Valve Announces 'Steam Machines', Hopes To Improve Living Room Gaming

Valve Announces 'Steam Machines,' Hopes To Improve Living Room Gaming

Hope you weren't too attached to the name "Steam Box" — Valve is partnering with various companies to release hardware that they're calling Steam Machines. These are PCs designed to play games on your television, and they'll compete with the next generation of gaming consoles for control of your living room.

The beta test for these machines starts this year, and Valve is shipping some 300 Steam Machine prototypes to gamers who sign up (and get lucky). Those prototypes will be a high-end gaming machine designed to show off the capabilities of this sort of hardware, and Valve says you'll be able to play "hundreds" of games natively during the beta — the rest will be available via "in-home streaming".

Details are still vague about the actual machines, but we know there will be multiple pieces of hardware. "Beginning in 2014, there will be multiple SteamOS machines to choose from, made by different manufacturers," Valve writes.

That's a pretty big deal — Valve, traditionally a software company, has earned a ton of success and acclaim with its current operations on Steam, and gamers love what the studio has to offer. Valve-branded PCs could pose strong competition for the next-gen consoles from the likes of Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo.

No word on specs yet, but Valve says you'll be able to run multiple operating systems on the Steam Machines. They'll be hackable, and they'll ship from a variety of manufacturers.

Here's how to make yourself eligible to win one of the first 300 Steam Machines:

THE HARDWARE BETA ELIGIBILITY QUEST: Before October 25, log in to Steam and then visit your quest page to track your current status towards beta test eligibility 1. Join the Steam Universe community group

2. Agree to the Steam Hardware Beta Terms and Conditions

3. Make 10 Steam friends (if you haven't already) 4. Create a public Steam Community profile (if you haven't already) 5. Play a game using a gamepad in Big Picture mode

That beta "quest" will be open until October 25.

And via Valve, here's the full Steam Machine Q&A:

When can I buy one?!

Beginning in 2014, there will be multiple SteamOS machines to choose from, made by different manufacturers.

I'm pretty happy with my PC Gaming setup, do I have to buy a new piece of hardware now?

No. Everything that we've been doing on Steam for the last 10 years will continue to move forward.

If you guys are delivering an OS to hardware manufacturers, why is Valve also making its own box?

We're conducting a beta of the overall Steam living-room experience, so we needed to build prototype hardware on which to run tests. At Valve we always rely on real-world testing as part of our design process. The specific machine we're testing is designed for users who want the most control possible over their hardware. Other boxes will optimise for size, price, quietness, or other factors.

How will you choose the 300 beta participants?

A small number of users (30 or less) will be chosen based on their past community contributions and beta participation. The remainder will be chosen at random from the eligible pool.

Should I create lots of Steam accounts to increase my chances of getting selected?

No, that won't work.

What are the specs of the Valve prototype?

We'll tell you more about it soon. Remember, there will ultimately be several boxes to choose from, with an array of specifications, price and performance.

Where's a picture of it? How big is it?

We promise we'll tell you more about it soon.

When will the prototypes ship?

This year.

Will beta testers be allowed to share info about their experience and post pictures and opinions online?

Yes, that really is the whole point. The input from testers should come in many forms: bug reports, forum posts, concept art, 3D prints, haikus and also very publicly stated opinions.

Will I be able to build my own box to run SteamOS?

Yes.

Can I hack this box? Run another OS? Change the hardware? Install my own software? Use it to build a robot?

Sure.

Can I download the OS to try it out?

You will be able to download it (including the source code, if you're into that) but not yet.

If I'm not in the beta, how can I help and contribute feedback?

The Steam Universe Group is where feedback is being collected. Most areas of the group will remain open for participation by all Steam users. Some may be limited to beta participants only, but there will be plenty of ways to contribute feedback for everyone.

What games will be available during the beta?

The nearly 3000 games on Steam. Hundreds already running natively on the SteamOS, with more to come. The rest will work seamlessly via in-home streaming.

