Gabe Newell, co-founder and Managing Director of Valve, said whilst delivering the keynote speech at LinuxCon on Monday that (to paraphrase) 'Linux represented gaming's future'. This may have been an idle comment designed to stroke the collective ego of attendees, but many of the audience will have held their breath when he followed it up by saying "next week we're going to be rolling out more information about how we get there and what are the hardware opportunities we see for bringing Linux into the living room."
Fast forward to today and a new splash page has gone up at http://store.steampowered.com/livingroom/ bearing the legend: "The Steam Universe Is Expanding." It appears that Valve do indeed have a major announcement to come next week - or in this case three.
Below the announcement text and large screen with a glowing orb are three indicators, one of which has currently has a countdown below it. Counting down to what you may ask? Well, that's the question; no-one currently really knows. The fact that there are two other announcements set to go live later in the week really opens up the possibilities.
Speculation continues to run rife, and as with any Valve announcement which even tangentially involves the number three Half Life 3 has been mentioned in hushed whispers. Realistically however it's almost certainly a more services-based development centering around the next phase of Big Picture.
Big Picture has been Valve's ongoing strategy of making the PC gaming experience as seamless as a console, whilst remaining a much more open platform. The first part - a Steam client suitable for HD TV's - has largely been completed. The next component is encouraging the use of the PC in the living-room and making games playable there. For that, Valve needs three further components:
1) - A Gamepad. Traditional keyboard/mouse combinations are awesome for many titles, but not great in the livingroom. A controller is better, but there isn't one tailored to the PC. We know that this type of hardware has been under development for some time at Valve, so a Steam Controller useful specifically for Big Picture mode and Steam titles seems probable.
2) - The Steambox. Another piece to the puzzle, Valve need to define a set of minimum specs of a 'gaming machine' and if necessary support its production. Steambox concepts were demoed by Valve at GDC this year, but none so far have the official seal of approval. It may be that Valve have something exotic in mind such as a streaming device, but a hardware announcement on this level wouldn't be surprising.
3) - Steam OS. Here is where 'Linux as the future' comes in. Valve could throw their weight behind a specific distro or develop one of their own, but greater Linux (and OpenGL) support seems almost inevitable. Newell has not been shy about his disdain for Windows 8 and the directions Microsoft may be going in making their platform more closed or attempting to milk revenue from third party application sales. If this isn't merely bluster, a Linux OS fully backed by Value with Steam would be enough to worry even the most stalwart MS strategist.
Of course, there's a risk we're overselling events a little here and they'll end up being more mundane. Perhaps the most intriguing part is that they're looking to bring the opinions of users on board, hinting most strongly at software innovations rather than hardware. Whatever the announcement, next week is almost certain to be interesting to the PC gamer. The first reveal is at 18:00 BST on Monday 23rd.
Source: ArsTechnica, Steam