Valve Announces 'Steam Machines,' Hopes To Improve Living Room Gaming

Hope you weren't too attached to the name "Steam Box"—Valve is partnering with various companies to release hardware that they're calling Steam Machines. These are PCs designed to play games on your television, and they'll compete with the next generation of gaming consoles for control of your living room.

The beta test for these machines starts this year, and Valve is shipping some 300 Steam Machine prototypes to gamers who sign up (and get lucky). Those prototypes will be a high-end gaming machine designed to show off the capabilities of this sort of hardware, and Valve says you'll be able to play "hundreds" of games natively during the beta—the rest will be available via "in-home streaming."

Details are still vague about the actual machines, but we know there will be multiple pieces of hardware. "Beginning in 2014, there will be multiple SteamOS machines to choose from, made by different manufacturers," Valve writes.

That's a pretty big deal—Valve, traditionally a software company, has earned a ton of success and acclaim with its current operations on Steam, and gamers love what the studio has to offer. Valve-branded PCs could pose strong competition for the next-gen consoles from the likes of Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo.

No word on specs yet, but Valve says you'll be able to run multiple operating systems on the Steam Machines. They'll be hackable, and they'll ship from a variety of manufacturers.

Here's how to make yourself eligible to win one of the first 300 Steam Machines:

THE HARDWARE BETA ELIGIBILITY QUEST:
Before October 25, log in to Steam and then visit your quest page to track your current status towards beta test eligibility
3. Make 10 Steam friends (if you haven't already)
4. Create a public Steam Community profile (if you haven't already)
5. Play a game using a gamepad in Big Picture mode

That beta "quest" will be open until October 25.

And via Valve, here's the full Steam Machine Q&A:

When can I buy one?!

Beginning in 2014, there will be multiple SteamOS machines to choose from, made by different manufacturers.

I’m pretty happy with my PC Gaming setup, do I have to buy a new piece of hardware now?

No. Everything that we’ve been doing on Steam for the last 10 years will continue to move forward.

If you guys are delivering an OS to hardware manufacturers, why is Valve also making its own box?

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.

How will you choose the 300 beta participants?

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.

Should I create lots of Steam accounts to increase my chances of getting selected?

No, that won’t work.

What are the specs of the Valve prototype?

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.

Where’s a picture of it? How big is it?

We promise we'll tell you more about it soon.

When will the prototypes ship?

This year.

Will beta testers be allowed to share info about their experience and post pictures and opinions online?

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.

Will I be able to build my own box to run SteamOS?

Yes.

Can I hack this box? Run another OS? Change the hardware? Install my own software? Use it to build a robot?

Sure.

Can I download the OS to try it out?

You will be able to download it (including the source code, if you're into that) but not yet.

If I’m not in the beta, how can I help and contribute feedback?

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.

What games will be available during the beta?

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.

What is SteamOS? What’s included?

Here's a link to what we said earlier about SteamOS. We'll have more details to tell you, soon.

Am I going to be using a mouse and a keyboard in the living-room?

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.

This is the second of three announcements scheduled this week in order to show the world what Valve's new hardware initiative is all about. On Monday, Valve unveiled SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system designed for living room gaming.

The third and final announcement will be revealed on Friday at 1pm Eastern.