What is SteamOS? What's included?

Here's a link to what we said earlier about SteamOS. We'll have more details to tell you, soon.

Am I going to be using a mouse and a keyboard in the living-room?

If you want. But Steam and SteamOS work well with gamepads too. Stay tuned though — we have some more to say very soon on the topic of input.

This is the second of three announcements scheduled this week in order to show the world what Valve's new hardware initiative is all about. On Monday, Valve unveiled SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system designed for living room gaming.

The third and final announcement will be revealed on Friday at 1pm Eastern (Saturday, 3am AEST).


Comments

    Sounds excellent! Easy to hack and install is great. Pricing will really determine success here though. Can they compete on price with the next gen consoles considering microsoft, sony and now nintendo run at a loss?

      There is no pricing. The OS is free, and the Steam Box is as expensive as you want it to be. Valve will likely give grades to Steam Machines so the customer can choose how much to spend. This is a PC disguised as a console for console gamers to make the leap.

        Also would like to know about game pricing. The PS Store, and Xbox Live Store both fail in the lack of and the overpriced-ness of the downloadable full games in their collections.

        This is one area I'd really like to see Steam give a shake.

          Game pricing? It's steam...you know...the guys who have the majority share of Digital Games distribution and are famous for sales...

          Pretty sure nothing is going to change on that end of things, it'll come down to the hardware pricing/availability (presumably much the same as an equivalent PC).

          What interests me is they're obviously leaning *away* from Mouse + Keyboard, and they're serious about controller support, but it looks like the 3rd announcement is going to be their new/preferred input method. Colour me curious.

          Game pricing is something Steam is great at (especially discounts), just have a look for yourself, compared to the PS Store and Xbox Live Store Steam is definitely winning that game!

          It'll just be the same pricing as what is currently on Steam. Why would it be any different?

          You'll still be able to buy a CDkey from Ozgameshop in the UK via email... that won't change.
          The prices on steam aren't set by valve, that's why (apart from during sales) AAA titles still cost $70+

        There is no pricing? Ummm. Steam are selling Pcs. These PCs cost money. Regardless of your budget - squawkly is talking about value. Does a x-spec machine cost greater or less than the(pre-built) machine with same specs from another company? Is it cheaper or more expensive compared to building my own with same specs. Read his last line again. The console makers lose money to sell you a console!!!! Now think -wil Valve lose money (on purpose) to sell you a machine? There is pricing. There is value. There is comparison. There is a market based on kapital comrade!

        Last edited 26/09/13 7:26 am

          They're licensing their OS for companies to use on their own hardware, they're only beta testing to test the OS, not the hardware they're running it on.

            Valve prototype. "The specific machine we are testing".

          Well the OS is free, so that's already a saving over windows.
          The other main distinction is that for companies like Sony, MS, Nintendo, the cost of a console has to include research and development.
          Yes Valve still has those costs, but building an OS around Linux and using existing PC components would greatly reduce those costs.
          You don't have to develop a new GPU and CPU like Sony or MS, just grab stuff off the shelf (more or less).
          Same with compatibility. Linux for the most part already runs on currently available "normal" PC hardware. So all Valve have to do is optimise the experience, make agreements with hardware companies and do testing.

          I'd say that if they sell a machine for a similar cost to a next gen console, they will not be losing money on it.
          Also since Valve won't be doing the selling, they don't take any of the risk. The hardware companies will sell the machines. You can already by small powerful PCs from gigabyte for example. Valve will just provide the OS.

