Over the course of this week Valve has made three announcements that outline its plans for the future of Steam, its digital distribution platform. There’s a lot to take in, and many questions that still need answers. Here’s a summary of what we’ve learned this week.
Valve has developed a new Linux-based operating system “built around Steam itself.”
The free SteamOS will be available on “living-room machines.” It will run Steam and a handful of other media services which are yet to be announced, but think Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu: basically similar services to those we can access on current-gen consoles.
SteamOS will be built to run Steam with large TV screens. It’ll likely be easier to use SteamOS on a living room machine rather than manually connecting your gaming PC to your TV monitor.
However, many of the thousands of games currently available to play on Steam are not yet compatible with Linux. Expect a full list of supported games much nearer SteamOS’s public release.
SteamOS is also able to stream Windows and Mac games from a PC/Mac. That means that if you run Steam on your normal gaming PC, you can use a living-room machine with SteamOS to easily play these games on a larger screen.
SteamOS will be available to download for free “soon.”
The second announcement of the week was that of the long awaited Steam Box. While Valve seems to call them Steam Machines, we’ll just stick to Steam Box: let’s face it, that’s what we’re all going to call them.
There will be a series of Steam Boxes produced by third-party manufacturers (ie: Valve themselves won’t produce them), each with different specs and prices. They will run SteamOS.
Valve aims to ensure that all the Steam Boxes are ‘open’ and fully upgradeable, unlike PlayStation and Xbox consoles.
We haven’t yet seen what any of the actual Steam Boxes will look like. A handful of prototype Steam boxes are being sent out shortly, with Valve’s partners releasing retail versions in 2014.
The third piece of the puzzle is Steam’s controller.
In place of the usual analog sticks, the Steam Controller has dual trackpads. Valve claims that the precision gained from this approach is comparable with that from a mouse.
The centre of the controller is taken up by a touch screen. Game developers can utilise it to display menus or maps or other information, similar to the functionality of the Wii U’s controller.
There are sixteen buttons on the controller. Valve aims for every Steam game to be playable using the Steam Controller. The controllers will be compatible with every version of Steam, not just through Steam Boxes.
The Steam Controller will be available to buy in 2014.
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