Valve's Steam Box is real, but let's not get carried away

Steam/Lord of the Rings Online

So yup, Valve really is going to sell a "Steam Box." By now you've probably heard this news but I'm going to cover it anyway because it's a story that seems to get bigger with every retelling and I'm here to bring us back down to earth. Back story: The Spike TV Video Game Awards happened over the weekend and Jason Schreir over at Kotaku got a chance to interview Valve's Gabe Newell. Newell talked about PC gaming in the living room and in the course of that conversation he casually mentioned that Valve was going to be creating a locked down box that runs Linux and Steam's Big Picture mode.

[PC Gaming in the Living Room Part II: Enter the X51 and PC gaming performance on Windows 8: A hard-data analysis]

And that's really all we know. Newell is really interested in bringing the same games that we're playing on the PCs in our office onto our living room TVs. This is, of course, absolutely feasible today. I do it, lots of you do it. All it takes is a relatively modern PC with an HDMI port and you're done. Newell said he "expects companies to start selling PC packages for living rooms next year." Well, Alienware already sells such a package and I'm sure other companies do as well. The only difference is that it doesn't come set up so that Steam's Big Picture mode starts on boot-up. Newell says Valve is going to get into this space but that their "hardware will be a very controlled environment." My guess is that this means a closed system where you can only install software via a Steam client that works essentially as the face of the OS. He also implies this machine will be Linux based since he says their next step is to get Steam for Linux out of Beta and then to get Big Picture mode working there. And that's about it. To sum up: 1) Newell thinks PC manufacturers will start selling packages designed for the living room in 2013, which is a safe bet since PC manufacturers are already doing this. 2) Valve will eventually produce a locked-down gaming machine for the living room and it will probably run Steam as an OS and be based on Linux At this point Valve's idea sounds a little like the Ouya to me. Granted Valve has more pull but when Activision announces the Linux version of the next Call of Duty I'll start to believe. Until that time a Steam Box based on Linux is going to be limited mostly to Indie titles. That's not really a bad thing these days since all the interesting work is being done in the Indie space, but I just don't see the Steam Box really competing with the Xbox 720. Do you? Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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