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Posible names: "Junction Box", "Dry Riser Inlet", "Jar'o'Nails"
March 3, 2012 4:01 PM   Subscribe


 
Reading the comments on that article really makes me miss the image tag around here.
posted by radwolf76 at 4:19 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


If they put Half-Life 3 on it a year earlier than on other platforms, they will make a lot of money.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 4:19 PM on March 3, 2012 [3 favorites]



Are Valve working on 'Steam Box' gaming console?

I sure hope so.
posted by dubold at 4:19 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have a Steam Box. It's called my PC.
posted by Malice at 4:20 PM on March 3, 2012 [23 favorites]


shutupandtakemymoney.jpg
posted by brundlefly at 4:21 PM on March 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Steam Box better let me use keyboard and mouse as input.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:22 PM on March 3, 2012 [10 favorites]


The Steam Box better let me use keyboard and mouse as input.

I'm sure it will. Valve are and have always been pretty PC-friendly, the slight dumbing-down of Portal 2 for console players notwithstanding.
posted by killdevil at 4:29 PM on March 3, 2012


If they put Half-Life 3 on it a year earlier than on other platforms, they will make a lot of money.

2019 will be an awesome year for gaming then.
posted by Blue Meanie at 4:39 PM on March 3, 2012 [24 favorites]


I have a Steam Box. It's called my PC.

And that's pretty much what Valve's product would look like - an off-the-shelf gaming-optimized PC box, with a pre-loaded and simplified OS, with the costs and setup issues brought down by mass production, and wires to plug it directly into your LCD TV. Given that PC gaming requirements haven't really moved much lately (I haven't upgraded in years! zomg!), it's probably doable to sell a dual core, 8GB ram, 1GB/1Ghz GPU PC minus peripherals for $300.

Lots of people don't game on PC because currently, you have to either build a gaming PC yourself or pay a ridiculous premium for an insanely overpriced premade like an Alienware, complete with ugly neon green case. I mean, try to walk into your local chain store and say you are looking to buy a "gaming PC" and try to leave without spending a thousand dollars.
posted by mek at 4:40 PM on March 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes.
posted by vrakatar at 4:42 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


If this happens, expect Microsoft and Sony to become a lot more standoffish about allowing Steam on their respective machines.
posted by JHarris at 5:02 PM on March 3, 2012


I would buy this. A few years ago I went to Macs for professional reasons and consoles for gaming, but I definitely miss the ease and breadth of PC gaming. A cheap, easy way to PC game on my TV? Sold..
posted by yellowbinder at 5:10 PM on March 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


I second yellowbinder.
posted by pompomtom at 5:15 PM on March 3, 2012


Valve is emulating the model for Apple's success: If you make software and you want to control your fate, you need to make (or at least control) the hardware.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:16 PM on March 3, 2012


As long as the PC itself doesn't become a second-class citizen, I'm fine with this. It would be a way for people to buy a gaming-specialized PC, and if Valve goes for high specs, it'll be a good solid minimum standard that game devs can write to.

The big problem with PC gaming right now is that most things are written first and foremost for consoles, so that even though a current PC has like ten times the 3D horsepower, and about four times as much general-purpose CPU power, games aren't written for that. They're written instead for the hyper-specialized hardware in the consoles, which is all about the shiny. Console CPUs are oriented around making cool visual effects, which is nice, but they're fairly bad for running general-purpose code, especially branchy stuff like AI routines. It was all they could do at the time, but current PCs can match them for shiny-stuff generation on the CPU, while simultaneously running just about any code pretty well. And if you can offload shinies to GPU, which is pretty common, then there's no contest at all.

However, there's one monster sticking point: price. A really solid gaming PC will probably cost you around $750 right now, up to $1K if you want some luxury stuff like the overclockable 2500K chip, maybe $1200 if you need to buy a monitor too. This price is too high for a casual gaming machine. The way that Microsoft and Sony get around this is by selling the consoles at a loss, and then trying to recoup their losses on selling games. It requires very nasty DRM to make the model work, or else people buy the console, and then use it for other stuff (meaning a net loss to the company), or just copy the games outright.

So, if Valve does get into this, their branded PC/console may end up heavily DRM-infested. And, I would argue, that's a much poorer model, from the standpoint of the consumer, than Steam on a nice general-purpose, unrestricted computer. And, to try to push their consoles, Valve would probably need to make PCs less attractive for gaming.

