Steam Box Resurrection? Valve enters the hardware business

valve steam console

It hired a full-time economist named Yanis Varoufarkis. It opened a Kickstarter-style service to promote indie games named Greenlight, letting people choose which games they want on Steam. It announced last month that it would start selling non-gaming apps. Valve has expanded in expected but profound ways across 2012, but up until this week, it has insisted that it won’t start selling its own hardware.

Not anymore though. Valve is taking on Alienware, Apple, and every other PC maker on the market according to a new job listing on its site. In the past, Valve has said that if it ever produces any official hardware, it would work with a partner. As with so many other things, Valve has decided to strike out on its own after all. In a job posting seeking an industrial designer, Valve explained that the reticence of other companies to innovate is forcing its hand.

“Valve is traditionally a software company. Open platforms like the PC and Mac are important to us, as they enable us and our partners to have a robust and direct relationship with customers. We’re frustrated by the lack of innovation in the computer hardware space though, so we’re jumping in. Even basic input, the keyboard and mouse, haven’t really changed in any meaningful way over the years. There’s a real void in the marketplace, and opportunities to create compelling user experiences are being overlooked.”

Rumors ran wild in March that Valve was preparing its very own console or gaming-centric PC called the Steam Box. Rather than just a vessel for its own Steam community and digital retail businesses, Valve’s machine would support other digital retailers like Electronic Arts’ Origin service. At the time, Valve’s console was said to sport 8GB of RAM, a Core i7 CPU, and a NVIDIA GPU. It would also support HDMI output so as to be living room ready.

The company staunchly denied that it was looking to make such a device itself. Valve founder Gabe Newell said at the time that Valve would rather let a third party handle manufacturing and design. “We’d rather hardware people that are good at manufacturing and distributing hardware,” said the outspoken designer, “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.”

This job posting is hardly confirmation that Valve will actually release a Steam Box console. Maybe Valve is interested in the sort of innovation that Phantom has traded in these past few years. The posting is, however, the start of even bigger changes at the house of Half-Life.