Yesterday, Valve unveiled the first part of its three part plan to bring Steam further into the living room in 2014. That’s SteamOS, and it’s ambitious. Today, Valve announced part two of their home invasion strategy.
Valve is making a prototype video game console. And you can have one this year. Actually, they’re overseeing the creation of multiple “Steam Machines” that you can purchase (or build yourself), but we’ll get to that.
What are Steam Machines?
According to Valve, “entertainment is not a one-size-fits-all world.” With that philosophy in mind, Valve is not only building its own “SteamBox” as many predicted, but is actually working with a multitude of manufacturing partners to bring “a variety of Steam gaming machines to market during 2014,” and all of them running Valve’s own, newly-announced, gaming-centric operating system, SteamOS.
Is Valve Building a Steam Machine, or is it just Partners?
Valve is building its own prototype while the other Steam Machines are being developed. And as Valve has been oft-adamant about involving its PC community in the betterment of Steam, they want you to help make the prototype a success.
Valve says they’ve designed a “high-performance” machine that’s “optimized for gaming, for the living room, and for Steam.” They also say that the machine is “completely upgradeable and open.”
They’re shipping out 300 of these prototype, in-house builds to Steam customers free of charge, to get them to beta test the machine for themselves. You can apply for this “hardware beta” as Valve is calling it, by following a few simple steps on Valve’s website.
It’s as easy as joining a group, agreeing to some conditions, having at least 10 friends on Steam, having a Steam community profile, and playing one game in Big Picture mode. That’s it. You’re in the running for a prototype.
You have until October 25 wherein the application window will close, and no more applications will be accepted. Those who get in will “shape both the new OS version of Steam and the new category of gaming machines that will run it.”
What does it do?
The machine will run SteamOS, which can stream any games you have on your existing gaming PC over a Wi-Fi connection in your home and pipe them to your television. It can also stream many forms of media, but you can read more about that here. We don’t know yet the technical specs of these machines, so their ability to run Steam’s library of Linux games without a gaming PC remains unclear. However, Valve clarified that multiple machines of different styles are being made, with some more focused on processing power.
What Sort of Steam Machines Can I Expect?
Though Valve is working on its own prototype for testing, other manufacturers that are partnered with Valve will be producing their own Steam Machines. They will be designed differently around “size, price, quietness, or other factors,” according to Valve.
If you want to hack the box to change the hardware of software, you’re allowed to. Valve welcomes it.
Can I build my own Steam Box?
Yes. And as mentioned above, you can hack the hardware and software of the for-sale machines as you desire.
Can I use Mouse and Keyboard? What about a Controller?
You can use a mouse and keyboard. You can also use a gamepad, such as the Xbox 360 controller — as many games have on Steam Big Picture Mode. But Valve also said the following:
“Stay tuned, though – we have some more to say very soon on the topic of input.”
Is Valve working on something controller-wise in particular? Is it something more conventional, or more innovative, like that eye-tracking stuff Steam founder Gabe Newell used to mention a lot? Chances are we’ll find out soon.
TL;DR & Extra Facts
- The SteamBox is real, but is a prototype being designed at Valve and may or may not be for sale in the future.
- Steam Machines, market equivalents to the Valve prototype, will be available in 2014 with a variety of price points, horsepower, and quietness — and they’ll all run SteamOS.
- You can build your own Steam Box based on Valve’s technical specifications, and run SteamOS on it (which is “free forever).
- You can use a mouse and keyboard, sure, but Valve is encouraging the use of controllers. It might be working on its own, judging by its hinting.
- Nothing about Steam’s accessibility on desktop will change, you can continue gaming on PC and never need to adopt a Steam Machine.
- Beta participants will be chosen based on past community contributions and beta participation. Remainder of slots will be chosen at random from eligible group.
- Beta testers can openly share their experience with the prototype, as well as given uncensored opinions. To Valve, “that really is the whole point.”
- All games on Steam will be usable in for beta participants.
- You’ll be able to download SteamOS (and it’s source code), soon.