Valve Software, a game developer and the owner of Steam video game distribution service, said of Friday that next week it would make three important announcement covering expansion of the Steam service next year. At least one of such announcements is expected to reveal details about Valve’s Steam Box game console initiative.
“Last year, we shipped a software feature called Big Picture, a user-interface tailored for televisions and gamepads. This year we have been working on even more ways to connect the dots for customers who want Steam in the living-room. Soon, we will be adding you to our design process, so that you can help us shape the future of Steam,” a statement of the company reads.
Earlier this week, Gabe Newell, a co-founder and managing director of Valve, said that next week the company would discuss its plans concerning living room in general and hardware for that in particular.
For well over a year Valve Software and its hardware partners have been designing a special gaming platform currently known as Steam Box. The concept of the platform is simple: Valve and its allies develop several “reference” gaming systems designed to fit into the living room and running Linux operating system and then sell them. Some of the systems are basic, affordable, and will need to rely on cloud streaming and remote processing; other carry standalone high-end microprocessors and graphics processing units.
A screenshot from Valve's announcement page
Valve, which is an investor of Xi3 Corp., and Xi3 jointly demonstrated Piston ultra-small form-factor gaming PCs at Consumer Electronics Show this year. While Valve did say that there would be other Steam Box game consoles available this year in addition to Piston, it never denied that the system was indeed one of the Steam Box designs. The price of Xi3 Piston starts at $999, which seems to be prohibitively expensive as usually systems based on AMD A-series APUs cost a lot less. While Xi3 Piston is small and sleek, its price is just too high for a given performance. As a result, the very first Steam Box on the market will unlikely be truly popular and will be acquired by a fraction of end-users who expressed their interest in the device.
In a bid to make Linux-based game consoles popular and able to compete against traditional systems, such as Microsoft Xbox or Sony PlayStation, Valve will need not only to deliver the right hardware with the right performance at the right price, but also ensure very good customer experience. Moreover, the latter part should also be true for third-party Steam Box makers.
Earlier this year Valve Software laid off multiple hardware developers, which caused questions regards the company’s ability to deliver its own Steam Box on time. Later on one of former hardware engineers from Valve criticized the company for not supporting the team.