Steam Box: Valve's partnerships for Big Picture gaming

The company behind massively popular cloud-based gaming service Steam is pushing its way into the living room with a run of "Steam Box" console-sized computers that deliver computer games to your television.

While the initiative is centered around the idea of producing console-like computers for the living room, they won't all look the same. Valve officials came to CES this year to meet with a variety of hardware companies and content providers to get them to create their own versions of the Steam-centric gaming rigs.

The first officially announced venture, Xi3's Piston, made a splash during the international show's opening. Stay tuned as we continue to chart the evolution of a software company, to a service provider, to a living room entertainment platform creator.

This is what Valve's Steam Machine prototype looks like

Valve's Steam Machine prototype is designed to fit right into a living room, both from a size and design perspective, so it's not surprising that it looks like a video game console, as seen in a hands-on report from The Verge.

According to Valve, the company produced its prototype in order to give prospective third-party hardware manufacturers a model for their own Steam Machines. The SteamOS-based computer is designed to fit standard computer hardware of varying specifications — for the 300 prototypes Valve's shipping to Steam users later this year, the graphics cards run the gamut from...

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Valve releases hardware specs for Steam Machine prototype

The 300 Steam Machine prototypes that Valve will be sending to Steam users later this year will be high-end computers built from off-the-shelf PC parts, the company announced today.

Here's the list of hardware specifications for the prototype, which will run Valve's Linux-based SteamOS:

  • GPU: some units with Nvidia Titan, some GTX780, some GTX760 and some GTX660
  • CPU: some boxes with Intel Core i7-4770, some Core i5-4570 and some Core i3
  • RAM: 16 GB DDR3-1600 (CPU), 3 GB DDR5 (GPU)
  • Storage: 1 TB / 8 GB hybrid SSHD
  • Power supply: internal 450 W 80 Plus Gold
  • Dimensions: approx. 12...

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Valve announces Steam Controller

Valve has designed a unique input device for computers: the Steam Controller, the company announced today.

Built over the course of the past year, the Steam Controller features no analog sticks; in their place sit two high-resolution circular trackpads for the player's thumbs. The pads can be clicked, which allows them to also function as buttons.

"The trackpads allow far higher fidelity input than has previously been possible with traditional handheld controllers," reads the announcement post. "Steam gamers, who are used to the input associated with PCs, will appreciate that the Steam...

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Steam Machines hardware beta includes game controller

Valve's limited beta testing program for its new SteamOS-powered hardware will include a prototype game controller, according to the Steam hardware beta test terms and conditions page.

While the Steam website doesn't provide any specifics about the controller, Valve has previously talked about its plans to provide new types of input for its "Steam Box" and focus on latency and precision. At this year's Consumer Electronics Show, Valve's Gabe Newell touched on the developer's controller plans.

"I think you'll see controllers coming from us that use a lot of biometric data," Newell told The...

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Here's how to earn your chance at beta testing Valve's prototype Steam Machine

Valve will ship 300 prototypes of its in-development Steam Machines this year to Steam users for beta testing, the company announced today.

"As always, we believe the best way to ensure that the right products are getting made is to let people try them out and then make changes as we go," reads the announcement page. "We have designed a high-performance prototype that's optimized for gaming, for the living room, and for Steam. Of course, it's also completely upgradable and open."

To be eligible to participate in the hardware beta, Steam users must choice the Steam University community...

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Valve: official Steam Machines coming 2014

Valve is "working with multiple partners" to bring SteamOS-based gaming systems to the living room in 2014, the company announced today.

"Entertainment is not a one-size-fits-all world," said Valve. "We want you to be able to choose the hardware that makes sense for you." There's no word yet on which companies Valve is working with.

Valve is giving people a chance to try out a Steam Machine — the company has designed its own "high-performance prototype" that is "completely upgradable and open," and will send 300 of them to Steam users this year for beta testing. Valve said that particular...

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Steam will grant access to music, movies and TV shows

Steam will allow users to access music, movie and television shows from a number of other media services, according to the page for the newly-unveiled SteamOS service.

Valve stated the company has been working with media streaming services users "know and love" to make the function possible.

"We're working with many of the media services you know and love," reads the post. "Soon we will begin bringing them online, allowing you to access your favorite music and video with Steam and SteamOS."

SteamOS, announced today, is a Linux-based operating system that will allow users to play their...