            Yes but the price point is still relevant. The loss doesn't have to be hardware. The free OS is an economic loss as is support structure. Yes the initial outlay is minimal compared to console but it's the whole package. E.g. valve loses $20 for each new box sold.

              considering valve won't be making or selling the hardware, I don't think they'll operate at a loss.
              Steam is already a free service and they sure as hell don't operate that at a loss. I don't think the new OS will be any different.
              It will be up to the hardware manufactures to try provide the best hardware for the right price. It's the same with Android. Google provides the OS, OEMs provide the hardware. When google did make their own device like the nexus4 (subsidised through LG), that OEM made them at a loss due to Goggle's price requirements. Of course Google made up the difference and there are knock on effects and it was very popular phone, but you see my point.
              Valve may release their own version of a steam machine to get the ball rolling which will probably be sold as a loss, but I don't see the whole ecosystem having the same financial restrictions as the console market.
              The current price of PC games is already testament to this fact.

                I'm not saying it has the same restrictions as the console market. I'm saying that pricing is relevant. I'm saying that valve want the steam name and OS to sell PCs (regardless of Who makes them). Creating and advertising this standard will take a lot of money to get going. The comparative pricing of said machines is entirely relevant to their success.

        It feels more like it's for PC gamers to make the leap into the lounge room. And keep them from converting from Steam.

        The next gen consoles are basically PC's disguised as consoles, too...

          True, but this gives you so much more choice, and you're not locked into a 6-10 year upgrade cycle.

      Actually, apparently Sony and MS are pretty much breaking even on their next-gen consoles.

      Last edited 26/09/13 8:48 am

        Actually, not entirely correct. Ps4 takes a smallish hit.

        http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-09-20-sony-expects-to-recoup-playstation-4-hardware-loss-at-launch

    It will succeed or fail based on price to the consumer. With the next gen at the highest being $500, if steam machines are higher then that it won't be taken up by the casual market.

      Consoles are sold at a loss though, they make their money from game sales. PC games are often half the price of console games, so the more games you buy, the better value it is in the long run.

        That doesn't matter though - if it costs me $450 for a PS4 or $1500 for this, I'll buy the PS4. The PS3 entry point is the best example of this.

          It won't be $1500. I built a mini-ITX machine last December precisely to play Steam Big Picture and XBMC. It runs every AAA modern title on Ultra at 60 fps, it cost me $800 and believe me, I could have cut some easy corners. I would be shocked if the middle tier steam box costs as much as that.

            Alright, but you fail to understand that 800 bucks is still twice the price of a PS4.

              Yes, but I could have also made many concessions and still get a machine that purrs. Plus, if Valve's behind this, they'll be able to exploit economies of scale and make them far cheaper than individual end users, driving manufacturing and sourcing costs way down.

          Yeah but you need to remember the price difference for the games means that over the device's life the PS4 (or even Xbox One) is waaaay more expensive.

          That's a huge exageration.
          More realistically it would be $450 for a console. $400/600/800 for various levels of Steam Machines.
          Each would then be individually upgradable like any PC, which is also a big long term benefit.

            You can't make a PS4 equivalent machine for $400. That aside, the big advantage of being able to upgrade the components? It's pricey.

            This is just a PC. Slapping a Steam logo on it isn't going to make videocards cheaper - so that $800 over ten years gets MUCH higher, while the price of the console is a one-shot.

            This doesn't even touch on PC games in general being unoptimised and chasing the next release card, as opposed to heavily optimised console games within a few years. Millions of people on static hardware is easier to code for over years than a fragmented specs base that changes every year.

          Of course it matters. If the console is $500 and the games are $100 each, vs the Steam Box at $800 and the games at $50 each, the break even point is 6 games. That's where both systems cost $1100. If you buy 10 games, you paid $1500 for the console version and $1300 for the Steam Box. If you buy 20, it becomes $2500 and $1800. That's a $700 price difference after only 20 games - money you could put towards upgrading your Steam Box so it's even more powerful and even more capable than the console, which is stuck with its launch hardware until you fork out another $500 for the next generation, whenever they bother to release it. Not that your games will transfer across, since neither the XB1 nor PS4 have backward compatibility.

            Do people still spend $100 on console games? I haven't spent more than $60 a game this generation. It's not that big a divide.

