Steam's Big Picture Mode (Photo : Valve)
Valve, the studio behind Half-Life, Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead, ect. is the handyman of the gaming industry.
When Gabe Newell, founder of the company, recognized a dearth in the online distribution market, he launched the Steam service to remedy the problem. Now that Steam has taken off with astounding success, Valve looks to make PC gaming more palatable to the mass market with its introduction of Steam TV, which tailors the service for HDTVs in user's living rooms. Valve even hints that a dedicated "Steambox" home console may be in the cards if it makes sense for the company and evolves from the feedback they receive from Steam TV. What Valve does best, besides developing games, is identifying opportunities for innovation. They're set on "fixing" the game industry and breaking content free of closed platforms. Valve added yet another tool to its holster when they hired economist Yanis Varoufakis months ago.
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The Big Picture
At a Seattle games conference in July, Newell reflected on the purpose of steam, stating: "Everything we are doing is not going to matter in the future...We think about knitting together a platform for productivity, which sounds kind of weird, but that we are interested in bringing together a platform where people's actions create value for other people when they play. That's the reason we hired an economist."
"This isn't about videogames; it's about thinking about goods and services in a digital world," he added.
Steam is in a period of transition and experimentation now, with its introduction of the "Greenlight," which allows users to vote on which games are accepted into the service, and a growing focus integrating the PC into the living room space.
To this end, Steam's Big Picture Mode, which launched its Beta Monday, provides a resigned interface and reportedly is the first to successfully make QWERTY typing as smooth on a controller as it is on a keyboard, implementing an innovative lotus selection option. Big Picture mode was designed with the game controller in mind, assuring that gamers can comfortably sit on their couch as they enjoy Steam content.
Valve's Greg Coomer assured Kotaku that gamers "want a full-screen experience. They want to be in the living room. They want to use a game controller. They wanna have a social gaming experience. And we have this platform that lets us ship a significant portion of that experience."
Coomer expressed that Big Picture mode will provide valuable data to Valve. "We want to find out what people value about [Big Picture mode]. How they make use of it. When they make use of it. Whether it's even a good idea for the broadest set of customers or not. And then decide what to do next. Each individual gamer is going to have to decide in the short term whether the value that Big Picture brings is something they want to configure for themselves."
A controller QWERTY Interface that works?
According to Kotaku, who was able to test out the Beta first hand, key selection is divided into 8 "leaves" of a lotus flower shape. By moving the left thumbstick, users will see four buttons that correspond with the letters in the "leaf."
The site explains: "So to press M, N, O, or P, for example, you just tilt the joystick diagonally right-down and hit the corresponding button."
Kotaku's report notes that people who have tested the system are "almost instantly faster than [when using] QWERTY."
Is a "Steambox" console in the works?
When Kotaku asked Valve if a home console was in the works, the company said, "it could be that the thing that really makes sense is to build the box that you're describing. But we really don't have a road map. And we think we're going to learn a tremendous amount through this first release."
"And if it's getting involved in shipping some kind of hardware, then we will get involved in doing that if we need to."