Of course, if Valve tries this, it will be a very, very tricky move to pull off. The specs will be a tightrope walk—a Steam Box that's too powerful will also be too expensive to attract console gamers, but one that's too weak won't be able to play higher-end Steam games. Valve will probably need buy-in from a large number of developers and publishers; they'll all need to make sure their games are compatible with the Steam Box going forward. And of course, the competition will be intense: Critics will compare the Steam Box not only with high-end gaming PCs, but also with next-generation Xbox and PlayStation hardware. The Box will fail if it doesn't beat out these other options on price, performance, or both.
And amazingly, that's not all Steam has been up to lately. It also recently debuted Greenlight, a place for up-and-coming developers to show off their latest games. The Steam user base—with a little oversight to prevent fraud and abuse—decides whether they should be published on the platform.
This is somewhat similar to Xbox LIVE Community Games (later rebranded Xbox LIVE Indie Games), which has existed on XBLA for several years. The scene has produced plenty of decent games, though no mega-hits as of yet. The nice thing about Greenlight, though, is that players can see—and in some cases, play—the games before they've been released. XBLIG titles are tested only by other creators, not by average gamers. Greenlight could be an enormous boon to smaller developers, who can't afford the endless testing and marketing research that big publishers can fund.
Meanwhile, Steam is beginning to offer non-game software—from productivity to creativity, as they put it—as well as Big Picture mode, which makes it easier to play Steam games on a TV, and Steam Community, a social networking-style hub for sharing game-related media. Most likely, not all of these innovations will survive, but it's clear that Steam is focused on finding new ways to serve its customers, rather than just resting on its laurels.
A couple of weeks ago, I mourned the decline of OnLive, a once-promising service in PC gaming. Fortunately, Steam is around the pick up the slack.
Date: September 5, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central. This week's is also purely a work of fiction*