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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!

190 Comments
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Posted by ptys

It's cool that this is happening.

Posted by Spikey

They should call it the GabeCube.

Posted by Phished0ne

Low Latency controllers? has anyone ever actually experienced any noticeable lag between controller and system, even on wireless?

Posted by Bourbon_Warrior

@Spikey said:

They should call it the GabeCube.

Trombone guy approves

Posted by Bourbon_Warrior

I just want to know if I can use the 360 wireless controller adapter for my controllers and steering wheel?

Posted by Cincaid

Maybe I'm missing something here, but doesn't like 99% of modern games require the use of DirectX? Which doesn't exist on Linux? I'm not trolling, it's a honest question! :D

Posted by crithon

valve's babysteps, nothing new. Maybe 4 years from now they will be serious

Posted by Nikoran

I swear, if Episode 3 is a steambox exclusive I'm going to be mad.

Posted by Uberjannie

@Cincaid: They emulate it, which is not the best of option. If all else fails, there are still OpenGL :D

Posted by fusion42

pretty cool. Especially the controller part.

Posted by outerabiz

@IntoTheN1ght: i do all my pc gaming on steam, if it's not on steam i don't play it, unless it's bf3 i played that for a couple of weeks.

Posted by xbob42

@Nikoran said:

I swear, if Episode 3 is a steambox exclusive I'm going to be mad.

It's a box... that has Steam on it. You can't have "exclusives" for it. :p If you have a PC, you have a steambox! Whatever controller they come up with, I can guarantee you can plug it into whatever computer you already have.

Posted by Nikoran

@xbob42: They'll find a way!

Posted by Cincaid

@Uberjannie said:

@Cincaid: They emulate it, which is not the best of option. If all else fails, there are still OpenGL :D

So Newell goes on record on interviews stating that Windows 8 is 'unusable', and instead resorts to emulating key component drivers for games? I'm no tech nerd (wish I was!), but that seems like a weird solution.

Posted by smiddy

If anyone can do it, Valve (Gabe) can.

Posted by Generic_username

I would really like to buy a (relatively, at least) affordable machine that could play modern PC games. There are plenty that I'd love to play, I just don't have the money to drop on a new PC, and my laptop can barely run Morrowind.

Posted by Seppli

Told you so.

Posted by Luck702

What I would give to work at Valve...

Posted by Winternet

@Cincaid said:

@Uberjannie said:

@Cincaid: They emulate it, which is not the best of option. If all else fails, there are still OpenGL :D

So Newell goes on record on interviews stating that Windows 8 is 'unusable', and instead resorts to emulating key component drivers for games? I'm no tech nerd (wish I was!), but that seems like a weird solution.

They have probably some clever solution to it. Hearing them talk about latency in controllers and then they go "what? Fuck, we'll emulate that, I don't know"? Nah. (at least I hope not. Who the fuck knows?)

Posted by probablytuna

Hmmm, doesn't sound like something I would need. Then again I might not be the target audience.

Posted by Incapability

I'm totally not interested in buying one myself, but I guess I'm interested in seeing where they take it, and what it will turn out to be - particularly in terms of cost, distribution, support, content, etc.

Posted by Innovacious

It annoys me how the verge guy asks about Netflix and competing with these other systems for multimedia stuff. The whole idea of a steambox is just a small form factor pre-built PC for people who aren't quite as hardware savvy as some of us. Its still a personal computer... Its open, not a closed system like consoles where you only get to use what they give you. Open your browser; go to netflix; done. Competing with those systems on multimedia? A PC has infinite more options both streaming and locally with a much wider range of supported file types.

Posted by Grasu

@kerse said:

He looks so old, anyone know his age?

he's older than the reapers

Posted by WiqidBritt

@Phished0ne said:

Low Latency controllers? has anyone ever actually experienced any noticeable lag between controller and system, even on wireless?

I believe I've heard it mentioned before by some extremely picky assholes (Arthur Gies on Rebel FM a few times I think) But it's something most people don't notice.

