“Valve is releasing a console” Gabe Newell announces to an ecstatic crowd at E3 who are cheering, phoning their loved ones and making sweet, sweet love in the aisles of the expo conference room. This revelation, as Valve probably knows, will mark the end of the long-waging console wars and bring about a new era of gaming that returns to its roots.

After years of anticipation, Valve have released the Steam Box – a home console with enough kick to provide everything gamers want, as well as a sizeable hard-drive to store all their gaming goodness. Reasonably priced at the £200-£300 mark, the console is essentially “Steam in a box” as the name suggests, allowing players to access everything the Steam service has to offer whilst playing from the comfort of their couch.

With no one-off or regular subscription fee, millions of new players buy a Steam Box and sign up for a Steam account, excited at the prospect of being able to enjoy any game they purchase from the Steam Store on their PC or their brand new console. No double purchases necessary. All DRM free.

With gamers flocking to buy a Steam Box, publishers shift their focus from producing retail copies of titles to a purely digital distribution service. It’s not the end of retailer exclusives though as those outlets who have grasped the importance of a strong online service begin to sell games through their websites – continuing the price and incentives battles that gamers have grown accustomed to.

Gamers aren’t the only ones who have been waiting for a console like this, as many developers are just as eager to get gaming back into the hands of gamers. The Steam Box Developer System allows developers to update and patch their games quickly and easily, with minimal cost and no long-drawn out turnaround. An integrated version of the Greenlight platform has also allowed the indie game developement scene, already on the rise, to explode – the majority of the profits going straight to the creators.

No longer having to wait for the next-generation of a console to be released in order to get access to upgraded hardware, the power returns to the gamers who use the sizeable amount of cash they would normally spend on a new console to upgrade the Steam Box graphics card, RAM and other components. This leaves developers with a completely open development platform without having to worry about the hardware restrictions of consoles.

The console controller has often been a heavily-weighted decision factor for consumers when it comes to the purchase of a new console. The open source design of the Steam Box has put hardware development into the hands of third-party producers who are now able to create controllers to suit every type of gamer. Simply download the accompanying software and select your controller layout from the games settings to enjoy your title the way you want.

Steam has previously delved into the world of video distribution, and with a shift in focus on games consoles over the years to serve up more than games, the Steam Box has joined the fray. Premium video streaming services such as Netflix have teamed up with the Steam Box to offer anyone access to their library. All you need is a free Steam account and an account with your premium streaming provider – no additional purchases necessary.

Continuing with the theme of the games console becoming an entire entertainment hub and an increase in making everything we do online social, the Steam Box features a fully integrated chat element. The rise in popularity of using services like Skype and WhatsApp to talk to friends and family has also moved into the console realm and offers a cheaper alternative to keeping in touch – even for those without a Steam Box. Third-party hardware and software makes this a snap.

Hard-drive space restriction has also become a thing of the past with plenty of options to install and upgrade your own HDD as you please. For those who don’t want the hassle of installing a HDD, the option to keep your game library stored in a limitless cloud keeps things tidy and running smoothly. It also allows you to access your games and saves from any Steam Box or PC with an internet connection, or by putting them onto an external memory drive and plugging them in. Yes, there’s LAN too.

Obviously the above article is mostly a work of fiction (Valve are indeed working on a Steam Box with third-party developers), but are we really that far away from this future? In my opinion, the majority of the features gamers want are already built into PC gaming and a smaller, portable, easy to use console version of the platform could very well be the future for couch gaming.

Of course, it would be a miracle if we ever see a world where we as gamers aren’t having to battle with strict DRM, retailer exclusives and the rising cost of games into this general “hippy-love” vibe of gaming where everybody works together for the best of the gamer and developer. But it’s certainly a nice utopian future we can hope for and, with the success of Kickstarted open-source projects like Ouya, we might just get it. One day.

Do you think we’ll ever see a day where gaming will look like this? What do you want from the next-generation of consoles? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Twitter or Facebook.

Categories: Features
7 comments
AndreasSunde
AndreasSunde

You are describing a pc with Steam OS, not a console. Steam on your TV is already a thing, it's called Big Picture Mode.

One of the advantages of a console, is that you don't have to upgrade every couple of years to play the latest games. It also makes it easier for developers to optimize if they have just one machine they need to get it working on, not everything from your grandmas desktop to the latest NASA computer. They either optimize for as much as possible, or set insane specs requirements.

