Valve creating "Steam Box"

Valve may be getting into the hardware business with its own console

Valve may be creating their own spec for a PC-technology based 'Steam Box' that would be built by a variety of partners, according to a report on The Verge.

According to sources, the recently announced Alienware X51 may have been built with this in mind and could be upgraded to work with the Steam software planned for this new spec.

Reportedly, meetings were held at CES to demo an early version of the console to selected companies. The basic spec would be an Intel Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GPU. These boxes would be capable of running standard PC games, and even rival digital distribution services.

One of the big differences between Valve's rumored box and the existing consoles would be a lack of bureaucracy or licensing fees. Other features might be controllers that can be reconfigured for different uses, and possibly biometrics.

The speculation is that Valve may announce this at GDC, or at least that more information may be made available to potential partners working up to a full E3 rollout. We'll be following this story at GDC to see if more information comes out.

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Latest comments (20)

Private Industry 8 years ago
A bit misleading saying console as what is written here would indicate a streamlined PC that would probably be cheaper than other complete PCs with steam integrated into the system.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 8 years ago
I'll preface this with saying I think it's just a rumour. Valve always play close-to-the-chest, so this allll just seems unlikely. But...

PC gamers get sick of console ports that don't use the PC's capabilities properly, right? ME3 is a perfect example - develop for the 360, and everything else will have to make do. Well, this would give developers (and publishers) a stable baseline for minimum specs. And if it's true that they're just designing the hardware spec, with Alienware and others producing it, then if they get the right partners, it could spread without anyone realising it. Everyone in the gaming community mostly laughs at Alienware, but what about Dell? HP? Acer? These are the PCs that families buy, and if they're a decent baseline technologically, then it could massively improve PC gaming. Of course, you'd need developers and publishers to take advantage of it, but still...

If Valve produce and sell the hardware themselves, it's harder, but still not impossible, to create a new standard, that's very very inclusive.

Also, whatever else, I can see Valve making a controller that rivals Nintendo for comfort and ingenuity.


Also, Valve is at this year's E3, yes, but they're just in a private room. Which doesn't preclude them showing things, or having a second booth. But it does seem unlikely that they're going to do a big reveal there.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 3rd March 2012 8:46pm

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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 8 years ago
If it does not require Windows, then picture me impressed. If it does require Windows, then what is the difference to any other PC? Watch out for my release of a Steam-Box called the KlausOtron 10.000.
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Show all comments (20)
Private Industry 8 years ago
I think it would be difficult to make a new OS and get publishers to support plus all other major software developers would need to support it and Valve is too small to achieve that. Linux is on the market for ages and the support isnt exactly amazing. Maybe they take Win 8 and customize it for their own needs? Than again sure MS likes topush GFWL. One thing is probably for sure that they dont make a console as they lack the money, know how and infrastructure to do that and I would be more than surprised if they make one.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 8 years ago
Mmm... The more I think about it, the more it looks like hokum.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 8 years ago
The whole point of creating a platform is to control it. If Valve has to install Windows underneath Steam, then they will have no control. Gone is the option to subsidize the hardware by making sure people have to use their service. With no viable business model to subsidize the hardware, the Valve Box becomes just as meaningless as any other OEM gaming PC.

To really operate a platform, you have to be able to provide an operating system. Apple, Microsoft, Google, Sony, Nintendo, those are the five who can do it, that is why they each have their closed platform. Amazon is doing its best to somehow pull the stunt off with their Kindle bastard locking out most parts of Android. HP and Nokia are the most recent companies to drop out of this race (WebOS and Symbian). Linux, AmigaOS and other fringe solutions do not matter in the gaming market at all. Sure, Ubuntu is nice, but it does not play games well.