What I notice much more is post-processing effect lag that a lot of high end TVs add to whatever video signal they receive. For watching TV or movies it's a non issue, but for games it can cause a good half second delay between button press and on screen action. Dealing with that is way more important than wireless controller lag.

Posted by Abendlaender

I'm really excited by this. I'm not even that interested in a Steam Box but I really want to see what Valve can bring to the table.

Posted by kagato

Call me crazy but i much prefer having the PC i built with my own two hands running my Steam games, at least when i power it up i know it will run everything because i put the components in myself. I can see this being of value to those who want to play PC games but dont know what they need and dont want to pay over the odds for a "gaming" pc. Good luck to them, the more people playing games the better.

Posted by MattClassic

Oh man E3's gonna be real interesting this year

Posted by jamesisaacs

Steambox doesn't seem worth it. A pointless endeavour..

Posted by Vigorousjammer

The idea of a steambox seems pretty cool if it gets done right.  By that, I mean I'd want a steambox that would boot directly into big picture mode and I'd also want big picture mode to be updated so if you have a game in your library that can't run on your system, it'll get greyed out, or just not show up on the list at all. 
Showing the partial and full controller support is pretty good already. 
 
I'm actually most excited about the possibilities of a low-latency controller.  If Valve can make a controller that has the precision of a mouse, and the erganomics of a 360 pad or a dualshock, I may just literally jizz my pants when I get my hands on one.

Posted by FMinus

@ripelivejam said:

@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.

Things to consider, Windows came out in 1985, Linux in 1991. Windows had a ~6 year headstard and look at it now. The Linux people haven't done squat shit in the last 20 years to improve the user experience for Joe Ordinary people to make it appealing.

Up to like 2006 you still had damn-self-killing Linux text-input installs with acronym selections which no sane person who is not dealing with computers could have known and when you were finally done, you still ended in the shell not in a graphical environment.

I was dealing with Linux on a daily basis from 1994 - 2005, had it installed at home and worked with it for a living, it's a nonsensical system to be running at home. Everything a home user wants to do, Windows does better and so does OSX, which is regulated and that's what is missing from all the Linux distros - standards.

Hypothetically speaking, if my 62 year old father (who plays Call of Duty 2 hours per day and checks his emails daily) switches to another Windows PC, even tho it might not be running the version he has at home (he has 8) he will still manage to find icons to check the mail and to launch the game, cause the interface is pretty much the same on Windows since 95, whilst if he would be running a Linux distro at home, he would probably get completely lost when he would walk to a different Linux distro somewhere else, he would get lost if I change GNOME to KDE, let alone full distros.

Even now, with distros like Ubuntu, there is still tons problems with getting things to work properly or work at all, partly due to manufacturers support, partly to the Linux (developers/contributors) themselves.

Linux will only succeed if they get their asses together and say, for example, Ubuntu will be the de-facto user distribution we will use, and this is how our graphical interface will look for the next 20 years (with minor adjustments ofc), this are the standard install files, standard archived files and be done with it. And all the other distros have to follow suit, not that I have to download 20 different version of the same program to run on 20 different Linux versions, Linux will be nothing more as fancy paperweight at home, no hardware manufacturer will invest into consumer compatibility more as they are doing now, and certainly not software developers.

Steam pushing to Linux (and only working on Ubuntu) wont do squat. See the problem, "Yes we're on Linux, but we only run on Ubuntu, not RedHat, not Mandrake, not Suse, not Caldera, not Slackware and all the 100 other distributions.

Linux is fine in embeded systems just like Java, for everything else there's better alternatives again just like for Java.

As for the servers part, I haven't seen a serious server running anything but Unix (which is a lot more standardized and secure with fewer push updates that break things) in my career.

Posted by Superfriend

Linux just breaks the whole deal. Nothing works on that shit without some serious investment of time by the end user.

If they can somehow create their own linux distribution that finally makes sense to everybody and has zero problems with hardware (forget internal stuff, I´m talking about input devices and external drives)... maybe this could be worth something. It would still have major problems because most games on steam don´t exactly run on linux?!

Maybe they are developing some sort of super-wine.. other than that I can not see this being ever released.

