Valve's Steam Box game system to begin testing in 3-4 months

By on March 6, 2013, 3:30 PM

Valve CEO Gabe Newell told the BBC its upcoming Steam Box gaming system will be ready for testing within "three to four months". The Steam Box is Valve's answer to game consoles, with which it hopes to offer a "dumbed down" living room PC gaming experience before efforts by companies like Apple beat it to the punch.

Newell didn't share many specifics about the Steam Box, but said the company is still determining how much performance it can cram into its tiny PC-based game console. "There are noise issues and heat issues and being able to [deal with] that while still offering a powerful enough gaming experience is the challenge in building it." Newell told the BBC.

The interview also indicates that Valve has been working on novel technologies, like a controller equipped with a heart rate sensor. 

"If you think of a game like Left4Dead - which was trying to put you into a sort of horror movie - if you don't change the experience of what the player is actually feeling then it stops being a horror game," Newell told the Beeb. "So you need to actually be able to directly measure how aroused the player is - what their heart rate is, things like that - in order to offer them a new experience each time they play."

The first glimmers of a possible Steam-powered gaming console appeared in March of last year. Numerous rumors followed, including the addition of "Big Picture" mode to Steam -- a feature geared toward improving Steam's TV and controller experience. However, the Steam Box had been all but officially confirmed until January's CES where Valve and Xi3 joined together to showcase a fist-sized computer labeled "Piston".

Xi3 wouldn't discuss specifics, but we noted the X7A -- the company's offering slated to be the supposed basis for the Steam Box -- weighed in at $999 and featured a quad-core AMD APU, up to 8GB of DDR3 RAM and up to 1TB of solid-state storage. X7A connectivity and expansion features included an ethernet port, 1/8" audio in/out, SPDIF optical audio, four USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, four powered eSATAp ports, two mini DisplayPort ports and a single DisplayPort/HDMI port.

Newell did not declare a price range for the Steam Box, but mentioned that Valve wouldn't be able to subsidize its hardware the same way game console makers do. Price "remains a major unknown" said Newell.




User Comments: 8

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Upio said:

It isn't hard to measure how aroused I am

St1ckM4n St1ckM4n said:

It isn't hard to measure how aroused I am

Why? I honestly don't get it.

Hardcore Steam users have no need for a Steam Box. It'll just be a certain PC that looks nice and costs more than one you'd build yourself. If people want a console, they'd buy one. Also, IT-savvy people won't be buying this with 90% certainty, because they can build it themselves.

But, Steam Box is still a good idea to expand the market.

veLa veLa said:

It isn't hard to measure how aroused I am

Hardcore Steam users have no need for a Steam Box.

Exactly how I see it as well. I play all of my games on my gaming rig so I would never even be interested in buying or using one of these.

RzmmDX said:

Screw the gaming aspect. A box that size would make the perfect HTPC. All I need is to buy a blu-ray reader. Albeit, way more expensive and overpowered...

St1ckM4n St1ckM4n said:

A HTPC that size would also make a perfect HTPC. I don't see your point?

It's not like a console with proprietary hardware/software.

Ravey Ravey said:

I always feel Hardcore gamers miss the big picture (excuse the pun) here when it comes to creating a console. On the whole bring steam into the living will only improve the gaming experiance for everyone including hardcore gamers.

Right now the steam platform is limited to PC normally in your bedroom or study with a nice sized monitor and possibly just surround sound headphones.

Now bring it to the living room. If you are lucky you will have a 42" screen or larger TV with a decent surround sound system and a handy little steam box that can play music, movies and games for the right price. and all you need to do is plug it in just like any other console. With the added bonus of being able to upgrade the hardware which will be unlikely with your next gen consoles.

Then you just have to consider the game base. when the PS4 is released, how many games do you think will be available? maybe around 20, 1 or 2 per genre - non of them likely to be free-to-play (or free to pay if you like). Steam already has a game base of thousands of games.

Now that steam is in the living room you will start to see other types of games appear too. Dancing Games for example or even exercise and fitness games that with the help of controller that can track your heart rate, will be a very popular buy.

Critica1Hit said:

It isn't hard to measure how aroused I am

Hardcore Steam users have no need for a Steam Box.

Exactly how I see it as well. I play all of my games on my gaming rig so I would never even be interested in buying or using one of these.

This is not aimed towards hardcore steam players... I imagine this is targeted to people who can't afford $2K for a full blown gaming rig and/or don't have the additional space to put a gaming rig.

As a side note, if they are still figuring out heat and noise issues, then I feel the public, and especially possible competitors like Apple/Microsoft/Google, shouldn't be hearing about all this yet. But alas it's too late now...

St1ckM4n St1ckM4n said:

This is not aimed towards hardcore steam players... I imagine this is targeted to people who can't afford $2K for a full blown gaming rig and/or don't have the additional space to put a gaming rig.

While true that the max target resolution is a measly 1920x1080p, this is the most widely used resolution by Steam users today - TS itself has an article on this. Valve has said there will be no subsidy, it's running Linux (bad drivers), and no proprietary hardware. This means cost will be the same as anyone else building a similar PC; e.g. the one you currently run.

Now bring it to the living room. If you are lucky you will have a 42" screen or larger TV with a decent surround sound system and a handy little steam box that can play music, movies and games for the right price. and all you need to do is plug it in just like any other console. With the added bonus of being able to upgrade the hardware which will be unlikely with your next gen consoles.

  • 42inch screen is paltry, especially considering that at this distance a 24inch is 'larger'. Add to that the bad room setups most people use, and this is a losing point.
  • Surround sound is nice, but SteamBox would require a $100+ sound card to encode games into Dolby Digital Live for surround sound, in games which don't natively support Dolby (ergo, 95% of them). Add to this the Linux factor... good luck with that.
  • It won't be as nicely plug n play as consoles. Certain TV's don't scale HDMI from PC as 1:1, leading to some serious picture issues.
  • Upgradeable? Sure, which just proves that it won't be using proprietary hardware and just standard off-the-shelf items.

I still think SteamBox will be a very cheap and very poor performing desktop PC for use with controller games, to expand Valve's market. It can only be a win for Valve and Steam users IMO. But I strongly disagree with anyone suggesting it will be a viable gaming box for PC gamers.

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