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Games Technology

Valve Reportedly Working On 'Steam Box' Gaming Console 233

Posted by Soulskill
from the putting-the-fear-of-gabe-into-sony-microsoft-and-nintendo dept.
An anonymous reader writes "This article at the Verge claims that Valve is currently working on a way to bring Steam to the living room with its own gaming console. Quoting: 'According to sources, the company has been working on a hardware spec and associated software which would make up the backbone of a "Steam Box." The actual devices may be made by a variety of partners, and the software would be readily available to any company that wants to get in the game. Adding fuel to that fire is a rumor that the Alienware X51 may have been designed with an early spec of the system in mind, and will be retroactively upgradable to the software. Apparently meetings were held during CES to demo a hand-built version of the device to potential partners. We're told that the basic specs of the Steam Box include a Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GPU. The devices will be able to run any standard PC titles, and will also allow for rival gaming services (like EA's Origin) to be loaded up. Part of the goal of establishing a baseline for hardware, we're told, is that it will give developers a clear lifecycle for their products, with changes possibly coming every three to four years. Additionally, there won't be a required devkit, and there will be no licensing fees to create software for the platform.'"
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Valve Reportedly Working On 'Steam Box' Gaming Console

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  • by tedgyz (515156) * on Saturday March 03, 2012 @10:31AM (#39231181) Homepage

    I think this would be a great addition to the market, but if I can't carry over my PC catalog then it will be stillborn.

    • by Dyinobal (1427207) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @10:34AM (#39231207)
      I'm sure you'd be able to play all your games from Steam on this thing. It's not like Valve has ever discouraged people from playing their games across multiple computers.
    • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @10:42AM (#39231269)
      As long as you can log into your Steam account through this, why wouldn't you be able to? That is after all the whole point of Steam, to be able to play your games anywhere but just logging into Steam and redownloading your game
    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Saturday March 03, 2012 @10:52AM (#39231349) Homepage

      My understanding of the story is that essentially this will be a Windows computer with Steam installed. There are two major developments that this signals:

      First, that Valve plans to start issuing a sort of standard system requirement for game developers to target, which is one of the benefits of consoles right now. Developers know what platform they're developing for when they develop a PS3 game, and when I buy a PS3 game I know it'll play on my PS3. If all Steam Boxes have the same system requirements, then you get the same benefit.

      The other implication is that Valve must be developing Steam software suitable for use on a big screen tv. This is going to mean menu systems with large fonts that can be navigated with a remote, as well have controller/remote hardware to use with it.

      I'm pretty optimistic about this. I've been ranting for years now about how Valve should develop a console.

      • So instead of trivially adapting your existing PC for display on a Big-screen, you feel compelled to shell out extra dollars for a piece of hardware, which is essentially another redundant PC, that you don't even need?

        Perhaps valve should develop a "big-screen" version of their software and leave it up to the gamer to build or modify their boxes appropriately. If anybody knows how to build bitchin' rigs, it's gamers. And Alienware machines have been overpriced pieces of shit for a long time now.
        • by Joce640k (829181)

          Nope. This is obviously aimed at the current 'console gamers' who just want a box which plugs in and runs Steam with a minimum hardware spec for developers to work to.

          Even the summary manages to say it, no need to read the article.

        • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Saturday March 03, 2012 @11:34AM (#39231697) Homepage

          So instead of trivially adapting your existing PC for display on a Big-screen, you feel compelled to shell out extra dollars for a piece of hardware, which is essentially another redundant PC, that you don't even need?

          Well no, if you already have a good gaming rig, then you don't need to buy a new one. I don't think Valve is asking you to, either. There are hints, at least, that this will be more a set of standardized specs than a particular hardware console. As I said, I think what Valve is really doing is setting a standard set of requirements for gaming PCs. So in this scheme, you can buy a gaming PC that's "Steambox certified" (or whatever), and then in the Steam store, you'll be able to see that games are designed to run on all "Steambox certified" hardware.

          It won't prevent you from running the same games on another computer, but it will make it so developers have a consistent hardware platform to target, and so gamers basically won't need to think about system requirements for each game. If games are developed/optimized for a 2012 Steambox and you have a 2012 model Steambox, then you know that it'll play well.

          • by J-1000 (869558) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @02:15PM (#39232925)

            You forgot to mention that Valve will have its box for sale, and its form factor and default software will be tailor made for TV use. The UI will probably be centered around a game pad. So not only do you have the specs, you have a marketable product.

