Steam ‘big picture’ mode announced

by Dave Loft

So it looks like Valve will be making Steam a little more couch an controller friendly. As someone who connect’s their PC to their HDTV I have to say it’s about time. I currently sit on the couch with my gamepad to play the kind of games most people say ‘require a console to play’. I always wanted a way to interact with steam using the gamepad. A more intuitive way to use steam will make it more accessible. But I think there is more to this story than just that.

I always thought Valve should release a Steam console. But they haven’t made all the improvements and additions required to be successful in the console domain. You can’t sell a box that connects to an HDTV today without offering a comprehensive multimedia component. Their are also other competitors currently in the market that just do multimedia like Google TV, Apple TV, Roku and more. Just as consoles grew started to offer multimedia, the media boxes will need to start offering applications and games to compete for space beside your TV.

Going a few years down the road Google TV and Apple TV will most likely be established boxes beside the Xbox 360 and PS3 and it will be due to opening their platform’s up and offering an app market. Surprisingly application may be the key to Google and Apple taking the living room over from Microsoft and Sony. For hardcore gamers the choice will be easy but for everyone else a smaller, a quieter and less expensive device with a user experience similar to a smartphone will be very compelling.

For Valve to truly compete with a standalone box they will need to sell more than just games. They will need to sell or partner with someone who can provide them with music, television, movies, games, apps and a web browser. It wouldn’t be worthwhile running a full windows OS on the box, so they would most likely have to build on top of Linux. It would also be fairly unlikely that all games currently available on Steam would work on their standalone box. The work required to make this happen is truly daunting, but do they have a choice?

OnLive is increasingly becoming a strong alternative in the market to not just Steam on the PC but also dedicated home consoles. OnLive is poised to become the Netflix of gaming. At CES it was announced that OnLive would be available on Vizio televisions in addition to Mac, PC and the OnLive micro consoles. At MWC, HTC announced an investment of 40 million dollars into OnLive. They also showed off OnLive gaming on their upcoming Flyer 7″ tablet.

Looking at the field of competition it is clear that Valve has work to do. They will need to step up and increase the rate at which they add new features and capabilities to Steam. Their dominance of PC digital distribution sales has left them with little need to innovate. Let’s hope their push into the living room will provide the competition to do better and bring Steam fans, new and old an even better service.

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