As the developer behind Steam and game series including Half-Life, Portal, Left 4 Dead and Counter-Strike, Valve is the de facto figurehead of modern PC gaming, and it's long been rumoured that it'll get into hardware. A fresh rumour is now circulating, saying Valve's planning a standardised PC platform dubbed the 'Steam Box,' which may be revealed at GDC this week.
According to anonymous sources who whispered in the ear of The Verge, Valve is not producing hardware itself, rather drawing up a hardware specification and software solution for PC manufacturers to whip up their own Steam Box--a bit like Google's Android platform. Supposedly, Dell's shiny Alienware X51 was built to an early version of the spec, and could later be upgraded with the Steam Box software.
The anonymous and unconfirmed reports say that Valve demonstrated a Steam Box to potential hardware partners at CES in January. The supposed basic specs of the hand-built PC included an an Intel Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GPU. The PCs would have a planned lifecycle, so developers could count on certain specs, with refreshes every three or four years.
Steam's upcoming 'Big Picture' mode, which tweaks Steam to work on televisions in living room setups, is said to play into the plans, helping bring PC gaming away from the study and desk.
The Steam Box will reportedly ship with a customisable controller boasting swappable inputs, an idea Valve patented last year. The shadowy figures also hint that the controllers may support gathering biometric data, a field's Valve's been interested in for some time, and has already hooked into Dota 2.
Valve head honcho Gabe Newell did recently tell The Penny Arcade Report, "if we have to sell hardware we will," though this followed on from chat about biometrics devices and wearable computers.
While Steam would undoubtedly be at the heart of any Steam Box, The Verge's sources say it'll unsurprisingly also be able to run any PC game, as well as rival platforms such as EA's Origin--so it won't be locked down too tight. Last October, Valve head honcho Gabe Newell lamented platform holders locking users into their software of choice.
The Steam Box could be revealed at GDC this week, The Verge's sources say, or Valve may hold out for E3 in June.
The idea of a standardised gaming PC has often been mooted as a solution to make PC gaming more accessible, but nothing has ever took off. Valve may well have the clout for such a coup, but let's not forget none of this has been confirmed. We've dropped Valve a line, in the vain hope that it fancies casually revealing top-secret plans that could change the face of PC gaming.