            And to reinforce what you already said: To the non-technical, buying a gaming PC is tricky. Countless people have no doubt been burned whey they bought a $300 PC hoping it would play the latest games, only to be disappointed when their on-board video card turned everything into a slide show. Or maybe they listened to the salesman at Best Buy who convinced them that to really play games smoothly they were going to have to drop at least $1,500. So you could deal with all that mess, or you could spend $300 on an XBox and KNOW you're good to go. Valve knows that if buying a gaming PC were as easy as buying an XBox that they could potentially see a lot more customers.

        • What is stopping you from creating your own "steam box" now? Valve is developing a big screen mode for the whole purpose of being about to build your own steam box. But as someone who already uses Steam on a 40" HDTV it works fine as is imo.
      • First, that Valve plans to start issuing a sort of standard system requirement for game developers to target, which is one of the benefits of consoles right now.

        It's also one of the downsides of consoles - as you're stuck with whatever hardware the console provides, even if it's years out of date.

        • by SScorpio (595836)

          We're already stuck, the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 are extremely outdated, and a five year old PC is more powerful than either of them. The upside is that you can still place games at a comfortable quality settings on a five year old PC.

      • My understanding of the story is that essentially this will be a Windows computer with Steam installed.

        Is there any inherent reason why it would have to be Windows? If you're going for the console market, i.e. not worried about people needing legacy productivity software, what sense does it make to pay the Microsoft tax? Certainly Sony and Nintendo don't do it, and even Microsoft doesn't run the same operating system on XBOX as they do on PCs.

        • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @02:41PM (#39233105) Journal

          The goal would be to get the entire library of Steam games to run on that console from day 1. It's also easier for the developers if they have, essentially, one platform to target for both PC and console.

          Anyway, judging from the listed specs, this is not a low-end rig by any measure, meaning that it will already be priced noticeably higher than competitors - so $30 (or whatever it is these days?) for OEM Windows is not likely to make a big difference. They'll probably position it as a console for high-end gaming - in terms of eye candy, it can certainly beat any current-gen console by a considerable margin, especially on a Full HD TV where high-res will be very visible.

    • by miknix (1047580) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @11:24AM (#39231621) Homepage

      As someone who never bought any dedicated gaming device (in exception to a GameBoy long long time ago), I would look forward to this if Steam provide their own dedicated operating system for the SteamBox. I'm a day-to-day GNU/Linux user which dual-boots into Windows 7 for gaming. One of the things I hate is having to care about antivirus and windows updates when *I just want to game*. Having Windows rebooting my computer automatically for a update when I'm in the middle of Portal is really annoying. I love Steam though, I like their game offers and associated publishers, I think its a great idea which simplifies the whole process of buying and installing a game and would certainly love to see that in a dedicated device.

      • You do realize that Windows updates come out on a regular schedule (commonly called "Black Tuesday"), and that if you want to avoid your Windows deciding to reboot itself in the middle of a gaming session, you could simply boot it up the day after Black Tuesday and run the updates manually?

        It's no different from updating your Linux system on a regular basis, which I would hope you're doing....

        You could also simply install PlayOnLinux, and find that many (if not all) of your games are playable on Linux, and

        • by miknix (1047580)

          I didn't know about the Black Tuesday, thanks for the tip. Still, I have limited time to spend gaming so I would rather spend that time playing than to deal with updates or trying to get those games working on Linux. Hence my post about liking the idea of having a dedicated device with Steam which you just power on and play, no maintenance required : )

          • by SScorpio (595836) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @01:39PM (#39232663)

            You really haven't used a game console in a while. For a PS3 and sometimes a Xbox 360 occasional usage is like this.

            1) Start the console and what through the overly long boot animation
            2) Wait for it to connect to the gaming network
            3) Have it disconnect from the gaming network and tell you, your console needs an update and won't go online without it
            4) Download the udpate, wait for it to install, and reboot your console
            5) After the console starts back up launch the game, to have it tell you there is a required update for the game
            6) Wait for the update to download and install
            7) Finally play the game

            This process is even worse if you are playing a game you haven't played before normally there is an automatic installation process you have to wait 10-15 minutes for. And that's after all of the updates it installs one by one.

    • by dissy (172727)

      I think this would be a great addition to the market, but if I can't carry over my PC catalog then it will be stillborn.

      You clearly have never used steam before! (Which prompts the question: What catalog?)

      Anywhere you install Steam, you can sign into your account and download games you have purchased. All you need to remember is your Steam ID and password, and it will show your library of games. You can install any or all of them.

