back to article Full Steam Ahead: Valve unwraps plans for gaming hardware

We are halfway through a promised week of announcements from games publisher Valve, and so far it's looking interesting. On Monday the company announced its own flavor of Linux and on Wednesday it confirmed rumors that it is getting into the console industry with its own hardware. "We have designed a high-performance prototype …


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  1. Shugyosha

    Watching with interest

    I'm curious about the fact they're planning to make their hardware 'upgradeable' and it's obviously far to early to call it but I'm wondering if they actually 'get' the console market. As an avid console gamer myself, one of the biggest advantages - if not THE biggest - is that I don't have to fuck about with it. I know that I can go and buy any PS3 game today and it will work perfectly with the almost seven year old hardware I have. I don't have to worry about adjusting settings to get the right performance, making sure I have the latest drivers, etc., etc. - I just download, install and play. I don't care about the fact the graphics and performance aren't cutting edge.

    If I wanted a console that I could upgrade to get the latest performance, and spend time tweaking settings to get everything just right, but then not know if that lastest game that's just been released will actually run well on my particular hardware, then I'd have a PC.

    That kind of techy tinkering is my day job and the reason I (and other console fans I know) like consoles is because we want to get away from it (and don't have the time for it), not spend our leisure time doing the same crap we do at work.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. poopypants

      Re: Watching with interest

      That is a valid point, and one that I'm sure Valve will be trying to address.

      I assume there will be some kind of certification process, which results in each different off the shelf Steambox being given a grade. You then only buy games that will run on certified machines of your grade, and game creators will have a much better idea of the range of machines they need to target. That will remove any risk that a given game might not run on your machine, while allowing you to upgrade your machine later with more powerful components, should you wish.

      A winning combination of it just works with I can make my machine more powerful as technology evolves and components become cheaper.

      The use of a dedicated OS potentially allows for graphics drivers and possibly even scheduling algorithms that are fine tuned for game playing, an advantage that standard Windows machines do not offer.

    3. Oliver Mayes

      Re: Watching with interest

      "I know that I can go and buy any PS3 game today and it will work perfectly with the almost seven year old hardware I have."

      And consoles like that are the reason that modern games have to be deliberately dumbed down. PC game development is stagnating because of the constant need to make them run on outdated hardware.

      1. Michael Habel Silver badge

        Re: Watching with interest

        Go cry some more!

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Watching with interest Re : Oliver Mayes

        I am going to comment on this.

        Ok we have a number of consoles including a current generation one. We have 3 PCs. I see a game we want on Steam.

        Main PC is a quad core with reasonable graphics and a Steam account

        Child PC is a wound up P4 dual boot Steam on Windows, still trying to get TF2 working on Mint

        Laptop is dual core, owner will not let Steam near it as they are not PC literate.

        Said game requires lots of graphic card ram. Possible to run lower resolution, so Laptop out

        Requires DX, dual boot P4 Mint boot removed

        Requires latest DX other boot removed, main PC removed (XP - need XP for full screen DOS applications)

        Check other stores, not on PSN

        So 3 PCs, 2 capable of gaming, none can run a quite simple game. Whereas both proper PCs can handle the HL2 engine fine, Portal, Portal 2, Half Life 2, Team Fortress 2 all run brilliantly. Mass Effect runs fine on the quad core.

        Game creators not interested, MS paid for exclusivity on consoles.

        But what happens next?

        Similar game released free as part of PS+ that will do.

      3. Shugyosha

        Re: Watching with interest

        "And consoles like that are the reason that modern games have to be deliberately dumbed down. PC game development is stagnating because of the constant need to make them run on outdated hardware."

        This is no doubt true (although I would take issue with the phrase 'dumbed down' - requiring lower spec equipment doesn't affect the cerebral content of a game), but it makes no difference at all to the point I was making, which is that I can't see this development from Valve attracting console gamers. Console gamers don't care that PC game development is stagnating. Production studios don't care that PC game development is stagnating - because consoles are by far the bigger market. The only people who actually care that PC game development is stagnating are PC gamers. So if anything, this comment strengthens my opinion that the people who will be most interested in this SteamBox are actually those who are already PC gamers.

        1. Lamont Cranston


          Console gamers can be easily impressed by shiny-shiny - if the Steam console launches with some very shiny titles (GTA6, or whatever will be popular next year), it will pique the interest of console gamers, who will buy it in the same way that they buy their XBox/Playstation: to get at the shiny.

          When the new XBox/Playstation is due, they will look at replacing, but might then find that, for the cost of a small upgrade, the latest shiny-shiny will be available for their Steam console, which will be cheaper than a new XBox/Playstation. In the process, they may even learn something about what goes on inside their PC/Console hybrid.

          I can't help but see this as a good thing - even if it ultimately fails, it's worth a try.

