We reported back in September that the so-called “Steam Box” was going to enter development because of a job posting on Valve’s website. Valve is notorious for their noncommittal stances on product releases, but CEO Gabe Newell has confirmed that he wanted to bring the PC right to your living room via a brief interview with Kotaku as early as next year.
“The reaction to Steam’s TV-friendly Big Picture interface has been stronger than expected,” Newell said. He expects to get Big Picture, a Steam application that allows you to play Steam games on your TV, onto Steam for Linux once it gets out of beta testing, which would give Valve more flexibility when developing their own hardware. He also expects companies to start selling PC packages for living rooms next year—setups that could consist of computers designed to be hooked up to your TV and run Steam right out of the gate, and thus allow it to compete directly with Sony and Microsoft in the console arena.
“I think in general that most customers and most developers are going to find that [the PC is] a better environment for them,” Newell said. “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 going to unify those environments.”
Newell said he’s expecting a lot of different companies to release these types of packages—”We’ll do it but we also think other people will as well,” he said, and added that Valve’s hardware might not be as open-source or as malleable as your average computer. A similar attempt was done by the 3DO Company in the 1990s, where multiple manufacturers released their versions of the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer. These manufacturers included Goldstar, Panasonic and Sanyo (Japan only), and although cutting-edge in technology, the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer was a commercial and critical failure by the time it left the market by the end of 1996.
“Well, certainly our hardware will be a very controlled environment,” Newell 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 going to 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.”
On the software front, Newell didn’t really give any specifics other than saying that they’re working on their next generation engine, which will also work on next generation consoles. “Hopefully that’s going to give us some interesting opportunities on the game side,” he said.