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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 Newspapercrane on 9/4/2012 3:36:27 PM , Rating: 3
Just because Windows will have an app store doesn't mean that the steam store is going to go anywhere. Whether Windows 8 takes off or flops, Valve has a deep foothold in that market already. They're not dumb enough to let Microsoft take their devs away, and based on how Microsoft has treated indie developers on XBL, they won't be going anywhere.

I think there may be room in the market for another platform in contender in the gaming space, and I think the Ooya proved that. Time will tell what Valve comes up with, but one thing is for certain: Valve has to have the money to pull something like this off. Based on their development of a Linux version of the source engine/Steam I would think that it's probably going to be some kind of linux box, with perhaps a utilization of "Plays on SteamBox" badge for valve games, as well as those from participating indie developers.

The interesting part in this for me would be what kind of processor/GPU this thing would have. Most Intel platforms would probably be too expensive, and the thought of Gaming on an Atom platform makes me want to blow my brains out. ARM is a decent option, but games with the "Works on Steambox" cert would have to be reworked to work with ARM. Didn't the unreal engine just get ported to ARM? That might make this interesting, though I'm not so sure they'd play nice with Valve on this one. This might also be an interesting implementation of AMD's Llano line, though to be honest I haven't heard anything super-amazing out of that, though I expect that the APU will get better with maturity.

RE: logical
By Newspapercrane on 9/4/2012 3:39:34 PM , Rating: 2
All of my speculation is based on the idea that they'd be making a Steam box as an affordable console replacement priced from $200-$400.

"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard

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