First order of business should be: Get everything to run in Big Picture mode with a controller, even games that don´t support it natively. THEN think about how everything on steam released up to this point can run on a single box. Linux just seems to get in the way of that idea.

Posted by MorkaiTheWolf

Exciting times people!

Posted by FMinus

@Phished0ne said:

Low Latency controllers? has anyone ever actually experienced any noticeable lag between controller and system, even on wireless?

Due to the input methods of controllers you don't notice it. When the controllers allow for such sensitivity and DPI settings as the recent mouses (mice) you notice quite a huge lag, from when you flick the stick to when the action takes place on the screen.

But because most console games and even hardware wont allow you to set the settings to this precision you don't notice that. There was BT controller I had where I could basically nudge the stick for 0.5mm and the object on screen would make a 180 degree turn, it was heavily skipping frames or not moving at all, especially when you were not flicking but actually playing with very minor stick adjustments.

Was the same with the mouse really, as long as you had standard settings and didn't go for the extreme you were fine, as soon as you tweaked those, you noticed that you must increase the polling rate of that thing or it just starts to skip like mad dropping your actual input every so often, making it unplayable.

Posted by Veektarius

This would be a great way to end the tech divide between console players and computer players. The real question to me is what kind of performance this thing will have. Is it meant to compete with gaming PCs? Will its hardware be upgradeable just like a personal computer? Those are the questions that will affect whether I end up having one of these.

Also, just how flush with cash is Valve these days? They must have a lot of income via Steam, but I'm not sure what their cut is on those products.

Posted by granderojo

@Veektarius said:

This would be a great way to end the tech divide between console players and computer players. The real question to me is what kind of performance this thing will have. Is it meant to compete with gaming PCs? Will its hardware be upgradeable just like a personal computer? Those are the questions that will affect whether I end up having one of these.

Also, just how flush with cash is Valve these days? They must have a lot of income via Steam, but I'm not sure what their cut is on those products.

around 30% on every sale is what an indie developer told me personally but it's on a game by game basis.

Posted by Xeirus

@thabigred said:

@Veektarius said:

This would be a great way to end the tech divide between console players and computer players. The real question to me is what kind of performance this thing will have. Is it meant to compete with gaming PCs? Will its hardware be upgradeable just like a personal computer? Those are the questions that will affect whether I end up having one of these.

Also, just how flush with cash is Valve these days? They must have a lot of income via Steam, but I'm not sure what their cut is on those products.

around 30% on every sale is what an indie developer told me personally but it's on a game by game basis.

Valve has more than enough money to do anything they want, I wouldn't worry.

Also, the "steam box" is described as a "module unit", meaning it will be able to be upgraded with minimal effort.

At first I thought this was just dumb and doomed to fail, but the more I hear about it the more interested I get, which isn't usually the way these things happen. I hope everything works out, if it does it will change things for the better.

Posted by oraknabo

Has anyone here complaining about the problems of Linux been on the Steam Linux Beta? It seems to work fine for me and I'm on Arch, not Ubuntu. The 3D games I have on it (Amnesia, TF2, Darwinia) all work better on my linux side than on Windows on the exact same machine.

Posted by Pudge

As someone who is typing this on a computer hooked up to a TV already, I can't wait to have a streaming solution that will allow me to play PC games on the TV while still having a powerful machine at my desk. Forget Xbox or PS4, this is the next and last generation of consoles right here.

Posted by Platina32

Wow, I'm really interested in this stuff. Valve has some great ideas.

Posted by Puddlesworth

@themangalist said:

how much of it functions like a PC though? Can I say, install Photoshop on it? Get mods for my games on the internet via a browser app on the Steam box? Still need to wait for them to reveal how everything is going to work. Right now being able to run a dozen of indie games and Valve products on a Linux-based "computer" just doesn't cut it for me.

My understanding is that a linux steam box is meant to compete in the console space. There aren't any games available for Durango(xbox720)/Orbis(ps4) either, but once those consoles come out no one is worried there won't be any games. If there's enough excitement/demand for this box then games will be made for it.

