Valve boss says living room Steam PCs coming with Linux support

The pieces are coming together for Valve to push into the hardware space, as it increases software support for Linux boxes and points out that the OS would allow more flexibility for hardware plans.

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Valve boss Gabe Newell says that now that Steam's Big Picture mode has launched, the addition of Linux support is the next crucial step in developing its own hardware plans. The company already appears to be preparing itself with increased support for Linux in its games.

Newell told Kotaku that once Steam Linux is out of beta, and Big Picture can run on the Linux platform, it will give the company more flexibility to make its own hardware without using Windows as its backbone. The head of Valve has been critical of the Microsoft OS recently.

To that end, Engadget reports that the company has been updating select Steam games with Linux support as it continues to test the OS. Ubuntu is reportedly the most supported distribution available so far.

Once Linux and Big Picture are playing together nicely, Newell said that both Valve and other companies will create PC boxes meant for the living room. "We'll do it but we also think other people will as well," he said. "Certainly our hardware will be a very controlled environment. If you want more flexibility, you can always buy a more general purpose PC. For people who want a more turnkey solution, that's what some people are really gonna want for their living room. The nice thing about a PC is a lot of different people can try out different solutions, and customers can find the ones that work best for them." He also said these boxes could compete with the next-gen consoles coming from Microsoft and Sony.

Speculation surrounding Valve's approach to the hardware market kicked off with a report of a Steam box, which the company claimed were just Big Picture prototypes. More recently, the company has talked about developing hardware, though it wasn't clear if it was referring to experimental solutions like wearable computers.

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  • reply
    December 10, 2012 1:30 PM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, Valve boss says living room Steam PCs coming with Linux support.

    The pieces are coming together for Valve to push into the hardware space, as it increases software support for Linux boxes and points out that the OS would allow more flexibility for hardware plans.

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      December 10, 2012 1:35 PM

      The linux beta already works pretty well. Curious what controllers they'll come up with.

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        December 10, 2012 1:56 PM

        I'd be surprised if they don't just use a keyboard and mouse. Maybe I'm misinterpreting it, but to my understanding is you're effectively buying a HTPC that does games as well. Wouldn't want to restrict general OS interactions to a controller.

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          December 10, 2012 3:16 PM

          It's a console, and mouse and keyboard simply don't work from the couch. Believe me, I've tried - I've built couch lapdesks and everything, but it's simply not a great solution there.

          Right now I'm using one of these:
          http://www.amazon.com/Cideko-Keyboard-Conqueror-PlayStation-3-6306200/dp/B0067G55YW/

          And it works okay for anything that isn't an FPS, mouse cursor works like wiimote pointing sans sensor bar, but it's a kludge and I'd love to see more experimentation in this space.

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            December 10, 2012 7:10 PM

            Mouse and keyboard don't work from the couch? come on, i've been playing pc games on the couch (fps included) since I bought my first HDTV way back in 2008, of course its better on a desk but its far from impossible and it works quite well I might add.

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              December 10, 2012 8:34 PM

              They don't work for me, and I've had plenty of agreement here in the past.

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      December 10, 2012 1:39 PM

      No matter how much they push Linux for their box, a lot of PC releases will still be Windows / DirectX only, especially multiplatform / ports from the Xbox consoles. I don't see many developers putting in the time for native linux os ports when the Windows versions still aren't being showed the love they need a lot of the time.


      It will be fine for Valve games and a lot of indie stuff I'm sure.

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        December 10, 2012 1:41 PM

        A lot of that will depend on the middleware used; some is easier to port than others.

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          December 10, 2012 1:53 PM

          Windows is going to remain the PC standard though, even with all of Valve's backing of Steam on Linux that's not going to change. Some developers will do Linux ports when it makes sense and is viable, but the point was there's always going to be a slew of big releases that just won't work on their Linux Steam box, unless emulation somehow improves and solves that problem.

