Valve has confirmed that it will be making a foray into hardware, with its Steam set top box expected to debut next year.
Speaking with Kotaku, Valve boss Gabe Newell appeared to confirm the company will begin selling a hardware system that would link up to a TV, with games downloadable through its online store.
Newell’s comments follow months of speculation that Valve will begin to provide hardware for the living room. The company made a step towards this earlier this year by creating a Big Picture mode that allows content purchased through Steam to be optimised for larger screens.
Steam has so far made its fortune selling PC games – enticing customers with tempting deals that has turned enormous software libraries into something of a meme.
Supporting PC gaming in the living room will be a very “controlled environment”, blurring the lines between a PC and a console. “In a sense we hopefully are gonna unify those environments,” Newell said, adding that he expects other companies will do the same.
By throwing its hat into the ring, Valve could make life difficult for some of the big name console producers. Along with Valve’s open source platform, the Kickstarter funded Android console, Ouya, is also in development, priced at under $100. Ouya is expected to see a release in 2013.
Although these consoles might not have the power that could be expected from the typical console makers, the smaller price tag could tempt some gamers away from spending hundreds on a high end, marquee name console. This would be bad news for the big console manufacturers which often have to sell hardware at a loss to begin with.
By the time the next generation consoles debut, the living room could be a lot more crowded than when the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 were released.