Valve has announced its second big reveal this week: a prototype hardware design, as well as a set of recommended computers from various manufacturers running on SteamOS.
Valve believes that entertainment is not a one-size-fits-all solution and aims to offer the choice of hardware to gamers eager to build their own Steambox. The company says that they are working with multiple hardware partners to bring a variety of Steam Machines to market in 2014.
Together with a list of recommended machines, Valve is also working on a prototype hardware box to give to 300 Steam users to test. Valve says that the products they’ll be recomending are still in development and won’t be available just yet, but the prototype hardware will be the first glimpse into their vision for the SteamOS and Steam Machine initiative.
“While these products are still in development, we need your help,” said Valve. “As always, we believe the best way to ensure that the right products are getting made is to let people try them out and then make changes as we go. We have designed a high-performance prototype that’s optimized for gaming, for the living room, and for Steam. Of course, it’s also completely upgradable and open.”
Valve’s eligibility process for the testing beta reads like a mini-game and all of it involves using the Steam client. users must complete a set of challenges to be eligible for the beta program. Once in the hands of users, Valve expects that they will not only give the company feedback, but share the feedback with others and spread word about what the device looks like, how it performs and how the new features work.
The company also made a small list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) that give a little more insight to how they plan to run the Steam Machine program:
Q: When can I buy one?!
A: Beginning in 2014, there will be multiple SteamOS machines to choose from, made by different manufacturers.
Q: I’m pretty happy with my PC Gaming setup, do I have to buy a new piece of hardware now?
A: No. Everything that we’ve been doing on Steam for the last 10 years will continue to move forward.
Q: If you guys are delivering an OS to hardware manufacturers, why is Valve also making its own box?
A: We’re conducting a beta of the overall Steam living-room experience, so we needed to build prototype hardware on which to run tests. At Valve we always rely on real-world testing as part of our design process. The specific machine we’re testing is designed for users who want the most control possible over their hardware. Other boxes will optimize for size, price, quietness, or other factors.
Q: How will you choose the 300 beta participants?
A: A small number of users (30 or less) will be chosen based on their past community contributions and beta participation. The remainder will be chosen at random from the eligible pool.
Q: What are the specs of the Valve prototype?
A: We’ll tell you more about it soon. Remember, there will ultimately be several boxes to choose from, with an array of specifications, price, and performance.
Q: Will beta testers be allowed to share info about their experience and post pictures and opinions online?
A: Yes, that really is the whole point. The input from testers should come in many forms: bug reports, forum posts, concept art, 3D prints, haikus, and also very publicly stated opinions.
Q: Can I hack this box? Run another OS? Change the hardware? Install my own software? Use it to build a robot?
Q: Can I download the OS to try it out?
A: You will be able to download it (including the source code, if you’re into that) but not yet.
Q: If I’m not in the beta, how can I help and contribute feedback?
A: The Steam Universe Group is where feedback is being collected. Most areas of the group will remain open for participation by all Steam users. Some may be limited to beta participants only, but there will be plenty of ways to contribute feedback for everyone.
Q: What games will be available during the beta?
A: The nearly 3,000 games on Steam. Hundreds already running natively on the SteamOS, with more to come. The rest will work seamlessly via in-home streaming.
Q: Am I going to be using a mouse and a keyboard in the living-room?
A: If you want. But Steam and SteamOS work well with gamepads, too. Stay tuned, though – we have some more to say very soon on the topic of input.
Valve’s next announcement will take place on Friday (28 September 2013) at 7PM. The company is now expected to reveal a custom controller designed internally, although we will all have to wait until Friday to see what their plans are for that.