      4. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Watching with interest

        "And consoles like that are the reason that modern games have to be deliberately dumbed down. PC game development is stagnating because of the constant need to make them run on outdated hardware."

        That's totally untrue. For a start 90% of the extra power is used for prettier graphics only, which doesn't make the game less dumb.

        Then, PC games have to support a range of hardware. This means it has to be as 'dumb' as the minimum spec allows. You don't get games which have better AI on faster machines, or gameplay features.

        A fixed spec forces developers to work to get the most out of the hardware. This takes time... on a PC you don't get time to fine-tune to your hardware because it keeps changing. Take a release title from PS2/3 and the most recent games and compare them.

        1. Aldous

          Re: Watching with interest

          The dumbing down happens not because of the platform but because of the market economics. It costs a shed load to get a game certified by Microsoft/Sony/Nintendo and you have to jump through many hoops every time you do an update.

          In contrast anyone can write and distribute a PC game. This means that it is commercially viable to make "Hammond Organ Simulator 2013" on PC as you can make a profit on 1000 sales but for a console game to even break even against the costs of certification and dev kit you need an established market.

          Comparing consoles to PC's in terms of intelligence is like comparing film to a book. Any wingnut with a pen and paper can write a book but you need more kit to make a film. Now the intelligence of the average user on the other hand is a completely different matter.

        2. JEDIDIAH

          Re: Watching with interest

          > That's totally untrue. For a start 90% of the extra power is used for prettier graphics only,

          Nope. The extra CPU can also be used for more interesting AI. This means larger maps and more sophisticated NPCs and more NPCs. So even a low horsepower type strategy game will get dumbed down on a console.

      5. breakfast

        Re: Old consoles mean games must be dumbed down

        Another way of looking at it is that older consoles are the reason that programmers working in game dev have to learn to optimise for their hardware rather than working with the constant assumption that the hardware will be able to handle it by the time they go to release.

        Working within constraints often inspires originality and results in interesting work.

      6. Amorous Cowherder

        Re: Watching with interest

        "modern games have to be deliberately dumbed down"

        I'm glad someone else has raised this point. When a company writes and released a multi-platform title is has to work on the lowest common demoninator, ie the controller with the least number of buttons. Add to this the need to ensure that the title reaches the widest audience possible because the company is beholden to the shareholders.

        The Elder Scrolls series, Skyrim is a fine and fun game but the reward and interaction systems have been toned down in order to a) be multi-platform portable and b) reach an audience that may not have played RPGs before.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Watching with interest

      Could kill the stand alone console.....

      Bye bye Xbox

      Bye bye PS4

      All it needs is simplicity

      Modular design for upgradability

      Instant on

      Instant connection

    5. Avatar of They

      Re: Watching with interest

      Or you miss the point?

      You know you "Can" go and play it but perhaps they are adding for those that "want" to go and upgrade.

      Also the OS is upgraded on xbox about every week, judging by my constant waiting for M$ to install updates.

      Also bear in mind each release of the Xbox 360 is not the same, my first one had no HDMI, the new one does etc. Hard drives have improved etc. It might act and look the same, but the insides aren't as the shape changes as well.

      So upgrades in the current console market isn't that unknown.

      1. Mark .

        Re: Watching with interest

        The problem isn't that the spec might be upgraded occasionally, the problem is that there might be many kinds of different spec from different OEMs.

        Also, things like HDMI and hard drives aren't anywhere remotely near the same kind of hassle (for users and developers) that things like CPU and GPU are.

    6. Fletchulence

      Re: Watching with interest

      One of the main points of console gaming is surely that you know everyone is using the same hardware. I'm too old to involve myself in arms races any more, I just want to play when it's playtime.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Watching with interest


        Yup, my thoughts too.

        Going back to a "can my box play this game" situation is a huge step backwards. If it means a return to the "Must-have-new-game" is out but we need 4GB more ram and a new graphics card/module/thing, then i'm out.

        They appear to be trying to invent.... the gaming PC. Albeit on Linux.

        Upgradable, choice of operating systems,plays games.

        Quacks like a duck...

    7. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: Watching with interest

      I could buy a PS3 without having to worry about drivers?

      What planet are you on?

      I remember a very embarassing xmas when my nephews got a PS3 from mom and dad, and mad uncle Boris bought the games.

      Cue 90 mins of the PS3 needing to 'update' its OS in order to run said games and thats before they got installed

      What fun that was with 2 hyper active boys waiting to blast zombies/race cars/beat each other up....

    8. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Watching with interest

      Drivers for PC games are a lot less of a problem now than they were 10 years ago. As a geek, I tend to make sure I'm running the latest drivers, but generally Windows has working 3D drivers for AMD and nVidia cards built in (and for nVidia at least, semi regular updates on Windows Update).

