patches and have issues, but PC games are much more problematic. Most PC gamers don't mind waiting for a new driver update to make a game run smoother or fix stability issues, etc. but when you get a console, since the hardware is the same for all Sony or MS consoles, the developers probably spent more time debugging than NV ever can. If Steambox is fixed, then you run into issue #3 right away as PC's won't get the same developer optimization once the hardware is no longer fast enough.

Some of these points have to be addressed before Steam truly can be a Sony/MS competitor.

No.

Guest said:

You don't buy from steam, you lease...

St1ckM4n St1ckM4n said:

That's an excellent reply @coldsoda. I wonder what your other two posts are made up of.

jonjonjon said:

This has failure written all over it. if I want a pc to run pc games (steam) im going to build it. if I want a console im going to get a xbox. who in their right mind would want an underpowered pc to play pc games? the xbox/ps3 can get away with it because dev's develop specifically for the xbox/ps3 platform. plus valve doesnt have the money to build a real console. you think valve could take a hit on hardware like ms and sony? I dont think so. all its going to be is an underpowered/overpriced pc with linux and steam on it. FAIL!

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

This has failure written all over it. if I want a pc to run pc games (steam) im going to build it. if I want a console im going to get a xbox. who in their right mind would want an underpowered pc to play pc games?
Thats not the question you should be asking. The question you should be asking is, who in their right mind would buy an under powered PC, when it is sold as a proprietary console? Oops, did I say that out loud? Anyway I think you can see that selling under powered PC's, will not stop anyone from buying them.

1 person liked this | jonjonjon said:

Thats not the question you should be asking. The question you should be asking is, who in their right mind would buy an under powered PC, when it is sold as a proprietary console? Oops, did I say that out loud? Anyway I think you can see that selling under powered PC's, will not stop anyone from buying them.

ill give you that. but the xbox isnt just a underpowered pc made for playing pc games. the reason you buy an xbox is for xbox live and the games specifically developed for a console with controllers. why would you buy a underpowered pc to play steam games? thats what dell is for. unless valve is going to develop a WHOLE console. that would require getting game devs to specifically optimize their games for it and means you wouldnt be able to play every steam game. it will probably be some pc manufacturer like dell or hp making and selling a pc with linux on it called the steam box.

St1ckM4n St1ckM4n said:

ill give you that. but the xbox isnt just a underpowered pc made for playing pc games. the reason you buy an xbox is for xbox live and the games specifically developed for a console with controllers. why would you buy a underpowered pc to play steam games? thats what dell is for. unless valve is going to develop a WHOLE console. that would require getting game devs to specifically optimize their games for it and means you wouldnt be able to play every steam game. it will probably be some pc manufacturer like dell or hp making and selling a pc with linux on it called the steam box.

I see where you're coming from, but I don't see the big problem.

If you buy an Xbox, you can choose from Xbox games. If you buy a Steam Box, you can choose from controller-capable games in the Steam library.

Just because it will be open and have the potential of a PC, doesn't make it a PC.

Guest said:

One of the big reasons I buy my games from steam over my xbox is PRICE of the games. Great deals on steam. Rarley do you see xbox games go below 19.99 and it takes a very long time before that happens.

gingerbill said:

I worry for valve releasing this . I hope they succeed but it's a very competitive market.

coldsoda said:

That's an excellent reply @coldsoda. I wonder what your other two posts are made up of.

Words.

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