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Gabe Newell Opens Up About Steam Box Plans

Really not sure how I feel about relevant news coming out of CES.

That was fast. The Verge caught up with Valve’s Gabe Newell, who spilled way more beans that you’d expect about Valve’s hardware plans in the future, which do include a box of some kind.

Newell is at CES in Las Vegas this week to meet with different companies about its hardware plans, and has come with a number of prototypes in tow.

“We think that there are pluses and minuses to open systems that could make things a little messier, it’s much more like herding cats, so we try to take the pieces where we’re going to add the best value and then encourage other people to do it,” said Newell. “So it tends to mean that a lot of people get involved. We’re not imposing a lot of restrictions on people on how they’re getting involved.”

This explains the Xi3 announcement. Xi3 will not be the last piece of hardware to have Steam support, but it’s also not the mythical Steam Box that we’ve been expecting Valve to produce itself.

That box does exist.

“We’ll come out with our own and we’ll sell it to consumers by ourselves,” he said. “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. We also think that a controller that has higher precision and lower latency is another interesting thing to have.”

The company is also experimenting with low-latency controller solutions, and some designs include a touch screen. It’s possible a controller could incorporate biometric data, as well. Valve's not sure if motion control has much more to it, either. All of Newell’s answers suggest there is significant experimentation happening at Valve, and it hasn’t nailed down specifics. How many companies can be this specific and vague at the same time and get away with it?

It’s worth reading the whole interview, by the way. Hopefully, we’ll have even more details soon. Exciting!

Patrick Klepek on Google+
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Posted by RoyaleWifCheese

Sorry Gabe, but if that box doesn't play the next Half-Life game, I'm not interested.

Posted by fini_fly

@villainy said:

@Video_Game_King said:

...Is Gabe Newell slowly morphing into Robin Williams?

I was thinking Richard Stallman... Much much scarier.

I was thinking more along the lines of an older Guillermo del Toro. Much less scary than Richard Stallman.

Posted by ArtisanBreads

What they are doing, letting third parties make the boxes, is probably the safest business decision but it had the least upside. It's definitely not going mainstream in any way.

Posted by Levio

We need to just combine all the current popular tech products. Make a smart TV with a tablet-phone controller that plays all your games and microwaves your burritos.

Posted by rentfn

I'm interested to see how this turns out. Not sure it will be something for me but I want to see what comes from it.

Posted by squidraid

How... fascinating. <steeples fingers>

Posted by granderojo

I've really enjoyed hearing all the games critics with little technical expertise come out & shit on Linux as a bases for OS on the Steambox. I mean I get why they would say these dumb things but man is it excruciatingly dumb. You can make a perfectly user friendly dumb common denominator operating system in linux that does not require the technical proficiency of the standard desktop version. For instance the new Ubuntu phones that are being unveiled at CES, multiple sources have said they feel more user friendly than the android phones. And the Android kernal itself is in fact a linux based kernal, and currently the most prolific OS in smart phones currently.

So when game critics say that Linux is never going to be the foundation of a console I squawk. I don't a fuck about Linux, but they say these things I assume because they think piracy would be easier on such a device, which is a dumb assumption to have when you think of all the concurrent successful app eco system on iOS that uses BSD underpinning. If valve wants to make their steambox secure, it's their discretion.

As we know the best way to fight piracy isn't just closing down the backend, that can curb piracy but it's in no means better than the most successful way. The most successful way is in creating a marketplace that is so easy to use & is so aggressively priced which is what Valve has been a leader of this entire generation.

It's as if they think a walled garden is all you need to create an OS for games to thrive. As a Windows Phone user I can assure you, the walled garden can backfire miserably. :(

Posted by dinkley2

lunix is only for hackers and not games.. gtfo whoever this bigshot outoutftouch ceo is supsd to be tbh.

Posted by Chumm

"Newell is at CES in Las Vegas this week to meet with different companies about its hardware plans"

You've either called Newell an "it" or you meant Valve is at CES in Las Vegas, etc. Also GB still needs a copy editor.

Posted by august

@ArtisanBreads said:

What they are doing, letting third parties make the boxes, is probably the safest business decision but it had the least upside. It's definitely not going mainstream in any way.

The big reveal in the interview is that they are also going to build and sell their own.

