Valve is making big moves, however, it’s no longer about the games, well - it is, but it’s also about the box your game runs on. Do the new console players have what it takes to make waves?
CEO of Valve, Gabe Newell, sat down with the Verge to talk shop on their new Steam Box. While tech specs have yet to be revealed, Newell did however outline finer points of their plans behind the fresh home console. Affordability, performance, noise reduction, refined controls, server capabilities and 3rd party integration seem to be the focus (in a nutshell). Is Valve on the right track to snag market from the big 3? In a word: Yes.
Steam Box is poised to have multiple solutions for manufacturers, along the lines of “Good, Better or Best,” as Newell puts it. The “Better” version is set to feature a dedicated CPU and GPU, which is the iteration slated for more focused control. “Good” falls under low-cost, while “Best,” as the title suggests, is the cream of the crop, and according to Valve’s head honcho, those renditions are up to the manufacturer.
The benefit of giving options like this just widen the casting net for more consumers. Different skus are good for those who may be shied away from the top tier price tags. Microsoft and Sony throw skus out like they’re going out of style - even Nintendo, who usually doesn’t play ball that way, has entered this generation with two options for potential buyers. The real treat from Valve is seeing what 3rd parties offer, as far as low-cost and top shelf hardware go.
On the software side, you have Steam, however, now there’s the TV friendly plugin, Big Picture Mode. In addition, Valve plans to expand Steam for individualized marketing. In other words, anyone will be able to create their own mini Steam store, tailor made for their audience/preferences. “Some people will create team stores, some people will create Sony stores, some people will create stores with only games that they think meet their quality bar. Somebody is going to create a store that says "these are the worst games on Steam."” Gabe Newell describes. “Our view has always been to provide tools for customers and tools for partners.”
The advantage, if you’re already a Steam user, is you can bring your entire library to the table with BPM. Furthermore, especially, if you’re a developer, you can manage and sell your own IPs. Imagine Steam stores dedicated to studios like Telltale Games, Gearbox Software, Unknownworlds, BioWare, SOE, etc. And this is just the tip of the iceberg, one must also consider what individual users might create. Lord knows there’s plenty of unsung programmers out there who would love to be able to have an opportunity to promote their work under Steam like this. A game space of your own.
In case you were wondering, yes, games are still an integral part of this grand plan. Currently, Steam’s workshop has programmers right now creating content for customers that, in Valve’s eyes, “needs to span multiple games,” Newell points out. “It’s like this notion that there’s just a game seems to be going away; games are starting to look like an instance of some larger experience.” Part of this bigger experience includes pro players, a channel of gaming that doesn’t quite get the same limelight as the mediums these professionals have mastered. For Valve, they think of these players as, “a user-generated content person with a particular kind of content that they’re generating. How do we help them reach an audience?”
The reality? Valve Software is still very focused on gaming, but the vision goes beyond the conventional philosophy and the Washington based studio isn't doing this alone. User generated content/feedback serve as a huge advantage to the industry’s future and Valve looks to have a better grasp on this than the big 3 perhaps.
The bottom line? Valve has their head in the right space and has meticulously prepared for an evolution that now places them in a fantastic position to expand video games to a new, yet familiar realm. In the past, people made games and we played them, period. Today, especially with Valve’s vision, we all get to participate cooperatively, spreading a wealth of knowledge and ideas that prove more prosperous to everyone than anything else. Valve is on to something and Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo better take note. Game on, we shall all do like never before.