Prediction: Valve’s Steam Box is Real

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When I said a few months ago that I thought it made sense for Valve to design some kind of hardware console, a concept colloquially dubbed the “Steam Box,” many scoffed. Now it’s been revealed that Valve is hiring an “industrial designer,” with a post going up on their jobs site that seems to double as a press release. “We’re frustrated by the lack of innovation in the computer hardware space…” it reads, “…so we’re jumping in.” What does this mean? To me, one thing: a Steam console of some kind is coming.

I know this sounds far-fetched to many of you, but what’s more logical than Valve wanting a platform for their software? Newell and company have long endured testy marriages with PC, Mac and various consoles, but they’ve never been truly at home with any of them, because they come from such a unique ideological place. Free DLC, which was always Microsoft’s sore spot, is just the tip of the iceberg: these guys want to sell you bread then give you the keys to the bakery. There is not a major platform in existence that embraces that view, which means Valve is stuck funneling their vision through an uncooperative middle man. Even PC, which admittedly comes close to being acceptable, is tangled up by the Windows/Mac OS showdown.

The point is, there is no medium currently in existence that embraces Valve’s vision for consumer/creator relations, so why would they not try to create it? Of course, there are financial and logistical hurdles, and I’m sure you’ll tell me about all the expense, and risk, and etc. I would retort that much of the same was said about Steam before they did it. Valve has a habit of reforming the gaming landscape around them, often in ways that don’t seem totally possible before they do them.

Now what exactly this Steam Box is or could be is more debatable. Is it a full-on console, or a peripheral of some kind that works in tandem with a personal computer? I tend to suspect the latter, although the exact nature of such a device would be hard for me to guess. At this point we get into the tall weeds and I must throw up my hands and claim ignorance. Valve get paid a lot of money to be smarter about this stuff than I am, so I’m not going to try and outthink them.

What I will do is state a simple, almost unavoidable fact: this company does not currently have as much control of their content delivery as they would like. This is a glaring truth, as far as I can tell, and it begs to be remedied. If they’re hiring people to tackle this problem head-on, and admitting as much on their website, I find it unlikely a solution isn’t coming. That’s all I’m saying.

_AA

you don’t move me anymore, and I’m glad that you don’t

 

  • bcorcoran

    I think Valve doesn’t want to dilute themselves by entering the console market (at least not yet) when they’ve already got a game platform to support. Adding a console in addition to support that + getting game developers to develop or port their game onto said console would be a nightmarish endeavor for them.

    What’s more likely to happen (in my opinion) is Valve comes out with hardware to augment the gaming experience, whether that be via Google Glasses-esque wearable computers, controllers, or other peripherals. I think that this scenario would be win-win for them because they could get their feet wet with hardware development, support, manufacturing, etc and still do what they do best.

    As a flat company (managerially speaking), I also don’t think Valve has what it takes to take on a project of this magnitude. They have less than 300 employees, most of them developers and designers. That’s enough for some ideas, but not enough for full-scale hardware design and development of a new console. If they were truly serious about building a so-called “Steam Box”, then they would be hiring industrial designers and hardware engineers by the busload.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

      I think you’re right that they’re not going with a traditional console. But the Steam Box, whatever it is, seems like a thing that is happening.