I don’t normally expect much to come out of Spike TV’s annual Video Game Awards, but Kotaku managed to score a gem of an interview with Valve co-founder and managing director Gabe Newell earlier this weekend. In his brief exchange, Newell said he expected to see several PC makers crafting Steam-centric gaming PCs for the living room in 2013, and that their products would rival the next generation Xbox and PlayStation.
Newell’s remarks come just days after Valve officially rolled out Steam’s new Big Picture mode to the masses. As the name sort of implies, the new feature (which has been puttering around in beta since September) swaps the traditional Steam interface with a bigger, simpler UI meant for use on televisions and other large displays. Naturally, expect to see this feature get some major play once those living-room PCs finally reach the light of day.
Curiously enough, Newell also repeatedly referred to Valve’s own hardware plans, though it may not have been what some of us were expecting. Rumblings of a Valve hardware play have been making the rounds for months now — indeed, an earlier report from The Verge speculated that the so-called Steam Box could make its official debut at GDC 2012, but the event came and went without any official word on the matter. Naturally, Newell didn’t delve into anything like hardware specifics, but did note that Valve’s potential computing package would be “a very controlled environment.”
Regardless of Valve’s current hardware ambitions, Newell’s comment raises some meaty questions. Will these custom-crafted PCs actually be able to loosen the stranglehold that modern consoles have on the living room experience? Or, better yet, are they actually even intended to? It’s probably way too early to pass any sort of judgment on these things, but I’m still leaning toward “no.”
Sure, modern PC hardware configurations have made it easier than ever to slot a computer into a home entertainment system, but I still don’t know too many people who have gone to the trouble despite the lowering of multiple technical barriers. Even when I do see people around me linking PCs and TVs, it’s not for gaming — it’s for sharing photos and videos with the folks in the same room. That’s not to say that there’s no market at all for computers that cater to the living room (that’s a generalization that’s just a little too out there) but I’m very curious as to what Newell and his colleagues at Valve would consider a success here.
Apologies if I’m being a bit too cynical here (I’ve got a truly stupid number of unplayed games in my own Steam library), but in this ever-expanding war for your entertainment, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with leaving some boundaries left uncrossed. That’s not to say that companies shouldn’t give it a whirl anyway though; it just makes the outcome that much more interesting to watch.