Valve drops hints about Steam game hardware

Artwork from DoTA2 Valve is known for games such as Half Life, Left 4 Dead and DoTA2

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Valve will next week reveal more details about the gaming hardware it has been developing.

Valve boss Gabe Newell made the announcement during a keynote speech at the LinuxCon 2013 conference.

Industry watchers expect the news to be about the long-awaited "Steam box" that the company has kept under tight wraps.

The box is widely believed to be a gadget that lets people play games they have bought on Valve's Steam service on other devices.

Steam is one of the most popular platforms used by PC gamers to buy and access video games bought over the internet. Valve uses it to promote its own titles as well as games written by third-party developers, from whom it takes a cut of the sales. Rivals include Gog, Desura and EA's Origin.

Grand unification

In his speech, Mr Newell said that the Linux open source software was the future of gaming because its openness stood in stark contrast to the closed and proprietary worlds of consoles, mobiles and tablets. Linux is an operating system, like Windows, but is one that, unlike Windows, lets anyone tinker with its internal workings.

Steam's success demonstrated the benefits of openness and had helped Valve prosper as others parts of the PC industry withered, he said.

"The innovation and openness of the PC as a gaming platform have enabled us to be somewhat immunised against the broader structural decline of the PC," he said in his speech.

Valve was using Linux to ensure gaming stayed open and that the games people owned could be played on a PC, big TV or mobile.

It had been doing work to make sure games were easier to play on Linux, he said, by producing tools to help game makers get their creations working on Steam. In addition, Valve has produced a Linux version of Steam that can now run 198 of the hundreds of games available via the digital download service. In addition, it has produced a "big picture" version of Steam that lets people play games despite sitting a long way away from a screen.

"The next step in our contribution to this is to release some work we've done on the hardware side," he said, adding that next week would see it release that information and details of the "hardware opportunities we see for bringing Linux into the living room".

So far, it is not clear whether Valve plans to release its own hardware or produce specifications for a device that others will make to bring about what Nr Newell called a "grand unification" of mobile, desktop and living room gaming.

"Right now, you're sort of in this bizarre situation where as soon as you sit on your couch, you're supposed to have lost connection with all of your other computing platforms," he said. "We really don't think the fragmentation around the physical location or around the input devices in terms of computation is necessary or desirable for software developers or consumers."

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