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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 tayb on 9/4/2012 3:38:01 PM , Rating: 3
given that macs are moving towards an app store-only environment, and that windows 8 will have its own store as well, valve loses its biggest moneymaker, the steam store.

This is no given. I won't say never but it is highly unlikely that Apple would transition its desktop OS into an app store only model. Offering a convenient place to download and distribute software does not mean they're planning to make that the ONLY place to get software. Quite unlikely and if it were to happen it would have to be phased in very slowly.

Further, both the Windows 8 Store and the Mac Store charge hefty fees of up to 30% of revenue for the "privilege" of selling through the store. I don't think it will be difficult for Steam to undercut that and offer game developers a cheaper and easier place to distribute games.

They're thinking peripherals. The listing is for someone to design some gear. Probably backpacks, gaming keyboards/mice, mousepads, water bottles, etc.

RE: logical
By FITCamaro on 9/4/2012 6:01:26 PM , Rating: 3
Exactly. Microsoft's and Apple's stores don't block the existence of other stores. Hell everyone is creating a store right now for better or worse (usually worse...looking at you EA).

RE: logical
By nafhan on 9/5/2012 11:03:07 AM , Rating: 2
They don't block them, but they do make them into second class citizens as first party stores have capabilities that third party stores will/do not have.

Not saying that the OS "stores" are necessarily bad, just pointing out that they have some advantages that may make it easy for MS/Apple to marginalize other sources of software even if they don't outright block them.

"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer

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