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Valve said to be working on Steam Box gaming consoleFollow

#1 Mar 04 2012 at 5:43 AM Rating: Decent
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Exclusive: Valve said to be working on 'Steam Box' gaming console with partners, could announce at GDC

Recently there's been chatter that Valve — the company behind the massively popular gaming service Steam — has been considering getting into the hardware business. Specifically, there have been rumors that the company has been toying with the idea of creating a proper set-top console which could potentially pose a threat to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Valve co-founder Gabe Newell even recently told Penny Arcade: "Well, if we have to sell hardware we will."

At a glance that would simply be interesting fodder for a gaming forum debate, but we've uncovered information that suggests that not only has Valve been secretly working on gaming hardware for the living room, but that the company is actively pursuing a strategy which would place Steam at the center of an open gaming universe that mirrors what Google has done with Android. Backing up that concept, in the same interview we quote above, Newell says that Valve doesn't really want to do hardware on its own, stating, "We'd rather hardware people that are good at manufacturing and distributing hardware do [hardware]. We think it's important enough that if that's what we end up having to do, then that's what we end up having to do."

That jibes pretty well with this rumored arrangement.

According to sources, the company has been working on a hardware spec and associated software which would make up the backbone of a "Steam Box." The actual devices may be made by a variety of partners, and the software would be readily available to any company that wants to get in the game.

Adding fuel to that fire is a rumor that the Alienware X51 may have been designed with an early spec of the system in mind, and will be retroactively upgradable to the software.

Apparently meetings were held during CES to demo a hand-built version of the device to potential partners. We're told that the basic specs of the Steam Box include a Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GPU. 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.

Part of the goal of establishing a baseline for hardware, we're told, is that it will give developers a clear lifecycle for their products, with changes possibly coming every three to four years. Additionally, there won't be a required devkit, and there will be no licensing fees to create software for the platform.

We're hearing that a wide variety of USB peripherals will be compatible with the boxes, though it will likely ship with a proprietary controller. It's possible that the controller will even allow for swappable components, meaning that it can be reconfigured depending on the type of game you're playing. Think that sounds odd? Well Valve filed a patent for such a device last year.

Additionally, we're told that the kind of biometrics Valve uses in game testing will somehow be incorporated into these devices. Sources of ours say that the realtime biometric feedback in games will be a sea-change for users. To put it more succinctly, the sentiment we've heard is: "You won't ever look back." These biometric devices could come in the form of a bracelet, or be part of the standard controller.

The consoles will also take advantage of Steam's "Big Picture" mode, a feature Valve touted last year at GDC, but has yet to release to the public. According to the company's press release in 2011 "With big picture mode, gaming opportunities for Steam partners and customers become possible via PCs and Macs on any TV or computer display in the house."

The most interesting piece of this puzzle may be related to that statement. According to sources, the Steam Box isn't intended to just clash with current gaming consoles. Rather, Valve wants to take Apple and its forthcoming new Apple TV products head-on. Newell has clear questions about Apple's strategy, telling the The Seattle Times "On the platform side, it's sort of ominous that the world seems to be moving away from open platforms," adding that "They build a shiny sparkling thing that attracts users and then they control people's access to those things."

The Steam Box could be unveiled at GDC, though we're also hearing that the company may wait until E3 this year to show off what it's been working on.

One thing is for sure, however: if these rumors turn out to be correct, there could be a whole new kind of battle for control of your living room happening in the near future. Of course, much of this is pieced together from a variety of sources, and there could be moving parts which we can't see. Some of this information could change.

We've reached out to Valve for comment, and will update the post with any new information we receive.

http://www.theverge.com/2012/3/2/2840932/exclusive-valve-steam-box-gaming-console


Followed up with...

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Is This a Photo of Valve’s Rumored Console, Or At Least a Prototype?

Less than 24 hours since the website The Verge reported that Valve is working on a video game console, we've got what could be a photo of a prototype unit.

The image comes from the Twitter feed of Valve employee Greg Coomer. It was Tweeted on November 2, with the caption: "Built this tiny PC. i7 quad core, 8GB ram, Zotac Z-68 mobo w/ onnboard Nvidia mobile gfx. Runs Portal 2 FAST. "

Yesterday, The Verge reported that Valve was making a console—or at least a hardware standard—for Valve-supported gaming and that: "We're told that the basic specs of the Steam Box include a Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GPU."

The specs line up.

But take this with a grain of salt.

Full size
I can't confirm that the Valve is really making a console (they've not replied to a request for comment). Nor can I confirm that Coomer was working on such a project.

But the specs match well enough to suggest that whatever The Verge thinks Valve is up to matches what Coomer was up to on November 2. The machine seen in Coomer's pic looks to be, essentially, a shell built around a Zotac Z68-ITX WiFi platform, which you can see pictures and specs of on its official product page.

I was shown the image earlier this evening by an eager tipster of unknown identity who said they wanted to share more details. They urged a quick reply, and when none came as quickly as hoped, they followed-up with the following about Coomer...

