Valve Aims to Fill "Void" in PC Hardware Market, Calls Out Enthusiast Vendors
September 4, 2012 2:49 PM
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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,
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 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 --
, 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
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
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.
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
9/4/2012 9:02:05 PM
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).
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