      If you're put off PC gaming because you remember the days of having to find the right drivers to run a new game then don't worry, it's pretty much a solved problem now.

      Cue comment from someone who is in driver hell right now, I'm sure it still happens from time to time.

      1. Mark .

        Re: Watching with interest

        I was also pleasantly surprised to find that even Intel HD graphics, albeit slow, seems to have much better driver support (the older GMA wasn't just ridiculously slow, but also had problems that certain things were buggy, especially with OpenGL).

    9. MattEvansC3

      Re: Watching with interest

      What piqued my interest was nVidia's announcement that they are working with Valve on SteamOS. Now Gabe has been talking about the Steambox for about a year and a half now and the one thing that stood out to me was that Gabe said he was advising against including optical drives because they generated too much heat and noise and that Gabe envisaged these Steamboxes as something small enough to fit in with your other AV equipment under the TV.

      Now how does nVidia fit into that? For the PC market all they are making are graphic cards with their main focus being on large twin slot cooler GPUs such as the Titan, nVidia don't make anything that will aid a PC's energy efficiency, thermals or noise, especially in the budget range.

      Now what nVidia do do that is low power, quiet, has low thermals while still being powerful is the Tegra 4 and nVidia are releasing the shield, their ARM based handheld console. The Shield plays android games and streams PC games which is pretty much what SteamOS does (of course it plays Linux games not Android games).

      Could we be seeing SteamOS being ARM compatible much like what Microsoft attempted with Windows RT (and without backwards compatibility hanging like an albatross around their neck)? And nVidia bringing out a Shield running SteamOS? Unless the other option is nVidia taking another crack at the nForce chipset I don't see why they would be so heavily involved in a project where invariably the biggest number of consoles sold will be iGPU based (for cost and size reasons) whiter nVidia have no products.

    10. OhDearHimAgain

      Re: Watching with interest

      The answer is a simple hardware assessment, like Windows does. The game can then choose settings appropriate for your hardware - in reality the only relevant things are the speed of the CPU, Graphics card & to a less extent the RAM. So SteamOS assesses them and tells the game what to do.

      The only fly in that ointment (I can immediately think of) is what version of pixel shader you have. Some games are fussy in a way they really don't need to be.

      PC gaming is already a big market because, as a lot of gamers mature, they want to get more out of their games than the vanilla game / consoles can offer - hi-res textures, features mods etc. So they turn to PC gaming, but some people are put off by the perceived complexity - the SteamBox is an attempt to address that and so broaden the appeal of choice that PC style gaming has to offer.

      Once you've played in 1080p & hi-res textures you'll never go back.

      1. tmcd35

        Re: Watching with interest

        "Once you've played in 1080p & hi-res textures you'll never go back."

        Funny you should say that, this year I've finally got around to playing (and completing - yah me!) Hitman 2 and both True Crime games on the original XBox.

        Especially True Crimes: NYC - I was amazed at how good the graphics where and New York really came alive for me. And that's on last generation consoles.

        Good story and gameplay trump resolution and textures everytime. What can I say, GTA:V is game of the year!

  2. Goat Jam
    Thumb Up

    This is the most exciting thing to happen to Linux and gaming in, well, forever.

    Hopefully, behind the scenes there is a lot of Linux porting going on that we don't know about. There will need to be for this to take off.

    I've still got a bunch of AAA Windows titles in Steam which I bought for peanuts and I am working my way through them but ever since Steam launched on Linux I have had a policy that I won't buy a game that does not support Linux unless it is insanely good value (Hitman Absolution is currently on special for <$10 which is sorely tempting me).

  3. Jim84

    This is really stupid

    So Valve have decided to bring out a Linux microconsole. Except that there won't even be a standard hardware spec.

    Shugyosha is completely correct in that one of the big selling points of consoles is that they just work with no messing about. Trying to judge weather your hardware can run a new game in a decent state because everyone has different hardware is just a headache.

    What value does a linux console offer over the PS4 or Xbox One that the PC doesn't already offer?

    I can sympathize with Valve's dilemma in that every operating system is now shipping with it's own app store that cuts Steam out of the picture.

    But to beat the incumbents they are going to have to do something radical. Apple did it to the smartphone market with the fully touchscreen iPhone and Nintendo did it to Sony's Playstation with the Wii motion controller. A simple 'me too' console product will wither and die.

    The only radical things I can think of (which are probably rubbish ideas when you dig into them) are to cool the console with mineral oil rather than air allowing massive overclocking of the current chips, or to somehow keep the simplicity of the console but make it upgradeable once or twice in it's lifecycle like Nintendo tried to do with the memory clip in module for the N64. Perhaps with a plug in memory module and second processor to be released in 2 years time.

    1. poopypants

      Re: This is really stupid

      "Except that there won't even be a standard hardware spec."

