Epic's Tim Sweeney believes that Valve's Steam operating system and Steam-branded hardware could have a positive influence over the console companies.
Speaking as part of a panel at an Nvidia-hosted conference in Montreal, Sweeney recalled his initial suspicion when Valve first pitched Epic the idea of Steam. It took at least five years for the platform to start delivering on its promise, and Sweeney expects the SteamOS to require the same slow build-up.
"You can't judge this over the next six months," he said, "you have to judge this over the next decade."
"It'll go a long way to steering the console manufacturers into pursuing an enlightened path"
Tim Sweeney, co-founder, Epic Games
However, if successful, Sweeney believes that Valve's ideas could be the answer to the widespread fear among publishers and developers of being "tied down" to closed platforms from companies like Sony and Microsoft.
"Absolute control over certification is scary, and their control of e-congress rules out possibilities where we would like to have direct relationships with our customers and they prevent it," Sweeney said.
"The possibility of Steam Box as a real, genuinely open platform based on Linux with multiple manufacturers that's jump-started by Valve but isn't absolutely controlled by Valve in the same way that Microsoft and Sony control their platform is very interesting. It'll also go a long way to steering the console manufacturers into pursuing an enlightened path."
Id Software's John Carmack was also on the panel, and he remembered responding to Steam in a similar way when Valve made enquiries about securing Doom 3 as a launch title. Initially, Carmack thought Valve's idea was "crazy", and if it were any other company behind Steam Machines he would be inclined to feel the same way now.
"I'm afraid that I might be at that same point right now where I'm like, 'making your own console OS? Are you crazy?' Maybe ten years from now they're going to look like they've made billions of profits again with it. It still seems a little bit dicey to me - getting everything moved over to Linux, pushing from that side of things, but given their track record I'm a little hesitant to...
"if it were some other random company I would be pseudo-scornful, but it's Valve so I'm not."