      This is one of the biggest features Steam provides, to make it easy to manage your library from anywhere.

      As the article clearly states, this is just a PC inside, and will not be locked down such

      • by hjf (703092)

        Being a regular PC it will run Windows...

      • being a PC case will be designed for the living room make it have the room for a wide video card + a 1 slot for a cable / tv card.

    • by wanzeo (1800058)

      I would rather they start over and create a Steam Console OS built on linux.

      Yes, many games in my current library wouldn't translate, but it would eliminate the cost of a Windows license. Many Valve games have already been ported to the Mac, so that could provide the core offering of games until the third parties begin targeting the platform.

      Also, if it catches on, game developers could target all the OpenGL platforms (Mac, Steam Console, Linux Desktop, Android) all at once. That would be a large enough ma

  • Steam Box AKA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wisnoskij (1206448) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @10:33AM (#39231203) Homepage

    AKA a windows computer hooked up to a TV and with many software blocks in place to prevent general computer like use.

    • by Dyinobal (1427207) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @10:36AM (#39231221)
      and you think that is different from the xbox how?
      • Umm... I can buy premium titles online right on the box, not just some hobbyist games that existed ages before as free to play flash games?

    • It says you can load stuff like Origin and standard PC titles on there, I doubt it will block any other software... Steam is their platform, Valve won't care if you run other stuff too I think.
    • I see your point; I really do. As a Linux user, I would really like a Linux Steam client so that I can play Portal. But I don't know if I will ever see one of those in my lifetime.

      I had to buy a Roku box to get Netflix, so maybe I will have to buy a Steam box to get steam. Does it bother me that I should have to buy another piece of consumer hardware just to access "content" that I should be able to access with my Linux HTPC? Yes. But beggars can't be choosers.
      • "does it bother me that I should have to buy another piece of consumer hardware just to access "content" that I should be able to access with my Linux HTPC?"

        Linux cannot play windows games, and this is not due to some content blocks from greedy publishers.
        Portal was never released onto Linux, so even if you got a Linux steam client you still could not play it.
        Just install Windows on your computer if you want to play video games.

        • by tepples (727027)

          Linux cannot play windows games, and this is not due to some content blocks from greedy publishers. Portal was never released onto Linux

          What would be the prime reason for not bothering to include a Wine box or two in your testing farm other than "some content blocks from greedy publishers"?

          Just install Windows on your computer

          Windows costs more than a computer. Why is that?

          • 1) It is hard enough, impossible really, to get all the bugs out for a single platform. Adding a few wine boxes (which would not even guaranty it works on all Linux systems) and making sure it works on them is not at all a insignificant task. Also Wine is really not all that great, you simple cannot get all games to work on it.

            2) With all the MS tax, Windows is pretty much free. I personally own about 5 copies, have access to a cooperate pro version of XP, and can use any version of it for free indefinably

            • my university offers it to every student

              Until you graduate. Or does your university also offer it to alumni?

              If you wanted Windows for free You could most likely get a copy off of a friends old computer

              The license for an OEM version is tied to a particular motherboard, and OEM versions aren't for home-built desktop PCs [microsoft.com].

              you likely know someone whos work or school gives them access to tons of free take home versions of Windows.

              But is the target market for this product dedicated enough to 1. home-build a PC and 2. traverse a friends-of-friends network to obtain a free copy of Windows for it? There's a time-money tradeoff, and I was under the impression that the target market for a game console wanted the convenience of plugging in and playing over

              • "Until you graduate. Or does your university also offer it to alumni?"

                Don't know, but I would hope that they would of given a big warning when I downloaded it if they planed to remotely break my computer at some point.

                Can institutions do this? Is MS willing to turn off working licences for corporations?

      • by westyvw (653833)

        Play on LInux supports portal and portal 2 and can setup steam. It handles the setup for you.

  • by Xian97 (714198) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @10:48AM (#39231305)
    What if I want to play a game on my Steam account on the PC and the kids want to play a different game at the same time on the Steam Console? Since the majority of my gaming is done on Steam on the PC these days, we would never be able to play different games on two devices at the same time since Steam only allows a single active login.

    What about multiple players on the same console? They are going to have to come up with a family setting, because if it is just a single login allowed then my kids will be complaining about who gets the achievements and such, and I am not going to buy multiple versions of the same game for each account on the console.
    • by Dyinobal (1427207)
      That is an interesting question and something I hadn't considered. I do wonder how valve will deal with that.
    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      The lack of a "family account" - being able to play multiple games off of the same account - is the only real weakness Steam has IMO.