For better or worse, Valve is an online store provider which sits on top of an operating system. Whatever box they release, they need the help of Microsoft to make it compatible to their current store lineup. Which makes the Valve box sort of useless to begin with.
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Harrison Smith Studying Games and Graphics Programming, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology8 years ago
My guess would be that valve would want to set up an "Standard", a more baseline system spec, which manufactures can build "Steam" capable gaming pc's for the masses and developers can then make sure that there game to some degree runs smoothly on said standard. The big issue for alot of gamers wanting to get into PC gamers is "what hardware do I need?", "what is a good set up?", and a set standard that is updated every few years would be not a bad thing to have around. So if you want to get into pc gaming but really not have a clue, you can buy a Steam approved box, and when looking up system requirements the game will have steam box capable, making the process much easier for those who dont want to worry about specs and such.
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Curt Sampson Sofware Developer 8 years ago
Well, either this is a fairly obvious idea, or I was quite prescient in my comment on the Alienware PC article.

Setting up a "hardware baseline" is indeed rather pointless, I think; there's already an obvious one at the knee that's always existed in the commodity parts price-performance curve. The only major variable is the motherboard, and I can imagine blessing only certain motherboards as raising real hell. However, as I mentioned in my other post, there's certainly something beyond that they Valve can provide, even on a Windows-based system.

That would basically be the thing that would switch me from console to PC gaming: turn the PC into an appliance. Buy it, plug it in to power, Internet and your television via HDMI, turn it on and start gaming with the wireless gamepad. Every game released on Steam could be validated with and tweaked for the particular hardware configuration so there'd be no messing with tweaking graphics driver settings or any of that. Ideally, unless you wanted to, you'd never see a Windows desktop. That would live up to the name "SteamBox": as easy to use as a PS3 or Xbox, but offering Battlefield 3 and Skyrim at 60 FPS in full 1080p, with (of course wireless) mouse control for those who prefer that over a game pad.

A good question raised in the comment here is, would MS let them do this? It's not exactly direct competition for the Xbox 360, being that it's about five times the price and will never be quite as easy to use, but it may compete with some of MS's own PC gaming initiatives.
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Agree with the other comments: this seems sort of pointless... if it runs Windows, its a Windows PC - if it doesn't - how does this work? PC designed to connect to a TV, with wireless controllers?

If its a Linux-based solution, with "cheap" PC hardware (i.e. console prices) - then they could promote this as a rival console. But how many of the existing games would work (without Windows), and how many devs would bother to update their games to run on Linux?

Have to wonder if some of this is a reaction to Windows 8: the "metro" style interface basically blocks services like Steam, and encourages devs to launch apps directly as Metro apps on the W8/Metro store... if it takes off, it would be bad for Stream.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 8 years ago
Re: Metro interface

If it takes off, it's bad for all digital distro services. I doubt EA will be too enamoured with it, for instance.

The Steambox idea could work, if it basically sat the Steam interface on a hidden Windows install - as long as drivers are automatically updated, you'd never need to know that Windows was below the Steam "skin", which makes it just a pure gaming PC. But it still seems incredibly unlikely.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 4th March 2012 10:58am

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Private Industry 8 years ago
It is impossible to make it as cheap as a console so where would be the point in making something that has steam running but blocks your access to the desktop and criples it to playing only? Even gaming PCs is the point you can do whatever you want, feel like doing some photoshop or video editing? No problem. If you can only be in a steam overlay and cant get to the desktop and do what you want you need to have a second PC.

I can see the making a baseline spec PC, but thats it and even that makes limited sense with the evolution of graphics and how many would first need to buy that PC before developers would say thats the baseline we optimize our game for those speccs now.
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Sure, this Steam box is not aimed to the PC world but rather the console-only crowd. But since Valve is not know anywhere else that the PC community, it's going to be a long call ...
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 8 years ago
A competitor of the Microsoft Xbox depending on Microsoft as the provider of the operating system? Not going to happen.

A Valve console with a different operating system than Windows? Immediately 90% of the software library wiped out.

A console without EA games? Dead on Arrival.

If Gabe Newell does the impossible and can get EA, Activision and other third party publisher to cooperate, then maybe there is a slim chance. Even then, Sony and Miccrosoft will also have all those third party games and then some exclusives.

