Valve Planning “Living Room” Hardware Within The Year

According to a brief interview over on Engadget, Valve’s Jeri Ellsworth claims that the company’s goal within the year is to make “Steam games more fun to play in your living room.”

To do that, she states, the company – best known for the Half Life games and the Steam online distribution portal (pun intended) – must find a way to make the transition smoother for people not used to a controller.

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Or, indeed, introduce a mouse and keyboard combination to those used to a console joypad.

The article follows by saying Valve is therefore currently “creating a hardware solution to the control barriers found in many Steam games” although no specifics were given.

Assume some kind of hybrid controller device, rather than a dedicated console – this will still be a PC at the core.

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20 Comments

  1. Looking forward to what they are coming up with very much, since I only play in my living room from the comfort of my couch. The only downside is that it’s quite cumbersome to use a keyboard and a mouse in FPS games while sitting on a couch. Hopefully this remedies my current problems.

  2. Didn’t realise Jeri Ellsworth was involved with this, some of her other creations have been quite interesting. Intrigued to see what they come up with.

    I use a wireless keyboard with a built in trackpad to play PC games on my tv, where it’s necessary – most basic game functions can be mapped to a decent gamepad.
    Wondering if Valve will use a gamepad-like controller with a custom UI to make it easier to navigate. If they do then hope they make it available for existing PC owers as well…

    • Doh, too early to read things properly and where is the much requested edit button? :) :)

  3. I’ve already got it, it’s a 20ft hdmi and audio cable and a usb extender. Oh, and a half descent PC 2 rooms away, with a wife in between screaming about “All these cables!”.

  4. It’ll be interesting to find out just how Valve is going to fund hardware… extra costs passed onto devs in the future like licensing Steamworks? Less of those infamous Steam Sales? Game prices being hiked up and staying at that for longer?

    If it’s a simple controller and built-in Mapper then the costs probably wouldn’t be too bad and don’t need to be passed on to devs/publishers…. but if they go the whole ‘Steambox’ route, that’s been doing the rounds on the rumour mill, then that’s a whole different ball game entirely

    • What are you talking about? If they release their own hardware then you will have to pay for it when you bus it in a shop. They are not giving it away for free so no need to shift the costs on to the devs/publishers or the customers through price hikes.
      Surely they will price it in a way that still makes them a few bucks.

      • Think the point is recouping R&D costs, hardware is dirt cheap but development isn’t. Will there be enough margin in the retail cost of the hardware or will Valve try to recoup it elsewhere?

      • We’re talking about Valve. They are swimming in money. I think they have no trouble getting R&D money back from selling the devices, even if it takes a while. :)

      • Exactly. The RD costs are an issue, also irrespective of what it costs to make you have to sell it at a price point that is attractive to your customer base, and if the hardware margins are small or negative then as a loss leader product, that money will have to be recouped by other means. And whilst Valve might be ‘swimming in money’ it’s money made from then taking their cut of sales of other people’s games. Even with Apple, fanboyism cannot bend the basic laws of economics, Valve is no different.

      • I get your point. Just saying they can afford to price their product competitively and I’m sure they won’t sell at a loss because they seem to be doing something completely new, that doesn’t directly compete with anything else.
        So if they sell their product with small profit margins they will still at some pount break even with their R&D costs and from that point on make a profit from it without having to shift the costs to other departments. The next generation of their product can then benefit from the original R&D and break even much faster.

      • Very true KeRaSh, assuming they stay with PC-based gaming they’ll actually be competing with themselves and any other PC publisher/distirbutor. If they have a longer term strategy, which no doubt they will, then they’ll be able to capitalise on their R&D over several iterations allowing them, as you say, to recoup their costs over a few years, going for a simple controller using customers existing rigs is a less risky, first hardware proposition than going ahead with a full Steambox straight out the door, the Steam controller could then earn a healthy profit that can then be used to offset the pricier hardware research. Valve’s bigger issue is whether other PC publishers will go with them, and a big thing with that is whether there will be an associated license cost to use Steam hardware, much like there is currently on XBox and PS3, as one of the boons of PC gaming is a general lower cost to cross platform titles.

  5. Hooked my laptop up to my TV and used the big screen mode, very nice.
    Some Valve unit could be my next gen quite easily, AAA games are a third off & there’s a million times more indie titles.

    I can see Valve in the living room being like Boxee, eg you make your own simply by hooking a computer to a TV, they’ll be a range of parters making living room form factor PCs, & they’ll have their own hardware a reference design, probably subsidised by their ongoing revenues.

    Exciting times

    • Plus if you had Home Theatre PC relevant software on it, it would be one box to rule them all.

      • I have a gaming PC and a small HTPC PC hooked up to my living room TV. If they came out with a small form factor gaming PC for the living room that has great power management for when you are only consuming media like music or movies, it would be pretty cool.

      • Just make sure you get an ATI card. My 7950 has hysterically low wattage when idling and not playing 3D games. I couldn’t believe how good it was even compared to my 6950.

    • Such PCs already exist of course, but it’s the whole Apple thing again – how to make them appeal to the masses.

      • Of course, which is why I can see them following Boxee’s business model (not that Boxee appeals to the masses) but in so much as:

        Any PC/Mac/Linux can be a SteamBox just by hooking it up to a TV via HDMI and running Steam in ‘big picture’ mode.
        You can build your own console-like PC, Digital Foundry made one with the Digital Foundry PC which offers better than console performance (4x the power by some metrics) for under £300.
        Any 3rd party can make suitable form factors, like the Alienware x51
        And (hopefully, for the masses) Valve will come up with their own machine which they’ll use as reference hardware, potentially even subsidised by their ongoing revenue.

        If what Valve do looks like being a success, where next though? An Origin PC with timed exclusive EA titles?

  6. Valve have done a great job with “The Big Picture”. I think people are confusing the potential development costs for this with those of a typical console.

    Don’t forget Valve have already got the entire Steam software suite working excellently and have been working on getting it up and running in Linux for a while. What the Hardware will likely be is regular PC parts jammed in a custom case running custom Linux, which if they don’t lock it down could easily make it the best media centre console too.

    So there’s not really the same development costs that are usually associated with a new console. The trick will be getting that lovely Steam catalogue fully compatible with controllers, and if Linux is the OS of choice then getting all the games working with that too.

    I’d buy one, or build one.

  7. The key for me is them creating something that doesn’t need upgrading every year or two. With my ps3 now into it’s sixth year they need to a way to compete with that on hardware pricing in the short and long term. That’ll be hard when my initial outlay for the console was about £400.

    I would still need persuading to go completely digital on any platform as well but if cost is too high I wouldn’t even consider it.

    I imagine they’d need to go down the ipad/phone route of releasing a better spec of device every year but the cost of that would count me out straight away

  8. That’s was coming along since they announced the Linux version of Steam. A no strings attached OS to power a Valve gaming hardware, if they manage to get some traditional console developers to program for such a box, Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft DO have a problem in the living room.

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