Is Steam the Next Big Thing?

It’s an exciting time for home entertainment tech, and all eyes are on Valve and their latest series of Steam announcements. Valve is making some huge steps, and you’re going to want to keep up with this one.

What’s going on?

In a move to bring computer gamers to the living room, Valve has released three announcements concerning their highly-anticipated upcoming Steam products.  While the specifics have yet to be revealed, we can expect three products to look forward to in the upcoming year: SteamOS, Steam Machines, and Steam Controllers.

What do we know?

An Operating System Optimized for the Living Room

The newly-announced SteamOS is Valve’s method of bringing the Steam games and community to the living-room. SteamOS is Linux-based, but Valve has announced that hundreds of games have already been ported to run natively on SteamOS. The remainder of the games currently available on Steam will be playable through in-home streaming, similar to the NVIDIA SHIELD. This translates to almost 3000 Steam games playable right in your living-room.

SteamOS will also put some emphasis on the Steam Cloud, which features automatic updates, easy switching between machines, and the ability to save preferences. In addition, SteamOS will feature Family Sharing, which is the ability to share your games with your family members. Rather than having each family member purchase a game to enjoy it, this will allow you and your family members to take turns playing each other’s games (and rack up those addicting achievements).

Which Machine Will Reign Supreme?

Steam Machines are Valve’s work-in-progress entrant in the war of the consoles. While Steam has historically been available only to computer gamers, it is now clearly being positioned to compete directly with the console gods: PS4, Xbox One, and Wii U. And what an interesting position they are in.

The Steam Machines are essentially gaming computers that will run in the living room. Any of the hardware components can be replaced, making it customizable and upgradeable. In theory, this will eliminate the need to purchase any future versions of the box, allowing users to keep up with new games without completely changing systems. Valve will soon be announcing several hardware configurations of the Steam Machine, built by different manufacturers. Each of these machines will be optimized for certain factors: price, size, etc. This will make it easy to determine which Steam Machine will be suitable for each user.

A Controller like No Other

The Steam Controller is where it all comes together, the bridge between the computer and the living room. While at its core the Steam Controller is just a gamepad, it is “a different kind of gamepad.” The Steam Controller features two trackpads, controlled by the player’s thumbs, boasting a level of precision unseen in previously released consoles. This added level of precision enables gamers to enjoy games like Portal 2 without the need for auto-aim.

The Steam Controller also includes a touch screen in the center of the gamepad, which is designed to work nicely with Steam: rather than divide the attention of the player between the controller display and the screen, the display of the controller is shown on top of the game being played once player touches the screen of the controller. The Steam Controller also features advanced haptic feedback technology that will allow a higher level of precision, enabling game developers to enhance the experience of players.

In addition to the news of the Steam Controller, Valve has released a video demonstration of how the controller performs in some of your favorite games:

What can we expect?

With an incredibly massive catalogue of games, Steam has been one of the biggest forces in computer gaming. And with the upcoming products making it possible to play these titles in the living-room, I’d say we’re looking at a transformation in living room gaming. At the very least, Valve is going to give the current champions a run for their money.

You can prepare for the Steam Machine by expanding your Steam game collection. Make sure to pick up excellent titles like Bioshock Infinite and Civilization V if you haven’t already.

So what do you think? Are you going to hop on the Steam train?

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