Last week, Valve announced that during the next seven days it would unveil three important projects to be launched in 2014. In spite of the apathy of many of us (prompted, in fairness, by the bad habit of Gabe Newell’s company of fanning media hype, only for fans to discover later it was all much ado about nothing), we now have to swallow our words: Valve has just presented SteamOS, an operating system based on Linux that aims to shake up the way we consume videogames on our PCs.
Valve has already been laying the groundwork for a year in order to make the big leap to the living room and start competing with consoles as the principal platform for interactive play. We’re now a long way from the first murmurs about the existence of SteamBox, the hypothetical console or PC hardware about which we still know absolutely nothing except rumors. At the moment, and while we still await the other two big announcements (the next one is supposed to take place on Thursday), we have before us the future of PC-based gaming entertainment.
SteamOS is a completely independent and free operating system that will allow all its developers to work on a platform that will make it much easier to work over Linux, for which Valve already has a title list of more than 370 releases available and compatible with Steam. This list will undoubtedly only grow from now on. According to the official announcement, many studios already have the tools needed to start applying these improvements to their games. In addition, Valve stresses that the system will be open and any user will be able to add content to it. After all, we’re still talking about Linux here, don’t forget.
The four fundamental pillars of the SteamOS experience, which unify and finally make sense of the company’s most recent moves, are highlighted in the official announcement:
Streaming in the living room: Besides working as a gaming platform, SteamOS will also allow users to play videogames via streaming from a remote computer, meaning that although your living room TV may not be very powerful, you can still play games run from a machine with much better specs. Will we finally see a real and tangible takeoff in this sort of gaming in line with the connections of the average user?
Music, TV, movies: Steam has already flirted with this area, having marketed films like Indie Game: The Movie via its gaming platform. This model extrapolated to other types of media could end up becoming a sort of virtual Steam store, finally providing a comfortable and truly comprehensive alternative that offers an economically fair service and helps put an end to “less orthodox” methods of getting content.
Sharing with family: Steam Family Sharing was introduced a few weeks ago as a new service for sharing your game collection with other players. Now this feature makes more sense than ever if you’re only sharing a single account for all family members.
Family-friendly features: Parental controls and other options to personalize the catalog will make SteamOS a service appropriate for all ages.
There is still no launch date, although during the next few days we’ll be able to get a better idea of how big this announcement really is. The odds indicate that SteamBox might be presented, and the most optimistic of us are even starting to daydream about projects we’ve all been waiting on for way too many years now. Did someone say Source Engine 2 and Half Life 3?