We're weeks away from the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 hitting the market. Both manufacturers promised independent titles available in their online stores and a lot of us had the same reaction: they are treading on Steam's territory. Well, Steam decided to trample in Microsoft's and Sony's garden as well because, you guessed it, Steam is joining the console war but on its own terms.
Over the past few days, Valve has announced Steam OS which is exactly what it sounds like:
Steam is coming to a new operating system
As we've been working on bringing Steam to the living room, we've come to the conclusion that the environment best suited to delivering value to customers is an operating system built around Steam itself. SteamOS combines the rock-solid architecture of Linux with a gaming experience built for the big screen. It will be available soon as a free stand-alone operating system for living room machines.
An operating system, I get it, but for what? A console? Yes but not just one. We're talking multiple hardware options.
Finally, a multiple choice answer
Entertainment is not a one-size-fits-all world. We want you to be able to choose the hardware that makes sense for you, so we are working with multiple partners to bring a variety of Steam gaming machines to market during 2014, all of them running SteamOS.
Sounds a lot like Valve is launching the Android of the gaming world. The OS will be available to manufacturers and independent developers and users will not only be able to choose from multiple hardware options (read: not just one console for the next 10 years. Looking at you Xbox) but also endless add-ons and user created content.
Obviously, you'll be able to access your account via the machine and enjoy all of what Steam has to offer from indie gems to humble bundles but that's not all. Some new features include media streaming for music and video, family sharing which to me sounds like you'll be able to sign in into multiple steam accounts and play any game regardless of which account bought it and family options to prevent the little tykes from getting into your GTAV game.
There are currently no details regarding the steam machine other than it will be upgradable and open. Valve did make a prototype and has 300 units available for Beta testing. If you'd like to sign up as a Beta Tester and possibly get said prototype, you can do so by clicking here >>
Alright, good for Valve, keeping up with its community driven platform but, with every imaginable genre of game available through steam, how will they all be playable with a controller? Especially since a lot of them are first and foremost desktop mouse and keyboard games? With a controller that looks like the love child of the the Wii U Gamepad and the Playstation Dual Shock!
A different kind of gamepad
We set out with a singular goal: bring the Steam experience, in its entirety, into the living-room. We knew how to build the user interface, we knew how to build a machine, and even an operating system. But that still left input — our biggest missing link. We realized early on that our goals required a new kind of input technology — one that could bridge the gap from the desk to the living room without compromises. So we spent a year experimenting with new approaches to input and we now believe we've arrived at something worth sharing and testing with you.
Notice how the joysticks were replaced with flat trackpads?
Driven by the player's thumbs, each one has a high-resolution trackpad as its base. It is also clickable, allowing the entire surface to act as a button. [They] allow far higher fidelity input than has previously been possible with traditional handheld controllers. Steam gamers, who are used to the input associated with PCs, will appreciate that the Steam Controller's resolution approaches that of a desktop mouse.
Even though there is not physical sticks to offer direct feedback, the controller is said to offer responsive haptics using electro-magnets. You heard me.
These small, strong, weighted electro-magnets are attached to each of the dual trackpads. They are capable of delivering a wide range of force and vibration, allowing precise control over frequency, amplitude, and direction of movement.
The center of the controller features a touch screen that can be used as one or multiple buttons or for gestures like swiping. The actual physical buttons of the controller are placed for ease of access and comfort. Valve boasted this hackable and customizable controller to be able to accommodate any game in the Steam catalogue which includes thousands of games of any genre.. I want to try it. I want to get my hands on it and have electro-magnets deliver physical feedback to my thumbs.
Consoles are known for being closed, packaged and limited which is why a lot of gamers only swear by their computers. On the other hand, console gamers like the comfort of not having to worry about hardware and software specs and compatibility. The Steam Machine seems to lodge itself right in the middle. To good to be true? We'll see.
For more information, visit steampowered.com/livingroom