Last week the video game distribution and development company, Valve Corporation, made three major announcements which give a clue on a new direction the company is taking. The three Valve Announcements were (click the links to jump to the announcement info):
- A new Linux-based platform to move Steam (the video game distribution software) from desktop computers and laptops to the living room with its SteamOS
- Valve entering the hardware business, Steam Machines, with the launch of its prototype Steam Box which would compete with Microsoft’s XBox, Ninento’s Wii and Sony’s Playstation
- The second hardware product unveiling of a new Steam Controller for Games
- NOT Half Life 3
The announcements were revealed through this landing page that had 3 symbols and a count down timer under one. When one announcement was made the timer would reset and moved onto the next symbol. This was a great bit of marketing as it drummed up PR (free advertising!) as journalists were predicting what the symbols meant and tried to anticipate the next announcement. Furthermore, the announcements were spaced out perfectly to allow the hype to extend over a week (as opposed to making all the announcements at once).
This utilises one of the fundamental concepts in marketing, as it taps into a tried and true technique of generating buzz and being the talk of the town, and that is… *drum roll*…
With the multiple announcements, came multiple instances of exposure to the brand and spreading awareness. With each successive announcement leading to the company being pushed further and further into front of mind for consumers, therefore building an association between brand (Valve and Steam) with a need (entertainment and escapism) that computer games provide.
Now a little more info on the announcement…
- A Linux based back-end to power Steam is a FREE, standalone operating system for living room machines
- Focuses on improving graphics processing performance and reductions in latency on the OS (operating system) level
- An ‘open’ system allowing:
- OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) (aka those in the hardware industry) to innovate a faster rate
- Content makers to engage directly with their audience
- End users to change and replace hardware and software as they see fit (highly customisable)
- End users to be involved in the creation process of games
- Streaming – From your PC to your TV via the SteamOS machine
- Media file compatibility and availability i.e. music, TV, movies
- Family sharing – families members are able to take turns playing your games but also earn individual achievements and save the progress for each individual
- Content / visibility control – to ensure family friendliness to ensure you’re exposing the right games each family member taking into account age appropriateness
- The protoype ‘machine’ is dubbed as the Steam Box
- But Valve is planning to make available multiple machines from different manufacturers
- More information to come soon!
- But the prototypes will be shipping this year
- Due to the ‘openness’ of the machine, Valve is encouraging the ‘hackers’ culture to modify and change any part of the Steam Box from the hardware, to the software and to the operating system
- Designed to work with all Steam Games
- Increased resolution and fertility of input for better control within games
- Replacing the thumb sticks, the Steam Controller has two trackpads that are clickable (like a button)
- Haptic feedback – providing information through force and vibration on the commands that were input into the controller (think more high tech version of the ‘rumble pack’)
- Touch Screen – allowing for customisable button commands without the need of specific physical buttons
- 16 Buttons in total
- As with the culture of Valve, that involves the community in the product development, they plan for the Steam Controller to be ‘hacker friendly’ meaning it’ll can be taken apart and put together easily
Reinventing the Wheel
I’m interested in how far along these new products go. I don’t know exactly how USEFUL another operating system or console is and how it’ll integrate with currently home theatre / entertainment setups. Would those who already have an XBox, Playstation or Wii buy this, especially given that many gamers already have multiple consoles and developers already release their games on multiple platforms. Also given the fact, that the current console makers have already implemented an online market place for their games and probably have a setup for movies and TV shows.
I’m not sure what problem in the market place this operating system and hardware solves. I feel like those who would purchase the Steam Machines and use SteamOS are the small niche group of hackers (think tinkerer rather than internet espionage) and hardcore gamers, rather than casual or regular gamer, who like to play around and make modifications and contribute to the gaming community. UNLESS of course the adoption of SteamOS and Steam Machines becomes high enough to knock off its main rivals due seamless integration of traditional living room entertainment with PC functionality.
The Steam Controller however seems like a game changer, allowing for greater customisation, engagement and depth of gaming and for players to be more immersed into the games. They way Valve designed this product and the thought process behind it is very impressive. Given that it was the last announcement it seems that Valve has a ‘favourite child’ out of these three babies, and I couldn’t blame them. They aren’t reinventing the wheel, but making big leaps forward.
What do you guys think about these announcements? Otherwise leave your theories of when Half Life 3 will come out in the comments below.