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Steam Box Could Change The Gaming Landscape

Posted on Sunday, March 4 @ 16:24:33 Eastern by Jonathan_Leack

Imagine this: a console releases with hardware that's twice more powerful than anything of its kind. The console has a thoroughly established online gaming community and tons of features. On top of that, it has over one thousand games available at launch. This might sound a bit far-fetched, but that's exactly what the latest development of "Steam Box" could entail.

In case you think I'm off my rocker, earlier in the week The Verge found official patent documents from Valve which indicate that they have developed a proprietary controller. No, not a PC controller, but one for a day in the living room with your couch. This along with some "sources" suggests that Valve is looking to jump into the console gaming market. Since Valve is arguably the king of PC gaming this is a huge development and one that was likely spurred by the recent and unfortunately overwhelming trend of piracy.

So the idea is that Valve will release a console that has hardware capable of playing not only all current games available on Steam, but future content as well. As such, rumors have suggested that the console will come equipped with an Intel Core i7, 8GB of memory, and a respectable video card from Nvidia. In addition, it would have Steam integrated into its framework with a friends list, store, clan system, and other enticing offerings.

I do have a problem with the rumored specs because while they're good, they're probably too good. A comparable PC would run you around $1000, so unless Valve is looking for a niche market they'll have to find a way to reduce the price point as much as possible. We all learned with the $599 PlayStation 3 that even with a reputable history and a brand name people aren't willing to cough up all of their hard-earned money for a gaming machine.

The rumored specs lead me to believe that Valve isn't going to enter the market in the same way Nintendo, Sony, SEGA, or Microsoft did. Instead of aiming at the young'uns, family, or teenager types, a Steam Box would likely be tailored for the people who know what they're getting themselves into. It's going to be hard to sell parents on the idea of having access to an expansive library with a high buy-in. However, hardcore gamers are going to see this as a grand opportunity to buy a system for their living room that plays all of the latest games with stunning graphics and an unbeatable online feature set.

If you go back about 10 years before Xbox Live existed, PC gaming was the center of attention for those who loved to compete. Nowadays the community is largely split between Xbox Live and PC gaming, most of which developed at the same time that the console market outgrew the PC gaming market. I've seen in many cases that the hardcore gamers I grew up with ditched PC gaming after growing tired of upgrading their PCs annually.  Since Steam is free and even more capable than Xbox Live, it could have the potential to pull competitive gamers away from the service which hasn't had enough competition this generation.

One thing that is unfortunate is that EA has recently stopped selling many of their games on Steam in order to promote Origin, a competing product. As you can imagine, not having games like Madden NFL, Need for Speed, and Battlefield on your platform is a huge loss, and could probably be the biggest hurdle for the Steam Box. However, Valve has some firepower on its own, and I wouldn't be surrpised to see Half-Life 3 or an equivalent come bundled with the unit to get things moving.

When it comes down to it, Valve has a huge opportunity here to spread its wings and fly. Valve might not have the brand identity that Sony and Nintendo have, but the Steam Box wouldn't necessarily have to compete in the same arena. It could be a mere extension of the already thriving Steam network, which already has some console experience on the PlayStation 3 with games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Portal 2. Quite frankly I'm excited to see what develops from this as Valve has a history of engineering brilliant games and being on the cutting edge of gaming development.
Tags:   steam, Valve
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