      • by SScorpio (595836)

        Try offline mode. I installed Steam on my wife's laptop and it automatically loads in offline mode and she can play any game other than online games that require Steam for multiplayer. This isn't much of an issue since she mainly sticks to single player puzzle games, I need to log into Steam once in a great while when it want's to reauthorize the account, but normally this isn't an issue since I'll have logged in to download a new game before that occurs. It's not the best solution, but it's worked just

  • I wonder how they will handle it. Right now Steam is just a normal games publisher and they publish many games that do not even run without unofficial patches and customization. This is forgiveable on a PC, but on a console it is not.

  • What this reminds me of is 3DO. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D0 [wikipedia.org] for reference. I'm not sure if they'll be able to pull this off. The hardware will be too expensive, limiting the market share. Multiple vendors make for a muddle too. Also, why spend a bunch of money on a Valve box when you can just buy a cheaper off the shelf pc? It's not like I don't want to share being part of the glorious PC gaming master race, I'm just not sure Valve can pull this off.
    • why spend a bunch of money on a Valve box when you can just buy a cheaper off the shelf pc?

      For one thing, a home theater PC in a specialized home theater PC case has a better wife acceptance factor than a standard minitower. For another, system requirements become easier to interpret once there's a standardized configuration.

    • by Kreigaffe (765218)

      I don't see how you can say the hardware will be too expensive -- the latest generation of consoles (Wii excluded) were essentially priced the same as a low-end PC, and that was a number of years ago already, and that was for an oldschool-style console. People bought PS3s, there's no reason to think any price point is too high -- and Valve's box, from what they're saying, will be more versatile than the PS3 was.

  • Standardisation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Retron (577778) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @11:02AM (#39231443)

    Yes, it's just a PC-in-a-box. However, this is something a bit more interesting in that at long last it'd set a more modern minimum spec for games. For too long PC games have been crippled graphically, as no games maker wants to lose out on the Windows XP-with-DX9 graphics crowd. If enough of these boxes are shifted it would work to further PC games in terms of graphics, as developers could assume a certain minimum level - and I'd wager it wouldn't be crusty old DX9-level graphics.

    As a bonus, everyone who has a decent gaming PC already would stand to benefit from a larger pool of developers and games.

    Things like this have been tried before, however. Remember MPC and MPC2? They quickly fizzled out, as did use of the Experience Index that's present in consumer versions of Windows from Vista onwards.

    The main fly in the ointment is likely to be cost, however. i7s are around £230 alone in the UK and a decent midrange graphics card (like the GTX560) is another £120. A PS3 is cheaper than an i7 CPU, around £190.

  • by devphaeton (695736) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @11:04AM (#39231459)

    My only concern for this is that Steam (one of the major forces in PC gaming) moving this direction will discourage Desktop PC game development. Instead of creating games for the latest PC hardware, developers will focus on the 'sure thing' of the Steam Box. We all know the difference in graphics, processing and gameplay between PC and console games of the same title.

    The specs of the Steam Box are respectable now (my main PC doesn't have an i7, for instance) but in a few years its specs will be merely 'ok', and I'm not optimistic about being able to upgrade video components, ram or processing capabilities on it without major headaches.

    • by lattyware (934246)
      Developers already do this. They target graphics for the lowest common denominator, the rubbish PCs and the consoles. The only difference is that on PC they allow you to adjust the settings. The Steam Box would change nothing, excpet maybe raising the bar for PCs, and making it a more targetable platform.
    • by Joce640k (829181)

      Doesn't that already happen? PC games are written for PCs which are a couple of years old, not the latest and greatest.

      • by Nemyst (1383049)

        Actually, most PC games are built for the contemporary consoles of the time. The few AAA PC exclusives out there tend to have much higher hardware requirements and graphical capabilities (Crysis, The Witcher 2, to name a few) than their console-ported counterparts.

        Consoles (PS2 last generation, 360 this generation) are the flagship targets now.

    • If Valve sticks true to the upgrade lifecycle, we won't have anything to worry about. For instance, I've been running the same i7 rig for nearly four years now - and it still runs every current title at maximum detail (yes, even Crysis 2!) with plenty of extra FPS. This is clearly due to developers focusing on cross-platform games designed to run on 7 year old Xbox hardware, so gaming hardware requirements have not progressed nearly as rapidly as they did a decade ago.
    • My only concern for this is that Steam (one of the major forces in PC gaming) moving this direction will discourage Desktop PC game development.

