Valve Unveils SteamOS, Details Hardware Plans

Washington-based video games company Valve detailed their plans to launch an operating system last week, dubbed “SteamOS,” along with dedicated Steam hardware, aiming to bring their popular gaming platform to the living room. The announcements were made via the company’s official website and include information of an upcoming beta test along with frequently asked questions.

Rumors of dedicated hardware designed to run Valve’s incredibly popular Steam-based PC gaming platform began to circulate early last year, as reported by Joystiq. However, details have remained relatively thin, until earlier this week when the company finally unveiled information about their plans. The announcements offer a relatively subtle insight into what can be expected from the upcoming hardware and operating system, which, according to the official announcement, will be available “beginning in 2014.”

The hardware platform, named “Steam Box,” will arrive in the form of three separate configurations, which The Verge notes are being informally labeled “Good,” “Better,” and “Best.” This will allow Valve to target a variety of market sectors by offering a range of specifications at different price points. By consolidating the selection to a smaller number of machines, the purchasing decision is simplified, solving a problem typically associated with PC gaming whereby hardware is updated almost constantly and available in an enormous range of configurations. The Steam Box will reportedly be manufactured by a selection of as-yet-unknown hardware partners, although Valve are currently inviting users to sign up for beta access to one of 300 prototype consoles developed by the company themselves. According to an article on Polygon, “recipients of the hardware prototype will be able to hack it, swap out hardware, change software, and more.”

Valve also released information about their upcoming operating system, SteamOS. The software will be based on the Linux platform and designed specifically to bring PC gaming to the living room. Last year, Steam launched “Big Picture” which tailored their Steam gaming platform towards living room users by streamlining the user interface for simplified controller input. SteamOS looks set to be an expansion on the same concept, with the hope of making PC gaming more accessible to those who prefer the comfort and relative simplicity associated with console gaming.

Although exciting, these are ambitious plans that are not without potential roadblocks. The Verge points out that to ensure maximum success, Valve will need to convince game developers to work with the Linux platform, potentially departing from the historic familiarity of Windows-based development. However, the article also notes their stable of popular first-party franchises such as Half-Life and Portal, which could be used to drive interest in the upcoming hardware and software.

Further details will no doubt be unveiled as the 2014 launch window approaches, and gamers can sign up for a chance to test the Steam Box prototype on the official website now.

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