Valve Announces SteamBoxes Coming Next Year, Beta Hardware Coming Soon

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Valve today made the second of its three major announcements scheduled for this week: surprising noone, the company confirmed that it was working on a series of hardware designed from the ground up to run SteamOS. Part computer, part console, the hardware isn’t available yet – but it will be sometime next year, and like many thought, it won’t be limited to a single device.

SteamBox

Instead, Valve is taking the same approach with SteamOS that Google has with Android: step back, provide the software, and see what companies can do with it.

The company also announced that it had developed beta hardware on which to test the user experience – and it would be giving 300 lucky Steam users access to it much sooner – as in, later this year. If you want to be in the running – and who wouldn’t! – you’ll need to undertake Valve’s official Hardware Beta Eligibility Quest. By October 25th, you’ll have to:

  1. Join the Steam Universe community group
  2. Agree to the Steam Hardware Beta Terms and Conditions
  3. Make 10 Steam friends (if you haven’t already)
  4. Create a public Steam Community profile (if you haven’t already)
  5. Play a game using a gamepad in Big Picture mode

You won’t need to do the steps in any specific order – like the rest of their quests (for badges, contests, etc.), you can do it however you wish. In fact, we’d wager there are a large number of Steam users who had completed the majority of those requirements before the announcement was ever made (we know we have)!

It seems like outside of this test, and their own internal purposes, Valve won’t be making a SteamBox of its own. Instead, it really wants manufacturers to take the reins and run wild, targeting various and specific criteria, like price, or design, or size. This is a brilliant move on their part, as it allows them to do what they feel is their strength – the software – and undergo very little risk if the machines don’t sell. It will be curious to see which manufacturers take the company up on its offer, and how they plan to make money.

As SteamOS will be completely open source, any enthusiast will be able to buy a regular machine and run the software on it themselves, whether its a home-built desktop, or something compact, like an Intel NUC or Mac Mini. Additionally, and unlike with Windows, these companies won’t be able to sell software placements for these machines, as Steam will be providing the software stores. Perhaps Valve will cut OEMs in on a percent of Steam sales made from the machine for the first year. No doubt there will be more than a few people interested in a ready-made machine that comes with support and guaranteed working hardware – despite it being late 2013, Linux can often be a confusing mess of hardware and software for even experienced users.

Many are wondering just how many games will be available for a Linux-based OS, but Valve is bullish, promising support for “hundreds already running natively on the SteamOS, with more to come” – given the almost 3,000 titles on Steam, that’s not too bad to start. Other software will be available via “in-home streaming”, in which the game will run natively on Steam on a desktop or notebook somewhere else in the house and have its contents and commands routed back and forth over the network.

There aren’t any specifications available for the prototype hardware, but Valve promises that those will be coming soon. It leaves just one final announcement to be made on Friday – and with SteamOS on Monday and Steam Machines today, our guess is that Valve will announce an official Steam Controller on Friday, with promises to support any controller-compatible game on Steam, and working with game developers to increase that support in the future. But it’s just a guess. Got a better one? Comment below!

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