      I'm guessing there will be a certification process (see my earlier post, above).

      The model Valve is proposing is similar to the Android model, and that appears to have had some success.

      Whether or not this will succeed will hinge on the certification process, but it is worth keeping in mind that Steam has 55 million users, with a peak of more than 5 million online at once each day.

      That is a powerful bargaining chip to force acceptance of a certification process, so it is possible for them to make this work. Only time will tell whether or not they succeed.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is really stupid

      A lot of speculation going on there.

      The bottomline is that if you don't like it you don't have to buy it and honestly, there's no need to be upset over it either. If anything you should be happy that we have choices. Personally I like the idea of having an upgradable console depending on how many years I can continue to upgrade a base model. Also it'll be open so you can design your own interface... they're basically giving us the creativity to make our own consoles while they provide the gaming platform. Thanks! I think this is a good added innovation to the console game world.

      Also, what if your PS4 breaks? You have to send it in right? What if you're serving overseas? Longer turn around. It'd be nice if I could run to the store to replace the broken part myself. I don't whine about a little work. I too work in IT but it's so simple so why waste time complaining like I'm entitled to a perfect world where everyone's choice has to match my choice. If you don't like it, don't buy it.

    3. Mark .

      Re: This is really stupid

      But the first iphone couldn't even run apps (nor was it a smartphone), and by the time it did, other platforms like Symbian were full touchscreen (not to mention the other phones like from LG that were full touchscreen and with apps before 2007). Maybe it helped putting an applications downloader on the phones, but then even with every other platform doing that, Apple still is often catered for first for no apparent reason. Perhaps it was that they made it so that you could only release through their store - an insidious business move that thankfully most other platforms haven't followed.

      Indeed, the iphone platform is a perfect example of how it could still work for Valve, even without beating the incumbents - the early iphones sold poorly, and Apple have never beaten Nokia and Samsung, but they've still had sales grow over the years, and made plenty of profit from them. Similarly Valve don't need to have an overnight success (which the iphone wasn't, despite what the history revisionists claim), or beat Sony/MS - as long as they have sales which grow over time, they can make money. They can also make money from their store - Google now leads in number of applications, but Apple will still make money.


      Re: This is really stupid

      > So Valve have decided to bring out a Linux microconsole. Except that there won't even be a standard hardware spec.

      If this is running on Linux then this hardware will likely be driven to a pretty predictable configuration actually.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Shugyosha

    I think there may well be a market for it and it may be successful, but at this stage it seems like it's more likely to appeal to people who are currently PC gamers than it is to attract console gamers. Maybe that's Valve's intention.

    1. Kunari

      Why not also market it as a OS for PC's too? I wouldn't mind dual booting SteamOS and Windows on my gaming PC and Laptop.

      1. Michael Habel Silver badge

        Are you daft? Linux = x86(-64) SO IT WILL RUN QUITE HAPPILY ON ANY PC. EVEN MAC! 'Cause its a x86-64! Distribution!

      2. OhDearHimAgain

        it will dual-bot - no problems

      3. MattEvansC3

        The features of SteamOS may well wind up in the Steam client, if that happens the dual booting becomes less of a thing, yes you won't get the better performance but is the hassle worth it?

        Now if these features don't get added to the Steam client then I could see myself dual booting alongside Windows for a HTPC purely for the streaming aspect. Regardless of what Valve say Steam's never been open and just because its on Linux I don't envisage it being modifiable in any true way as it is a store and Valve will be wanting you to do everything through that store I wouldn't want to use it for media consumption.

    2. Richard 81

      "it's more likely to appeal to people who are currently PC gamers than it is to attract console gamers"

      Not quite. If you're a PC gamer you've probably got a decent PC, so why not move your PC to the TV rather than buy a new machine? On the other hand, a hardcore console gamer is probably going to avoid this in favour of an XBox One or PS4. I expect this to find a market in middle ground: people who own a fairly rubbish laptop and maybe a XBox 360 or PS3 (with no intention of upgrading), i.e. casual gamers.

      ...of course success in that market relies somewhat on the price.

      1. MJI Silver badge


        Actually I am thinking of trying the OS on the quad core and making it dual boot, But next purchase is PS4.

        We are allowed multiple game devices.

        1. MattEvansC3

          Re: Errmmmm

          NO! No you are not! You must plant your flag in the sand and declare allegiance to ONE console. Being open minded and not treating your console like a religion is heresy and you shall be burned at the stake, such are the laws of the internet!

      2. Raumkraut

        > Not quite. If you're a PC gamer you've probably got a decent PC, so why not move your PC to the TV rather than buy a new machine?

        PC gamers probably use their PCs for more than just games. Even if they don't, not all games are best played on the living-room TV with a gamepad. Do you really think people will be willing to move their PC to a different room, every time they want to play one of a certain subset of their games? That'll get old, fast.

