Valve has stayed mostly quiet about its plans to enter the hardware business, but in an interview with Kotaku at last night's Video Game Awards, Gabe Newell confirmed the company's plans to sell its own living room PC that could compete with next-generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft. The biggest revelation is that Valve seems set to release its own complete hardware and software solution. When we first reported that the company was working on a "Steam Box" back in March, it appeared that Valve was working on a prototype that would establish a baseline for hardware manufacturers, but it wasn't clear if the company would sell its own product or simply release the designs to others. Newell's comments to Kotaku provide a much clearer picture of what's happening; Newell said that he expects companies to start selling PCs designed for the living room next year — which Kotaku says could have Steam preloaded — and that Valve will create its own distinct package.
Surprise: Valve will create its own carefully managed PC ecosystem
Newell suggests that the company will create its own carefully managed PC ecosystem that's distinct from the one offered by other hardware partners — a possibility that our own Sean Hollister exposed after looking at the company's comments and actions in recent years, including its aversion to Windows 8, its recent embrace of Linux, and its existing push into the living room with Steam's Big Picture Mode. Newell tells Kotaku that "our hardware will be a very controlled environment," and that some people will want a "turnkey" solution for their living room. "The nice thing about a PC is a lot of different people can try out different solutions," he said. "Customers can find the ones that work best for them."
As a digital distribution platform, Steam is wildly successful, with more than five million concurrent users on any given day and over 50 million users in total (by comparison, Xbox Live has more than 40 million users). But Valve doesn't reap any income from the sale of hardware that runs its platform or the software it hosts, and the company doesn't control Windows, which is the most popular platform among computers running Steam.
Newell stopped short of saying that the company was building a Linux-based Steam OS, but he reportedly said that the next step for the company's living room operation is to enable Big Picture on Steam for Linux. From there, the timeline is still pretty murky — we only know that Newell expects some hardware to show up sometime next year — but Valve's intent to compete in the living room in a big way is no longer a secret.