Valve developing a ‘Steam Box’

March 3, 2012

Here’s a curve ball for you; Valve may be working on Steam based PC/console hybrid, and it might be revealed sooner than you think. The original report, found at The Verge, claims that information from sources indicates that the independent publisher is working closely with hardware manufacturers, such as nVidia and Intel, to create something called the ‘Steam Box’, a platform built to buy and run Steam games right out of the box.

Interestingly, the internal hardware architecture reportedly resembles the components of a desktop PC, featuring a Core i7 CPU, nVidia GPU, and 8GB of RAM. And, despite running Steam natively, the platform would allow alternative digital distribution software, such as EA’s Origin, to be installed and function just as it would on any normal computer.

So what’s the difference between this Steam Box and a PC? It doesn’t seem like much, but we suspect it’s all in the marketability. Desktop PCs have long held a stigma with console-exclusive gamers as being built specifically for small screens and desktops, despite any modern PC easily connectible to a large LCD/Plasma display and home theatre system. This ‘comfy couch’ argument leads gamers to buy consoles for a perceived ease in connection and running of games from the comfort of their lounge room. We assume that this Steam Box would attempt to grab that market, presenting a platform that though fundamentally a PC, would seem accessible in use and connectivity to mass market consumers. Plug and play, if you will.

This is right in line with Valve’s ‘Big Picture Mode’ for Steam, a feature long in the works that aims to rebuild the Steam interface for easier navigation and functionality on large, lounge room-like displays, and often with a control pad instead of a mouse and keyboard. For the Steam Box, Big Picture Mode would effectively operate all the system’s functions with the accessibility, ease of use and features one would expect from a traditional home console.

According to sources, Valve may be demonstrating this box to the public as early as next week, at GDC 2012, though we assume behind closed doors and under NDA, with a formal reveal planned for E3 2012.

Interesting times ahead.