Last week Valve began to tease at some upcoming announcements for its Steam gaming platform and now the curtain has been lifted on Valves plans for world domination staring in your living room. This should come as no real surprise to anyone after Valve brought Steam to living rooms with “Big Picture Mode” last year in an optional beta update. Big Picture serves as a re skinned version of the Steam client specifically for a living room environment complete with controller support and a whole new text input option designed to work specifically with controllers called Daisy Wheel which maps letters to you face buttons depending on which direction your thumb stick is pressed.
This time around Valve are following up Big Picture with the launch of a whole line of Steam friendly services starting with a new operating system called Steam OS. Steam OS is a linux based operating system that looks like it will absorb Big Picture Mode into its very core and sporting features like the ability to share purchased games across multiple accounts and media streaming options.
If Steam OS looks like the start of a new console direction for Valve that is because it more or less is. The second announcement made by Valve is the development of “Steam Machines”, small custom built PC’s running Steam OS and designed as consoles of all shapes and sizes. The idea being that if you are a gamer who doesn’t want to play the latest games on super high graphics settings why not buy a “Steam Machine” that is a little cheaper and more focused on the indie library of games. Steam Machines are starting in a prototype stage and it unlikely we will see them on store shelves anytime soon but the very idea that this is the future of Steams platform is very interesting indeed.
Finally the company announced its new controller interface aiming to bridge the gap between traditional mouse and keyboard with that of the console controller. Sporting two track pads instead of joysticks and a touch screen display in the center, the Steam controller is hedging its bets on being able to act as an input device for the entire catalouge of Steam games without having to be optimised specifically for controllers. The controller will allow players to program their own layouts and share them with the Steam community letting players choose how best to use the controller themselves.
With the beginning of a “New Generation” of consoles it looks as if Valve want to have a piece of that lucrative living room pie. The question has to be asked whether this is a good move for Valve seeing as its main demographic consists of a community that is vocal in its dislike of the “dumbing down” of video games for consoles but if anyone can hit that sweet spot between console and PC, It is likely to be Valve. Failing that they can always release Half-Life 3.
Would you play your PC games on the couch with a controller? What do you think of a Living room centered Steam future?