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What is Valve’s Steam Box?

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steam_logoThere seems to be quite a bit of confusion over Valve’s SteamBox. Is it an actual piece of hardware? Several pieces of hardware? Is it a streaming box? A server? A console? Does it run on Linux or Windows?

The Verge and Polygon have a series of articles/interviews covering the matter:

  • Exclusive interview: Valve’s Gabe Newell on Steam Box, biometrics, and the future of gaming (via The Verge)
  • Valve confirms it’s building a Linux-based Steam Box that will act as a local gaming server for all your screens (via The Verge)
  • Valve’s Greg Coomer talks Big Picture and the challenge of the Steam Box (via Polygon)

Steam Box looks to be everything I mentioned which is to say that is an initiative by Valve to attract more Steam customers. None of these ideas are meant to supplant the PC or the “Best” solution for gaming on the PC which is the best hardware money can buy.

Let’s get the actual “SteamBox” from Valve out of the way. Valve has a vision for their own hardware in the home. It will run on Linux and it will supposedly function as a server that can stream games to other screens in the home.

The $99 streaming boxes will be able to take those streams from your own Steam PC or SteamBox itself and throw them up onto the screen of your choice (ie: your HDTV).

Then there are SteamBoxes from other vendors which are prototypes and ideas that Valve are entertaining at this time. These boxes could be seen as the console style boxes that are made to be “low-cost, high-performance designs for the living room that are great candidates for Steam and Big Picture”.

What does all of this mean? Valve wants more customers in Steam and they’re willing to fan out and go after the console players. They’re trying very hard to streamline the entire process of PC gaming and these are the necessary steps to achieve that. They’re trying to break down barriers and let us play games any way we wish be it via streaming, dedicated hardware or classic Steam client.

I am curious about the games for Linux though. This is all well and good for Valve but they still need games for all of this to work. They already have their own games running very well on Linux but what about other developers? The first Unreal Engine 3.0 game just shipped this past December but that’s just one title from one middleware provider. It may be the most popular middleware but it doesn’t cover the likes of Crytek’s CryEngine, Capcom’s MT Framework and DICE’s Frostbite engines.

The importance and ease of porting to and from the Xbox 360 gave us all the wonderful PC games we wanted. I hope Valve’s influence is great enough to bring more of those titles over to Linux.

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