Valve, the company behind Steam, is trying to revolutionize the idea of a video game console by combining its preeminent video game distribution platform with the power of Linux PCs. For months, the company's been silent about the subject, but it sounds like we could get some new details very soon. Today, Valve co-founder Gabe Newell called Linux "the future of gaming" at a keynote at LinuxCon 2013, and revealed that the company plans to offer more information about "the hardware opportunities we see for bringing Linux into the living room" as early as next week.
Blueprints for a Linux game console
Valve met with hardware partners to develop TV-friendly gaming PC prototypes back at CES in January, and the company said it would roll out those prototypes over the summer months. While the company told us that it was working on its own box, the Steam Box project is really about creating a blueprint for other manufacturers to build devices around. That's what it sounds like the company might be about to reveal once and for all. "There are thermal issues and sound issues, and also a lot of input issues," Newell explained during the LinuxCon keynote, "and the next step in our contribution to this is to release some work we've done on the hardware side."
Game controllers are one piece of the puzzle Valve's been exploring extensively on its own, with the company even considering the inclusion of biometric sensors to measure how gamers' bodies respond to virtual reality cues. While Newell didn't call out biometrics during the keynote, he did hint that those controllers might be part of the upcoming reveal:
In terms of the grand unification, we really don't think the fragmentation around the physical location or around the input devices in terms of computation is necessary or desirable for software developers or consumers. Nobody thinks, everybody just automatically assumes that the internet is going to work regardless of where they are. Nobody says I'm in an airplane now I'm going to use a totally different method of accessing data across the network. We think that should be more broadly true as well, that you don't think of touch input or game controllers or living rooms as things that require completely different ways for users to interact, or developers to program or distribute to those targets.
"Next week we're going to be rolling out more information about how we get there," said Newell.
Though Newell spent some time teasing the Steam Box's "grand unification" of PC, game console, and even mobile devices, the thrust of his keynote was about Linux as the future of gaming, as opposed to closed platforms like Windows. At the same time the PC industry has seen double-digit declines, Newell quipped, Valve's Steam platform has measured a 76 percent increase in sales.
"I think we'll see significant market restructuring or exits by top five PC players. It's looking pretty grim," Newell said. "On the other hand, PC gaming seems to have been immune to this downturn."
Newell says there are now 198 Steam games running on Linux.