Game Changer: Valve’s Steam Box

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Written by Chelsea Jenkins. Media by Miles Priester.

Serious gamers, start putting back your earnings from work study and earmark your potential Christmas cash haul now, because the Steam Box is coming to you in 2014! Valve, the company who brought you the Half-Life franchise, Left 4 Dead, and Portal, is in collaboration with what appears to be many hardware developers (one being graphics guru NVIDIA) to bring the gamer experience full circle. The company already operates Steam, the world’s largest platform for online gaming, and is looking to bring the PC gaming experience beyond the desk and into your living room with the Steam Box.


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According to the official Steam Powered website, Valve is developing the SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system for running Steam that will use streaming methods to play games across many platforms. This operating system is said to “run on any living room machine.” This signals to the Steam Box itself being manufactured by third parties and not Valve itself, with a possibility of being available on existing consoles, carrying good news to the consumer. While TechRadar confirms that Valve will be making and releasing 300 prototypes to a few lucky Steam gamers, Valve has stressed that the actual Steam Box will be made available by many manufacturers and will vary. This gives consumers a choice and more control over their gaming hardware. Valve is keeping everything open to the user, even allowing users to build their own Steam Box with the Valve-provided SteamOS source code.

Like many consoles before it, the Steam Box won’t just be for game play. Valve is providing access to music, TV, and movies through SteamOS, offering up the full entertainment experience. The family sharing feature will allow easy sharing of your Steam library between members of the household, even saving individual game progress and achievements to the cloud. Of course, making your Steam library accessible to the whole family isn’t without its risks, so Valve is adding family options to SteamOS, allowing you to have control over user access.

In keeping with its all-about-options approach to gaming, Valve is also producing an optional Steam Box controller. The controller doesn’t look dissimilar to the standard controllers we’ve seen with Playstation and Xbox, but has two major differences to make it a potential game changer. Replacing the standard thumbsticks are dual touchpads, said to be more precise than movable sticks. Sitting between the touchpads is a touchscreen with unlimited potential. Best of all, if you don’t want to deal with the new controller, you don’t have to. While the controller will be compatible with all games on Steam, you can continue to use your keyboard and mouse to play.

While much has been confirmed and revealed about the Steam Box and its SteamOS counterpart, it still maintains a shroud of mystery. What the console will look like in its many variations and who will be peddling them remains to be seen, as well as an official release and any retail pricing estimates. Then there are the unaddressed rumors of a release of a Half-Life 3 to promote the Steam Box and SteamOS. With the promise of a 2014 release, more is sure to be revealed about this revolutionary system soon.


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