They could, in other words, do hellacious damage to the already-weakened PC gaming scene in pursuit of profit. They have the market power to really inflict some misery.
posted by Malor at 5:42 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, if Valve does get into this, their branded PC/console may end up heavily DRM-infested.

It's a Valve product. I was already expecting it to be running Steam.
posted by radwolf76 at 5:48 PM on March 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


I confirm the i7 is great gaming.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 5:50 PM on March 3, 2012


From the article:
Additionally, there won't be a required devkit, and there will be no licensing fees to create software for the platform.

...The devices will be able to run any standard PC titles, and will also allow for rival gaming services (like EA's Origin) to be loaded up.


If this is true, it sounds like the real point of this is not to create a new hardware platform that Valve controls totally in the way Microsoft controls the Xbox, Apple controls the iPad, Sony controls the PS3 etc. Instead it looks like an effort to produce a single model of PC with known technology and predictable specs to give game developers a fixed target to produce software for, eliminating one of the biggest problems with PC gaming and one of the main reasons consoles have come to dominate the market. Sounds good to me.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 6:04 PM on March 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


"Is" Valve, not "are" Valve. Valve is not an indefinite plural noun. You wouldn't say "Are Microsoft updating the XBox," for instance.

(And with that, I have finally justified my three semesters of journalism school. Right? =) )
posted by andreaazure at 6:04 PM on March 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


That's an argument might get you sent to hospital.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:09 PM on March 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


I don't see any value in dedicated gaming consoles at all. CLANG and OpenCL are some of the most exciting toolchains I've seen in years, and with them comes a level of hardware agnosticism that we've never had before. The key missing pieces are a locked boot loader so the thing doesn't turn into a zombie network and effortless support in hardware and in all games for wireless game controllers. And don't make me buy new ones, either. My PS3 controllers are just fine, thanks.

Oh, and throw a BOXEE client on it or something. SOLD.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:20 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was thinking about FPS control schemes today because of these rumours. The mouse is obviously better for camera control than a joystick, because you can have a 1:1 connection, but is the keyboard best for movement? Binary buttons work because we're used to movement speed being constrained as part of the rules of the game, so having non-analogue input doesn't matter so much, but thumbsticks definitely give you more control.

I could imagine having separate controllers for each hand with something like the PSP's sliding thumbstick for movement (what, I liked it) combined with mouselook. Beyond that, I see games incorporating Mirror's Edge style movement more and more, which requires control beyond just a 2D vector, so adding extra functions to the joystick seems to make sense.
posted by lucidium at 6:22 PM on March 3, 2012


Posible names: "Junction Box", "Dry Riser Inlet", "Jar'o'Nails"

"GabeCube"
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:32 PM on March 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


"Lightweight Companion Cube"
posted by evilmidnightbomberwhatbombsatmidnight at 6:42 PM on March 3, 2012 [16 favorites]


You wouldn't say "Are Microsoft updating the XBox," for instance.

Have you ever played UFO: Enemy Unknown, sometimes knows as XCOM: UFO Defense? No? Go check out the intro video here.

Hear the alarm around 0:34? Is that what it's like in your head when you see a grammatical error on the Internet? Look, a swirly map tells you exactly where this atrocity has been committed! Gather the troops! Power up your Infinitive Desplitters! Spill their filthy yellow apostrophe-abusing guts! God, no! They got Kowalski with an Em-Dash Emitter! KOWALSKIIIIIII!
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:04 PM on March 3, 2012 [14 favorites]


While I'm far from a hardcore gamer, Valve is one fucking awesome company, in my experience. They love their users. If they make a console, you're goddamn right I'll buy it.

Oh, and throw a BOXEE client on it or something. SOLD.

If they can throw a Hulu Plus client in, not only will I buy it, but I'm pretty sure my wife won't make me pay for it with my own money.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:51 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


In any case I will buy it, but spec it with hackintosh capable hardware and I'll put a link on my steam account of a video of thermite burning through my Microsoft PC.

KOWALSKIIIIIIII! Hung up on the participle cannon webbing, succumbed to enemy fire.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:40 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


If they do this, it'll have to look like a companion cube. It'll have to.
posted by byanyothername at 9:07 PM on March 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Read the article. Part of their reasoning for this is because they want things to be open source and license free.

This isn't trying to move PC gamers to consoles. This is them trying to get console gamers to buy a PC. They're just going to trick console gamers by making it a small box and having a game market on it.