Posted by ripelivejam

@dinkley2 said:

lunix is only for hackers and not games.. gtfo whoever this bigshot outoutftouch ceo is supsd to be tbh.

umm well considering LINUX forms the backbone for many large company's servers its most definitely not only for hackers. and while i agree it still has a long way to go for gaming and may not quite get there considering it's been around for awhile now and gaming still hasn't taken off on it, steam's push for it shows it has potential. it only needs developers willing to port over to it.

Posted by Ravenlight

Motherfucker looks more and more like the unholy union between Santa Claus and a viking lumberjack.

Posted by ArtisanBreads

@august said:

@ArtisanBreads said:

What they are doing, letting third parties make the boxes, is probably the safest business decision but it had the least upside. It's definitely not going mainstream in any way.

The big reveal in the interview is that they are also going to build and sell their own.

Ah okay I just am going off what I read earlier, not hearing this.

Still makes it a bit dicey since there are other options but that makes sense, to me. I do really think there's a chance this could go more mainstream. I tell my friends about PC gaming all the time and they love the pricing I tell them about but they can't get past everything else, just about.

Posted by kerse

He looks so old, anyone know his age?

Posted by billyhoush

Next gen is going to be NUTS!

Posted by PurpleMoustache

Guess you could say he let off some STEAM about the future in this interview.

Eh? EEEEEEEH?

Posted by Heatwizard

@Beforet: I suspect the answer is that it won't. If Valve tries to make a Steam machine for living room use, they're not going to be aiming for the people who already use Steam, and already know how to hook their PCs up to their tvs - they'll be marketing to everyone else. There's a whole demographic of console gamers that don't touch their PCs, and therefore aren't giving Valve any money, for their game purchases; by putting a small mid-priced PC with a steam-based interface to sit in the same place the rest of one's consoles do, those people might start buying from Steam.

Posted by Tesla

Forget motion controllers, give me higher precision and lower latency!

Posted by Cold_Wolven

I'm rather intrigued about this controller Gabe talks about.

Posted by Undeadpool

Gabe Newell has grown a beard. WE ARE DEFCON 2, HERE PEOPLE!!

Posted by Reisz

This makes so much more sense for Valve than that Xi3 box.

Posted by Lazyaza

Steam box will be great for all the people who don't have the interest and patience for putting color coded circuits in a box and pressing the "yes" button on "do you want to install windows". lol Joking aside eh still seems weird that Valve even has an interest in this market but I guess with MS, Sony and Nintendo having a monopoly on it maybe some extra competition will encourage them to be less shitty.

Posted by Armoes

I just wanted to mention that Gabe is a billionaire. (That's kinda cool.)

Posted by Lukeweizer

I'm at CES right now and saw Gabe at the Steam "booth". There's nothing else to this statement. It just have me a nerd-boner to see him in person.

Posted by cassus

Been hoping for a valve system for ages. Not sure if the linux is their own in house version of linux or not (probably, seeing as he said you can open netflix in a browser and whatnot? Standard linux versions have netflix apps, don't they?) but if it is their own linux, I might FINALLY get rid of windows and all the filth that comes along with it. Kinda disgusting that we're still basically running a kernel that was old and slow by the end of the 90s. Even if the win8 kernel has modifications and optimizations(which it supposedly has) it's still an incredibly bloated and sluggish OS compared to pretty much anything else out there. I first noticed this when I bought a mac back in the day (probably same result if I had a linux box, but linux doesn't cater much to games and such) and fired up WoW. My mac was slower than my pc in every respect (gpu, cpu, less ram etc) still I got higher FPS with the same settings. This was true for the vast majority of games I tried (darwinia and some other stuff, can't really remember).

Ever since then I've just been waiting for an OS that actually runs efficiently and takes advantage of the hardware I buy. Not saying the Steambox is it, but a box made specifically for gaming with an OS that's infinitely more efficient than Windows, made by one of the largest publishers/developers in the world sorta hints at it being better than a windows box. Just look at the console market to see what I mean. Every time there's a new console, the graphics on it look freakishly good, and games run smoother even if the hardware is crap compared to my PC. Sure, it's optimized for that specific hardware, but still, not having to spend cycles and resources on an old clunky OS has a huge impact on performance. PS3 is the perfect example. The Uncharted games look amazing and run on hardware more than half a decade old.. I don't care how much optimization you do, that wouldn't be doable on a winbox of the same age and with the same hardware. Just no way.

