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Valve SteamBox: Confirmed

December 9, 2012

newsGabe Newell has confirmed that Valve is working on releasing hardware, a living room PC, that will openly compete with the next generation of consoles.  Currently, Valve is porting “Big Picture” to Linux, which will almost certainly be the kernel for their proprietary, controlled-environment OS.  They anticipate that other companies will provide alternate hardware solutions for the living room that also run Steam and Big Picture.

If you will allow the pun, this is a game changer for me. I didn’t even bother with Sony this gen and it isn’t even on my radar for the next gen. All my buds are on the 360, but it is in its 15th round, ready to take the belt and retire. With Epic basically imploding, Microsoft has very little “exclusive” content to tempt me (us), especially when I consider that their next gen machine is almost certainly going to be of underwhelming (or at least, short-lived) hardware components. If we were to make the transition to a living room PC, then suddenly, we don’t have to deal with all the proprietary peripheral BS. Seriously, the headset/HD fiasco alone would fund several units.

I am not making any decisions yet, but I will be keeping a very close eye on all news related to Microsoft’s and Valve’s next systems. Unless the developers shut out Valve (which will not happen), I may find myself ready to jump out.

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5 Comments
  1. Blankman permalink*
    December 9, 2012 11:19 pm

    I remember talking about this months ago when rumors of a Valve console & Big Picture concept hit the web. As always, Newell & his henchmen are waiting for others to do the heavy lifting. Then, Valve will swoop in & benefit through others’ hardwork because they simply have the dollars to promote it. Steam will continue to be the digital game delivery driving force since gamers are not adopting Gamestop’s PC App or GFWL. In fact, publishers have already started jumping ship. I don’t see the Valve box costing more than $250 (if they actually come out with their own machine) & wouldn’t it be something if it had a solid state drive? Woah.

    As far as the 360’s successor goes, I’m in although I’ll most likely wait a bit until all of the initial model kinks get ironed out. Trust me, we will still be on our 360s for awhile until we all make the jump. After that, it’s a domino effect. XBL is the cat’s meow. Title exclusivity is starting to go the way of the dinosaurs with development costs skyrocketing out of control. Yeah, I know that MS just launched their newly-minted Black Tusk studio, but that’s just a move of desparation since Lionhead turned out a dud in the latest Fable game. Rare is essentially a XBL avatar/Kinect-game developer now. 343 is really the only thing that MS is hanging their hats on. As in terms of third-party developers, we don’t know what the heck is going on at Epic Games. EA, Activision, Ubisoft, Sega, Capcom, & Square Enix round up the publishers that have deep enough pockets to keep pumping out games. Sony, on the other hand, is dead to me. Period. No need for discussion on my reason for not sinking my hard earned coin on another doorstop.

    BTW: “Going the distance” means finishing all twelve rounds of a boxing match, not fifteen, Mike. Oh jeez, Jimmy has no idea who the heck Manny Pacquiao is and now fifteen rounds from you? Ha! You did make me chuckle though, Mike!

  2. December 10, 2012 3:28 am

    Ha ha ha Back in the day, before Mike Tyson, when matches actually lasted more than a punch or two, it was 15 rounds, baby! I watched Rocky go the full distance with Apollo, like five times!

    Seriously though, I didn’t know they dropped it down to 12, and the only reason I can think of for doing so is that maybe with the strength in each punch that comes from ‘roids or servin’ a nickle in the joint pumpin’ iron, the risk of life threatening injury is simply too high. Gotta cut the time in the ring down. Either that, or they couldn’t sell long matches to the networks. Glad to give you a chuckle! 😀

    As for the game machines, thanks for compiling the info on devs and pubs. That list makes me all the more confident that these Living Room Steam Machines are gonna be playin’ all the big games. You are right about Valve letting the others do the heavy work. I can’t imagine them actually coming to market with anything until 2014, even though they talk sooner. Other manufacturers, may well make Microsoft’s Autumn launch however.

    The social aspect of gaming is probably even more important for me than for you, Kenny, so I won’t be jumpin’ alone. I might, however, be looking to persuade. Steam is already an incredible social application, far more so than XBL actually. However, I have not tested its voice support. Microsoft’s party chat, even with its deteriorating stability, is incredibly slick – and is the single, most important feature of Microsoft’s online premium service. It alone, makes the $100 annual fee worth it, though free would be delightful. I would list the other things like drivers, patches, and updates, but really, Xbox no longer holds that advantage. Party chat, and a controller exclusive gaming audience, are the only true remaining advantages.

