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Steam's Big Picture mode gets beta in early September, could lead to Steam-enabled hardware

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Valve gets the big picture

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Steam's long-awaited "big picture" mode, which brings the digital retail platform and its games into the living room, will launch in beta in "early September," a Valve spokesperson announced today.

Steam's long-awaited "big picture" mode, which reformats the PC client to be more couch-friendly and could pave the way for a living-room device running Steam, will launch in beta in "early September," a Valve spokesperson announced today.

Speaking with GameTrailers' Geoff Keighley on last night's episode of GameTrailers TV, designer Greg Coomer explained, "In early September you'll be able to hop into a beta, click a button, and see Steam reformatted for your TV and usable with a PC game controller, or a mouse and keyboard if you wanna play that way."

Coomer pointed out that the best living-room experience will come from games that already work well with a controller — such as PC versions of console titles — but promised, "Everything will be there, so you don't have to give up your favorite stuff once you walk from the den to the living room."

Valve announced Steam's big-picture mode during the 2011 Game Developers Conference. The setup will help the company make inroads into the living room, even as it continues to deny rumors that it is working on its own console. Instead, Valve is content to let hardware companies do the heavy lifting. Valve managing director Gabe Newell told Keighley, "We show [big-picture mode to] hardware guys and say, 'Look, if this is a useful tool for you to deliver your hardware into living rooms, that's great.'"

"We say, 'Look, if this is a useful tool for you to deliver your hardware into living rooms, that's great.'"

Big-picture mode will be available for Linux as well as Windows; Newell said a beta version of the Steam client for Linux should be out "fairly quickly," and that Steam users will decide whether the Linux client and big-picture mode are worthwhile. If both are successful, said Newell, hardware manufacturers will have more options. "If you wanna run [a Steam-enabled device] on top of Windows, that's fine; if you wanna run it on top of Linux, that's fine," he explained.

As for Windows, Newell isn't optimistic about Windows 8, but he's hopeful. "I would really like it if Windows 8 was a blow-up success," he said, "because we're gonna make a lot more money, [and] there'll be lots of happy customers." But he expects Valve will sell fewer copies of PC games to people running Windows 8. "I think it'll end up being very poorly received by customers," he told Keighley, echoing his previous comments. Newell's pessimism may have something to do with the recent announcement that Valve will soon begin selling non-gaming software through Steam.