      That doesn't seem like a sensible concern to me. These rumors indicate that the Steam Box will essentially be a normal Windows desktop PC, so it's more likely to encourage development for desktop PCs. Now, if this plan is successful, it may discourage developers from optimizing their games for bleeding-edge systems, and instead target the Steam Box specs. The rumors indicate they expect an upgrade cycle of 4 years or so, which isn't far outside of what most game developers do anyway. Also, the way this

  • It's great! (Score:2, Troll)

    by wbr1 (2538558)
    Wii need more competition in the console market. But, unless if fucking comes with Half-Life 3, kiss my ass!
  • TFA doesn't specify, but since this is meant to run their existing catalogue, that means Windows. Which is a shame. There was an opportunity for Valve&co to create an Android-like dedicated gaming operating system, free from licensing costs. Linux-for-games-consoles, instead of XBox-for-Steam.

  • I'm a self-professed PC elitist. I've run through about every console system that's out there or been (I miss the Dreamcast, dammit..And the Saturn, oddly, but that was a Spring Break one-night-stand with itching and burning as the result), but I already have a kick-ass gaming rig, thanks! I like the idea of another choice among the Big Three, though.

    Now... Am I the only person that would like to see a "Steam Games" sectional next to Nintendo and Sony in stores, though? I still like physical media, in so

  • If they're just making available their normal Windows games, does this mean that the interface will be a mouse and a keyboard? I'd be fine with this, but it's interesting that every major company that's making living room entertainment devices are really going out of their way to avoid using a keyboard and mouse. They must have some research backing up their decision.
    • by tepples (727027)
      A USB or Bluetooth mouse and keyboard should work fine on a TV tray, and existing games can have patches released through Steam to improve the experience when played with a gamepad.
  • If Microsoft ever starts pushing cross platform digital distribution through the Windows Store and Xbox Live...EA's Origin and Steam are basically dead. Right?
  • This would be the killer box if XMBC was rolled in. They could even team with the Boxee crew. I'd put in my preorder today.

  • It's a windows PC (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @01:06PM (#39232391) Homepage
    Valve rarely fucks up but my concern is that this is the first time they will. If it can play all my existing games then it's a windows PC dressed up as a console. At worst that means you get all the hassle of PC gaming with the lock down of console gaming. At best it's just a windows PC in a customised case.

    Either way I can't see the point of it. Steam works fine as is on HDTVs. If people want to do that they can do it already.
  • I love Valve, I love Steam as a PC distribution platform. However we don't need another reason for developers to exclusively develop for consoles, or in some cases write the code for the consoles and make a shitty port for PC's which is often done. I hope PC's will still have companies developing games for them, certainly the indie developers will keep making games for PC because it's such an easy platform to distribute and test such games. Any thoughts?
  • by shoehornjob (1632387) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @01:20PM (#39232493)
    My computer has all of those things and more. Why do I need to have some console attached to my tv for gaming. From Steam's perspective I suppose it makes sense. They are already a pretty big player in the gaming community so why not take a piece of Sony and Microsoft's action. I'm kind of interested to see if they can make a go of it though.
  • by nickmalthus (972450) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @01:47PM (#39232733)

    I tried to make my own Steam gaming box as a part of the HTPC I built over the Christmas break. First, Valve has not delivered the Steam Big Picture mode which it promised a year ago (!). This means you need to use the native Windows application navigation with small fonts that even on a big HDTV it is difficult to read and navigate. Next Steam just acts as wrapper to native Windows games so there are still installer/update issues. As my first effort I tried to get Mass Effect 1 to run on my HDTV through steam and spent a couple of hours trying to determine why the launcher would silently die. It turns out I needed to manually download a patch from EA that Steam did not automatically include and apply it along with setting the game launcher to run as administrator. Not very user friendly at all. Then, I find out that on the PC Bioware/EA crippled game controller support for Mass Effect since they want you to buy the XBox 360 version for that so it only supports native mouse/keyboard. I had to buy a third party utility, xpadder, and manually create an control schema myself that works OK with a wireless 360 controller.

    With all that said, I will continue to use Steam as a lower end cloud based backup service for buying bargain games future proofed against console obsolescence. Beyond that, Steam still requires all the PC gaming overhead of troubleshooting/patching/driver updates and probably will never provide the plug and play experience the polished consoles can.

    • One more thing, Steam does not currently integrate with Windows Media Center so if you want to run your HTPC completely through WMC you are out of luck unless you want to spend a few hour researching and building your own WMC launcher.

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