It seems in the last few months that Valve has been content with releasing anything but games. I mean sure they recently released TF2’s popular Mann vs. Machine horde mode, but before that they had been focusing on projects such as Greenlight and Source Filmmaker. Well now they’ve officially released Big Picture which allows users to access Steam on their televisions in lieu of a computer. This means that in one fell swoop Valve has brought their massively popular digital distribution service into the living room. So while everyone’s been wondering which console developer will be ushering in the next generation, Valve just went ahead and did it, adding the ability to play over 2,000 titles in just one day. Is this the next generation people have been clamoring for?
This has been Valve’s business model for a while now, adding more services for their customers instead of just bombarding them with endless streams of mediocre titles. In fact it seems that Valve isn’t really a game developer anymore. Sure they still make some games, but they’ve done way more for the business of gaming recently, transferring most of the creative responsibility to other smaller developers through Steam and Greenlight.
This is in contrast to what other developers have been doing. While Valve has been evolving the business of gaming, other companies have been betting it all on “Triple A” titles, most of which are sequel or reboots of existing franchises. That’s not to say that some of these games have been good, on the contrary some have been spectacular, but even the best title on the planet isn’t going to do much for gaming as a business in the way that Steam, Greenlight, and now Big Screen have or will.
Not only has Valve been diversifying their brand, but they’ve been focusing on developing a long term relationship with their customers. While in the past developers used games to create customer relationships, Valve has been using services to keep customers happy and coming back for more. While we all want to see what happens to Gordon Freeman in their hopefully-upcoming Half Life 3, Valve’s success isn’t reliant on it, with most PC gamers utilizing Steam for all sorts of other services in the meantime.
No one is quite sure whether or not Big Picture will be an actual competitor for consoles or a fringe service for PC gamers, but either way it most likely won’t harm any of their existing services. They don’t even have any real competitors; even EA’s Origin doesn’t come close as a service, not yet at least. Valve’s been staying ahead of the curve for quite some time now, thinking ahead to what consumers need as opposed to reacting to what they say they want. It’s a fine distinction, but one that Valve has been able to see for almost a decade.
I doubt Big Screen will kill any consoles not because it isn’t a great service, but because it’s free. Even though users can use a controller or a mouse and keyboard, being free isolates it from the unforgiveable world of console development, allowing those who wish to use it to do so and those that don’t to simply ignore it. People are still going to go out and buy the newest Xbox or Playstation. Now however, those services will be compared to that of Steam and Big Pictures’. So whether you try this new service or not, it will most likely have an effect on all console services from here on out.