Valve's Gabe Newell has all-but confirmed the existence of the Steam Box, a PC-based console designed to bring 'proper' gaming into the living room.
Hints that Valve has been working on a console product have been around for quite some time: recently, the company has been hiring hardware specialists including noted hacker Jeri Ellsworth, who designed the C-One single-board computer
. The company has also been porting its Steam digital distribution platform to the open-source Linux operating system
, a move which would allow the company to create a games console without having to pay Microsoft a licensing fee for Windows 8 - an operating system Gabe Newell has described as 'a catastrophe
Up to now, however, Valve's staff have been tight-lipped on whether all this work will lead to an actual shipping product. While Newell has commented on his company's hardware goals, he has concentrated on a biofeedback peripheral device
, not mentioning anything that could be taken to suggest a Steam Box console launch.
Speaking to Kotaku's Jason Schreier
following the Video Game Awards, Valve boss Newell confirmed in so many words that the Steam Box is real. 'I think in general that most customers and most developers are gonna find that [the PC is] a better environment for them,
' Newell explained. ''Cause they won't have to split the world into thinking about 'why are my friends in the living room, why are my video sources in the living room different from everyone else?' So in a sense we hopefully are gonna unify those environments.
'We'll do it [release a living-room gaming console,] but we also think other people will as well,
' Newell reportedly told Schreier at the event.
Although hardware specifications weren't up for discussion, Newell did confirm one unsurprising fact: the Valve Box will be a significantly more locked-down experience than a 'real' gaming PC. 'Well certainly our hardware will be a very controlled environment. If you want more flexibility, you can always buy a more general purpose PC. For people who want a more turnkey solution, that's what some people are really gonna want for their living room.
From Newell's comments, and work already released by Valve, it's easy to guess what form the Steam Box will take: a small form factor computer with a reasonable graphics card, running a customised variant of Canonical's Ubuntu Linux distribution - the version of Linux already chosen for the Steam for Linux Beta programme - that likely boots directly into a version of Steam running in the living-room friendly Big Picture Mode.
All that remains to be discussed: a release date and a price.