I for one refuse to use one of those overlords jokes.

Posted by GaspoweR

In a way the Steam box only direct comparison and possibly competition is the Ouya. The difference is that Steam already has a dedicated user base entrenched in their ecosystem.

Posted by guanophobic

Linux has come a long way with Ubuntu in the past couple of years, but they're not even close to the hardware compatibility of windows.

Having a locked down hardware spec would make a linux-distro stable way faster/easier, but Valve needs a lot of help from Intel, AMD and Nvidia in order to get things done.

Edited by HerbieBug

Cool! Valve is the most interesting company in the industry at the moment.

@kerse said:

He looks so old, anyone know his age?

He is 50.

Posted by radioactivez0r

They better figure out how to do proper customer support if they are releasing a hardware device people will buy. Seems to still be the huge red flag when dealing with Valve.

Posted by Amafi

@cassus: No netflix on linux, because moonlight (the mono implementation of silverlight) does not support the form of DRM that netflix uses.

Posted by cexantus

@Lazyaza: It's not really weird. Valve is a company, right? And companies like to make money, right? This makes perfect sense--tapping into that demographic that might typically pick up a console rather than a PC. It's more money in the pocket.

Posted by GrantHeaslip

If anything can jump-start Linux gaming, it's Valve shipping a Linux-based console. I'm not sure it will work, and I don't think I'll be interested when it comes out (in 2020?), but it's certainly an interesting move.

In all honesty, my interest in Valve has been slipping as of late. Portal 2 was fine, but I don't care about DotA, TF2, or L4D. I think Half-Life 2 is one of the best games I've ever played, but it's been so long that I'm worried I'll have moved on (and they'll have forgotten what made HL2 so great) by the time it ships. That's not to say I think they need to make HL3 — they may have just decided its not in their wheelhouse anymore.

Also, here's my obligatory Patrick grammar correction:

Newell is at CES in Las Vegas this week to meet with different companies about its hardware plans, and has come with a number of prototypes in tow.

Has Gabe Newell finally transcended humanity?

Posted by Beforet

Not too interested in a Steam box, but if they let me purchase a licence for whatever distro of linux(assuming they would charge, which I imagine they would) they use, I would be down for that.

Posted by SharkMan

@BestUsernameEver said:

Strange how against windows 8 he is, but the box plans seem cool.

Here's my concern though, when asked about a netflix app being available on the box, he said "Absolutely, you can open a web browser and do whatever you want." What if I don't want to fiddle with a web browser on a TV though? Isn't this box supposed to be a TV solution first and foremost? Also, the details about you being able to install windows if you like just make is sound like a tiny, steam branded PC, I don't want a tiny PC, I want a well made, fast console.

considering how much its bombing in the market, color me not surprised.

Posted by guanophobic

@Beforet said:

Not too interested in a Steam box, but if they let me purchase a licence for whatever distro of linux(assuming they would charge, which I imagine they would) they use, I would be down for that.

Why would they charge?

Posted by dr_mantas

It's a Linux box because it is cheaper (no associated Windows cost), and because Gabe Newell doesn't think Windows 8 is any good (and Microsoft wouldn't be all that for a large popular product not using their newest OS).

So they make it Linux, fully expecting you will install Windows on it. Because currently the only games on Steam that run on Linux are Source engine games + a few small indies. That's not enough for a "Steambox".

Posted by Beforet

@guanophobic said:

@Beforet said:

Not too interested in a Steam box, but if they let me purchase a licence for whatever distro of linux(assuming they would charge, which I imagine they would) they use, I would be down for that.

Why would they charge?

I figure they would charge for it so that they get some cash from people who don't buy the Steam Box. It's just my grumpy old assumption, they might not if they go for the full linuxy experience.

This is assuming they offer the OS separate.

Edited by guanophobic

@dr_mantas said:

So they make it Linux, fully expecting you will install Windows on it. Because currently the only games on Steam that run on Linux are Source engine games + a few small indies. That's not enough for a "Steambox".

They gotta start somewhere, and this hopefully encourages other devs and middleware companies to atleast give Linux a chance.

