Gabe Newell, founder of gaming giant Valve, recently hinted at a potential hardware project
. Recent rumours, however, suggest that his company is looking at making an own-brand console, rather than a gaming peripheral as previously thought.
According to a report by The Verge
, Valve is working with hardware partners to produce a gaming PC featuring a bundled copy of its Steam digital distribution platform.
The deal, claims The Verge, sees Valve produce a hardware specification and software bundle which will be marketed by hardware partners as a 'Steam Box.' We're looking at more than a simple bundling deal, however: the site claims that Valve's plans are to produce PC-powered gaming consoles suitable for the living room.
The site even goes so far as to suggest that Dell's recently-launched Alienware X51 mini gaming PC represents the first 'Steam Box,' with a retroactive upgrade planned to add compatibility to the official Valve spec once the project is announced.
Rumoured specifications for the devices, based in no small part on the already known specifications of the Alienware X51, claim Valve is demanding a minimum 8GB of RAM, an Intel Core-i7 processor and an Nvidia-branded graphics processor. The Steam Boxes will include Steam by default, obviously, but won't lock out store-bought games or rival digital distribution services.
The Steam Box rumour doesn't rule out the possibility of Valve entering the peripherals game, however. A patented filed by the company and published last year offers a glimpse of a proposed game controller with user-swappable components
, based in no small part on the popular Xbox 360 controller.
According to the details in the patent, Valve's vision is of a single controller which can be adjusted for a variety of games. First-person shooter fans, for example, can replace one of the analogue sticks with a trackball for more accurate aiming, while arcade fans can stick with the more traditional twin-stick layout.
While a patent doesn't necessarily prove intention to launch a product, it does suggest that Valve is at least considering the possibility - which could make the Steam Box a very interesting proposition indeed.
Valve, naturally, is keeping quiet on the claims, refusing to be drawn into commenting on the rumour. With hints being dropped of a Games Developers Conference (GDC) unveiling, however, we have mere days to wait to see if this rumour pans out.