          It's always going to be lacking, as great as I think Valve are I just don't see it going where we'd all like to. Perhaps in a decade or two if they stick with it.

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            December 10, 2012 2:00 PM

            Though if Linux is their way of getting their stock Steam OS and hardware into homes without paying MS licensing fees for bundling a version of Windows, and you can still dual boot or straight up format and throw Windows on there for the full Steam experience with all games available then I suppose it doesn't really matter.

            I just don't see how much demand there would be for a Linux only Steam box and super limited library, especially at the outset.

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          December 10, 2012 3:18 PM

          Even then, it's still a non-trivial investment to port properly.

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            December 10, 2012 3:26 PM

            I never suggested it was.

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              December 10, 2012 3:31 PM

              I just don't see the money yet.

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                December 10, 2012 4:01 PM

                Sure, but you could argue that's the same for any console launch.

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                  December 10, 2012 4:10 PM

                  For established players no. Especially if they have some for of backwards compatibility out of the gate. They start with a foothold in the living room. Valve is nowhere near the household name that Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft is. They could change that, but it's an unenviable uphill battle.

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                    December 10, 2012 4:56 PM

                    But you added that condition. Microsoft and Sony both managed to enter the market with similar conditions, in some ways even more adverse.

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                      December 10, 2012 5:10 PM

                      Microsoft and Sony are also giant corporations, Valve is not. One huge difference is they can afford to pay developers for exclusives.

                      The barrier to entry for Sony was not difficult. The Saturn was hard to program for and the N64 was held back by cartridges and apparently Nintendo had alienated a lot of developers. The Playstation didn't materialize out of thin air either, it evolved from the SNES-CD.

                      MS was able to endure the loses of XBOX because they're Microsoft.

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                        December 10, 2012 5:31 PM

                        Valve has a pretty massive revenue stream thanks to Steam.

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                        December 10, 2012 5:35 PM

                        You might be underestimating how well Valve is doing.

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                          December 10, 2012 10:16 PM

                          Microsoft lost roughly $5 billion on the first Xbox. Valve is estimated to be worth $2 to $3 billion.

                          Microsoft also lost a significant amount on the Xbox 360 and only started to turn a profit two years ago.

    • reply
      December 10, 2012 3:22 PM

      Episode 3!!!!

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        December 11, 2012 12:17 AM

        This will be the console exclusive!! (might be the only way to get me to buy one)

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      December 10, 2012 3:26 PM

      So Valve enters the console wars. The next couple years are going to be very interesting.

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        December 10, 2012 4:22 PM

        I really do not see this as being them entering the console arena. This thing will be more geared towards the PC market and people looking for an easy to setup box for their TV. I am sure the market will be there, but I do not think this will pull in a bunch of the Xbox/Playstation crowd.

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          December 10, 2012 7:26 PM

          Neither did Apple with the iPhone & iPad at first.

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            December 11, 2012 4:12 PM

            But the iPad and iPhone arguably offered new experiences and created new markets. HTPCs have long existed. It doesn't sound like Valve is designing and pushing custom hardware, just preloading software? If they don't partially subsidize the cost what incentive do I have to suddenly buy one/replace the one I have? For the computerphobic, surely everyone knows at least 1 person who could help them set up an existing HTPC. I'm not seeing the mass appeal here.

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      December 10, 2012 4:01 PM

      Sort of off topic... but I've noticed today that we are now able to select where to install the games, we have the option of creating a steam library in a directory of our choosing.

      I believe this function has only just come out of BETA.

      Cool!

      No more Junction Links needed!

    • reply
      December 10, 2012 4:12 PM

      Hahah if Valve actually uses Linux for their Steambox, it's not going to be the amazing thing that everyone has been hoping for. The vast majority of games don't run in Linux, and the publishers will have no motivation to port unless there's a large install base there. And nobody will buy the console if all you can play is Left 4 Dead!

