Valve CEO Discusses ‘Steam Box’ OS and Controllers

Published 2 years ago by

Steam Box OS Controllers

Rumor has it that Valve’s “Steam Box” is set to be fully revealed sometime this year, likely at either March’s Game Developer’s Conference (GDC) or June’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). Nevertheless, a torrent of “Steam Box” information has come from the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, which runs through Friday, January 11th.

For starters, the prototype “Piston” hardware, a modular mini-PC produced by Xi3 and designed to take advantage of Steam’s Big Picture Mode, made its debut at the show. Following that revelation, Valve CEO Gabe Newell commented on his company’s forthcoming hardware, including its operating system and controller.

According to Valve, “Piston” is just one of several “Steam Box” prototypes currently in development. Newell’s company fully intends to release its own version of the hardware, and as rumored, it’s set to run Linux. The surprise, given Newell’s outspoken disapproval of Microsoft’s Windows 8 and his admission that Valve’s hardware will be “a very controlled environment,” is that “Steam Box” won’t be restricted to the open-source OS. In a lengthy and wide ranging interview with The Verge, Newell confirmed that Windows will, in fact, run on “Steam Box,” for users who want it to.

“We’ll come out with our own and we’ll sell it to consumers by ourselves. That’ll be a Linux box, [and] if you want to install Windows you can. We’re not going to make it hard. This is not some locked box by any stretch of the imagination.”

“Steam Box” won’t be limited to a single operating system, and it won’t be restricted to a single screen or player, either. According to Newell, multiple gamers will eventually be able to play, each on individual screens, using just a single system.

“The Steam Box will also be a server. Any PC can serve multiple monitors, so over time, the next-generation (post-Kepler) you can have one GPU that’s serving up eight simultaeneous game calls. So you could have one PC and eight televisions and eight controllers and everybody getting great performance out of it.”

Xi3 Piston

About those controllers, which may turn out to feature “user swappable control components.” Newell has been talking about biometric controllers for years, and they continue to figure into his company’s plans for “Steam Box.” Newell isn’t alone in pursuing the technology. In 2011, Sony applied for a patent a on biometric controllers that can detect sweat, heart rhythm and muscle movements. Presumably, Valve’s controllers will measure those factors as well, but it’s “gaze tracking” that Newell is most excited about.

“I think you’ll see controllers coming from us that use a lot of biometric data.”

“Biometrics… is essentially adding more communication bandwidth between the game and the person playing it, especially in ways the player isn’t necessarily conscious of. Biometrics gives us more visibility. Also, gaze tracking. We think gaze tracking is going to turn out to be super important.”

All together, it’s a tantalizing glimpse at  what could very well be the most important hardware announced this year, regardless of  what happens with PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720. Granted, price is sure to be an issue, as it always is with new hardware. Xi3’s “performance level” X7A, on which “Piston” is based, runs $999 – hardly a console-gamer-friendly price. Still, the promise of Valve’s forthcoming system is impossible to ignore. Fingers crossed that GDC 2013 (March 25-March 29) brings more info.

Ranters, how interested in “Steam Box” are you? Could you see yourselves choosing Valve’s system over the PS4 or Xbox 720? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow me on Twitter @HakenGaken.

Source: The Verge, Polygon

TAGS: PC, Steam, Valve

  • hanzo

    Interested? Yes
    For $999? no

    • Red

      yeah,close to $1100 after taxes is ridiculous. I can be a mid-level gamer laptop for that. Tell you what, Newell, through four HDMI ports on there for four screen multiplayer support and 8-player split screen, and THEN we’ll talk at that price point.

      • Red


        • doc

          You won’t be able to get that for $10000.

          • Red

            I don’t see why not. The only reason we don’t get vid card with dual HDMI now is because They’d rather do Dual DVI and 1 HDMI so they can continue to support DVI monitors and sell DVI to HDMI adapters since DVI puts out the same video as HDMI does. Plus they don’t have to include audio throughput on the DVI connectors like hey would with multiple HDMI.

            If Valve really wanted to, they could push for four monitor HDMI support. Truth is someone should start moving in this direction anyways. HDMI is becoming the standard. We’re getting to the point where we should be pushing for graphics cards to be 2 to 3 HDMI ports and people just use HDMI to DVI and HDMI to DisplayPort converters. That way people running two-way SLI or Crossfire have 4-6 HMDI ports to work with instead of 4 DVI and 2 HDMI.

  • Skiener

    Depends on the what game developers get on board…

  • Signia

    So you can put Windows on the Steam Machine… Now to wait and see if I can put Steam OS on my desktop. Being built off of Linux, I imagine someone will throw in some basic compatibility drivers and have a nice little installer ISO within a week of release.

  • grandalf

    Ridiculous pricing, but then again, always the first are expensive, hopefully it comes down to like $500 for the general masses then they will be in business and we will all get one. Bring it on steam.


    I happily spent £1000 approximate on the old iMac, so £999, it’s just £1 saved. And if I take the storage out of the Mac and plonk in the SteamBox, get a blank storage, plonk the blank in the Mac, put Windows on the SteamBox or transfer it from the Mac, sell the mac, and BAM!!! Gaming setup complete. 😀

  • Ellory Freneau

    That looks awesome. *researches after 3 weeks*
    So will it be diamond encrusted?
    It might just die becuase it’s price is so much more.