      3. Michael Habel Silver badge

        Not quite. If you're a PC gamer you've probably got a decent PC, so why not move your PC to the TV rather than buy a new machine?

        'Cause I'd prefer to have something that ate less Juice then my PC. Depending on how big the Steam Box is, and how much Power it eats up (i.e. Watts Per Hour). This will be some of my deciding factors.

        Personally I love how S0NY are supposed to have given us information on this topic. (i.e. Power Consumption for the PS4), and basically stated that the "Power consumption will vary greatly depending on the performance of the game played." Whatever the hell that means. Guess I'll find out once the Numbers hit the PS4Devwiki then...

        1. JEDIDIAH

          > 'Cause I'd prefer to have something that ate less Juice then my PC.

          Chances are this will be something that any one of us could build for ourselves. It will be made out of industry standard PC parts that can be replicated at Frys or your regional equivalent. It will be very much like a Mac in this respect. The only real difference will be the bundled combination and the size of the package.

          I would be surprised if it's very far off from being a smaller version of the Zareason Mediabox I already have.

      4. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

        Re: @Richard81

        "I expect this to find a market in middle ground: people who own a fairly rubbish laptop and maybe a XBox 360 or PS3 (with no intention of upgrading), i.e. casual gamers."

        DINGDINGDINGDING! Winner! I am a former PC gamer, currently a casual XB360 gamer, in my fifties. I am VERY interested in the Steam offering because this bridges the gap and will allow a bit of "the best of both worlds." Certain PC titles previously unavailable* on a console would now be available to me. I have no desire to rejoin, as a prior poster put it, "the [PC hardware spec] arms race." I, too, "just want to play when it's playtime" without faffing about. In all likelihood, I will have a Steam box alongside an Xbox/PS# in the family room and the (somewhat outdated) gaming PC will remain in the seldom used upstairs command center

        1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

          Re: @Richard81 part 2

          (forgot to add before hitting "submit"...)

          * For example, one really cool feature which SHOULD be possible with a Steam device is to answer the question "do I prefer this game on a console or a PC?" without having to buy the game twice. I purchased and played through Diablo III on PC. I tried the demo on XBox360. I found that I prefer that particular game on PC, but had to wait over a year for the console version to be available to know this. If I had preferred the console version, I would have had to shell out another $60 over and above the $60 already spent for the PC version. With Steam and the Steam device, I can theoretically have my cake AND eat it, too. One title, one purchase, playable either way. In theory (and someone will, no doubt, be quick to correct if I'm wrong).

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't think the 5% of users who will purchase random hardware and try to make it work care about these problems most will purchase SteamBox units or parts for SteamBox and use them.

    I wold then think that the system has a rating generated using a benchmark like Windows does on Vista and newer and you buy games at or below your rating.

    Yes it is not a easy as a normal console but you could just buy the SteamBox and use it for 4 years and then replace it with a new one.

    What I am interested in is seeing if the changes to make games run well on Linux will make it back up stream to the kernel and various projects it pulls from. As this wold be a huge gain for Linux.

    1. Shasta McNasty

      The only way an upgradeable console would work is if the games are coded well enough to determine the 'rating' of the console and then adapt as required in order to run the game within the limits of the hardware (e.g. lower resolution etc).

      If you get in to a scenario where not all games run on the console because X needs upgrading etc then that will spell the end of the steam console.

      Consoles are popular because they just work. No drivers, no hardware upgrades & no faffing about. Parents can buy the kids a game and as long as it has the correct console name on the box they know it'll work.

      1. Lamont Cranston

        Good points, Shasta.

        PC games tend to come with all sort of configuration options (mostly to do with dialling back the graphical effects for older hardware), but I can't see that it would be beyond the wit of Valve to assign the SteamBox a rating for the relevant components, then have preset settings within the games to pick the most optimal configuration for that hardware. If the hardware doesn't make the grade, the Steam won't let the user purchase, but can also advise what upgrades would be required.

        Hmm, having types that out, I'm beginning to appreciate all the skepticism, but I'll still look upon this as a worthwhile project.

  7. anatak

    console advantage

    I also think one of the advantages of consoles is that the hardware is fixed and the programmers can write the most efficient code for that hardware.

    If there are different kinds of steamboxes that advantage is also lost.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: console advantage

      > If there are different kinds of steamboxes that advantage is also lost.

      You really have to look at it from Valve's point of view: The steam box provides them with a steady state of architecture that can incrementally improve and develop over time.

      I dare say that the total revolutions in hardware design that MS and Sony throw at them every year or 6 would be a monumental pain in the rectum for very little return for Valve.

