Valve’s Steam service is ubiquitous with PC gaming, but a rumor being circulated by techblog The Verge suggests that the popular developer and digital distribution company may have its eyes on the more lucrative console market.
As any PC fanboy (err, I mean, member of the PC master race *snicker*) will tell you, Steam has become the de-facto platform for PC games. Larger companies like Microsoft and EA have tried to usurp Steam’s digital download dominance with services like Origin and Games for Windows Live, but so far the comparatively small Valve has managed to maintain their stranglehold on the PC market thanks to aggressive pricing, unobtrusive DRM policies, and strong support from third-party publishers and indie developers alike. If the rumors currently circulating prove to be true, it seems like Valve is about to extend their winning formula over to consoles.
The Verge reports that Valve has designed a “set-top box” based around the Steam platform. The new hardware is reportedly based on the recently released Alienware X51 (which itself was marketed as a sort of bridge between consoles and gaming PC’s,) and features an Intel Core i7 CPU, 8 gigs of RAM, and graphics hardware by nVidia, specs which would suggest that the new console is more than capable of running any contemporary PC game. Valve has long been a proponent of open platforms, and the rumor suggests that developers and publishers will be able to develop games for the system without having to pay the traditional licensing fees and SDK costs that Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony charge. The new box will apparently be compatible with traditional USB keyboards, mice, and gaming controllers, though The Verge goes on to further suggest that the system with feature a controller that has parts that can be swapped out and customized depending on the game you’re playing. It may sound strange, but Nintendo has toyed with the idea before, and Valve filed a patent for a customizable controller last year that lends some credence to the rumor.
Valve is reportedly already demoing the unit to potential partners and developers, so we might be seeing more news regarding the supposed “Steam Box” soon. The company has already directly competed against Microsoft (and won) in the PC games digitial distribution market, and Steam certainly has the clout and popularity to really shake up the so-called console war. The rumors suggest that we’ll learn more about Valve’s entry into the console hardware market either at the current GDC or this summer’s E3. If this news does prove to be true, then Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo certainly have a lot to worry about. At the very least, the news that Valve is busy working on a console might explain why Half Life 2: Episode 3 has been MIA for so long.
Source: The Verge