This is all from the tipster:

There's this one Valve veteran who was definitively too chatty in the past. His name is Greg Coomer (http://www.valvesoftware.com/company/people.html), he's a product designer and leading the SteamBox-team, which is pretty unspectacular in size with just 5-10 people working on it. Now, Greg sometimes tweets interesting stuff:

(in a non-chronological order)

Date: 22 Oct 2011
Link: https://twitter.com/#!/gregcoomer/status/127560965821693952
Tweet: "What I'm working on: http://t.co/jDLQnxvl"
Note: Read the article and especially Gabe's statements. It's obviously about a possible Valve console.

Date: 14 Oct 2011
Link: https://twitter.com/#!/gregcoomer/status/124651468501434371
Tweet: "Building a mini-ITX form factor PC is hard. Even things like wiring the power supply are not standard or straightforward."
Note: Well …

Date: 3 Nov 2011
Link: https://twitter.com/#!/gregcoomer/media/slideshow?url=pic.twitter.com%2FuVdGOtZq
Tweet: "Built this tiny PC. i7 quad core, 8GB ram, Zotac Z-68 mobo w/ onnboard Nvidia mobile gfx. Runs Portal 2 FAST."
Note: This is the demo unit they used to demo the Big-Picture-Mode to possible hardware partners at CES 2012. This specification DOES NOT necessarily reflect what's going to be used as the "baseline" specification for the final product(s). (contrary to Joshes' story)

That's just a snippet of all the information I've gathered about this project. However, I think these tweets pretty much confirm that Valve is actually working on a console (-like PC).

You may take screenshots of the tweets – just in case they get pulled.

While I was following up and trying to verify this information, the tipster spilled those same details onto the 4Chan message board.

There's plenty of reason to be skeptical here. The October 22 "What I'm working on" Tweet links to a Seattle Times interview with Valve boss Gabe Newell that includes speculation about Valve making hardware, but it is more generally about Newell's wariness of Apple's closed system. There are many things Coomer could have been working on that involved Newell's Apple concerns, though I should also note that The Verge said that Apple's closed system was a motivating factor for making this rumored hardware.

The Coomer Tweets neither support nor refute The Verge's many other details about a configurable controller or an incorporation of biometric feedback into the gaming experience.

Is our eager tipster on to something? Or are they piecing together some extraordinary coincidences? I cannot verify their claims that there is a console team at Valve, let alone that it consists of a paltry 5-10 people.

I've asked Valve for comment about Coomer's involvement in hardware that matches what The Verge reported.

For now, one wild story just got wilder.

http://kotaku.com/5890275/is-this-a-photo-of-valves-rumored-console
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#2 Mar 04 2012 at 6:36 AM Rating: Good
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One guy decides to build a small gaming PC for the office, and everyone blows it out of proportion. Smiley: oyvey
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#3 Mar 04 2012 at 9:14 AM Rating: Decent
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Hmm I thought my Steam Gaming console was my PC, ill have to check into that again.
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#4 Mar 04 2012 at 10:02 AM Rating: Good
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I can't believe they are. Their focus isn't in engineering--it wouldn't be wise for them to try and compete with the resources Sony and Microsoft have at their disposal, and Nintendo has already carved out their niche market picking up the gamers who aren't looking for the most powerful machine.
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#5 Mar 04 2012 at 10:07 AM Rating: Good
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I thought Steam's niche market was "People who like to save money on games 2-3 months after release."
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#6 Mar 04 2012 at 11:31 AM Rating: Good
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Being superior to their competitors in every possible way helps, too.

(Okay, I'm just bitter because Origin won't let you create a shortcut to your games from the desktop. I had to go into my files and do it that way).
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#7 Mar 04 2012 at 7:52 PM Rating: Default
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Another bit of Steam news.

Quote:
Free Steam Mobile App Now Available
2 Mar 2012

The free Steam application is now available for all users of iOS and Android devices.

Grab the app now and chat with Steam friends, browse the community, read the latest gaming news, stay on top of unbeatable Steam sales, and more!

For more information, please visit steampowered.com/mobile.

http://store.steampowered.com/mobile
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#8 Mar 04 2012 at 8:19 PM Rating: Good
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idiggory, King of Bards wrote:
Being superior to their competitors in every possible way helps, too

I don't know about every way. Amazon's been kicking their ass for sales so far this year and gave them a proper run last Christmas.
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#9 Mar 04 2012 at 11:09 PM Rating: Good
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I wasn't really thinking of the sales portion so much as the services provided. Amazon's delivery systems are actually pretty terrible, and it does nothing to help developers create palatable DRM.

Between Origin and Steam, though, I can't think of a single way EA's system beats out Valve's.
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#10 Mar 05 2012 at 7:44 AM Rating: Excellent
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I haven't had trouble with their delivery, especially when you just get a key you can activate on Steam anyway. But I've down direct downloads from their client as well without hassle. I was going more off the phrase "ever possible way" in any event.
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#11 Mar 05 2012 at 9:24 AM Rating: Good
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I need to start making threads by cutting and pasting entire articles, sans formatting. Whatever happened to posting a relevant excerpt with a link to the article, so people would be interested and click to read on the original site? Now it's either a link to an article with no quotes or discussion, or copypasta ALL THE THINGS!

