Let’s face it, the last thing Microsoft and Sony are expecting is another console. Sure, they’ve got their eye on the Wii U, but something out of the blue from Valve? A pre-setup PC in a box with a HDMI out and a joypad? Talk about blindsiding.
And so here we are, with rumours floating around that that’s exactly what’s going to happen – Gabe Newell’s Valve are – according to the reports – coming out with a gaming console, and it’s going to throw a spanner in the works so big that people won’t be able to miss it. And yes, that includes the current console manufacturers.
Steam currently provides 1,500 games and boasts 40 million users.
Valve know gaming, but more importantly they know online distribution and they do it better than most. Sure, not everyone’s on board with the service, but the current catalog includes EA, Bethesda, Activision and SEGA.
But what of these rumours? Well, apparently this so-called ‘Steam Box’ will be focused on the living room, and will be developed – at least in terms of hardware – by a “variety of partners”.
And the software? Well, anyone that’s interested, presumably.
The Verge talks about meetings at CES, and discusses some basic specs that include a Core i7, at least eight GB of RAM and an NVIDIA GPU. The Steam Box, as it’s currently known, will run anything a PC can and will also support other online services (such as EA’s Origin) as well as the ubiquitous Steam, which itself provides over 1,500 games and has 40 million users.
The current thinking is that Valve would take aim at Apple, not Sony and Microsoft, but I could personally see such a device sitting nicely under my TV, linked up via HDMI.
The hardware will, according to the site, be replaceable every three or four years, and during that lifetime PC developers will have a single, clear focus in terms of system spec, something that’s currently still a bit of a minefield with regards to drivers, versions and chipsets. One box, one target, and you can bet that games will look a generation beyond current consoles.
The console market might be entering into another phase in the next couple of years, but this Steam Box could move very quickly, would require minimal fuss from developers and publishers to provide a ‘best case’ build of their games and would, I assume, be pretty cheap given that parts would be fixed and mass produced.
Of course, this is all conjecture, and nothing at all may come of all this. But if it does, and Valve do manage to standardise the PC market and put their name behind the project (along with whoever else is rumoured to be involved – Alienware?) then this would be something I know a lot of people would be very interested in.
And Sony and Microsoft? I’d love to know what they’re thinking about all this.