    2. MattEvansC3

      Re: console advantage

      Gabe has said they are going for tiers with the hardware, his example was good, better, best. Good would likely run software 720p at medium settings, better would be 1080p at medium settings and best would be 1080p at maximum settings. As it's meant to be a console there's no reason for devs to go above 1080p.

      1. annodomini2

        Re: MattEvansC3

        Don't be too sure, 4k TV's will be about soon, ok still going to be at the pricier end of the scale, but demand will drop the price, if the supply is there.

        But this is the advantage of the proposed 'upgrade' capability.

        1. MattEvansC3

          Re: MattEvansC3

          Even the cheap brand 4K TVs are around £700. 4K is going to have a much slower adoption than HD because there comes a point where everything is fine. My dad has a Samsung 3D LED TV he bought for just over a grand two years ago and it's too good, TV shows look awful because they look too real and the sets too fake as a result. That TV in 4k will raise the picture quality and worsen the experience.

          The only reason I'd go for a 4K over a HD screen is because 4K allows for larger TVs without losing the quality otherwise I'd just buy a high quality HD set.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: MattEvansC3

          4K will be a total non-event for TVs.

          We were all supposed to be watching everything in 3D by now remember?

  8. Daniel Barnes

    I would imagine each game would run a mini-benchmark on first run and automatically select the graphic level settings optimal for that machine. Very similar to how a lot of PC games work today. Hopefully they will still allow users to tweak the settings if they so wish.

  9. TheFinn

    The smart money? Really?

    Would the smart money be betting on a new Half-Life? The smarter money would be betting on there being lot's of folks betting on the next announcement being Half-Life. Personally, I'm too jaded.

    1. Grifter

      makes no sense

      The only game missing now is portal2, here's to hoping!

    2. Steven Raith

      Re: The smart money? Really?

      Much as though I share your cynicism, the idea that Valve might make HL3 a SteamOS exclusive would give it a massive boost in uptake - and I mean massive.

      HL3 is one of the most anticipated titles in the gaming world - it makes the wait for Battlefield Of Duty titles look like idle asides on a dull Tuesday afternoon. If it were to be a SteamOS exclusive, even for a short time, it would likely get the sort of press coverage that those titles get - IE mainstream news.

      That'd be a massive PR coup.

      As I say, I'm doubtful that's the plan, but you have to agree, the concept of using HL3 to boost the appeal of SteamOS is a compelling one.

      FWIW, Valve have done more for gaming on Linux overall than anyone in the last ten years - period. Their input should not be dismissed as the backroom tinkerings of a hobbyist. They very much appear to be in it for keeps for a variety of reasons, technical and to do with the ethics of business and how that affects the gamer. There are various videos from gaming, linux and hardware expos on this subject. They might not be FLOSS advocates in practice (games aren't getting opensourced, etc) but they very much approve of the platform freedom they get from using Linux as a host, which they can't get from Windows or Apple as it stands.

      So do not doubt their commitment to this at this. I mean, if it backfires their opinion might change, but at the moment, they're not messing about in the slightest, and are deadly serious; they to truly believe that gaming on Linux (through SteamOS or in general) genuinely is a future that they sorely want to make.

      Steven R

      1. Michael Habel Silver badge

        Re: The smart money? Really?

        Actually I could almost see this happening...

        After all... What would be the point of writing a Windows Port. Windows will be as good as dead in Six Months. So you install SteamOS get a standard working Linux + Open/Libre Office + Steam?

        I can only assume that Valve won't be as anal as say Ubuntu & Co. when it come to installing decent "Proprietary closed Drivers" as opposed to the shity Open Source Framebuffers that One usually gets with Linux. Leaving you with the task of having to somehow install such Drivers though the Command line. Not that its hard mind. But, that its a RPITFA to have to deal with!

      2. TheFinn

        Re: The smart money? Really?

        I know, I know. I agree, and I really DO want. At this point, anything other than a HL3 announcement would take the shine off the previous two. But Valve have a masochistic sense of humour.

        "What? You thought we'd announce Half Life 3? Whatever gave you that idea? When, in all our history, have we given you reason to believe that? You poor, naive child"

        1. MattEvansC3

          Re: The smart money? Really?

          They've hinted at the third announcement to be about input. Unless Half-life 3 is designed around that input I wouldn't get your hopes up.

          1. Steven Raith

            Re: The smart money? Really?

            And you are correct, Matt. Have an upvote!

            That controller looks....actually....pretty tasty. A controller will always be a compromise over a keyboard and mouse for some games (in the same way that in a car, ride and handling are always a compromise; one almost always negates the other), but this compromise looks like a pretty good one.

            I'm looking forward to more news on this. Valve are properly going for the incumbents throats and appear to be fully intending to tear their jugulars out.

            I still reckon Source2/HL3 will be a SteamOS exclusive. And as such, a Linux exclusive, because as noted, it would cause staggering uptake of the platform. Fingers crossed, eh?

