Just before the BAFTA game awards took place last night, Valve boss Gabe Newell revealed the company's progress with its Steam box console and stated that prototypes would be making their way to some lucky customers in the next three or four months.
Newell describes the Steam box as a gaming console that has the power and flexibility of a PC. He says the developers are trying to make it as fast and quiet as they possibly can. However, the controller seems to be posing a hurdle. According to Newell, "The main thing that's holding us up... we have a couple of different controllers prototypes we're using."
Newell also talks about gathering players' biometric data through the controllers and using that to make the gaming experience better. For instance, the controller would monitor a player's heart rate when they're playing a horror game and the game would adjust according to how scared you are. A biometric controller could be part of the Steam box and could also be released separately for PC gaming in general.
The Steam Box—Piston—that was showcased during CES in January (image credit: Polygon)
It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to assume that the new console generation, along with Valve’s Steam Box, could usher in a new Source engine. While the company has a history of being very quiet about its projects, if you look closely, there are hints of a possible follow-up to the wildly popular Source Engine.
A prototype for Valve’s Steam box was unveiled during CES in January. The prototype, dubbed Piston, is made by Xi3 and is designed specifically to support Steam and its Big Picture Mode on TVs.
The Piston is modeled on Xi3's X7a computers. While the company wouldn't talk about how much the machine would cost, it can be expected to come for more than $700 as the X7a computer is itself priced at $999. This could be a major turn off for gamers, as a new Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3 would end up being much less expensive than the Piston.
It is possible that Valve could subsidise the console's cost heavily and may depend on introducing more gamers to its digital distribution platform Steam to make a profit.
Valve marketing Director Doug Lombardi has said that the prototypes are meant to be "low-cost, high-performance designs for the living room that are great candidates for Steam and Big Picture." More information will be revealed by Valve in the coming months.