It’s been long rumored that the PC gaming heroes at Valve have been developing a Linux-based video game console that will allow players to play games from Steam right in their living room. Fans have been calling this machine “Steam Box,” and it has been codenamed “Bigfoot” internally at Valve. Last fall, Valve launched Big Picture, a mode for steam that’s optimised for living room TVs that are already connected to players’ PCs or laptops. Yesterday at CES 2013, manufacturer Xi3 revealed its Steam Box codenamed “Piston,” which Xi3 has been partnering with Valve to develop, that utilizes Big Picture and plays Steam Games. Here’s what you should know.
1. Valve Will Partner With Different Hardware Manufacturers to Develop Steam Boxes
Piston is only one of many machines that will be part of Valve’s Steam Box initiative, but Valve is working with other hardware manufacturers to make this initiative a reality. Right now, we only know of Piston, which is about the size of a large grapefruit, has a 3.2Ghz quad-core CPU, 8GB of RAM, 1TB of storage, and 8 USB ports.
According to Polygon, Valve currently has 15 to 20 hardware partners lined up.
2. It Will Use Your Already Existing Steam Account to Access Games & Friends
Steam Boxes are specifically designed to play Steam games in your living room. If you already have a Steam account, you can access your games through the machine, and communicate and play with those already in your Steam friends list.
3. The Steambox Will Be Powered By Linux, But You Can Install Other Operating Systems
In an interview with The Verge, valve founder Gabe Newell stated that players are not confined to Linux, and can install other operating systems if you wish.
“We’ll come out with our own and we’ll sell it to consumers by ourselves. That’ll be a Linux box, [and] if you want to install Windows you can. We’re not going to make it hard. This is not some locked box by any stretch of the imagination. We also think that a controller that has higher precision and lower latency is another interesting thing to have.”
4. It’s Made For The Living Room
(Image credit: Polygon)
Steam Boxes are designed to be optimally located in your living room. They will have a small form-factor, light, durable, and won’t be noisy.
5. It Can Be A Server Meant For Multiple Monitors
The Steam Box is designed for players to play Steam games on HD TVs in the living room or smaller monitors in other rooms. In the Verge interview, Gabe reveals, “The Steam Box will also be a server. Any PC can serve multiple monitors, so over time, the next-generation (post-Kepler) you can have one GPU that’s serving up eight simultaeneous game calls. So you could have one PC and eight televisions and eight controllers and everybody getting great performance out of it. We’re used to having one monitor, or two monitors — now we’re saying let’s expand that a little bit.”
6. Valve Plans To Capture Biometric Data
There are plans at Valve to capture biometrics through game controllers to be optimise controls for their games. Gabe Newell revealed in his interview with The Verge, “ We think that, unlike motion input where we kind of struggled to come up with ideas, [there's potential in] biometrics. We have lots of ideas. I think you’ll see controllers coming from us that use a lot of biometric data…Your hands, and your wrist muscles, and your fingers are actually your highest bandwidth .”
7. Hardware Will Be Modular
Unlike traditional game consoles like Microsoft’s Xbox 360 or Sony’s Playstation 3, Valve plans to produce systems where players can upgrade modular components, such as graphics hardware and memory, at an affordable price. Both game developers and consumers will no longer be restricted to the hardware they purchased the system with.
8. Steam Boxes Will Be Available In Different Price Points
The Piston is estimated to cost about $999, but Valve plans to partner with other hardware manufacturers to develop systems at different price points. The cost of each system will be dependent on the hardware that comes available with it.
9. You Can Already Play Steam In Your Living Room
Last fall, Valve launched Big Picture mode with Steam, optimizing the Steam Experience for large HD TVs. If you are able to connect your PC or Laptop to your TV, you can already enjoy a Steam Box experience.
10. The Steam Box Is Till In The Early Stages Of Development
Although a lot has already been revealed, there are quite a few things that have yet to be revealed about Valve’s new system. Release dates, exclusive controllers, and other hardware manufacturers have yet to be announced. We are sure of one thing though… although it’s expected that Microsoft and Sony plan to reveal their new consoles this year, Valve’s plan to take over the living room will give them fierce competition.