            Steven R

  10. Eradicate all BB entrants

    Will wait and see ......

    ...... but as someone with over 100 games on Windows Steam it does not seem likely I will make the change, as to play my current catalogue of titles I will need still a Windows PC on in order to stream them to a SteamOS box. I will probably end up dual booting the spare PC to give it a test.

    Then again I have always liked the separation of PC and console gaming, they are different beasts and I am a gamer of both worlds. I prefer the PC for FPS, MMO and strategy games, and the console for driving, arcade and when mates are around guitar hero type games.

    As I said at the beginning, will wait and see but as I will still need a windows PC in order to make use of the games I already own it has made me cautious about getting too excited about the announcement.

    1. Michael Habel Silver badge

      Re: Will wait and see ......

      That is assuming that some of those Titles haven't yet been ported to Linux yet.

      Granted, not everything has been ported yet, but I gather the list is still growing...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The local game streaming support is nice too - stream any Steam game you own from your fast high end PC to the SteamBox. Should be less lag that you'd get using a remote online service, and it means any game that can't run natively on SteamOS can still be played.

    This already works with the nVidea Shield handheld device (that runs Android).

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can see this working

    The software rates your box similar to the Windows index but with a point. Games will have a minimum rating required. Valve release a new box each year for the latest greatest games or you install the software as dual boot on your PC.

    All we need now if a non Windows equiv of Office that doesnt cuck donkey.

  13. KPz

    If it isn't HL2:EP3...

    ....I'd be surprised. Unless they've renamed it to be HL3 in order to fit with the 1, 2, 3 announcement.

    Valve are absolutely loaded, and it'd be no skin off their nose to release HL3 as a Steambox exclusive, which would give a million+ gamers going out to buy a Steambox. They might then bung it out on the PC six to nine months later, but by then, they've got a decent number of boxes out there. Hey, I'd happily get one if it wasn't too pricy.

    As far as the spec goes, let's not forget that most TV's won't do the default 1920x1280 that most gamers now use; they go much lower. Therefore the hardware spec doesn't need to be that high. And Valve know EXACTLY what people are running games on - take a peek around the hardware section in Steam sometime. They'll know exactly where to pitch the hardware for maximum bangs per buck.

    1. poopypants

      Re: If it isn't HL2:EP3...

      1. HL3 is nowhere near finished, so no. Who would want to work on a project that has been so over-hyped

      that it is bound to disappoint nearly everyone? Remember, at Valve people choose their projects.

      2. Most PC gamers do not use 1920x1280. They use 1920 x 1080 - standard HDTV resolution.


      *Yes, Valve do know exactly what people are running games on.

  14. ukgnome

    Interest has been perked

    I don't want to boot up old dusty to play games, and I don't what an xstation364 under my telly box either.

    This looks very promising...

  15. Ben Rose


    Will I be able to run EA Origin under SteamOS?

    Good :oD

    1. JonP

      Re: Origin

      see icon.

  16. JDX Gold badge

    Upgradable, run on any hardware, etc

    Did they just invent the PC?

  17. JDX Gold badge


    I know Steam/Valve have been promoting Linux for a while now, but aren't most steam games still Windows-only? Has supporting Linux on Steam actually been enough to get developers to do the extra work or like most PC games outside Steam, do the developers spurn Linux as not being a big enough market?

    A proper Linux platform will presumably make supporting Linux more attractive but you need a critical mass like WP8 appstore all over again).

    Any [Linux] Steam users able to comment on the current state of affairs?

    1. Manta Bloke

      Re: SteamOS

      A lot of the indi titles are running on windows/linux/mac and its a bit of the chicken and the egg. No one will develop for linux as there are no systems etc. SteamOS is taking the first step saying here is a system - develop for it you have a 55 million userbase :)

    2. Fading Silver badge

      Re: SteamOS

      There are quite a few games that now run on linux (and I've tried using Mint 14). The notables are the valve games L4D, TF2, Portal, and HL. I've also tried Trine and the X games. The good thing is you buy one (windows version) and you get the Mac and Linux ones to use as well.

      The idea of having monster machine with all the heat and noise issues somewhere else and streaming the games to a quiet little box in the living room appeals to me and solves the associated power/heat/noise problems.

  18. tmcd35


    I wish them well, but I keep being reminded of 3DO in the early/mid '90s.

    Add to that but so far all I've seen is vague announcements and no detail. Detail on SteamOS and SteamBox partners needs to fleshed out to convince me it's a better choice than an existing console or building a gaming PC. We've also heard of nothing from publishers, so who other than Valve are supporting the device?

    I also question the market it's aimed at. PC gamers who want to play in the telly? Isn't that the XBox One (x86 and Direct-X)?

  19. Gordon Stewart

    Aren't we ignoring the elephant in the room?

