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Job posting hints at novel peripherals, but full plans are anyone's guess

While precise numbers are hard to come by, recent reports pin PC game sales in the 30-40 million unit range, well off their peak levels of 1999.  With more and more gamers opting for consoles over gaming PCs, and with the additional pressures of piracy, many smaller developers have been forced to jump ship to mobile devices or consoles.  The result has been a general contraction in enthusiast hardware demand, which has led some companies to scale back the scope of their product lines.

Amidst that backdrop grizzled veteran PC gamemaker Valve, owners of the Steam digital distribution service, surprised many by announcing its intent to enter into the PC gaming/enthusiast hardware space.

The announcement came in a roundabout sort of way, when Valve posted a job listing dubbed "Industrial Designer".  In the job details lies a juicy nugget:

Open platforms like the PC and Mac are important to us, as they enable us and our partners to have a robust and direct relationship with customers. We’re frustrated by the lack of innovation in the computer hardware space though, so we’re jumping in. Even basic input, the keyboard and mouse, haven’t really changed in any meaningful way over the years. There’s a real void in the marketplace, and opportunities to create compelling user experiences are being overlooked.

While about as unambiguous as possible about Valve's determination to become a hardware player, the real question is what exactly it will produce.

Valve wide
Valve is entering the hardware market, but the question remains what it will opt to produce.
[Image Source: Valve]

A low-hanging fruit could perhaps be customer PC gaming controllers/peripherals playing off Valve's beloved franchises -- Half LifePortalCounterstrike, etc. -- a possibility suggested by the "basic input, the keyboard and mouse" part.  Still, the ambiguity has encouraged some to let their imagination run wild -- suggesting Valve may even be looking to come up with a console.

Valve recently drew mixed reactions when its President voiced his displeasure with Windows 8 despite the fact that the operating system packs in DirectX 11.1 and a plethora of performance improvements.  Valve traditionally made games exclusively for Windows PCs, but recent migrated to the Mac as well.  Likewise, its accusation that peripheral makers lack creativity may ruffle some feathers; after all some companies like OCZ have toyed with brain-"mice" -- thought controlled input devices.

But Valve does have one thing right.  The I/O space has yet to see such an innovative controller device catch on in a big way ("brain mice" have been released, but have been a low-volume niche product).  Most PC gamers still use the same thing they did a decade and a half ago -- a mouse and keyboard.  The question facing Valve is whether it will be able to use its market clout to change that situation.

Source: Valve

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RE: logical
By stm1185 on 9/4/2012 3:30:14 PM , Rating: 5
I think its a first step towards selling their own PCs and consoles running a modified version of Linux that is built around the Steam store.

And as for them complaining about a lack of innovation in the Mouse and Keyboard; well you can't fix whats not broken. Give me a MX518 mouse and a Sidewinder X4 keyboard over any Kinect, Wiimote, Move, gamepad, joystick, touchpad... They still offer far superior control at comparable cost.

RE: logical
By Reclaimer77 on 9/4/2012 3:49:53 PM , Rating: 3
I think its a first step towards selling their own PCs and consoles running a modified version of Linux that is built around the Steam store.

Who would buy that?

RE: logical
By kleinma on 9/4/2012 4:31:07 PM , Rating: 3

RE: logical
By Solandri on 9/4/2012 6:08:51 PM , Rating: 2

Mind you, I think it's a boondoggle, and most of the contributors are gaming and Linux/Android enthusiasts who don't realize they've become newbie venture capitalist investors by funding the kickstarter. But it seems there's plenty of people willing to pay money for this sort of thing.

RE: logical
By NellyFromMA on 9/4/2012 4:54:39 PM , Rating: 2
On the one hand, I have to beleive no one. On the other hand, this is essentialyl what people buy when they buy android phones. Modified Linux distros that are mobile. People bit down on that so idk, anything is possible I suppose... Stil, with thelaw suits and what not, it's hard to imagine a world where Valve competes with MS and Apple without actually licensing much of the required tech.

Valve's way out of their league on this one.

RE: logical
By GulWestfale on 9/4/2012 5:16:42 PM , Rating: 2
they'd need tons of exclusive content for a console, and considering the competition i don't think they'd be dumb enough to risk it. there is an open-source console out there, by the way:

granted, it's little more than a tegra 3 tablet without the screen, but it's possibly still more powerful than the wiiU lol.

RE: logical
By TakinYourPoints on 9/4/2012 7:42:27 PM , Rating: 4
I think its a first step towards selling their own PCs and consoles running a modified version of Linux that is built around the Steam store.

Nope, that is pointless.

This is most likely research into new physical UIs. I know for a fact that Valve had a VR head rig before Carmack demonstrated his earlier this year, and that they have hired engineers who have done research on biometric and wearable interfaces.

This type of research may never directly lead into a specific product, but this sort of blue sky R&D is important. Nobody ever knows where that sort of thing leads.

RE: logical
By TakinYourPoints on 9/4/2012 9:02:05 PM , Rating: 2
Hell, they've had biometric feedback built into their games for a while, at least on the developer side. They had heartrate monitors built into the DOTA 2 client for The International tournament last year, and they've used eyeball tracking and heartrate monitors for Left 4 Dead playtesting.

Again, who knows if and when this will end up in a commercial user interface, but they'll never know without experimenting and prototyping. It is the same type of extensive UI R&D that Apple and Nintendo do so well.

Something like a Valve produced console, PC, or laptop would be a waste of Valve's energy. It pushes nothing forward and anybody can do that. Valve entire history has been based on figuring out where to go before anyone else does (narrative FPS, e-commerce, and now executing eSports with DOTA 2 on a level beyond anyone else).

RE: logical
By Schadenfroh on 9/4/2012 10:58:04 PM , Rating: 3
you can't fix whats not broken

I'm still using an IBM Model M keyboard ("clicky" key). You cannot fix that which is impossible to break...

"Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?... So why the f*** doesn't it do that?" -- Steve Jobs

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