Print 25 comment(s) - last by Helbore.. on Sep 13 at 9:39 AM

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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Hopes & Prayers
By Silvio on 9/4/2012 4:36:12 PM , Rating: 2
Am I the only one hoping that Valve puts research into keyboard layout, and that we finally get something that wasn't designed by typewriter manufactureres to slow people down?

And don't you dare say 'There's always Dvorak'. Try and buy a Dvorak keyboard. Last time I did I was looking at an outlay of over $100 for an ugly, clunky keyboard.

RE: Hopes & Prayers
By Newspapercrane on 9/4/2012 4:42:47 PM , Rating: 2
Get a keyboard with removable keycaps and move them around yourself. It's fairly common for higher end keyboards these days (or if you're like me... your IBM Model M). Or, better yet, get a DAS keyboard pro. It's blank, so it won't need to be moved around. Think of the hilarity which would ensue to see a touch typist... or even a hunt and peck typist... using your computer.

RE: Hopes & Prayers
By Helbore on 9/4/2012 6:57:47 PM , Rating: 2
Moving the keycaps wouldn't actually change what characters the underlying keys output.

RE: Hopes & Prayers
By DaveLessnau on 9/5/2012 9:56:49 AM , Rating: 2
RE: Hopes & Prayers
By Helbore on 9/13/2012 9:39:35 AM , Rating: 2
Wow, never knew you could do that! Live and learn.

RE: Hopes & Prayers
By kattanna on 9/4/2012 4:54:16 PM , Rating: 2
i dont really see a need for a new keyboard layout, not now anyways.

its been the same layout for decades now and it works.

plus having to get used to a new one at home and the old standard one at thanks. its not enough of an issue for the hassle.

RE: Hopes & Prayers
By tayb on 9/4/2012 4:54:27 PM , Rating: 2
It's debatable as to the true motivations for the qwerty keyboard. Whether it was intended to reduce jamming by moving associated letters away from each other or reduce jamming by making the keyboard confusing we shall never know.

You are literally the first person I have ever heard of that wanted to type on a non-QWERTY keyboard. I sometimes wonder if we could re-engineer the keyboard and make it faster to type but it's basically a world-wide standard so it never ends up being anything but a random thought. Even if I replaced my home keyboards it would be a gigantic pain in the ass to replace my laptop keyboard and then there is my phone, etc, etc. I just live with it.

I seriously doubt the market for non-QWERTY keyboards is even remotely large enough for Valve to spend R&D entering.

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