Is This a Photo of Valve's Rumored Console, Or At Least a Prototype?

Less than 24 hours since the website The Verge reported that Valve is working on a video game console, we've got what could be a photo of a prototype unit.

The image comes from the Twitter feed of Valve employee Greg Coomer. It was Tweeted on November 2, with the caption: "Built this tiny PC. i7 quad core, 8GB ram, Zotac Z-68 mobo w/ onnboard Nvidia mobile gfx. Runs Portal 2 FAST. "

Yesterday, The Verge reported that Valve was making a console—or at least a hardware standard—for Valve-supported gaming and that: "We're told that the basic specs of the Steam Box include a Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GPU."

The specs line up.

But take this with a grain of salt.

Is This a Photo of Valve's Rumored Console, Or At Least a Prototype?

I can't confirm that the Valve is really making a console (they've not replied to a request for comment). Nor can I confirm that Coomer was working on such a project.

But the specs match well enough to suggest that whatever The Verge thinks Valve is up to matches what Coomer was up to on November 2. The machine seen in Coomer's pic looks to be, essentially, a shell built around a Zotac Z68-ITX WiFi platform, which you can see pictures and specs of on its official product page.

I was shown the image earlier this evening by an eager tipster of unknown identity who said they wanted to share more details. They urged a quick reply, and when none came as quickly as hoped, they followed-up with the following about Coomer...

This is all from the tipster:

There's this one Valve veteran who was definitively too chatty in the past. His name is Greg Coomer (http://www.valvesoftware.com/company/people...), he's a product designer and leading the SteamBox-team, which is pretty unspectacular in size with just 5-10 people working on it. Now, Greg sometimes tweets interesting stuff:

(in a non-chronological order)

Date: 22 Oct 2011
Link: https://twitter.com/#!/gregcoomer/...
Tweet: "What I'm working on: http://t.co/jDLQnxvl"
Note: Read the article and especially Gabe's statements. It's obviously about a possible Valve console.

Date: 14 Oct 2011
Link: https://twitter.com/#!/gregcoomer/...
Tweet: "Building a mini-ITX form factor PC is hard. Even things like wiring the power supply are not standard or straightforward."
Note: Well …

Date: 3 Nov 2011
Link: https://twitter.com/#!/gregcoomer/...

Tweet: "Built this tiny PC. i7 quad core, 8GB ram, Zotac Z-68 mobo w/ onnboard Nvidia mobile gfx. Runs Portal 2 FAST."
Note: This is the demo unit they used to demo the Big-Picture-Mode to possible hardware partners at CES 2012. This specification DOES NOT necessarily reflect what's going to be used as the "baseline" specification for the final product(s). (contrary to Joshes' story)

That's just a snippet of all the information I've gathered about this project. However, I think these tweets pretty much confirm that Valve is actually working on a console (-like PC).

You may take screenshots of the tweets – just in case they get pulled.

While I was following up and trying to verify this information, the tipster spilled those same details onto the 4Chan message board.

There's plenty of reason to be skeptical here. The October 22 "What I'm working on" Tweet links to a Seattle Times interview with Valve boss Gabe Newell that includes speculation about Valve making hardware, but it is more generally about Newell's wariness of Apple's closed system. There are many things Coomer could have been working on that involved Newell's Apple concerns, though I should also note that The Verge said that Apple's closed system was a motivating factor for making this rumored hardware.

The Coomer Tweets neither support nor refute The Verge's many other details about a configurable controller or an incorporation of biometric feedback into the gaming experience.

Is our eager tipster on to something? Or are they piecing together some extraordinary coincidences? I cannot verify their claims that there is a console team at Valve, let alone that it consists of a paltry 5-10 people.

I've asked Valve for comment about Coomer's involvement in hardware that matches what The Verge reported.

For now, one wild story just got wilder.