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        December 10, 2012 4:16 PM

        Chicken/egg for sure. Not sure what the end game is here for them.

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          December 10, 2012 4:18 PM

          WINDOWS 8 BAD!! LINUX GOOD! CHEAP GAMES BETTER!!!!!



          As someone who hasn't really paid any close attention, this is the impression I got.

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        December 10, 2012 4:22 PM

        People also said steam wouldn't work. I've got faith that whatever it looks like when it's released, they'll have a game plan for success.

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          December 10, 2012 4:24 PM

          It took Steam a LONG time and it had a major Trojan Horse called Half Life. What's the killer app to get Steamboxes into the living room when you already have a 360 or PS3?

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            December 10, 2012 4:25 PM

            Hell even making Half-Life 3 a PC exclusive (including this box) might not be enough.

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              December 10, 2012 4:48 PM

              that won't do anything, because everyone who is clamoring for Half-Life 3 will more than likely play it on their PC. if it's a valvebox exclusive, then that's a whole other matter

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                December 10, 2012 4:52 PM

                This is the whole problem with this thing. You will not pull in console gamers with multiplatform titles and most PC exclusives are PC exclusive for a reason. At most you will sell this thing to PC gamers who are already Steam users unless they lock up some MUST HAVE titles like a console manufacturer. Something I just do not see happening without a proven user base.

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                December 12, 2012 11:12 AM

                Valvebox exclusive for 6 months maybe but that will piss off a lot of people

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            December 10, 2012 4:25 PM

            Half Life 3: A SteamBox Exclusive!

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              December 10, 2012 5:21 PM

              Half-Life 2 was a Steam exclusive, so it's possible.

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                December 10, 2012 5:34 PM

                I don't know, hardware would be pretty different. Getting steam didn't cost me a penny until they started the holiday sales

          • reply
            December 10, 2012 4:26 PM

            Freeciv

          • reply
            December 10, 2012 4:42 PM

            IT wasn't HL that sold steam for people. It was CS.

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              December 10, 2012 5:03 PM

              that's my recollection as well, but i do remember there being holdouts that weren't converted until HL

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              December 10, 2012 7:18 PM

              This is the correct answer.

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              December 10, 2012 7:18 PM

              Not for me. I played CS, but it wasn't what got Steam on my machine it was HL.

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                December 11, 2012 2:52 AM

                LET THE RECORD BE CORRECTED, FRED OF HOUSE GARVIN HAS HAD A DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE

            • reply
              December 10, 2012 8:15 PM

              I installed Steam because HL2 required it. THAT was the platform's killer app.

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            December 10, 2012 4:43 PM

            Preloaded with Half-Life 3?

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              December 10, 2012 4:45 PM

              And what else? I think it's safe to say you need a handful of half decent exclusives combined with some good ports to launch any new platform.

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                December 10, 2012 4:50 PM

                I don't think they would load it with exclusives and alienate they're loyal PC fanbase. I could see them adding a bunch of Valve software to offset the hardware costs though. Maybe even a timed exclusive for some new stuff....

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                December 10, 2012 8:47 PM

                In all fairness...the 360 didn't have a lot of good exclusives out of the gate...only Project Gotham Racing really comes to mind. I bought one early on, but I knew I was buying it for the games that would come out later...not what it released with.

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                  December 10, 2012 8:56 PM

                  And the PS3 had an amazingly bad launch as I remember. The Wii's two big titles were a port of a Gamecube Zelda game (with the GC version admittedly held back) and Wii Sports. The original XBox had Halo...that was about it in terms of its launch (a great game...but not a handful of anything). Its been a long time since we've had even semi-strong launches in terms of both hardware and software hitting hard right out of the gate.

                  I remember the big title of the 360 launch being CoD2...and that was a game that I played on my PC even though I owned a fucking 360...that lack of exclusivity didn't hurt the 360 at all wrt that game.