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Valve announces Linux-based SteamOS

SteamOS is Valve's Linux-based solution for bringing gaming to the living room, the company announced today.

The operating system will be available free to license for manufacturers building "living room machines," and it will also be available as a free download to users. Valve has customized Linux and Steam to facilitate gaming on big-screen TVs.

"We've come to the conclusion that the environment best suited to delivering value to customers is an operating system built around Steam itself," said Valve. "SteamOS combines the rock-solid architecture of Linux with a gaming experience built...

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Valve making three Steam-related announcements next week

Valve will make three separate Steam-related announcements next week regarding gaming in the living room, the company said today alongside the launch of a teaser site.

The site hosts a countdown that will end at 1 p.m. ET on Monday, Sept. 23, as well as some cryptic planetary imagery and symbols along with the following title: "The Steam Universe is Expanding in 2014." The first symbol is a circle, then a circle within square brackets and a circle plus another circle:


It's possible that one of the announcements will be Valve's own "Steam Box," the company's long-awaited solution for...

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Piston 'Steam Box' maker breaks from Valve's vision of a Linux-powered system

Though there is one distinct difference in Xi3 founder Jason Sullivan's vision of a "Steam Box": The Piston will also use the Windows operating system at its core, not Linux.

"To be clear, the Piston console will ship initially with a Windows operating system specifically because that's where the vast bulk of game software and computer gamers are today," Sullivan wrote. "That said, the Piston console can also run Linux (and other operating systems), which means it can support the Linux-version of Steam."

"Contrary to Valve's vision, Xi3 believes that the way to take this to market today...

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Valve 'currently has no involvement' with the Piston Xi3

Valve no longer has ties with the Piston, Xi3's modular computer unofficially dubbed a "Steam Box", according to Eurogamer.

"Valve began some exploratory work with Xi3 last year, but currently has no involvement in any product of theirs," Valve's vice president of marketing Doug Lombardi told Eurogamer.

During CES 2013, Valve announced that it was working with hardware manufacturers to create living room-friendly gaming PCs. Xi3 was one of those manufacturers. The company revealed at the consumer technology trade show that Valve had invested in the Piston.

Valve confirmed in January...

Valve to distribute Steam Box prototypes in 'next three to four months'

Valve will be giving out prototypes of its "Steam Box" PC hardware to customers to "gauge their reactions" in the coming months, co-founder Gabe Newell tells the BBC, adding that certain engineering decisions are still being finalized.

Newell says Valve is working with partners to "nail down how fast we can make" the hardware, explaining that balancing power with noise and heat output is part of the ongoing challenge. Valve already has one announced partner developing Steam-optimized hardware, mini PC manufacturer Xi3.

According to Newell, the Steam Box's controller is also still being...

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EA CEO is in the 'Gabe Newell fan club' but needs more information on Steam Box

Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello is "squarely in the Gabe Newell fan club," but said during an investor relations call that he needs more information before he can say whether Valve's "Steam Box" will be a competitor in the next console cycle.

After praising Newell and citing Portal as one of his favorite games, Riccitiello said that he's not sure whether Valve's Steam Box console will compete with other consoles, in part because he doesn't know enough yet.

"Having said that, Valve really hasn't put enough information out there to suggest whether or not they've got the wherewithal to...

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Gabe Newell: Steam Box's biggest threat isn't consoles, it's Apple

The biggest danger facing the success of Steam Box or any other PC ecosystem hoping to find space in the living room is Apple, according to a lecture given by Valve co-founder Gabe Newell to a class at the University of Texas' LBJ School of Public Affairs.

"The threat right now is that Apple has gained a huge amount of market share, and has a relatively obvious pathway towards entering the living room with their platform," Newell said. "I think that there's a scenario where we see sort of a dumbed down living room platform emerging — I think Apple rolls the console guys really easily. The...

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Android 'consoles' and Steam Boxes dominate gaming at CES, while consoles sit it out

Without Microsoft delivering the annual keynote and filling the front of the Las Vegas Convention Center's Central Hall with its massive booth, the message seemed to be clear: CES is shrinking and its largest presence at the show can't even be bothered to show up anymore. If you thought that with Microsoft missing, Sony might divert some of its spotlight away from headsets and wireless speakers towards its PlayStation products you weren't alone. At the show, Sony CEO Kaz Hirai described PlayStation Vita sales as being "on the low end" of the company's expectations, making its relative...

