Thursday, September 26, 2013

Valve to issue prototype Steam Boxes to 300 lucky Steam users

The long-anticipated Steam Box will become a reality in 2014, Valve announced on Wednesday (via The Verge). The company's statement came just days after it launched a new platform, Steam OS.

The company said that it is working with a number of manufacturers for the Steam Box, but the fact that the company also admitted it has prototype boxes ready to go for lucky testers implies it might not be out of the hardware manufacturing business itself.

It could, like Google, give access to the platform to OEMs, yet still build its own device (in Google's case, via its Motorola acquisition). The company wrote:
Beginning in 2014, there will be multiple SteamOS machines to choose from, made by different manufacturers.
Valve did not say elaborate on which manufacturers it is working with, however.

The company said that it will ship a small number, 300 prototype Steam Boxes to Steam users who sign up for a limited beta program by Oct. 25. For those interested, details are here.

To be clear, signing up for a possible Steam Box prototype involves more than just adding yourself to a list. You must complete an Eligibility Quest:
Before Oct. 25, log in to Steam and then visit your quest page to track your current status towards beta test eligibility
  1. Join the Steam Universe community group
  2. Agree to the Steam Hardware Beta Terms and Conditions
  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
You can complete the steps in any order. Once you’ve completed all of the steps, you’ll be awarded a special badge, and you’ll officially be among the pool of people from whom we’ll choose beta participants / hardware recipients.
The list of possible participants will be locked on Oct. 25.

It is unclear if Valve will sell its own retail Steam Box, but it doesn't sound likely. Explaining why it built the prototypes, Valve said:
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.
Valve isn't done yet in terms of announcements.

The company's countdown clock has been reset for a third announcement, scheduled for 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET on Friday, Sept. 27. A controller could be in the works, or -- who knows?

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