updated 01:25 pm EST, Sat March 3, 2012
Valve Steam Box would consolize PC gaming
Valve Software is entering the console race by developing its own hardware platform, new rumors brought up early Saturday. The approach outlined by The Verge would have typical PC hardware with a Core i7, 8GB of RAM, and NVIDIA graphics, but it would serve as a fixed platform for three to four years. Developers would then target their games to the system, which as expected would use Steam as its primary way to get games.
Unlike traditional consoles, it wouldn't be confined to one game store and require special signing. Although optimized for Steam, they could run competing platforms like EA's Origin and wouldn't be locked into needing special developer kits. Any PC game could run, implying that it would ultimately be a specially tuned Windows system.
Backroom demos of a one-off hardware design purportedly took place at CES, although Valve wouldn't necessarily be developer or even limit it to one chassis design. The Alienware X51 (pictured below) was supposedly an example of an early interpretation of the design and could even be updated to work as a Steam Box. Valve would support typical USB peripherals and might have its own modular controller.
To adapt to TV, it would use Valve's own Big Picture mode to give a friendly experience.
In creating the box, Valve would not only hope to bring PC gaming's advantages to consoles but as a form of antithesis to the Apple TV. Founder Gabe Newell has been uncomfortable with the idea of entirely closed platforms and would use it to encourage a more flexible approach, with implications that it might serve as a media hub as well.
Numerous questions remain open, including the cost of Steam Box systems and when the concept would be shown. As it would largely be a PC, it could be hundreds of dollars more. The Game Developer Conference starts next week and could be the earliest available opportunity, but E3 in June is considered a safer target for predictions.
Valve hasn't commented on the rumor.