              Regardless of the actual price, a percentage of every game sale goes to pay for the cost of the console hardware. The only console company I can recall that has mentioned how many games need to be bought to break even is Nintendo with (I think) the Wii U, which was one game. I'd hazard a guess that the other major consoles are probably in the 10 game range, which means anything past that is money in the coffers for the console maker.

    It's going to be interesting moving forward if steamos turns out to be sucessful enough to get hardware makers keeping it in mind for driver support etc.

    Love the initiative - I will be trying out SteamOS on day 1. However, I fail to see how the "Steam Machine" is any different from buying a pre-built PC. The similarities to a console are it's price, in a compact case and the fact it's connected to the TV. Beyond that, it's a PC - you still have the flexibility to hack it as you see fit. The upshot of this whinge? Don't hold your breath for GTA to come to this thing anytime before PC. Unless of course they only offer it as a "streaming" option in which case the content is never on a local machine - until the pirates get it (which, according to history, will probably happen a week before release date). /rant

    They totally missed out on the chance to name it a "Steam Engine"

    So an announcement on input. Steam power glove? Free rift with every machine? Bundled tablet running steamOS? A crowbar?

    Last edited 26/09/13 8:09 am

      More likely a PC controller

        Yeah, I say a controller in the style of Xbox360, which will be hard-coded into SteamOS for perfectly native controller support in all supported games.

          and OS level control. The xbox360 controller works fine in Big Picture Mode, but it's annoying to get it working in windows and to have the start button powering up the machine.
          It's possible but very annoying.

      I'm hoping for some sort of keyboard/mouse combo that can be comfortably used on your lap.

      it's probably a controller but i would think Rift integration would be high on the priority list (at least for a future update).

    This area will be tough for Valve to get into.
    They will be going up against the console giants like MS and Sony and the little guy now (Use to love them Nintendo)

    But something that I don't really understand is the reason why people use steam or PC gaming is so they can use a keyboard and mouse....
    At least this is why I play games on my PC.

    I don't think this will go down as planned for steam.

    What will the support from these guys.
    Would we start to see a price tag to play games online? In some type future?

    Budget gaming is fantastic but new AAA titles will still come with the hefty price tag (Steam does a better job in discounting them later on than other platforms)

    Still umming and arring about this one.
    Personally, I would stick with my Xbox in the lounge room and PC in my man cave.

    Guys think of valves position when it comes to hardware to be that of Google's with Android. Expect to see hardware manufactures Dell/Alienware, MSI, ASUS, Origin, Razer etc release machines that run steamos. But then maybe see steam version of nexus with a approved steambox. What I see from this testing that they will do will be pretty much testing what standards should they send to manufactures for the type of systems that would run best.

    I would have to guess but the test would be US only?

      It reminds me quite a bit of Chrome OS. Iconic, much-loved windows program outgrowing Microsoft with manufacturer support.

    There's a LOT of "we'll tell you later" in that announcement - especially price. They could at least give a price range, or minimum spec list.

    All they're doing is selling PCs.

      Yeah, I really don't see this as anything to get excited about. I can't imagine why the hardcore PC gaming crowd would even be interested in buying an off-the-shelf machine so they can play games in big picture mode on their couch with a gamepad (something you can already do with a regular PC), and I don't see a lot of Xbox/Playstation fans picking up one of these as an alternative to an Xbox/Playstation.

      The hype for this is just a bunch of people tossing off about how much they hate consoles.

        Exactly - most people who are excited about a "Steam Box" or I guess now "Steam Machine" already have a gaming rig and are the same people who complain ad nauseum about consoles or GTA not coming to PC or how they're entitled to pirate that are not up to snuff.

        They just want to see consoles fail and everyone join their master race (just not the hordes of facebook & Sims players that already joined the master-race a few years back)

        Whenever anybody floats the idea of a console that is made by multiple hardware manufacturers I can't help but think of the 3DO - what an overpriced disaster that thing was.

