Valve Software plans to start testing its widely discussed PC-based Steam Box video game consoles with customers this summer. Unfortunately, even Gabe Newell, chief executive officer of Valve, does not know when the company plans to start actual sales of the Steam Box. For the first time, Valve also disclosed plans to attach a brand-new interactive game controller with the consoles.
“We are working with partners trying to nail down how fast we can make it. We will be giving out some prototypes to customers to gauge their reactions, I guess, in the next three to four months. 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," said Gabe Newell in an interview with BBC.
Valve’s Steam Box concept of PC-based video game systems for the living rooms involves tiny Linux-based personal computers with Steam video game distribution service installed. Valve expects different versions of Steam Boxes to exist and projects that they will be different in terms of performance and features, but similar in terms of software.
It is interesting to note that now Valve predicts that Steam Box consoles will not only feature a special controller that will provide some kind of haptic feedback, just like Sony’s Dual Shock 3, but will also measure the gamer’s body states. The company has not yet finalized the controller.
“If you think of a game like Left for Dead – which was trying to put you into a sort of horror movie – if you do not change the experience of what the player is actually feeling then it stops being a horror game. 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,” said Mr. Newell.
While the controller looks to be impressive on paper, it requires game developers to tailor their games to its sensors, otherwise all the measurements it makes will be useless. Only time will tell whether game developers will actually add support of the innovative Steam Box controller to their titles.
At present it is unclear when the Steam Box is set to hit the market and at what price. A logical move for Valve would be to start selling the consoles this holiday season, but with two massive launches of PlayStation 4 and Xbox Next this fall, it is unlikely that Steam Boxes will manage to attract attention of core gamers, not even talking about attention from occasional gamers.