    Well, OK, "the keyboard and mouse in the living room"?

    One of the great things about PC gaming is the superior controllers - the keyboard and mouse. These allow for more precise and complex interactions than console controllers.

    But how do these comfortably fit into a living room environment?

    1. tmcd35

      Re: Aren't we ignoring the elephant in the room?

      "One of the great things about PC gaming is the superior controllers - the keyboard and mouse. These allow for more precise and complex interactions than console controllers.

      But how do these comfortably fit into a living room environment?"

      They don't which is why I prefer to game on a PS3 than building a "superior" PC for the TV. The thing PC gamers never seem to "get" about console gamers is the fact we prefer the large TV screen, surround sound, comfy sofa and gamepad.

      I'll happily pay the price of poor graphics and dodgy controls to play games like Last of Us and GTA V in comfort.

      I'm not sure Valve are demonstrating they understand the gameplay differences and why some choose console over PC and vise-versa.

    2. Van

      Re: Aren't we ignoring the elephant in the room?

      I find the precision of a "superior" keyboard and mouse removes me from the action and is less involving. I'm sure a mouse could make driving games easier,but no thanks.

  20. Downside


    This Ouya#2 console concept just doesn't stack up. Buy new bits for it? Okay, so I basically buy a new console every six months? Er.. great?

    What about game pads? I guess I just buy an Xbox or PS controller? Er.. great?

    Oh, I use a mouse and keyboard, on my sofa? Er..great?

    Oh it will run




    There's a story that needs



    Valve are like the Rolling Stones. Their old stuff was amazing, still is fun, don't need to really do anything else, cash constantly flowing out the Steam taps.. but the likely hood of anything new and interesting turning up soon is highly unlikely.

    When Steam stops making money, maybe they'll wake up.

  21. Fenton

    Upgrade cycle

    With the PS4 and the XBOX one and the new Valve stuff all being x86 based are we likely to see a more rapid upgrade cycle, i.e. no real custom chippery onboard, so when AMD/Intel release newer CPUs we could potentially see newer consoles hitting the shops with just a CPU/Memory upgrade.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't see the problem some people are having with this idea

    I first upgraded my PC with a sound card and some nasty plastic amplified speakers to play Duke Nukem 3D after Doom and Doom 2 with internal bleepy speaker. Then custom graphics chips (something taken for granted in consoles and home computers for years) on a PCI card to play Quake at it's best. Unreal, another new graphics card. For Half-Life, it was a months overtime to buy that 17" FST monitor to replace the 14" goldfish bowl that came with my £900 PC. This was quite typical in the day. PC gaming went from strength to strength because of the upgrades available and 'rig builds' became a hobby in it's self.

    I've also enjoyed buying new consoles for the different experience they offer.

    Good luck to Valve.

  23. The FunkeyGibbon

    Linux based AND upgradable?

    What, Steam are going to write a driver for every bit of hardware on the market? No? Then it's doomed. There isn't a disto available that 'just works' (dons flameproof suit) and all that will happen is that users will install SteamOS on their Franken-PC and then find that there isn't a SteamOS or Linux driver for their specific hardware and that's game over.

    It's Moblin\Maemo all over again...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Linux based AND upgradable?

      it's 90s PC gaming.

      I remember needing a new graphics card and 4mb more ram (at several hundred quid back then) so my PC could make the jump from "doom" and "duke nukem" to "star wars dark forces" or whatever it was called.

      I don't think a step back to those days is a good thing. This seems to be trying to fill the niche already occupied by PC gamers.

      Currently mum, dad and gran (etc) only have to remember which brand of system offspring has. Buy a game. It will work.

      I can't be the only 80s kid to remeber a similar situation to that I described above at a birthday or xmas. That £30 quid game the childerbeasts want becomes a 30 quid game and new memory thing, graphics thing or whatever it is that needed upgrading.

      This pretty much replicates the current PC gaming situation only using words like "linux". Guess what, the majority of gamers aren't like the posters on here. They couldn't care less what operating sytem their gaming system, phone or tablet runs on. Just that it runs easily, predictably and will play the games they want to play.

      One of the reasons for the sucess of consoles was this very factor. Want a new game, buy a new game. No checking specs, buying bits, taking things to pieces.

      Like I said above enabling my younger self to [play that particular latest title set my Dad back a few hundred quid at a computer fair.

      Yes hardware is cheaper now, but that doesn't alter the fact that this appears to be an attempt to re-invent the PC, via slapping a sticker that says "steamboxthing" on the front.

      I'm not against this, i'm not saying it's daft,i'm just saying i'm not so sure it's the amazing thing some folk see.

  24. cultavix

    Surely they will ensure that the hardware that is used is "SteamOS certified" or something similar? People using consoles don't want to mess around with graphics settings.

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