        Last edited 26/09/13 9:50 am

        thing is, you don't have to buy new hardware to benefit from these annoucements.
        I already have a HTPC that runs steam but having a native OS on it that handles all my entertainment needs would be awesome.
        And if I can stream from my gaming rig, I won't need to upgrade the GFX card in the HTPC, only my main PC. Plenty of PC games are just better with a controller.
        Or I can boot my laptop into steamOS and plug that into my TV.

        There are benefits. I think it's great that people are getting options. I'm not sure why everyone is complaining about having options.

        As for an alternative to a console... if the prices are similar, you get more features, don't have to have a bloody kinect, have a huge range of cheaper games and indie games... then why not? If you want to look at it as a new competitor in the console market then that's cool too. Why is that a bad thing?

          Because it's just a console that accesses your steam library. I already have a PC that does that.

          I'm not saying it's a bad thing. I'm saying that it's market value is incredibly limited.

          Don't want to update your current PC? Sure! Let's go buy a Steam Machine that they're not even ready to reveal the price on.

          Last edited 26/09/13 11:57 am

            All you're saying is it's not right for you. You are not the whole market.
            I don't need one either, I have a gaming rig and a HTPC, but I can see the purpose and the possibilities.
            Here's what I think they will do
            http://www.kotaku.com.au/2013/09/tell-us-dammit-will-you-buy-a-steam-machine/comment-page-1/#comment-1942996

              I'm not the whole market, but I don't think your predictions demonstrate a firm grasp on the market either. A $250 steam machine that only plays cheap indie games? Seriously?

        Jeez. Someone announces something, no one has said anything yet and you still come out with this.

        I have a PC and I'm extremely happy with it. I won't be getting a Steam box because I have quite a decent PC. Some, however do not own nor do they have the patience, interest or will to construct their own PC from scratch. Some of these people include: most of my friends and my dad.

        Provided the Steam machines will be inexpensive or at least relative to modern gaming hardware prices (remember that this isn't a console, it's a substitute gaming PC) and easy to use, I can see a market and it isn't hard to see who it is. I don't think Valve are at all deluded by how popular PCs are to console and I don't believe (nor do we have any reason to) that they're looking to do the kinds of numbers a console would. I simply never got the impression this was the case, it always felt like a easy gaming PC to me.

        I'm also not excited. I have a PC, I don't want one of these because I'm not the market. I'm absolutely astounded that everyone sees a box with no information and thinks it's come to try and destroy consoles. What I'm excited for are my friends who I've never played PC or indie games with suddenly being able to engage in a conversation about them. It is not a console and it takes such a ridiculous level of arrogance to believe that the community - random people posting on boards - has uncannily discovered a flaw in Valve's design. That Valve failed to see a market. The guys who have done what exactly with nearly all their endeavors? Oh? Thoroughly researched and tested new markets? Yeah, that's what they do.

          I'm responding to feedback elsewhere on the internet, and my deeply cynical view is a response to people who use the phrase "PC Master Race" unironically who will never buy this machine but genuinely think it's great Valve are releasing what is basically a Steam-powered console because they hate consoles.

          I never said it was a bad product, I said the hype over it was wank.

          There's several thousand games on steam.

          Less than 10% work on SteamOS - most of which are $2 Indies or Valve games.

          That's not very good.

    So multiple companies will make the hardware....... smells worryingly like 3DO all over again.

    What would be really interesting is if Valve designed the Steam Box/Machine to only play games that are bought from Steam.
    Then Valve could sell the unit at a loss and actually compete with the console market.

    I have a feeling that for a lot of console gamers, this announcement is too late for them already. They'd have their sights on a PS4 or an Xbone. Remember not everyone buys multiple consoles. I really hope this will be successful though, I won't buy one myself unless a high end version is cheaper than upgrading my pc, but I would expect a SSD in that so chances are it probably won't be cheap enough.