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            December 10, 2012 5:18 PM

            Preloaded with Portal 1 & 2, HL 1/2, TF2 and L4D1 & 2, DOTA2, CS:GO Alien Swarm & top it off with HL3, which if you buy with the steambox you get it on PC too.

            I'd buy one just to play those games in my living room with ease.

          • reply
            December 10, 2012 7:19 PM

            [deleted]

        • reply
          December 10, 2012 4:31 PM

          [deleted]

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            December 10, 2012 4:38 PM

            I don't think stability is the main hurdle here. It's content. Valve games, especially ones we've already played, aren't enough to drive a new platform into the living room.

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              December 10, 2012 4:42 PM

              [deleted]

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                December 10, 2012 5:24 PM

                I was about to ask you what magical version of Steam you were using. Steam is a pretty crappy OS X application.

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                December 10, 2012 7:47 PM

                ah, okay. Your sarcasm in the previous post was a bit too subtle.

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                December 10, 2012 9:33 PM

                "glaringly obvious bugs in the some of the most rudimentary of features like menus showing up that have existed since launch and have never been fixed."

                Example? I don't know what you're talking about but I'd like to see it. Steam was a POS on OS X for the first couple months but it seems totally fine now, ditto their Source game ports. TF2 and Portal 2 run great now but were completely unplayable for a little while.

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                  December 10, 2012 9:39 PM

                  [deleted]

                  • reply
                    December 10, 2012 9:49 PM

                    It's amusing then that the linux client is already in a much better state than what you're experiencing.

                    The only issue I've seen so far, if you want to call it that, is that the UI fonts are rendered a little larger than on Windows.

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                    December 10, 2012 9:56 PM

                    [deleted]

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                      December 10, 2012 10:02 PM

                      [deleted]

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                        December 10, 2012 10:16 PM

                        Ah yeah, I fired it up and I see it in the "window" drop-down. Really weird. There are similar things like that in the Windows version that bug me Jump lists for example never got fixed, it would either forget what you've pinned or stop working entirely. I kind of gave up on them after a while.

                        Steam has weird little issues here and there, but in the end they don't bug me because lists and patching work. Even lists was sketchy back when it would regularly forget your "favorites" list.

                    • reply
                      December 10, 2012 10:03 PM

                      Cool. I haven't seen that stuff but I also don't run Steam in OS X all that often. I'll keep an eye out. Either way, hopefully they get to work on keeping the non-Windows versions in shape. The Windows version of Steam was actually buggy as hell for the first couple years, but that was then and this is now. It should all be good

          • reply
            December 10, 2012 7:44 PM

            It's not a matter of how good the Steam client is, it's a matter of what games are available and how many users does it attract.

            They hyped up Steam on OSX, and years later, it has less users than the just-released Windows 8 that Newell despises so much.

            Linux will be an even higher hurdle and unless they have something really compelling up their sleve, I'd have modest expectations.

        • reply
          December 10, 2012 4:56 PM

          You're comparing something free to something that will cost hundreds of dollars. People were also forced onto Steam to consume new Valve content. Unless they plan on SteamBox exclusives that won't work on normal PC Steam that incentive is missing.

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            December 10, 2012 5:28 PM

            And a new console with just HL3 wouldn't be enough for the sales needed.

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        December 10, 2012 4:37 PM

        The list of games currently available for Linux Steam is far more than what was available for Mac at the same point in time after Steam came out for Mac. And the Mac client has been overwhelmingly successful so far, both in sales and in getting developer interest. iOS also deserves credit, I imagine, because anyone who is going to make an iOS port might as well sink some of the costs of development into putting out a Mac port, too, but that also makes it easier to have a Linux version. But very soon, it's going to be expected that games will come out on every PC and mobile platform.

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          December 10, 2012 4:41 PM

          I don't buy that. Not every game is suitable for both platforms. Also, the Steam client on Mac might be successful, but even that's nowhere near what you need to get on the radar for the living room gamer. The big three spend massive amounts of money just building brand awareness with TV ads and the like. Valve is successful, but this is a step up from what they do now.