@Beforet: Look at how Redhat is charging their customers. They can charge for support and stuff like that, but they're using open source code = they can't charge for the OS.

Edited by tourgen

Awesome! The high precision, low latency controller news is the big bombshell for me. That is great news and it says good things about the future of gaming. Especially after the terrible trend of high-latency motion control systems going around lately. and the 30fps console plague of 2005-2013. and the 1-frame-behind-at-best HD TV "revolution".

Posted by BestUsernameEver

@SharkMan said:

@BestUsernameEver said:

Strange how against windows 8 he is, but the box plans seem cool.

Here's my concern though, when asked about a netflix app being available on the box, he said "Absolutely, you can open a web browser and do whatever you want." What if I don't want to fiddle with a web browser on a TV though? Isn't this box supposed to be a TV solution first and foremost? Also, the details about you being able to install windows if you like just make is sound like a tiny, steam branded PC, I don't want a tiny PC, I want a well made, fast console.

considering how much its bombing in the market, color me not surprised.

What he said in the interview is complete speculation BS, no one knows full figures of adoption, trading and business purchases. He's getting into hot water if he thinks he can go to linux and compete with the Windows market.

Posted by Scorch

Yawn. Just focus on getting Steam more stable and more focused, not all this half-assed social media featureset that's bloating the application. His Windows 8 store whining is even more laughable now.

Posted by Feigr

@LikeaSsur said:

Year of the beard?

That's all years!

Edited by mellotronrules

so much pessimism- which probably isn't entirely unwarranted (since no one knows how hardware is going to shake out in the next 5 years or so). but for me it's simple- my experience with valve (between steam and their game releases) has been entirely positive. they seem like a forward-thinking company, so i for one am looking forward to see what this new hardware initiative brings.

Posted by IntoTheN1ght

I understand the excitement because most people have had a good experience with Steam and everyone loves cheap games. I also understand people have grown tired of the Big 3 console makers because they all do shit that we sometimes shake our heads at.

But it is as if nobody is thinking realistically about this.

Valve =/= PC gaming, even tough alot of loyalists to Steam/Valve want to believe that. Some of the most popular games right now are not even on Steam, League of Legends, Blizzard games, most EA games, Minecraft and many more. This means that this console of theirs likely will not have any of these major titles that are associated with PC gaming of today. The catch is that the good stuff Steam does have, is already on the PC and better. What Counter Strike player do you think is going to want to sit down on his couch and play CS with a pad? Look at the numbers for CS:GO, game fell hard and people went back to the original. You think DOTA players want to fiddle around with it?

Yeah Steam is great, most people reading this likely have 50-100+ games on Steam but how many of them do you actually play much at all? Everyone ive seen says the same thing, "i only play CS/TF2 and sometimes DOTA otherwise i barely play my games". Sure its anecdotal, but it seems people enjoy the idea of Steam (and thus this Steambox) more than the actual idea of playing games on it.

Oh look, a cheap bundle, how can i say no to this!?? And then you proceed to never play any of these games again, at best you will boot them up once to set up the graphics configuration and never bother again.

Go ahead, release this thing when its done and lets see how it does, as long as Valve protects themselves and dont invest too much into it.

Posted by Dredlockz

Gabe Newel said:

“... it’s much more like herding cats, so we...”
Posted by Dan_CiTi

I hope the controller stuff works out, the rest sounds kind of blah, without any real promise. But usually Valve can pull something out of its hat, we will see.

Posted by ChrisHarris

@tourgen said:

and the 1-frame-behind-at-best HD TV "revolution".

It was made even worse with what looks to be the holy grail of 2D display technology taunting us from just over the horizon for the last few years. I hope 2013 will finally begin the shift to OLED TVs, assuming they can fix the 2012 manufacturing yield issues. It's about fucking time...

Posted by Lazyaza

@cexantus: Hmm yeah I guess, for some reason I still think of Valve as this giant PC-only company so the idea of them making a dedicated hardware for any purpose kinda freaks me out a little lol.

Posted by SharkEthic

@Beforet said:

Not too interested in a Steam box, but if they let me purchase a licence for whatever distro of linux(assuming they would charge, which I imagine they would) they use, I would be down for that.

Sooo, what you're saying is, that you just wan't a machine running Linux, then? We can make that happen, free of charge, no new hardware required, you know.

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