- Jan 31, 2005
- Reaction score
Read more at KotakuValve Is Bringing Steam To Your TV Today. Watch Out, Consoles.
Today, Valve will launch the beta of Big Picture mode, a version of Steam designed for your television. That's right. The de facto central hub of PC gaming is now designed to run while you're lounging in your living room—and with a controller, no less. I've tried out Big Picture. It's sleek, intuitive, and groundbreaking in several ways.
No, this new "Steam TV" isn't going to make our video game consoles go away. It's not going to turn your Xbox into a doorstop or obviate your PS3. But Big Picture could be a crucial first step toward making PC gaming more accessible, more convenient, and more suited for living rooms than ever before.
Here are the basics: this afternoon, when Big Picture goes live, you'll be able to push a button and turn Steam into an entirely new interface. It sort of looks like the dashboard on an Xbox 360, minus the advertisements and other clutter that can make that system so irritating to navigate. And it allows you to do almost everything you can do on vanilla Steam: you can buy games, browse the web, and even chat with your friends using the platform's standard in-game overlay.
The fonts, icons, and menus are all large enough to be comfortably viewed on a big-screen television, and the prompts are designed for a game controller. You can use Big Picture on your normal monitor with a mouse and keyboard, but that would defeat the purpose: this is an interface designed for your living room. Because the living room, Valve says, is where most people prefer playing video games.
And maybe, just maybe, if fans seem to want it, and if it makes financial sense, the people who make Half-Life will use Big Picture to create their own version of a video game console.
Steam Box 720
Valve isn't happy with today's gaming consoles. They made that quite clear to me as we sat in one of the back rooms of their Seattle office in late August, looking at Big Picture mode in action.
See, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are walled gardens. You can't open them up or modify their insides. Developers can't release new updates or patches to their games without going through a restrictive, bureaucractic certification process. Nothing about these systems is open at all, and Valve doesn't like that.
Still, consoles have some advantages over computers. They're cheaper. More accessible. And you can play them on your sofa, feet propped up, a comfy controller in your hands. It's not so easy to do that with a computer.
At least not yet.
"We're confident in some things that customers want," Valve's Greg Coomer, head of the small team that designed and developed Big Picture mode, told me in his office. "They want a full-screen experience. They want to be in the living room. They want to use a game controller. They wanna have a social gaming experience. And we have this platform that lets us ship a significant portion of that experience."