Steam sees "Big Picture"

TV-friendly interface for Valve's online game service launches today; developer could enter hardware market if customers really want it

Valve is taking another step towards the living room, as the company is launching the TV-friendly "Big Picture" mode for its Steam online gaming service today. The new mode includes a redesigned interface better suited for big-screen TVs than a traditional monitor.

In addition to making menu screens easier to read and navigate on a larger screen, the Big Picture mode will include a web browser with a novel approach to a virtual keyboard, one designed specifically for console-style controllers. A flower-like "Daisywheel" outline contains eight different sets of four characters each. Users can enter text by selecting one of the leaves with the left analog stick, and then choosing the specific character with the controller's corresponding face button.

Big Picture mode adopters will also be able to have their systems launch into Steam's Big Picture mode on start up to facilitate those who want to leave a dedicated gaming PC hooked up to the TV. To try out the Big Picture mode, users will simply push a "Big Picture Mode" button on the top-right of the Steam interface. The PC beta of Big Picture launches today, with a Mac beta coming soon.

While the new mode plays into speculation that Valve might be entering the console hardware market with its own Steam Box, the company has repeatedly downplayed that possibility. Valve's Greg Coomer, who led up the Big Picture project, told Kotaku the Steam-maker wanted to first see if people embraced or ignored the mode in the first place.

"And then over time, I think we're going to figure out which of those scenarios, or what ways do customers really want us to get involved in solving the rest of the problems that, say, our software can't solve for them," Coomer said. "And if it's getting involved in shipping some kind of hardware, then we will get involved in doing that if we need to."

Gabe Newell commented on Big Picture: "PC gaming continues to be the leading edge of entertainment, whether it's social gaming, MMOs, graphics hardware, free-to-play, or competitive gaming. With Big Picture for Steam, we are trying to do our part to give customers and developers what they want - their games, everywhere, optimized for the environment in which they are playing."

Valve's Steam partners seem excited by the opportunity to expand the gaming experience to the living room as well.

"Sega's roots are in living-room gaming," said John Clark, Vice President of Digital Distribution at Sega. "For the first time since the advent of PC games decades ago, gamers are finally going to have access to the kind of entertainment experience we've always wished they could have with our PC titles - one that's incredibly social, comfortable, and accessible. We're excited about the opportunity, and Big Picture has inspired us to bring even more of our titles to Steam in the future."

"There is nothing more satisfying than slaying thousands of orcs on your big screen. And many of the most die-hard players of Orcs Must Die 2 have always preferred playing with a game controller. Steam's Big Picture mode finally marries these two and delivers a true living room entertainment experience to players."

"We're pleased that gamers on Steam will now be able to immerse themselves in our entertainment experiences in the comfort of their living room on large screen TVs," added Steve Glickstein of Take-Two Interactive Software. "From action and adventure to sports and sims, our titles deliver big fun on big screens."

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Latest comments (4)

Aric Norine Animation, Next Level Games7 years ago
I saw this running on my co-worker's machine yesterday and it looks impressive. As if hardcore gamers didn't already have enough reasons to use steam, now they can kick up the legrest on their couches and enjoy games console-style if desired. Valve couldn't do a better job of converting hardcore gamers to the new download-only era.
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Richard Gardner Artist, Crytek7 years ago
This is fantastic! I have being waiting for this for so long, my PC is thankfully very close to my TV but I wonder if this service needs to be accessible to a broader audience. All this talk of dedicated hardware next to my TV leaves me a little flat. We already have wireless HD signals, imagine a box costing $50-100 that simple transferred your display signal from your PC to any TV in your home, with support for wireless controllers and USB connectivity up to 20-30meters. It sounds stupid when you can simply use wires but it would be so much more plug and play and move away from the idea of buying secondary hardware. Your PC would essentially become a server to you home providing entertainment to any display in your home.
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Kevin Patterson musician 7 years ago
@richard - It would be like having your own private cloud server, I have been wishing for this for a long time, but no one has tackled the latency issues for the home yet. I would love to be able to keep my PC somewhere else but play PC games in my living room, with no wires.
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Richard Gardner Artist, Crytek7 years ago
I personally am not a believer in an internet based cloud. I have visions of a server based world, much like you have a boiler in your home I see a server. It will do all the processing for your home appliances and systems. Why pack expensive CPU's and GPU's into each individual house hold appliance. Not to mention the horrible dependencies that the network based cloud has. Imagine if your digital picture frames, televisions, cooker, fridge all connected to a single server. All you need is a simple receiver and a display. Its cost effective, latency free and benefits all existing aspects of the hardware and software market.

But there are so many directions to take, Valve could also also benefit from a games grading system for consumers, much like the car grading system in something like Forza Motorsport your hardware is categorised (E500, D234, C237 etc...) and software is clearly labelled with hardware rating requirements. Making something like a conventional Steam Box more feasible and marketable. You release system E400 and you know you can play all games market E400 and bellow. A new system released and you upgrade to C100, C200, C300 etc... the same way conventional hardware is categorised today.

I'm rambling :P

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Richard Gardner on 11th September 2012 7:12pm

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