At CES 2013, Valve CEO Gabe Newell unveiled details on the company’s “Steam Box” console. In an exclusive interview with The Verge (great read), Newell said that the Steam Box will run a Linux-based OS, come in various configurations (good, better, best), and have biometric features. Unlike traditional gaming consoles, the Steam Box will act as a server that allows a household to play games on a number of screens. Steam Box owners will be able to play games on whatever television screens and PC monitors are in wireless range.
The Linux rumors have been circulating since last year, so that wasn’t a surprise. The server-based gaming is potentially cool, especially for households with multiple gamers or settings like a dorm room. The configuration options are interesting and could help the company reach a wide variety of gamers. Here’s a clip from the interview that expands on the topic:
Good are like these very low-cost streaming solutions that you’re going to see that are using Miracast or Grid. I think we’re talking about in-home solutions where you’ve got low latency. “Better” is to have a dedicated CPU and GPU and that’s the one that’s going to be controlled. Not because our goal is to control it; it’s been surprisingly difficult when we say to people “don’t put an optical media drive in there” and they put an optical media drive in there and you’re like “that makes it hotter, that makes it more expensive, and it makes the box bigger.” Go ahead. You can always sell the Best box, and those are just whatever those guys want to manufacture. [Valve’s position is]: let’s build a thing that’s quiet and focuses on high performance and quiet and appropriate form factors.
The biometric functionality comes from a result of Valve not seeing a way to expand on motion-based gaming. Instead of trying to one-up the Wii, PlayStation Move, and Xbox Kinect, the company will go with biometrics. While I have no idea if gamers will be interested in these features, it’s nice to see a company taking an original approach instead of using a “me too” tactic.
Biometrics on the other hand is essentially adding more communication bandwidth between the game and the person playing it, especially in ways the player isn’t necessarily conscious of. Biometrics gives us more visibility. Also, gaze tracking. we think gaze tracking is gonna turn out to be super important.
While new gaming initiatives like Nvidia’s Project Shield and Valve’s Steam Box are fun topics for me to play with as a verbal entertainer, I’m exponentially more interested in the latter as a consumer. Part of it is that a large part of what gaming — and all of consumer electronics, for that matter — has become boils down to software and services. While Nvidia’s hardware prowess is undeniable, I have more faith in Valve to deliver software and services. While there’s so much that will change before these products are released (and some are questioning if they’ll even be released), as of this writing I’m far more interested in a Steam Box than Project Shield.
How about you? Do you see a Steam Box in your household in the future? What do you think of Valve’s interest in biometrics? Are you more interest in this or Project Shield? Leave a comment and let me know (please!).