Valve, creators of (among other things) the Half-Life franchise and Steam, the gold standard for digital game distribution, are said to be getting into the hardware game. If The Verge’s tip is to be believed, the company is working with partners to establish a base PC gaming standard to sell as a packaged deal, a sort of set-top box PC that would run Steam or other download services and run most PC games.
If true, it would be a major step for Valve, which has always been a software company. They haven’t ruled out moving into hardware, but their expertise is in software, so they’re more likely to be collaborating with an established gaming PC brand like Alienware. In fact, Alienware’s compact X51 system is said to have been designed with a spec like this “Steam Box” in mind.
It essentially would establish the “PC” as just another console, or at least would allow one to treat PC gaming in that way. As most PC gamers will tell you, however, this isn’t really high on many PC gamers’ lists. The advantages of gaming on a “real” PC are many and various, and the choice not to play certain games in a console environment is a conscious one.
But at the same time, the benefits of a simple system attached to a TV, and sold for a reasonable price, are obvious. They’re the benefits of existing consoles like the PS3 and 360, both of which are, of course, extremely popular.
The system, which is said to have a Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GPU, could be unveiled as soon as GDC, which is to say this week. But they could also wait until E3, when the device might make more of a splash.