The best thing about this is it means poor game developers can make games for something other than just the PC. To make games for Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo you have to pay them. This would be a gaming console with no fee for entry.
posted by toekneebullard at 9:08 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


The best thing about this is it means poor game developers can make games for something other than just the PC. To make games for Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo you have to pay them. This would be a gaming console with no fee for entry.

If it works like this, then this could be game changing.

Since the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System, an essential part of any released console has been the lockout mechanism. The pattern has been to sell hardware at or even below cost, but make it difficult enough to make the hardware execute software they do not approve that developers register for their expensive development platform, meaning A. they can force them to pay the manufacturer per-unit-sold licensing fees for their software, and B. they can enforce ultimate editorial control over what gets made, which has many stupid implications. It also makes it harder to pirate games, but really this has always been more of a distraction. Else, why do console manufacturers charge for developers according to sales?

This began with the NES, which means this system has been in place for twenty-six years. It's always been a somewhat odious system, which is one of the reasons I've eyed Apple's expansion of it to iOS devices, and maybe eventually Macs, with suspecion.

But now hardware prices have dropped to the point where you can make a device not too different in power from a 3DS (though without screens or such) for $35. I recognize that my hopes that some commodity game consoles and computer systems might overturn the efforts and control of hardware packagers -- "Big Computer" if you will -- may be a pipe dream. And this device probably isn't its realization. But it's a persistent dream, and I can't help but think I'm not the only one to have it.
posted by JHarris at 9:58 PM on March 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


It looks like Valve's trying to corner the console market; they have an incredible library of games at many price points. Most of it was meant to be run on ancient hardware and by volume there are relatively few games that need current gen hardware to play well.

How many games can a Core2 Intel CPU and a 9800 GeForce play decently? Upgrade that to a cheap i7 and a 550TI or a HD5770 and I've not run into any game yet where I could complain about hardware with that setup. At 1920x1200, generally on Highs.

Sell a cheap miniPC with a multiple OS emulator at cost and make loads of money for yourself and the talent that has beem making games over the last couple/few decades through Steam. Plus MAME, although there'll be licensing issues. Get exclusive licensing for ports from Sega? Jackpot.

Is Valve a publically traded company?
posted by porpoise at 10:08 PM on March 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sorry, that should be 560Ti and HD6870.
posted by porpoise at 10:12 PM on March 3, 2012


2019 will be an awesome year for gaming then.

The processor itself will be rated at a mind-breaking 25GHz, which sounds great until you find out that the master clock runs on Valve Time.

"Is" Valve, not "are" Valve. Valve is not an indefinite plural noun. You wouldn't say "Are Microsoft updating the XBox," for instance.

You might if you were British, given that it's a legitimate point of variation vs. American usage. You should hear Artw's accent.
posted by cortex at 10:16 PM on March 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


The worst thing for Valve long-term is being shutout or reduced to a second class vendor on its target platforms. It is a similar problem to that faced by Google on mobile platforms and which prompted them to acquire and develop Android.

Is it possible that Valve could roll its own platform emulating the Windows API. This would be a similar approach to Google with their Dalvik VM emulating portions of the Java Mobile API.

Talking about what they could do might just be about negotiating a better deal on Win8. I imagine they would be happy with their own little portion of the Metro UI on Windows 8; right beside the Windows Live Games tab.
posted by vicx at 10:53 PM on March 3, 2012


vicx: "I imagine they would be happy with their own little portion of the Metro UI on Windows 8; right beside the Windows Live Games tab."

God yes. I watched a few videos of Windows 8 -- I'd love to try it but I'm not mucking around with dual-booting again, and I think my e7200 CPU lacks the appropriate bits and pieces to run it virtually -- and it was really jarring when the demo switched to the game store tab and it was this weird Windows Live thing I expect few PC gamers have seen. Steam, despite the best efforts of Microsoft, EA, and others, is the de facto PC gaming store and I heartily approve of whatever tactics Valve use to maintain that, given the consumer-unfriendliness of all viable competitors.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:05 AM on March 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Upgrade that to a cheap i7

Except there aren't any cheap i7's, unless they're talking about the notebook part, maybe?
posted by unmake at 12:17 AM on March 4, 2012




Valve is emulating the model for Apple's success: If you make software and you want to control your fate, you need to make (or at least control) the hardware.

