Back in March a rumor went around that Valve was interested in breaking into the hardware business, and that they might even secretly been at work on a console/set top box meant for the living room that would be compatible with Steam and other digital download services. The so called “Steam Box” would pack formidable specs compared to current console hardware, including an NVIDIA GPU, 8GB of RAM and a Core i7 CPU, with an HDMI connection as the standard output format due to the prevalence of high definition televisions.
The idea would be to release what was basically a very gaming-specialized PC, presumably to give developers a standardized level of hardware to develop for. Upgraded versions of the system would be released at specified dates, allowing developers to know exactly what specs to build future games around. A patent filed by Valve back in 2011 lent some credibility to these rumors. The patent in question was for a controller with parts that could be swapped out based on the type of game it was being used for.
These rumors were eventually denied by Valve. In an interview that went up around that time, Gabe Newell stated, “We’d rather hardware people that are good at manufacturing and distributing hardware do hardware. We think it’s important enough that if that’s what we end up having to do, then that’s what we end up having to do.” Valve basically stated that while they themselves weren’t working on a new gaming system, they were encouraging others to do it, and that they’d be interested in supporting Steam on such a device.
It seems that Valve’s call for new hardware has gone unanswered, and they may well be gearing up to get it done themselves after all. A job posting went up recently on their official site for an Industrial Designer, the description specifically calling for someone with “expertise in product design and manufacturing, ergonomics, usability, aesthetics, and surfacing.” While this description hardly confirms it’s a console that’s being worked on, it seems pretty likely that some sort of hardware is going into active development over at Valve, whether it’s the controller design from 2011, a prototype for all those neat wearable computing ideas they’ve been talking about, or some other project they’ve managed to keep quiet about.
Between this, Steam Greenlight and the announcement that Steam would be breaking into non-gaming software, 2012 has seen Valve’s operations expand into all sorts of unexpected places. Are we going to see them onstage at next year’s E3 unveiling a console to compete with the Xbox 720 and PS4? Probably not. In fact, knowing them we aren’t going to see whatever they’re working on until around 2020. But hey, might be cool.