Last week Valve announced the Steam Machine—or “Steam Box”—and that there would be new announcements this week. Needless to say, Valve didn’t disappoint and now there’s more concrete insight the operating system and the specs of the prototype boxes.
According to Valve’s announcement on Steam’s promotional site for the OS, the company has 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.”
Valve went on to explain that 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.”
The company explained that the need for a new operating system is more flexibility for developers and being freely licensable to hardware manufacturers. Their progress on SteamOS includes “significant performance increases in graphics processing” and that they working on “targeting audio performance and reductions in input latency at the operating system level.”
Valve stated that hundreds of Steam titles are running on the new OS and that in the coming weeks more AAA titles will be announced for SteamOS compatibility heading into the 2014 release window for the Steam Box and OS. It was mentioned that SteamOS will support the entire catalog.
The method—in-home streaming—looks to utilize remote play from a PC to a TV with the Box being a kind of middleman between the two. This means it’s not so much a console as many believed initially when rumors and inklings of Valve’s machine hit.
SteamOS is said to be compatible with standard Steam functions across different machines (marketplace, add-ons, friends list, etc.) Valve has also said that it is working with known media services, so expected music, TV, and other online entertainment services that have become standard.
Steam Box Prototype
Valve has stated that they intend for there to be different living room boxes running the SteamOS, however they will be doling out 300 prototypes to beta testers this year. They also announced the hardware specs earlier this week:
GPU: Varies. Some will run with NVidia Titan and others with GTX780, GTX760, and GTX660.
CPU: Varies. Some will run with Intel i7-4770 while others will run with i5-4570 and i3.
RAM: 16GB DDR3-1660 (CPU), 3GB DDR5 (GPU)
Dimensions: A universal 12 x 12.4 around and 2.9 in height
Storage: 1TB/8B Hybrid SSHD
Power Supply: Internal 450w 80Plus Gold
There have been various mentions the price of the Box based on the parts compiled from different marketplaces online. ArsTechnica for instance puts it in the window of $600-$700 at the lowest end if you don’t include Valve’s Steam controller and over $1500 at the highest.
Valve has even pointed out that since the OS itself is free to hardware developers, anyone could build their own box and that their Machine would be particular as far as the physical Box itself.
“Aside from the custom enclosure, anyone can go and build exactly the same machine by shopping for components and assembling it themselves.” The company also acknowledges that users will have different desires for their machine from price, power, size, and so on.
Value will be announcing details on the SteamOS and the Steam Machines on their countdown page with new announcements coming up Wednesday 1PM EST.
It will be interesting to see what is actually planned for the Steam Machine. There is still some fuzziness on what it is exactly. From initial details, it really seems like a middleman whereas you could either just play on your PC or hook your PC to your TV with HDMI—granted it’s a fairly modern PC.
That aside, it’s almost a given that it will do something special besides allow for players to play Steam games on a large TV and enjoy streaming movies, TV, and music. At this point it’s a battle for consoles and living room boxes to do the same thing better than their nearest competition.
The special thing could just be that it handles Steam’s ecosystem of communication, games, and commerce. The upcoming details will definitely clear things up.