    Thanks for replying. I wanted to hear your thoughts on this. This is always one of the most exciting times in a console generation cycle. I enjoy the anticipation and speculation immensely.

  3. December 10, 2012 3:41 am

    You know, if this does end up being a solid piece of hardware (and I don’t see it NOT being one) I may have to go for it. Give a big ol’ “Fuck you,” to Microsoft and tell them to stick it up their ass. I’m looking towards getting the Nextbox720 5000, but if the Steambox becomes the next big thing, I may jump ship and just game on my PC console. The selection in Steam alone is enough to perk my ears up, but add the convenience of consoles to the mix with controller play, mods, huge friends lists, amazing graphics and big specs – well then slap a skirt on me and call me Sally.

    I’m looking very forward to what’s coming with this. Be sure to keep us updated Suns. I’m counting on you 😉

  4. December 10, 2012 4:15 pm

    If you guys hop onto Steam, I’ll be there. First order of business is Natural Selection 2. And Suns, if you have to transition to a mouse/keyboard, Left 4 Dead is the perfect vehicle to do so.

  5. February 5, 2013 6:29 pm

    For my own reference. John Carmack speaks out about Linux and WINE for games.

    http://www.reddit.com/r/linux/comments/17x0sh/john_carmack_asks_why_wine_isnt_good_enough/c89sfto

    I wish Linux well, but the reality is that it barely makes it into my top ten priorities (Burn the heretic!); I use Linux for the flight computers at Armadillo Aerospace, but not for any regular desktop work. I was happy to hear that Rage ran in Wine, but no special effort was made to support it.

    I do get tempted to port to Linux for technical reasons – I would like to use Valgrind again, and Nvidia has told me that some experimental GPU features I would like to use for R&D would be easier to prove out on Linux. Working on open source Linux OpenGL drivers again would also be fun if I ever had the time.

    However, I don’t think that a good business case can be made for officially supporting Linux for mainstream games today, and Zenimax doesn’t have any policy of “unofficial binaries” like Id used to have. I have argued for their value (mostly in the context of experimental Windows features, but Linux would also benefit), but my forceful internal pushes have been for the continuation of Id Software’s open source code releases, which I feel have broader benefits than unsupported Linux binaries.

    I can’t speak for the executives at Zenimax, but they don’t even publish Mac titles (they partner with Aspyr), so I would be stunned if they showed an interest in officially publishing and supporting a Linux title. A port could be up and running in a week or two, but there is so much work to do beyond that for official support. The conventional wisdom is that native Linux games are not a good market. Id Software tested the conventional wisdom twice, with Quake Arena and Quake Live. The conventional wisdom proved correct. Arguments can be made that neither one was an optimal test case, but they were honest tries.

    If you fervently believe that there is an actual business case to be made for Linux ports, you can make a business offer to a publisher – offer a guarantee and be willing to do the work and support. This is what Aspyr does for the Mac, and what Loki did for Linux. However, you probably can’t even get an email returned if you are offering less than six figures to a top ten publisher. This may sound ridiculous – “Who would turn away $20,000?” but the reality is that many of the same legal, financial, executive, and support resources need to be brought to bear on every single deal, regardless of size, and taking time away from something that is in the tens of millions of dollars range is often not justifiable.

    I truly do feel that emulation of some sort is a proper technical direction for gaming on Linux. It is obviously pragmatic in the range of possible support, but it shouldn’t have the technical stigma that it does. There really isn’t much of anything special that a native port does – we still make OpenGL calls, winsock is just BSD sockets, windows threads become pthreads, and the translation of input and audio interfaces don’t make much difference (XInput and Xaudio2 are good APIs!). A good shim layer should have far less impact on performance than the variability in driver quality.

    Translating from D3D to OpenGL would involve more inefficiencies, but figuring out exactly what the difficulties are and making some form of “D3D interop” extension for OpenGL to smooth it out is a lot easier than making dozens of completely refactored, high performance native ports.

    Ideally, following a set of best practice guidelines could allow developers to get Linux versions with little more effort than supporting, say, Windows XP.

    Properly evangelized, with Steam as a monetized distribution platform, this is a plausible path forward.

    John Carmack

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