Steam’s Big Picture Beta Released
Dustin Liaw / Sep 12th, 2012 3 Comments
Steam has long been considered the dominant platform for PC gaming, offering developers an efficient and cost-effective digital distribution platform, as well as allowing players to keep track of their games and play in a vibrant multiplayer community. With the release of Steam’s Big Picture Mode, which is now currently in open beta, Valve announced its entry into the realm of console gaming, also outlining its five-year plan to completely dominate the gaming market, crush all competitors, and install Gabe Newellas the Emperor of the Known Universe…okay, not really. More like fifteen years.
As the name suggests, Big Picture Mode isn’t actually a new service but rather a new user interface for Steam that is optimized for viewing on a big-screen TV. Big Picture is specifically designed to make it easier for people to use their PCs as consoles in their living room. It comes with support for both standard game controllers as well as the good old WASD combination on keyboard and mouse. As with the standard interface, users have access to the complete Steam Store, Steam community, and their own personal save files on the Steam cloud.
One new and really nice sounding feature is the new typing system, called Daisywheel. No longer will you have to maneuver through a full onscreen keyboard using only your thumbsticks. Big Picture introduces a much more intuitive flower-shaped mechanism where flipping to each “petal” allows you to select a letter or character using the right four thumb buttons on your controller. That’s the XYAB buttons for Xbox 360, and triangle-circle-X-square buttons for PlayStation 3 (I have got to come up with better abbreviations). This will especially come in handy with the new web browser, which is designed for easier navigation with a controller.
Several game publishers have come out in support of Big Picture, with a Sega representative stating that, “There is nothing more satisfying than slaying thousands of orcs on your big screen. And many of the most die-hard players of Orcs Must Die 2 have always preferred playing with a game controller. Steam Big Picture Mode finally marries these two and delivers a true living room entertainment experience to players.”
So how much use is Steam Big Picture going to be to the average gamer? Probably not much, considering that most people still play PC games either on a laptop or on a desktop with a regular monitor rather than in front of a TV. Unless you actually have a rig that’s set up solely to play games or watch movies on a flatscreen 60-inch, your computer is probably sitting in your bedroom or office. PCs just don’t have that living room multiplayer vibe going for them, and seriously, just imagine trying to balance your keyboard and mouse while sitting on a futon. This is clearly aimed towards people who envision using their PCs as just another console.
What’s more intriguing is the speculation that Valve is actively planning to move into hardware, alongside their traditional software end. While rumors of a “Steam Box” console a few months ago turned out to be nothing but hot air, Valve currently has a job posting up for an industrial designer, under which they state: “We’re frustrated by the lack of innovation in the computer hardware space though, so we’re jumping in”.
Couple that with Gabe Newell’s hem-hawing last year that “…if we have to sell hardware we will”, and it’s almost certain that we’ll hear something in the next few years about a Steam-driven console. Big Picture might even just be a test run of sorts for Valve. Combine a potential Valve-made console with Ouya, and console wars just got a little bit more interesting.
tags: big picture , news , pc , steam , valve