No matter how you twist it, the odds are massively stacked against Valve on this one.
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Imagine a Steam console launching with Half-Life 3 as an exclusive.....
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Chris Clarke Staff Writer, TheSixthAxis8 years ago
Like many above I can't see the sense in this.
If it runs Windows then it's just a skinned PC and Valve won't be able to control the platform and maybe even subsidise it through Steam revenues.
If it doesn't run Windows then practically the entire catalogue of games on Steam won't work and would publisher really fund developers to work on yet another platform.

The point about Win8 and it's app store locking-out Steam to some extent in PC gaming is a valid one though, so Valve do need to adapt their business model in some way.

Too open and with the loss of control Valve will run the risk of massively reduced ongoing revenues
Too closed and it's either a very expensive rival to consoles & surely doomed to only being a niche product or the hardware market is going to get very crowded indeed.
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K. Al-Hurby Producer/Designer 8 years ago
If Valve does this, Just like alienware’s mini console, I Personally I think it’s just going to be a streamlined (windows) PC with some UI customisations to make the experience of purchasing and installing PC titles much easier to the not-so-tech savvy consumer – with the option of not using steam and returning to the windows desktop. To the average Joe, all they need to know is: this little machine will last for 5-6 years, it will play games straight from the box with the option of using an xbox/PS3 themed controller or even an keyboard and mouse, not to forget that it will pull all communities together into one unified multiplayer experience, with the option of taking your steam purchased games to your laptop, dedicated desktop or even mobile device via steam software.

For me, this probably stepping stone hardware to convert console gamers into the dedicated PC realm.. very much like what apple did with the “Mac Mini”
Valve will probably feature some incentives for purchasing the “steam box” like, discount off steam games.

Some of you out there are saying, Microsoft won’t support a competitor in the “console market” so will they disregard the new alienware hardware? I don’t think so.

Am I saying it will be definitely be successful? No. Does it stand a chance though? We will need to wait and see what valve pulls out of the bag. To me, the bureaucracy that follows development for console will be eliminated which will entice developers to embrace and support the PC platform a lot more.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by K. Al-Hurby on 5th March 2012 2:28pm

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Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer 8 years ago
Given almost no-one uses their PC exclusively for games. The Steam interface idea seems silly. Who would buy this thing.

I'm fairly sure that this is just some weird rumour or a very long set-up for an april fools joke.
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K. Al-Hurby Producer/Designer 8 years ago
haha, That too is also a possibility ^
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Jack Lee8 years ago
Regardless of whether or not this is an elaborate hoax, I think the people saying "How will this succeed? Valve can't feasibly control this box enough to force people into the Steam ecosystem while using Windows, but they can't not use Windows!" are barking up the wrong tree. In every single interview, Gabe Newell comes out as strikingly anti-closed system. Even the rumors going around suggest that the box will allow rival systems like Origin and Impulse. Valve doesn't even want to make the hardware itself, so they won't want to control it but so much. I imagine, if this is real at all, that it'll just be the Big Picture interface attached to a "Steam Seal of Approval" on hardware made by other manufacturers, with maybe a setting that can allow the machine to launch in BPM Steam on startup with a controller, making for a console-like experience. The point of the Steam Box is, according to that Penny Arcade Report interview, to drive innovation, like new controllers, and Valve needs people to be on a more open system (i.e. PC) in order to push that.
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Gregore Candalez Journalist and Account Manager, FD Com.8 years ago
That's what I've been calling my PC for some time, now.
I think it's highly unlikely, almost fictional, that Valve will attempt to break into the consoles market. If it's a gaming computer disguised, it has to run on Windows; If it doesn't have Windows, it won't be a computer. Also, this system configuration puts it much closer to a mid-end gaming computer of today, as videogames consoles hardly possess that processing power.

In any case, this is just an elaborate form of free publicity. A very clever one, actually.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Gregore Candalez on 6th March 2012 6:33pm

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