Gabe Newell has confirmed rumours that Valve is working on “living-room friendly” PC hardware and that it will go toe-to-toe with Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft’s consoles.
While commonly referred to as the Steam Box, that name may actually refer to the software that will run on such hardware – as we reported in July. The device in question will be a “very controlled” PC for the living room, Newell told Kotaku, but he believes other manufacturers will produce competing hardware designed to take advantage of Valve’s recently launched Big Picture mode.
Newell expects such packages to become available next year, though he doesn’t make it clear whether that will include Valve’s own hardware. Valve has been working to streamline the experience of using a PC, and the delivery of software, ever since it launched Steam in 2003, and with Big Picture mode is now making a concerted effort to move the PC out of the office and under the TV.
“I think in general that most customers and most developers are gonna find that [the PC is] a better environment for them,” Newell said. “Cause 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 gonna unify those environments.”
If Valve can engineer an environment that offers the stability and accessibility of consoles, while at the same time not compromising on the PC’s formidable power, Steam Box – regardless of whether that name refers to the hardware or software – could prove a very real threat to the established console big three. However, PCs’ main advantage over consoles is their flexibility, and more specifically, upgradeability – aspects that will likely be severely reined in on “very controlled” hardware. If the hardware can be sold at a significantly lower price than next-gen consoles, though, that stymied performance lead may not prove an issue at all.