Valve is doing no such thing. They are they anti-Apple in all the ways that are important. I say that as an avid user of two of Apple's devices (phone and tablet) but someone who loathes their business practices.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:23 AM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Is" Valve, not "are" Valve. Valve is not an indefinite plural noun. You wouldn't say "Are Microsoft updating the XBox," for instance.

British English sometimes treats singular nouns with a logically plural meaning as plural. This can include companies, legislative bodies, etc.

A British headline might read: "Couple flee after murder spree"
An American headline would say: "Couple flees after murder spree"

Even though "a couple" is a single entity you can treat is as a plural in BrEng. Similarly:

In London, Parliament are debating the invasion of Iraq. In Washington, Congress is debating the same thing.
posted by atrazine at 3:44 AM on March 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


Blue Meanie: "If they put Half-Life 3 on it a year earlier than on other platforms, they will make a lot of money.

2019 will be an awesome year for gaming then.
"

You know, I'm an optimist too, but there are some things I believe will never happen.
posted by Samizdata at 6:16 AM on March 4, 2012


During the run-up to the latest generation of consoles, I spent way way too much time analyzing my choice about which one to buy. I'd owned a PS2 for nearly forever at that point, and loved it dearly, so I was inclined towards a PS3. But it was coming out significanly later than the others, and was priced quite a bit higher, and the whole HD-DVD versus Blu-ray battle had yet to be resolved. So I waited and waited, until finally they'd all three been released and I hadn't bought any of them. And I still haven't today. Oh, wait...that's not true, we bought our daughter a Wii. Which is great, but which I hardly ever use myself. And the PS3 has apparently been something of a disappointment, I think I've heard? Not sure about that part.

What I DO know, is that my Steam library has well over 100 games in it. And it would have even more, but my PC isn't up to playing the newest titles. Sometimes, the price on something on Steam will drop low enough that I buy a copy even though my PC won't run it. Just storing it away for later.

You'd think my experience with how Sony fell short of expectations would have taught me the foolishness of brand loyalty. But my experiences with Valve products, and factoring in this story, has made me a huge fan. If they released a console, I'd be in line with cash the very first day. I'd probably take the week off work to break it in.
posted by Ipsifendus at 6:27 AM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


UKish English is the uncanny valley of language.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:46 AM on March 4, 2012


People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.

-Alan Kay
posted by lohmannn at 8:36 AM on March 4, 2012




Valve is doing no such thing.

Sorry, that was a little preremptory. Let me elaborate a bit.

Apple's (or perhaps more accurately, Steve Jobs') way has, much to their success, to dictate to their users. Admittedly, they think hard about what their users should be able to do, and they design things beautifully to achieve those things, but they have also worked to create a very closed, controlled ecosystem where they make the decisions and thanks to their clout, everyone else pretty much has to go along with it. Users, developers, content producers and lots of other groups have gone along, because, hey, that's where the money is, and there are clear benefits to keeping things simple.

Valve has an entirely different mindset -- and it's one that Gabe Newell has stated explicitly over and over again in interviews, so it's not a secret by any means. It sounds simpleminded, but it actually does dictate the way they do things, rather than being a Vision Bullet Point that so many companies pay lip service to -- to provide the best service and experience to its customers that it can.

But to do so, Valve's also been a consistent champion of openness and inclusiveness. That's been good for their business, of course, it's not all lollipops and unicorns. Doing things like making Mac versions of PC games available on Steam for any game that has cross-platform versions for no extra charge seems like a good example of that. Steam has almost singlehandedly been responsible for the boom in indie games in recent years, made PC gaming (which many were declaring dead a few years back) vibrant again, contributed to actual growth of Mac gaming, has paved the way for digital distribution as a viable model (a lesson that Hollywood and others refuse to learn from, surprisingly), and has shown quite clearly that a significant (if not overwhelming) number of people who pirate games will actually pay for them if you make the barriers to doing so low enough.

Granted, they've also made staunch anti-DRM people like me come to accept the idea, for better or worse, provided it is invisible, non-restrictive for reasonable use, and does not cause more problems that it solves. Game companies like Ubisoft, with their ludicrous DRM measures that limit number of installs, require single-player games to authenticate constantly to flaky DRM servers, and treat paying customers like thieves, just don't get it. The simple DRM Steam implements (leaving aside other forms of it packaged into the games by individual publishers) actually allows them to add value. I've rebought old games just so I could have them in my Steam library, and paid for games I long ago pirated as well, and install them on demand when and where I want, without needing physical media. The whole social ecosystem around Steam just sweetens the bitter pill, detractors could well say, but I personally find almost everything Valve does as a company rewards me for patronizing them, and I will continue to do so. Much as I love Apple's products, I often feel punished for being locked in to their ecosystem.

