It was no secret that Valve was creating some form of hardware. The rumors were there, so when the announcement was officially made, fans had their speculation justified. Not only did Valve announce the rumored “Steam Box”, Valve’s personal entry into the console market, but they also disclosed that their operating system, Steam OS, will be a freely “licensable” operating system for manufacturers. Here are six reasons you might want to care and keep an eye on the progress of things.
1. CHOICE AND COMPETITION ARE ALWAYS GOOD THINGS
If you’ve taken a look at the console market lately, you might notice that there isn’t really too much diversity or choice of consoles. You may even say that it resembles a monopoly of sorts! Well now you’ll get a fourth choice for a console, and an extremely capable one at that. Valve has a well established fan base, plenty of experience in delivering high quality services, and a large amount of connections within the game industry. But is it capable of competing against the kingpins that dominate the market? I think that it’s entirely capable, but its success is obviously not only dependent on the potential it holds. What does it mean for the console market as a whole though? Well, more competition generally means higher quality products, and since Valve is making their software free to license, there could be many third party consoles coming out using Valve’s software. This means even more options for consumers, high innovation in products, and lower prices!
2. INDIE GAMES
Consoles are not known for their Indie support and haven’t had a very good history of hosting a large library of indie titles. On the other hand, computers and (more specifically) Steam have long supported independent developers and really contain most of the indie community and fanbase. The Steam console will be no exception, allowing a huge amount of indie titles to enter the living room and reach a wider audience.
3. UNIFIED CROSS PLATFORM
If you already have a Steam account, then you’re surely well on your way to building a steam console library! Every game in Steam will work in Steam OS and Steam Boxes, and vice versa. No additional fees, no workarounds, just start up the steam box, download what you want to play, and voila!
One major thing that plagues console gaming is the fact that modding is almost impossible. Steam not only supports mods with Steam Workshop, a mod center for specific games, but direct modding may also be a possibility.
5. VALVE KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE DOING
Time and time again, Valve has amazed me with how well they conduct business. Rarely do any of their decisions sit crossly with me, and they sure do know how to make money in the least frustrating way possible. Sales every major holiday, smart UI decisions, how open they are with their software, as well as the games that they make are all examples of this. Not only do they know what they’re doing, everyone else knows it as well. Their reputation is creditable and they keep in touch with a large variety of companies. A great example is how closely valve works with Oculus VR, the team behind the suddenly popular Oculus Rift. With connections like this, they’ll have plenty of support from a large and diverse community which should do nothing but enrich the experience of Valve’s console.
6. NO EXPECTATIONS
There are no expectations set for Valve’s console (except maybe that it be well made, but that’s a given). It’s something new, and they’re free to experiment. That mindset clearly shows in their interesting controller design which has abandoned various conventional ideas.
The lack of thumb sticks, as well as the button placement may leave anyone scratching their heads. This change though may be exactly what we need, controllers nowadays have a standardized scheme which is rarely deviated from.
Even if the control scheme doesn’t end up working for anyone, not only is there the promise of third party controls or the fact that you can use a keyboard and mouse, but the steam controllers are built to be “hackable” and modifiable, with valve encouraging consumers to come up with new ideas for the controller. Additionally, users will be able to upload their own button mappings for individual games, sharing their configurations with others.
Valve’s platform is built upon the ideals of both flexibility and user control. While not many details regarding the hardware have been released, it should be reasonable to assume that for a similarly priced PC we’d be getting more bang for our buck. Until there is more information though, all we can do is wait with anticipation.