Highly esteemed videogame developer Valve planned three announcements for the week of September 23. The first announcement was on Monday and was “Steam OS,” a free Linux-based operating system based around their Steam platform available for “living room devices.” The second of the three announcements came on Wednesday morning and was the long rumored “Steam Box,” as they announced “We have designed a high-performance prototype that’s optimized for gaming, for the living room, and for Steam. Of course, it’s also completely upgradeable and open.” According to reports from IGN, Valve is working with a variety of partners to bring a number of Steam-based gaming machines to retail market by next year. Valve also announced they will be selecting roughly 300 users to beta test the hardware and interested users are requested to login to their Steam account, access their quest page before October 25, 2013 to check their eligibility as there are a number of other requirements to be eligible to participate.
Gamers holding out hope for a Half Life 3 announcement are sure to be disappointed, but with the first two announcements centering around hardware and the OS to power it, the next logical step was to announce a controller or input device for the machine. That is exactly what Valve did today with the announcement of the “Steam Controller.” The controller breaks the traditional mold, opting for two high-resolution trackpads rather than the dual analog sticks that console gamers may be used to. According to Valve, the trackpads allow for a much greater degree of precision than has been previously available to console gamers, with the whole idea to make traditional “mouse and keyboard” games more easy to play on a television. Both of the trackpads also serve as buttons that can be pushed or clicked in as well.
Other highlights of the controller include a touchscreen in the center of the controller that also doubles as an additional button while allowing gamers to have access to a near infinite number of commands without having an infinite number of buttons. Speaking of buttons, the controller has 16 of them and they have been strategically placed with frequency of use, precision and comfort being the driving force behind their placement. Southpaws have reason to rejoice as the controller and button placement have been designed to be symmetrical so left handed gamers will be able to configure the controller to their liking via software. Valve also mentioned that the device is “designed from the ground up to be hackable,” and they look forward to seeing what gamers come up with once the device is released.
As someone who has played most of the watershed titles in PC gaming history but have always preferred the controller to the mouse and keyboard setup, this week’s announcements from Valve have been more than welcome. It’s no secret that PC games are usually superior to their console counterparts, whether it be in the form of better graphics, gameplay options, free updates, as well as community mods, all while usually being $10 cheaper than their console offerings. You also don't have to pay for an online service such as XboxLive or PSN+ to play your games either. One of consoles gaming’s biggest shortcomings is the overwhelming amount of titles that don’t allow you to remap your buttons to something that works for you and with this week’s announcements, Valve is looking to bring PC gaming, along with all the benefits that come with it to your living room television sometime next year. Despite the fact that there was no Half Life 3 announcement this week, Valve’s announcements have made it an even better time to be a gamer than it already was. What do you think of this week’s announcements? Let me know it the comments section below.