So I find it hard to believe that Valve, if they do this, will make any attempt to lock in customers to their own hardware in any way. After all, the box, if it exists, will just be a PC. Presumably a powerful, well-designed, good-looking PC, but it would just be a way to make it easy for customers who want to use their giant TV screens, who like the idea of console gaming but want to play all their games from the sofa, if they choose, who can't be bothered to build or buy their own PC for the purpose, and give them what they want in a nice, easy box.

You have to guess, as I do, that Valve talked with the Big Boys about working together, has probably talked with the recording industry and Hollywood for that matter, and not liked what they've heard. I would imagine that if they do this, they're doing it because of Gabe Newell (and the company as a whole) insisting on the road to success being paved with providing the best service possible to customers, and that just wouldn't be possible with Steam being folded into a larger, restrictive, customer-antagonistic model.

It also subverts the whole Apple/Sony/Xbox way of doing things nicely, if they go about it the way I think they will. Make sure it's easy to run Origin or GoG or whatever other digital download service clients you like. Serve the customer, do not try to herd them like stupid sheep into a single corral, give them choices, and make sure your own services add so much value that they want to use them, but don't cut off the option to use others.

It's brilliant, and if they do it, it might just work. I hope it does, because it shows that Valve understands that there are at least as many grownup, intelligent game enthusiasts as there are whiny children playing games these days, and that treating your customers with respect can pay off. And, like most things Valve does, it would fly in the face of companies like Ubisoft, or EA, or yes, Apple, who too often treat their users like naughty children.

If Apple and Microsoft and Sony have walled gardens, then what I'm hoping Valve might be creating is a well-watered oasis, with unlimited potential to grow, stay open, and benefit everyone who cares about games.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:22 PM on March 4, 2012 [11 favorites]


Make sure it's easy to run Origin or GoG or whatever other digital download service clients you like. Serve the customer, do not try to herd them like stupid sheep into a single corral, give them choices, and make sure your own services add so much value that they want to use them, but don't cut off the option to use others.

In that respect, Steam compares favorably with Apple's FairPlay and other DRM mechanisms that have done a good enough job of staying out of the user's way, that few have serious complaints about them. If Valve wants to keep Steam running strong and keep control over their userbase, they are smart to go the Apple/Nintendo/Sony route of making their own hardware.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:11 PM on March 4, 2012


My thesis, in part, is that they don't have a desire to keep control over their userbase, though -- they just want to deliver a service that is so good and such a self-evident value proposition for their users that people -- like me -- will want to use it, rather than locking people in.

We shall see, though. It's all kinda speculatey at the moment...
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:15 PM on March 4, 2012


Please do not go the Sony route.
posted by adamdschneider at 5:16 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


So could I root this thing to make it into an real PC?
posted by republican at 8:24 PM on March 4, 2012


I have my suspicions that this will be so awesome you won't actually want to root it. The weird thing is that this may finally bring in the best of the thin client advantages without any of the disadvantages. Get your office suite, media creation software, whatever through Steam and be productive with a hardware platform you painlessly upgrade every 2-3 years without having to relicense the software every time any more. Just locked down enough to not need constant IT support without limiting you.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:27 PM on March 4, 2012


I'm at the GDC this week, and seem to have befriended indie game wunderkind and guest speaker Rashid Ishmal, I think the plan is to go to the Valve booth and basically talk our way in, since between the two of us we know like 5 people there anyway. I'll let you know how it goes by breaking several NDAs via my twitter feed as a series of complaints.
posted by hellojed at 10:55 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have my suspicions that this will be so awesome you won't actually want to root it

I strongly suspect that this is impossible. Not unless it's completely open hardware and software, and then you're already root.
posted by JHarris at 1:02 AM on March 5, 2012


What if it were a trusted computing environment with a very lightweight hyper visor that mostly just functioned to keep out boot loader viruses and root kits, but let you load linux, windows, etc...
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:22 AM on March 5, 2012




Valve Deny Steam Box Rumours, Talk Up Big Picture

Another dream crushed, my inner child looks upwards trying vainly to hold the tears back where no one can see them and says "Well, OK, maybe later".
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:50 PM on March 9, 2012


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