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            December 10, 2012 5:00 PM

            I think that without knowing what they're going to do with the hardware, it's too early to say what games are suited to the Steam box. And even if not every game is suited to it, so what? It'll still have the same kinds of games that work well on a living-room box on it that are on the consoles, plus a lot more. Steam Greenlight has to look really attractive to developers who want to just be seen without going through the headaches of Microsoft and Sony's programs. Minecraft and Super Meat Boy would probably be just as successful if they launched on Valve's hardware instead of the X-Box.

            Valve doesn't need to sell it to compete with consoles that have a ton of marketing and shelf-space. They're not going to have visibility in any store that makes money on physical boxes, anyway, since they're offering a download-only solution. They can carve out a niche in the same space as high end graphics card companies and gaming laptops, which is big enough and still growing.

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              December 10, 2012 7:21 PM

              So, they are going to sell to a market that is already aware of them and already owns a PC or Mac? That's not what I call a recipe for massive success. You are pretty optimistic, but I still don't see how you get from A to B here.

        • reply
          December 10, 2012 5:37 PM

          It doesn't cost users hundreds of dollars to install Steam for Mac

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            December 10, 2012 9:07 PM

            Well in all fairness they already own a Mac...so hundreds are dollars wouldn't be a barrier to entry even if it did.

      • reply
        December 10, 2012 5:27 PM

        I dont see this as a direct competitor to the next xbox or the pc for that matter.

        This is aimed at people like myself who were once a pc gamer, who is looking for something to plug into their tv that does all kinds of streaming and stuff.

        I've long wanted to play a bunch of pc games that i cant run on my laptop but i really dont want a fully fledged pc in my house. This would be a cool solution for me.

        • reply
          December 10, 2012 7:21 PM

          How big of a market is that?

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            December 11, 2012 2:32 AM

            Pretty small, but i'd expect that is what they're aiming for.

            I think it would be a mistake to make a huge expensive splash like a typical console launch. I see them taking the steady gradual approach.

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        December 10, 2012 9:36 PM

        If Half-Life 3 were a Linux/Steambox exclusive, would you buy one?

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      December 10, 2012 4:52 PM

      Good luck. lol

    • reply
      December 10, 2012 4:53 PM

      2013 - year of the linux console

    • reply
      December 10, 2012 5:36 PM

      [deleted]

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      December 10, 2012 5:59 PM

      So, like the rest of us hardware junkies, Gabe looked at the next gen Console specs and wanted to cry. Then he tried Windows 8 and did cry.

      Valve is still my favorite Dev on the planet, and I'd love to see them take a huge chunk out of MS and Sony's market share. After this ridiculously long console cycle, I think the time is ripe.

    • reply
      December 10, 2012 6:16 PM

      pretty much this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWoYmTAfDbk

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      December 11, 2012 2:04 AM

      People who have or like to build gaming PCs, need to get one thing straight, this isn't meant for them. It's meant for people who game exclusively on consoles.

      Like the Gabe's statement in the article hints, it's gonna be a closed system, like a console. Not a general PC.

      And with an OS based around steam and it's awesome prices, I think this could definitely push the industry further into the digital age, something PSN and XBL can't do with it's inflated prices and licensing fees.

      I'm definitely considering this over the next xbox and more than likely to get it instead especially since I don't want anything to do with the next xbox. Giving Microsoft's direction for it.

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        December 11, 2012 2:34 AM

        You realise the steambox will essentially have license fees too? Valve takes a cut of any title sold on steam which basically works out as a license fee, the percentage might vary from title to title but its a fact.

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          December 11, 2012 11:10 AM

          True, but Valve has always had a major point in their favor: the fact that they don't charge ludicrous sums for patches etc.

          They take a general cut yes, but beyond that you don't have to worry about a thing.

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