Hot on the heels of yesterday's news regarding the Valve-funded Xi3 Steam Box, Gabe Newell has finally admitted in a new interview that Valve are making one of their own (codenamed Bigfoot internally), outlining a few broad plans to hit the living room gaming space in a big way, and providing vague pictures of biometric controllers, a more open Steam experience, and several new digs at motion controls and Windows 8.
“We’ll come out with our own [Steam Box] and we’ll sell it to consumers by ourselves. That’ll be a Linux box,” he told The Verge. “If you want to install Windows you can. We’re not going to make it hard. This is not some locked box by any stretch of the imagination.”
Regarding the controller, Newell was upfront in his distaste for motion controls, saying that instead of the imprecision of larger actions, Valve are looking towards biometric incorporation to provide more accuracy and finesse.
"On the controller side, the stuff we’re thinking of is kind of super boring stuff all around latency and precision," he said. "There’s no magic there, everybody understands when you say 'I want something that’s more precise and is less laggy.' We think that, unlike motion input where we kind of struggled to come up with ideas, [there's potential in] biometrics. We have lots of ideas."
"Maybe the motion stuff is just failure of imagination on our part, but we’re a lot more excited about biometrics as an input method. Motion just seems to be a way of [thinking] of your body as a set of communication channels. Your hands, and your wrist muscles, and your fingers are actually your highest bandwidth — so to trying to talk to a game with your arms is essentially saying 'oh we’re going to stop using ethernet and go back to 300 baud dial-up.' [...] Biometrics on the other hand is essentially adding more communication bandwidth between the game and the person playing it, especially in ways the player isn’t necessarily conscious of. Biometrics gives us more visibility. Also, gaze tracking. We think gaze tracking is going to turn out to be super important."
Newell also said the Steam Box will run Windows if players so wish, and the web browser will allow for services such ass Netflix. "We’re not going to make it hard," he said. "This is not some locked box by any stretch of the imagination."
Newell is keen on providing a more open experience than Steam has witnessed before, particularly when it comes to the store.
"Right now there’s one Steam store," he continued. "We think that the store should actually be more like user generated content. So, anybody should be able to create a store, and it should be about extra entertainment value. Our view has always been that we should build tools for customers and tools for partners. An editorial filter is fine, but there should be a bunch of editorial filters. The backend services should be network APIs that anybody can use. On the consumer side, anybody should be able to put up a store that hooks into those services. Our view is that, in the same way users are critical in a multiplayer experience, like the fellow next to you is critical to your enjoyment, we should figure out how we can help users find people that are going to make their game experiences better. Some people will create team stores, some people will create Sony stores, some people will create stores with only games that they think meet their quality bar. Somebody is going to create a store that says 'these are the worst games on Steam.' So that’s an example of where our thinking is leading us right now."
He's also keen for Valve's Steam Box to service more than just a single TV in your living room, describing it as more of a "server" that will service all oft he monitors you can muster in your house, and revealing that Valve are working on an initiative - codenamed 'Littlefoot' - to bring the service to mobile devices. The future, as Newell sees it, will be stuffed with Steam Boxes of all shapes and sizes (and specs) from a range of hardware manufacturers to service a range of consumers. So there'll be tiers of consoles, with an eye towards making the Steam Box experience affordable for as many as possible.
"The way we sort of think of it is sort of 'Good, Better,' or 'Best.' So, Good are like these very low-cost streaming solutions that you’re going to see that are using Miracast or Grid. I think we’re talking about in-home solutions where you’ve got low latency. 'Better' is to have a dedicated CPU and GPU and that’s the one that’s going to be controlled. Not because our goal is to control it; it’s been surprisingly difficult when we say to people 'don’t put an optical media drive in there' and they put an optical media drive in there and you’re like 'that makes it hotter, that makes it more expensive, and it makes the box bigger.' Go ahead. You can always sell the Best box, and those are just whatever those guys want to manufacture. [Valve's position is]: let's build a thing that’s quiet and focuses on high performance and quiet and appropriate form factors."
We'll have a fat editorial giving you our take on this later today, and you can bet it'll form a large part of this week's PWNcast, but what are your thoughts? Should Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo be quaking in their boots? Will this really make a difference in the living room? Give us your thoughts below.