Game developer Valve will be pushing out prototypes of its living room download-and-play games box sometime in the next “three to four months”, company chief Gabe Newell has revealed.
The machine, dubbed the Steam Box, is essentially a Linux PC linked to Valve’s online games shop, Steam. Being a PC, it’s easy to build, but Newell admitted that making it suitable for living room use is proving tricky.
“There are noise issues and heat issues and being able to [cope with] that while still offering a powerful enough gaming experience is the challenge in building it,” he told the BBC.
And Valve wants to do more than push out a PC in a console-style casing, Newell hinted, perhaps even including sensor measuring the physiological state of the player.
“If you think of a game like Left For Dead - which was trying to put you into a sort of horror movie - if you don’t change the experience of what the player is actually feeling then it stops being a horror game,” he said.
“So you need to actually be able to directly measure how aroused the player is - what their heart rate is, things like that - in order to offer them a new experience each time they play.”
So can we also expect electric shocks when we’re slammed by a plasma bolt, eh, Gabe?
Valve will need this kind of gimmick if it’s to make any significant headway against the likes of Sony and Microsoft. Redmond has yet to detail the next version of its Xbox platform, but Sony’s PlayStation 4, set to ship before this coming Christmas, is itself a high-end PC that will be dropped into a slim-ish black case. The new Xbox won’t be much different.
Valve is a well-respected name in PC gaming, and Steam is a strong brand in that segment of the games market. But Valve will have a tough time matching the mass-marketing muscle Sony and Microsoft will employ battling each other to win the next-gen console fight.
Of the first Steam Box units, Newell said: “We’ll be giving out some prototypes to customers to gauge their reactions, I guess, in the next three to four months.” ®