In some way existing windows games are a backwards compatibility problem. And I think most people don't care that much about backwards compatibility.

Posted by PliggeTheFallen

I'm excited for Valve with the new Xi3 and the mysterious Steam Box. They always have great ideas and have shown they can take all those ideas and accomplish them in wonderful ways.

Edited by FMinus

@PliggeTheFallen said:

I'm excited for Valve with the new Xi3 and the mysterious Steam Box. They always have great ideas and have shown they can take all those ideas and accomplish them in wonderful ways.

The basic Xi3 Piston costs $499 and can't run any games decently with the crap hardware that's stuffed inside, the proper one costs $999, no thanks, for something that's supposed to be a "console". And they say that the final SteamBox is based of of that $999 system so they will have a hard time selling it for that. Anything above $400 is too expensive to be playing games and streaming movies and music to your living room.

Edited by Sooty

@FMinus said:

@PliggeTheFallen said:

I'm excited for Valve with the new Xi3 and the mysterious Steam Box. They always have great ideas and have shown they can take all those ideas and accomplish them in wonderful ways.

The basic Xi3 Piston costs $499 and can't run any games decently with the crap hardware that's stuffed inside, the proper one costs $999, no thanks, for something that's supposed to be a "console". And they say that the final SteamBox is based of of that $999 system so they will have a hard time selling it for that. Anything above $400 is too expensive to be playing games and streaming movies and music to your living room.

Final Steambox? none of this is final, I doubt it'll even be out until mid-late 2014, if even then.

Ya know there's people with HTPCs way over $400 in their living room, so that's a bit of a dumb thing to say. If you mean anything above $400 is too pricey for some, then yes that's true, but then again the PS3 at $500 was also too pricey for some most.

Posted by granderojo

@Xeirus said:

@thabigred said:

@Veektarius said:

This would be a great way to end the tech divide between console players and computer players. The real question to me is what kind of performance this thing will have. Is it meant to compete with gaming PCs? Will its hardware be upgradeable just like a personal computer? Those are the questions that will affect whether I end up having one of these.

Also, just how flush with cash is Valve these days? They must have a lot of income via Steam, but I'm not sure what their cut is on those products.

around 30% on every sale is what an indie developer told me personally but it's on a game by game basis.

Valve has more than enough money to do anything they want, I wouldn't worry.

Also, the "steam box" is described as a "module unit", meaning it will be able to be upgraded with minimal effort.

At first I thought this was just dumb and doomed to fail, but the more I hear about it the more interested I get, which isn't usually the way these things happen. I hope everything works out, if it does it will change things for the better.

I don't think money is an issue either. At some point, if Valve is trying to make some big power play, we have to start talking about Valve just straight up porting DirectX & other tools to Linux. It's not impossible, and time isn't really an issue. The biggest impediment is money, and when I mean money what I'm really talking about is labour.

Edited by DG991

I want to meet Gabe Newell some day. I really like that guy. I was mad at him for two things in the past. 1. Steam being required for games and 2. L4D2 being released so soon after the first. The first one is no longer an issue in any way at all and the second one is just whatever, it seemed kinda like a money grab but it was a good product and game so I don't care anymore.

I'll probably never buy a steam box since I actually enjoy building my PC as much as I like playing on it, but I am excited to see what happens with their project.

edit: Reading the verge article now... I forgot about something that I don't like about Gabe. Sometimes he talks shit about other products. He used to say the PS3 was impossible to develop for and had to embarrass himself on stage by saying he wanted to work with Sony. (Which now that I look back was a really awesome business move for Sony, they didn't get all butt hurt and talked to one of the most vocal anti-playstation people and got him to join them)

Well this time he said that windows 8 is "unusable" .... I think Gabe is just kind of blabbering because that isn't true. I have been using it on my laptop. It isn't perfect but it is actually better than windows 7 in many ways. It is very usable and it just came out (so expect plenty of updates for any small issues). I'm using it on an old laptop of mine that doesn't have a touch screen and it makes me wish I had one so I could get the full windows 8 experience. But even with my simple mouse and keyboard I am really enjoying the experience. To say it is unusable is just... not true. It isn't even about being subjective... It is a fully functional operating system that works, whether you like the experience or not.

