On Tuesday morning, CES 2013 opened with the news that the oft-rumored Steam box was real. The hardware is a mini-PC that will bring PC gaming to the living room. It's Valve's attempt at taking on the console market, and it just might work. Of course, we won't know for sure until we get more details and Valve boss Gabe Newell is more than happy to oblige.
In an interview with The Verge, Newell provided some early details on what his company is planning with its hardware, and where the company is headed in 2013. It's noted right off the bat that Valve is at CES to meet with hardware partners. The Steam box could potentially be made by multiple parties with multiple configurations and price points. Newell touches upon that by saying that they're looking at a scenario where OEMs will provide simple streaming solutions, or a self-contained hardware unit where the OEMs get to choose which components are included.
All of that is for OEMs though, what is Valve's Steam box going to look like? Newell says his company's own PC will be Linux-based, but it wont be a closed system. He says that consumers can install Windows on the device if they want. Newell says that his company's own box will also incorporate biometrics in its controllers, and that the device may even incorporate gaze tracking.
The most interesting revelation out of Newell, however, was when he stated that the Steam box will be a server. In essence, it seems that Valve wants to bring back the LAN party:
Any PC can serve multiple monitors, so over time, the next-generation (post-Kepler) you can have one GPU that’s serving up eight simultaeneous game calls. So you could have one PC and eight televisions and eight controllers and everybody getting great performance out of it. We’re used to having one monitor, or two monitors — now we’re saying let's expand that a little bit.
Of course, the first round of Steam boxes will not be able to do this. It might not even be able to do something like that with the next generation of Nvidia GPUs unless Newell knows something that we don't. Either way, it's incredibly ambitious, and it would be a sight to see an eight person LAN party running off of one computer.
The rest of the interview features Newell's thoughts on game design, and how hardware will change that in the future. It's incredibly fascinating stuff especially for the gamer who has a vested interest in this crazy industry, and it seems that the Steam box is just going to make it crazier.