/humbug
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#12 Mar 05 2012 at 9:26 AM Rating: Good
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Why be relevant and have your own interpretation and opinions when someone has done it for you?
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#13 Mar 05 2012 at 9:29 AM Rating: Good
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Hang on, I have to go ask gbaji what I really mean to say before I can reply to that.
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#14 Mar 05 2012 at 10:10 AM Rating: Decent
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xypin wrote:
I thought Steam's niche market was "People who like to save 90% on games 22-23 months after release."

nailed me to a tee
#15 Mar 05 2012 at 10:28 AM Rating: Good
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jtftaru wrote:
Another bit of Steam news.

Quote:
Free Steam Mobile App Now Available
2 Mar 2012

The free Steam application is now available for all users of iOS and Android devices.

Grab the app now and chat with Steam friends, browse the community, read the latest gaming news, stay on top of unbeatable Steam sales, and more!

For more information, please visit steampowered.com/mobile.

http://store.steampowered.com/mobile

I got the app for my Droid. It works well enough. I don't really use it for chatting but it's nice to check on deals while away from my computer.
#16 Mar 05 2012 at 11:27 AM Rating: Good
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Jophiel wrote:
I haven't had trouble with their delivery, especially when you just get a key you can activate on Steam anyway. But I've down direct downloads from their client as well without hassle. I was going more off the phrase "ever possible way" in any event.


Definitely fair.

My issues with their delivery system are really centered on two things, and it's partially not their fault. One, I don't like the way they organize your purchases, for situations in which you need to download again. Two, it kills me that you need to download the game before you can access the activation code (at least I have had to for the few games I've purchased from them). Especially irritating when it's an EA game, because they are going to make you download it via Origin anyway. So you spend double the time downloading, when they could have just given you the key from the start.

To be fair, that's partly an Origin issue. But I can't help but feel that it's acceptable to blame Amazon as well, since they could make the keys easily available without a download as well. Maybe you can get them somewhere, but you'd need to go searching.

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Hang on, I have to go ask gbaji what I really mean to say before I can reply to that.


*golf clap*
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#17 Mar 05 2012 at 1:00 PM Rating: Excellent
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I've never had to download a game to access the code. It shows the code (if available) on the screen where you download it.

I know for fact that I haven't downloaded most of those yet. But I have activated Civ 5, DE:HR & Shogun 2 on Steam.
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#18 Mar 05 2012 at 1:12 PM Rating: Good
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It could be unique to EA downloads then, but the file didn't give me the code (or any options) until the download was 100% done, prompting me to the next screen.
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#19 Mar 05 2012 at 1:46 PM Rating: Excellent
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When you purchase something, it asks if you wish to download it immediately or later (it doesn't show the code when asking you). If you pick later, you can see it on the screen I just linked. I wonder if you picked "Now" since you didn't see the code.

I'm just guessing. DA2 is an EA game and you can see that it gave me the code. This was after the EA/Steam schism as well since my code wouldn't activate on Steam (*tear*).

Edited, Mar 5th 2012 1:47pm by Jophiel
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#20 Mar 05 2012 at 2:05 PM Rating: Good
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That's probably what happened--good to know, thanks. Still irritated that the option to download is even available. I don't know if this a game-by-game basis, or overall, but downloading the game files from Amazon will not allow you to install the game. You need to download it through Origin (at least that's how KoA worked, and I did a google search and discovered it was NOT an uncommon issue).

So there shouldn't even be an option to download it from them.
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#21 Mar 05 2012 at 2:13 PM Rating: Excellent
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You might be right for Origins stuff, I haven't tried yet. I did download Cyrostasis through Amazon and it worked just fine.
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#22 Mar 05 2012 at 2:17 PM Rating: Good
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It's fully possible that this would just be an issue with the specific downloads. Still though, since every EA PC game seems to demand Origin from now on, there's no reason to download those from Amazon unless they have a sale (which they are much more likely to do than Origin, in any case).

I miss when EA wasn't trying to make my life annoying. I have ME1 on Steam, and ME2 on Origin. I'm buying a hard copy of ME3, so maybe my third will be freeeeee.
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#23 Mar 08 2012 at 8:02 PM Rating: Excellent
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Valve says Nuh-uh to making a console.
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#24 Mar 09 2012 at 1:21 AM Rating: Good
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Jophiel wrote:
I've never had to download a game to access the code. It shows the code (if available) on the screen where you download it.

I know for fact that I haven't downloaded most of those yet. But I have activated Civ 5, DE:HR & Shogun 2 on Steam.


I'll play Shogun 2 with you sometime.
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#25 Mar 13 2012 at 3:00 PM Rating: Default
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has anyone else heard this thing called the "gabe cube?"
#26Adams2235, Posted: Mar 15 2012 at 1:23 AM, Rating: Sub-Default, (Expand Post) fff
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