    The thing that people will be wondering though is will they have to upgrade their machines if they buy one. Can they guarantee that games 5 years from now will work on a 2014 machine with better graphics on newer games? When it comes to consoles, the games look better and run better as the console life gets longer. When it comes to PC games, the graphics tend to improve as new graphics cards are released each year rather than people trying to squeeze everything out of today's cards. I know PC gamers will scoff at this question, and I know that a midrange PC today has plenty of life comparable to consoles, but it is a question that people will be wondering about and ultimately, may put them off buying one.

    And the bigger question, what's the third announcement. Source 2 and Half Life 3? I seriously think that it could be that on Friday. What better way to bring the announcement of your own OS and your own gaming machines than by announcing your new engine and flagship game? I'm in a dreamworld aren't I

      I was hoping but the last line in the box out implies an announcement of an input device.

      Has anyone considered that maybe the lowest level of this steambox will be something like what the ouya was trying to do? A cheap device to run the simple fun, cheap, indie games (and stream from a gaming rig if you want).
      That could be an interesting entry level market too. Not to mention that these machines could then be upgradable unlike consoles.

        Given Steam's accessability, that wouldn't surprise me actually. You'd still be able to play a large majority of the games on the store. One thing that a Steam Machine will have over the consoles is backwards compatability. Given that the large majority of console games end up on PC anyway, this should be a good selling point.

        It would need to be absolutely clear though what games you can actually play on your machine though. I'd be hoping for the store to detect what machine you have and only show you what games you'd be able to play, or at least give a warning that settings would be lower than a higher end machine on newer games.

        Also, I hope people like GOG are working on making their games compatible with Steam OS

    Why have different versions of Steam Machines? SteamOS will mainly be used to stream games from your main PC (for the first few years at least). I can see having different ones at a later date when SteamOS can actually play AAA games.

    Way too much tell you soon. Why even bother announcing this if you can't even say anything specific or give a better picture.

      You might even say, a BIGGER PICTURE.

      A haw, a haw, a haw.

    Well if steam lets me share my digital games with friends like the Xbox was when I pre-ordered it, I may be sold

      They announced game sharing already, it's on the way.

        They announced it for the Xbox one too, I'll believe it when I see it

    If I can use it to play Youtube videos on my TV without constantly being told that the video I want to watch is restricted for mobile devices (because I always walk around with my TV and XBox/PS3) I'll be a happy camper.

    If publishers like EA and Ubisoft get on board and release games on SteamOS as well as their own store clients then this thing might just take off.

    All depends on the price and the games though.

    I can only hope that this will be the music that plays when the system starts up

    http://youtu.be/tM9ViORAW0w

    Also, just further to that, to actually contribute something to this discussion... I have a feeling that Valve will be playing the long game with this system they're setting up.

    It won't be all that appealing at the start as it will only play Linux games and will have to compete with next gen consoles. But as it goes along it will get more developer support and as the next gen consoles start to age, the Steam Machines will be able to become much more powerful than the consoles as they're open hardware and that will make them gradually more competitive...

    Half-Life was made by Valve. Valve has/is making 3 announcements, still missing the third announcement. HALF-LIFE 3 CONFIRMED.

    I posted this on the Gizmodo article, I thought it would be relevant to post here:
    This sounds like they are following the Android model. Distribute the software free of charge on an open source platform, but provide a service that works to monetise it without locking the customer in to a walled garden.

    Like this:
    Android OS = Steam OS
    Google Play Services = Traditional Steam

    I am a fan of the business model and both Google and Valve share something in common. The platform choice is almost ubiquitous among their target audiences and this provides a logical progression in to a new market. You also leave hardware development to someone else, as it's not your forte, and you concentrate on delivering great software and services which is your strong suit.

    I can't believe I've not seen the parallels before.

    I just hope the third announcement is about how half-life will continue. Or maybe it'll just be a video of Gabe counting to three to show everyone that he can do it.

    I'll buy one maybe in a small box if I can use it as a media center and if it'll stream games from my super kick ass PC. Otherwise. nah.

    This had better be the song on the hardware trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkEYnXd5VkY

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