According to a report from Josh Topolsky at The Verge, Gabe Newell and Valve are working on a new gaming console for the living room that’s compatible with Steam in addition to the Origin game download service created by Electronic Arts. According to sources within the company, Valve demoed the hardware to a select group of partners while at the Consumer Electronics Show during January 2012. Designed to play current titles released for the personal computer, the “Steam Box” utilizes a NVIDIA GPU, 8GB of RAM and a Core i7 CPU. It’s also likely that the Steam Box will offer a HDMI connection as a standard option due to the popularity of the format on high definition televisions.
In addition, the hardware specifications would be upgraded at a specific date allowing game developers to plan for upcoming releases. According to the source, this life cycle could be as quick as three to four years. Compared to other gaming consoles, the Nintendo Wii is approaching its six year anniversary with the Wii U targeted during the fourth quarter of 2012. If a new version of the Xbox hardware is released during late 2013, that would mark an eight year life of the Xbox 360.
In addition to the speedy life cycle of the Steam Box, developers won’t be charged any licensing fees to create software for the platform and there’s no developer kit required since it’s on the PC platform. However, developers would still be charged a fee to sell the software through the Steam software platform.
Valve is apparently reaching to to partners to develop the new gaming hardware for the living room. According to an interview with Newell, he stated “We’d rather hardware people that are good at manufacturing and distributing hardware do hardware. We think it’s important enough that if that’s what we end up having to do, then that’s what we end up having to do.” However, Valve would build plenty of software to support the Steam platform on the new gaming system.
During May 2011, Valve filed a patent for a video game controller with “swappable control components” that would allow the player to alter parts on the gaming controller based on the type of game. While it’s unclear if this controller will be used with the upcoming Steam Box, the ability to alter parts may help PC gamers transition from the traditional keyboard and mouse control system. However, the keyboard and mouse setup could also be supported easily with the simple inclusion of support for wireless peripherals connected through a USB dongle.
There’s currently no information regarding the inclusion of a hard drive within the Steam Box. This could point to cloud gaming similar to OnLive’s strategic direction that delivers a video and audio feed of the game through a network connection. If a hard drive is included within the Steam Box, the device could branch out beyond gaming and move into the territory of digital video recorders like TiVo. Even without a hard drive, it could easily support Internet video similar to the Boxee Box.
That would also challenge Apple’s upcoming revision of the Apple TV rumored to be discussed during the Apple iPad 3 presentation on March 7. However, Valve would have to work with services like Netflix, Hulu Plus and Vudu to enable several media options prior to the release of the Steam Box. According to Topolsky’s sources, the Steam Box may be revealed next week at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, California. However, Valve may also wait until E3 during June to officially release details on the Steam Box.