By the middle of the year, according to some new reports directly from Valve CEO Gabe Newell, prototype versions of the long-awaited Steam Box (News - Alert) console will be ready for testing. Newell revealed this particular tidbit while at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Games Awards show, where he was due to receive an Academy Fellowship.
The Steam Box, the commonly-used name for a console set to work with the Steam video game purchasing system, is being specifically designed as a way to take on some of the biggest names in consoles, like the current Wii U from Nintendo, as well as the recently-noted PlayStation 4 from Sony and the still unseen new Xbox from Microsoft (News - Alert). Bringing competition to such clearly entrenched rivals will not be easy, and Newell seems quite aware of this particular point.
The prototypes, therefore, are a way to "gauge their (customers') reactions" and address issues of noise and heat generated while still being able to bring a powerful gaming experience in a box sufficiently small to be accommodated in living rooms. Additionally, there are still some issues under development, like a finalized version of the system's controller, which may include sensors to measure the user's body state. Issues of pricing are also a concern; Valve likely won't be able to do a lot with subsidizing the consoles, and a Steam Box likely wouldn't have the extra features that many consoles have been developing, like video chatting or streaming video with Netflix.
But if there are challenges involved in getting the Steam Box to market, it also has a pretty good case to make for itself. Valve's Steam platform comes with fully 50 million registered accounts across Windows, Linux and Mac devices, meaning there are probably quite a few gamers who'd love the ability to bring the fun of Steam to their living rooms. Indeed, analysts like IDC's (News - Alert) Lewis Ward are considering the idea further, noting that Steam certainly has a sound base under it and a good array of games available for it. But without getting a better handle on the machine itself, it's hard to pin down just how well the system will ultimately do.
Some have already begun looking into building their own "Steam Boxes" with PCs, which is possible given the increasing number of PCs with HDMI or DVI connectors (DVI to HDMI adapters are also easily found), so it may be that a Steam Box would be largely unnecessary in the first place. But getting a better idea of just what's in the Steam Box is going to be the first, best step toward figuring out just how well it can do against the array of competitors in the field.
With that information in hand, a better picture can be reached about the long-term viability chances that Valve's console can bring to the field. Until then, only time will truly tell if there's room for a fourth console in the increasingly vicious console wars.
Edited by Rachel Ramsey