Valve Plots Living Room Takeover With Steam

By  |  Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 10:12 am

Steam is a popular gaming service for PCs with over 30 million player accounts worldwide, but it’s missing out on the huge audience that prefers video game consoles and gaming in the living room.

That may change with a couple of new efforts from Valve, which runs the Steam service. The company announced that it’s building a “big picture mode” with controller support and navigation designed for big screens. Valve’s intent is to help gamers play from their couches without a mouse and keyboard.

In addition, Valve is bringing a version of Steam to the Playstation 3, starting with the release of Portal 2 in April. This will allow PC and PS3 gamers to play together, and may someday allow players to resume their saved games across both platforms.

I don’t think either of these developments are big news per se — home theater PCs aren’t popular enough to make a splash in the living room, and Sony’s not going to let Valve uproot the Playstation Network — but they hint at the direction in which Valve is headed.

Set-top boxes are becoming popular. Apple and Roku have each sold a million of theirs. They’re also going to become mightier, as Intel and Nvidia jockey to power new generations of set-tops. With quad-core Tegra processors on the way from Nvidia, it’s only a matter of time before set-top boxes can run modern PC games.

I’m obviously speculating, but Valve could be preparing itself for a living room takeover. Surely, the company sees OnLive’s streaming game service, which fluently moves between PC and set-top box, and realizes that the barrier between PC and console games is starting to erode. By making its platform more living-room friendly, Valve is putting the proper pieces in place.

And if not, it’s still a cool development for the few us who own home theater PCs.

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