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Valve eyes the living room with multiple set-top 'Steam Boxes'

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Competition in the living room continues to heat up, with game maker Valve revealing its plans to support multiple set-top box devices for playing games and streaming content.

Valve
The Project Piston Valve Box was unveiled at CES this week. Photo via Polygon.


Valve CEO Gabe Newell spoke with The Verge at CES this week about his company's plans for its forthcoming "Steam Box" gaming hardware. In addition to making its own Steam Box, Valve will also partner with third-party hardware makers to design their own devices.

Valve's own Steam Box will run the open-source Linux operating system, though users will be able to install other platforms, like Microsoft's Windows, if they so choose. It will also come with a controller that Newell said will have "higher precision and lower latency."

The Steam Box will also support services like Netflix, and can be used as a traditional PC to browse the Web.

Valve's upcoming push into the living room will place it in an already crowded market vying for space in users' entertainment centers. Among those options is the Apple TV, a $99 accessory that streams iTunes media and allows users to play and mirror content from their iOS device to their television set.

With a variety of third-party hardware makers, Steam Boxes are expected to come in a range of prices, with varying functions and horsepower options. Among those options is Project Piston, a tiny game playing device that was shown off this week by hardware partner Xi3.

Newell also spoke about controller methods and gave his thoughts using multi-touch devices, like Apple's iPad, for gaming. The Valve CEO said one of the controller concepts his company has designed features a touchpad, but he wants to ensure that its inclusion is "useful."

"We don't want to waste people's money by just throwing in a touchpad," he told The Verge. "Once we understand what the role is of multitouch in these kind of applications, then it's easy to say you can use your phone for it."

Newell largely panned motion-controlled games popularized by Nintendo's Wii and Microsoft's Kinect, saying he's "unconvinced" they are proper input methods. He's instead intrigued by biometrics and gaze tracking, which can track input information that users aren't necessarily aware of to enhance gameplay.
post #2 of 14
I work for Xi3 and proud of it! This is going to be an exciting year!
post #3 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fishyesque View Post

I work for Xi3 and proud of it! This is going to be an exciting year!

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjAHYxSvMss

post #4 of 14

I think this Steam Box is going to be competing against traditional gaming consoles (Playstation, Xbox, Wii), not AppleTV as mentioned in the article.  Just because it streams netflix doesn't mean it's in the same market.  Otherwise, that means that my AppleTV (which I love) is competing against my Samsung SmartTV, BluRay Player, and Playstation (all of which will stream Netflix).

post #5 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by _Rick_V_ View Post

I think this Steam Box is going to be competing against traditional gaming consoles (Playstation, Xbox, Wii), not AppleTV as mentioned in the article.  Just because it streams netflix doesn't mean it's in the same market.  Otherwise, that means that my AppleTV (which I love) is competing against my Samsung SmartTV, BluRay Player, and Playstation (all of which will stream Netflix).

Did you see that Time Warner Cable is using Roku as a set top box for 300 channels? A lot moves being made by the competition.
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post #6 of 14
I really hope Apple take the Apple TV in this direction. Multitouch interfaces work well for some types of games but usually not when played on a second screen. Gaming around a TV is a different kind of experience. I still have a soft spot for retro gaming experiences like super metoid, super mario world, megaman, bomberman etc.
 
All it would take to succeed for developers and users is 1080p, the App Store experience and an officially supported Apple branded physical controller. Just keep it simple: d-pad, dual-analog sticks, gyro support and (most importantly) low wireless latency.
post #7 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dunks View Post

(most importantly) low wireless latency.

So few people know about this. My friends laugh because I insist on using a wired controller.
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post #8 of 14

So this is the vaunted Steam Box: a small PC. Running Linux and Steam. If I wanted a PC running Linux and Steam, I'd install Linux and Steam on a PC.

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post #9 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Valve's upcoming push into the living room will place it in an already crowded market vying for space in users' entertainment centers.

 

The difference is that Valve has a lot of recognition and goodwill behind their brand.

 

 


Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

So this is the vaunted Steam Box: a small PC. Running Linux and Steam. If I wanted a PC running Linux and Steam, I'd install Linux and Steam on a PC.

 

You might want to re-read the article. Valve hasn't announced the Steam Box yet, just discussed what they want it to do.

post #10 of 14
A lot of PC games are console ports these days anyway, so I'm not really sure what a PC console would let you do that you can't already do.
post #11 of 14
Originally Posted by ascii View Post
A lot of PC games are console ports these days anyway, so I'm not really sure what a PC console would let you do that you can't already do.

