Microsoft and Sony have been trading blows with each other for the last few months since their new consoles were announced. They were constantly trying to outdo each other with technological prowess and games…
The Valve appeared. You remember Valve, right? That little game company who released Half-Life back in ’98, then set Steam upon the world (as a DRM tool basically for Half-Life 2) in 2004. Well 9 years later they’ve announced their next big Thing. Nothing to do with Half-Life 3 sadly but three pieces of kit which on their own are interesting and even fantastic, but combined will be a force to be reckoned with.
How has Valve ended the console war? Easy! They’re releasing their own console. Microsoft and Sony are using locked down x86 PC parts, but x86 PC parts none the less. So what are Valve doing?
The Steam Box.
How does the Steam Box work? Well it’s a PC, isn’t it? It’s modular like a PC. It’s unlocked and open like a PC. You can tweak it and change it like a PC. It’s an x86 PC just like the one I am typing this on. Due to the fact that they are full-fat PC’s they have a lot of grunt, and because they’re not locked down to the platform if you want more grunt you can buy and stick in a new piece of hardware! Modular Console! About damn time!
Naturally the Steam Box can run Windows, Linux or anything x86 you choose but why would you when there is a rather awesome looking SteamOS! Building upon Steam Big Picture mode released last year the SteamOS takes Linux gaming to the next level. Where the Xbox One or Playstation 4 have no backward compatibility, the Steam Box –and by definition the SteamOS- will have “hundreds” of games that will run natively through the OS and then on top of that can stream from any other PC on your network. What does this mean? Simple. You will be able to stream any of the over 3,000 titles on Steam through your network and onto your TV.
How’s that for a release roster? As yet there have been no more announcements on what AAA games will be running natively on the OS but it’s only a matter of time until announcements start trickling through. On top of this most TV, Movie and Music streaming will run through the OS giving pretty much all of the usability of the other consoles but without being locked down.
Finally, the new controller for the Steam Box is an interesting device indeed. Rather than two analogue sticks there are two trackpads. This allegedly gives enough accuracy to play RTS’ and FPS’ without getting really angry at the sluggish response time of the current console generation.
There are a lot of assumptions. Valve are the kind of company who don’t release something –or even announce something!- without it being everything that is promised. There are still a lot of details that are required, price, range of specs etc… But there are still a lot of questions hanging over the next gen consoles so I’m not worried that we don’t know everything just yet.
An additional massive boon is that if you have an old PC hanging around you can install the SteamOS and use said system as a Steam Box for free. That’s right; the SteamOS won’t cost a single penny! I can’t see how Microsoft or Sony can even try to get into the ring with Valve now. They’ve got everything in place now to change not just the game for consoles but for PC’s as well.
Now give us Half-Life 3 ya bastards!!