But besides the fact that Gabe can't say nice things sometimes, I still think he is an awesome guy and I thank him every time I play games on steam. It truly is a fantastic experience that wouldn't have been possible without him.

Posted by themangalist

@Puddlesworth said:

In some way existing windows games are a backwards compatibility problem. And I think most people don't care that much about backwards compatibility.

You have a point, but I do care about backwards compatibility (even if most next-gen consoles might not support it). I understand there are people who treat it as a new console, but I'm thinking of it as a gaming-only PC that could replace the crappy one I have right now, with a more reasonable price than a full on gaming rig. Now that I know the pricing (though not confirmed?) is to be around $1000 and that it doesn't run older games, I have little interest in buying it. Very unexpected given their pitch of it being a gaming PC for the living room. Still will remain skeptical and wait for more details.

Posted by PliggeTheFallen

@Sooty said:

@FMinus said:

@PliggeTheFallen said:

I'm excited for Valve with the new Xi3 and the mysterious Steam Box. They always have great ideas and have shown they can take all those ideas and accomplish them in wonderful ways.

The basic Xi3 Piston costs $499 and can't run any games decently with the crap hardware that's stuffed inside, the proper one costs $999, no thanks, for something that's supposed to be a "console". And they say that the final SteamBox is based of of that $999 system so they will have a hard time selling it for that. Anything above $400 is too expensive to be playing games and streaming movies and music to your living room.

Final Steambox? none of this is final, I doubt it'll even be out until mid-late 2014, if even then.

Ya know there's people with HTPCs way over $400 in their living room, so that's a bit of a dumb thing to say. If you mean anything above $400 is too pricey for some, then yes that's true, but then again the PS3 at $500 was also too pricey for some most.

I can see where the Xi3 can be hit or miss, since it does seem the lower costing one isn't as powerful as people were hoping. It's meant to be a Steam based computer though, so it can be pricey. But I really don't see the final Steam Box being that expensive, since it should be more like a console then a computer. If it is over $500, even if it can play every Steam game available, I might pass.

I do trust Valve though as a company. They will put out a great product.

Posted by Corvak

8-10 years ago, the general consensus (on the internet) was that a platform for digital purchases and downloads was a crazy idea that'd never succeed. Now Steam has millions of users and has the biggest market share of any PC gaming retailer.

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Posted by Puddlesworth

@themangalist said:

@Puddlesworth said:

In some way existing windows games are a backwards compatibility problem. And I think most people don't care that much about backwards compatibility.

You have a point, but I do care about backwards compatibility (even if most next-gen consoles might not support it). I understand there are people who treat it as a new console, but I'm thinking of it as a gaming-only PC that could replace the crappy one I have right now, with a more reasonable price than a full on gaming rig. Now that I know the pricing (though not confirmed?) is to be around $1000 and that it doesn't run older games, I have little interest in buying it. Very unexpected given their pitch of it being a gaming PC for the living room. Still will remain skeptical and wait for more details.

He mentions in the article that they won't make it difficult to also install windows on their box, so backwards compatibility is a windows licence away. But I haven't heard anything about costing $1000 dollars. A top of the line gaming PC doesn't cost that much and there's no way they will try to sell something at that price. Maybe one of their partners like Xi3 will, but there is no way valve is that stupid.

I swear the original article estimated about $99 for low end and about $300 for a mid-tier steambox, but it seems to have been taken out. I found another article that cited the verge article before they changed it (http://allthingsd.com/20130109/valve-pledges-to-enter-videogame-console-wars-with-steam-box/)

Posted by JuggaloAcidman

Not interested! The idea of a Valve box ruins everything I like about pc gaming. As soon as you make a PC consule... PC watershed moments are over. Just like other consules... Developers will start making they're games for the box and will be less likely to make games for high end PCs. Besides, I want Half Life 3 alot more then I want YET ANOTHER CONSULE. I'm thinking it's time to give up on the idea Valve will ever make GAMES again.

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