 

Maybe we'll finally get games that aren't just ugly ports then?

post #12 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 
So few people know about this. My friends laugh because I insist on using a wired controller.

It's probably more that they don't bother so much about it. Your brain adapts to small amounts of latency quite well:

http://www.lockergnome.com/news/2012/06/13/wireless-controller-latency-it-problem/

There is apparently a fair bit of latency between machines and displays - Carmack was going on about that issue. The combination of controller latency + display latency could end up being more than a frame or two of video but as I say, people can usually adapt to that pretty easily.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil 
Maybe we'll finally get games that aren't just ugly ports then?

That would only happen if the power was much higher but take the xi3, which is reported to be:

http://ces.cnet.com/8301-34439_1-57562655/xi3-announces-valve-investment-for-piston-gaming-pc/

"the Xi3 7 Series is based on AMD's R-Series APUs, which are quad core processing chips that go up to 3.2GHz, with AMD's 384 core Radeon HD 7660G graphics core built-in. The Series 7 supports up to 8GB of RAM, and can output video at resolutions as high as 4,096x2,160 pixels from a system that requires only 40 watts of power and measures only 4.27 inches by 3.66 inches by 3.66 inches."

The 7660G APU is slower than a Mac Mini with a Radeon 6630M. These machines still cost over $500 (maybe xi3 will be cheaper) and they have power limits under 85W. The consoles have power limits that are around double, half the price and while they use 7-year old GPUs, developers are able to massively optimize the games for them so you tend to find the exerience is about the same. The 6630M Mini is a bit more powerful than the consoles now - gets a much smoother frame rate in the same games at the same quality for example.

The Haswell Mini will make a great little Steam box if the GPU power doubles but it still comes with the technical headaches you get with Windows that you don't get on the consoles. You do get great sales in online stores though where you can pick up games for a fraction of the price. But publishers are starting to catch onto the idea that digital distribution is quite important and they start pulling their games from popular stores to sell on their own store so they get 100% of the profit (I'm looking at you EA).

The idea of shipping the Steam box with Linux is commendable but kinda silly because if it's marketed as a game machine, people are going to expect it to run a lot of games. There are fewer games that run on Linux than run on the Mac:

http://www.pcgamer.com/2012/11/06/steam-linux-beta/

Valve never seemed to show much interest in Linux until Windows 8 (keep in mind Gabe used to work on Windows at Microsoft). Now they are treading on his toes with the Windows 8 store, which will sell games. I wonder how different this is legally from the Netscape thing and even recent multi-choice browser thing. Apple does it too with the Mac App Store (and Safari). Maybe because of the marketshare, they'll force Microsoft to ask if you want to buy a game from Origin, Steam or the Windows Store.
post #13 of 14
Competition in the living room continues to heat up, with game maker Valve revealing its plans to support multiple set-top box devices for playing games and streaming content.

 

And we all thought console gaming was as dead as fried chicken.  Good luck with that.

 

 


He's instead intrigued by biometrics and gaze tracking, which can track input information that users aren't necessarily aware of to enhance gameplay.
 

At least he hasn't fallen into the Kinect trap.  Kinect can only detect large motions because it needs to project thousands of infrared laser dots around the room.  All it sees is the dots and their movement as people in the room intercept the beams before they hit the background.  Impossible to accurately do biometrics or gaze tracking. The hardware is far more complex and vastly larger than a simple camera.  Dead-end technology.

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post #14 of 14
I think that Valve, true to their fashion, will release a highly polished product which is nothing short of ready for a serious crack at taking and controlling a slice of the market.

That slice however, will most likely be people who are already playing consoles. I can't see people like myself who use PCs swapping their all out gaming experience for something they may feel they're being short-changed on.

I really admire the console market, I do. What I really don't like about the industry is the complete and utter lack of innovation behind the doors. There is rarely new, original content being pushed through to the surface, mostly just remakes of remakes of remakes.

Valve have huge potential here, the potential is totally conditional on what they release with the final product. I would anticipate that they'd release the latest instalment of the Half Life franchise, showcasing a next generation version of their Source engine.

If I were Valve, I would want to convert bored gamers into reinvigorated gamers.
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