PS3 supports upgrading both internal and external HDD, so that point is moot.

3rd party controllers tend to be pure shit.

And even if we get this "wonderful" "console" to work, can it (legally) play Zelda?

Didn't think so.

Also, I wouldn't call OUYA a success...

DivinePaladin
DivinePaladin

I always love how people assume a Steam Box would sell, when Steam's fanbase already have a more powerful platform in their PCs.  The casual gamer won't care about Steam or the theoretical Steam Box, as they're more than happy with a regular console.  This is especially true since a Steam Box would just end up being a PC in essence, with upgradeable parts and such to help keep up with the rapidly-upgrading PC world; the casual market gets consoles NOT to have to upgrade a PC.  Not to mention no game would be exclusive to the Steam Box, as it would be on PC as well, unless they announced HL3 as a Steam Box exclusive, which would alienate most of Valve's fanbase.

These Steam Box theories have always been funny because they're so idealistic.  They'd need an install base they wouldn't have, and it would just end up with a loss in money by Valve in the end.

Tontonronton
Tontonronton

Why has Nobody thought about!...

Most importantly, the amount of split-screen and shared-screen multiplayer games on PC at the moment is shocking... the developers for COD Black Ops 2 removed split screen support from the PC version of the game because they though it was not practical (Well Not Anymore), And there are MANY other games on PC that this has happened to.

What about Cross-Platform Gaming... for one i hope steam box s**** on the xbox-one and the ps4 because i am tired of this non universal gaming community, where you cant play with friends because they own a 360 and i have a PC or a PS3. However i just hope that hardware in all of the consoles to come, will allow this feature anyway. Even better, be able to talk to people on xbox live through steam or psn.

Atleast if my freind has a Steam Box and I have a PC, i'll be able to play and chat with them. 

If steam box is a success, PC game developers will tailor more or all games to have and alternative TV/console friendly Interface.

As PC is the most powerful platform, developers might be tempted to exclusively put split-screen support into PC games if it'll run on Steam box or not. Imagine playing Battlefield 4 split screen 4 player. Consoles cant handle it so that's why its not there for anybody to enjoy. Some of you might be thinking, "split screen looks crappy"... Well think about the increasing rate of TV and Monitor resolutions in the near future. If you have a 4K TV (3840 × 2160), Playing 4 player split screen will be just like having a 1080 screen to yourself.

Game Exclusives, need to just die. its just a selfish marketing method... and a waste of resources and money for the customers. 

Btw im not really fussed that xbox one are scrapping pre-owned games just like steam don't allow it. You should support your game developers, so we don't get all this mainstream crap by snuffing out the little guy with more unique ideas.

Modding Games will be a dream for the PC community as steam box users will boost the amount of popularity and interest in mods.

SamCoppock
SamCoppock like.author.displayName 1 Like

If I wanted this I would just take my PC out of my bedroom and plug it into my TV or projector.
I already have WIFI access to my internet connection so my game "player" will never be disconnected if i move it.

From what I can tell the only advantage this would give it giving beyond today's capabilities the upgradability of a PC at console price's. But you have not explained how this would be achieved. (digital distribution has nothing to do with this).

One major thing that downloaded delivery of games brings is that your "ownership" of a game is associated with an account with a service provider. Currently this means that you don't have to worry about your copy being lost or broken - you can just get another copy. In future it could mean you can play your game on any system without having to buy multiple copies.


DavidLarsson
DavidLarsson

Great! vision except for the hardware part, what's important is that the hardware is fully compatible, the greatest strength of the console. By having standard hardware setup, especially for processor and graphic is needed to be able to optimize games for the rigg, meaning less raw power is needed and the cost can be kept down. 

My hope is that there is recommended hardware for upgrading the box, also to make sure that driver compatibility is optimized.

MarcPavone
MarcPavone

I would buy one of these. A buddy of mine is currently working  on his own "Steam Box". I don't see why this is not racing to get out there. Oh, take your timme and do it right, but chop chop!

Luieburger
Luieburger like.author.displayName 1 Like

I loved this fictional article. It lines up with my hopes and dreams for the Steam Box. Essentially, it would put PC gaming on a plate in front of console gamers. Are they really going to turn down that offer? If they are smart, and I think they are at least somewhat capable of rational thought, they will come join us in our gaming utopia that we've been enjoying since the 80s.

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