PC developers discuss entering the living room through Valve's Steam Box

As for the Steam Box specification, Newell said he envisions low-end, mid-range and high-end versions with varying capabilities and performance, but a few things in common. As devices designed for the living room, Steam Boxes will be quiet computers in attractive form factors. Valve's own Steam Box will run Linux instead of Windows, although the platform will be open so as to allow for the installation of Microsoft's operating system.

The vast majority of today's most popular PC games are made for Windows, with a growing number being ported to Mac OS X. Linux lags far behind in adoption by...

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Valve's Greg Coomer talks Big Picture and the challenge of the Steam Box

We stopped by Valve's CES booth this morning and spoke with Greg Coomer, product designer at Valve and one of the earliest champions of Steam's recently launched Big Picture mode, which reformats the PC gaming platform with a living room-appropriate 10-foot UI. With its part of the software problem solved, Valve is now meeting with hardware developers and has brought "multiple" hardware prototypes to the show, including the Xi3 system unveiled yesterday.

"We're surprised that there aren't more PC manufacturers who are addressing the combination of form factor, meaning size, and things like...

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Gabe Newell confirms Valve's Steam Box, discusses controllers and seamless household integration

Valve is working on its own Steam Box hardware that will run Linux, according to an interview with Valve head Gabe Newell published on The Verge.

"We'll come out with our own and we'll sell it to consumers by ourselves," Newell said. "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."

The challenge in designing hardware and software for living rooms is manifold, but Newell sees promise in hardware and new input paradigms and wants to make the process of PC gaming on TV...

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Valve meeting with hardware and content developers at CES, Piston one of many prototypes

A Valve official tells Polygon that they plan to spend their week at the Consumer Electronics Show meeting with hardware and content developers in their booth and showcasing "multiple" custom hardware prototypes.

On Monday, Valve grabbed the CES spotlight when hardware partner Xi3 announced plans for their "steam box" Piston computer game system. The still-in-development Steam-optimized mini PC, backed by an "investment from Valve Corporation", will offer up to 1 TB of internal storage and modular component updates.

Xi3 chief marketing officer David Politis walked Polygon through what...

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Valve partner Xi3's 'Steam Box' codenamed Piston, early specs detailed at CES

The "Steam Box" modular computer announced by hardware maker Xi3 and Valve at CES is codenamed "Piston" and is modeled after the PC maker's X7A line of pint-sized computers, Xi3 reps tell Polygon.

Xi3 brought an early version of Piston to CES, but was tight lipped on details about the hardware currently in development with Valve. Xi3 chief marketing officer David Politis told Polygon that Piston will offer up to 1 TB of interal storage and offer modular component updates, including the option to upgrade the PC's CPU and RAM.

Xi3 wouldn't discuss price for Piston, but commented that the...

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Valve and Xi3 announce in-development Steam-optimized mini PC at CES

Valve's oft-rumored "Steam Box" is making its first public appearance at CES 2013 thanks to a newly announced partnership with mini-PC maker Xi3.

Xi3 today announced "an investment from Valve Corporation" and a "new development stage computer game system," which is being showcased at both the Xi3 and Valve booths at CES this week.

The still-in-development device is optimized for computer game play on large, high-definition displays. Xi3 says that the modular computer was designed specifically to support both Steam and Big Picture mode.

"Today marks the beginning of a new era for Xi3,"...

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Steam Big Picture mode goes live, begets controller-friendly Steam sale

The controller-ready and couch-friendly Big Picture mode for Steam is out of beta and ready for public release, developer Valve announced today, part of a wider push to bring PC gaming into the living room and onto HD televisions.

To celebrate the public release of Big Picture mode for Steam, Valve is holding a week-long sale on over thirty "controller-friendly games." Steam is offering savings up to 75 percent off on titles including Magicka, Braid, Portal 2, Lego Batman 2, Left 4 Dead, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Geometry Wars Retro Evolved.

Big Picture mode for Windows and Mac...

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Steam's 'Big Picture' launches beta

The "public test" for Steam's Big Picture mode – a television-friendly version of its online store and platform – went live today.

The beta was first announced last week in The New York Times, and Valve has since released videos showing how the service can be set up. Games on Big Picture can be played with controllers or with a keyboard and mouse set-up, and players can also use the service to surf the web, navigate Steam, and chat.

Steam's Big Picture mode is currently only available on PC, with a Mac beta "coming soon".

The set-up walkthrough video can be viewed below.

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