Steam’s Big Picture Fuses PC with Console Gaming
Bri Haller / Feb 21st, 2013 No Comments
The same company that brought Steam to life for PCs is taking the successful platform a step further. Valve has combined software and hardware to deliver all the benefits of Steam in a console package. What this means for consumers is simple, one can now bring their friends, libraries and more away from their PCs and into their living rooms. Keyboards and mice can be traded for controllers. Steam sales don’t have to be confined to the desktop. Steam is also boasting the first ‘first-person’ web browser, meant to deliver an entirely new experience to TV-based web browsing. So what is the big deal about the Big Picture? For some people, not much. For others, it could be the holy grail.
[adsense250itp]Gaming performance on PCs and laptops varies greatly. Samsung‘s Chromebook will never deliver the same experience as Dell‘s Alienware. Desktop graphics cards can be swapped and updated, but are still limited to the processor’s capabilities. As the not-so-proud owner of a budget Hewlett Packard laptop, my own hardware cuts off at the level of games like Left 4 Dead 2. Consoles like Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 deliver the same experience no matter the game. All titles are formatted specifically for each console, and one never has to worry about whether or not the game will actually function as intended. The Big Picture is aiming for the same confidence in title performance. Games can still be bought through the Steam Store, but without the fear of whether or not the hardware is up to snuff. Another great advantage to the Big Picture is the frequent sales Valve delivers through the Steam Store. Games that are traditionally $50 or more can be priced as low as $19.99. Traditionally, these sales could only be utilized for the PC itself, leaving customers who would prefer certain titles on console out of luck. It’s painful to watch a killer deal go by because of a lack of decent hardware, especially when one owns a console that could run the game with ease.
Like Xbox Live, Steam has its own community of users and capabilities. Steam users can friend others, create groups and clans and further their gaming experience with those who enjoy the same titles. While the Steam App allows users to chat with others on mobile devices, its abilities are limited. With the Big Picture, one can play with friends from the comfort of a living room. The new Daisy Wheel allows for faster typing than traditional controllers, which can be a painstaking process. One can use the Daisy Wheel to select certain groups of letters and type with the traditional action buttons. Unlike traditional controllers, Steam strove to make its Big Picture controllers moddable. If one doesn’t like the current layout, sections can be removed and placed elsewhere to match a current system layout, or to create a unique experience on its own. This comes in addition to “a web browser for the TV that doesn’t suck. It’s been designed for controllers, too. It’s the world’s first ‘first person’ web browser,” according to the promotional video at Valve’s website.
Valve’s step toward the fusion of PC and console is a bold one, but it was not taken lightly. The franchise considered all of its options in the creation of Big Picture, some may fail to be impressed. Those with PCs more than capable of handling advanced games may not see the appeal of simply migrating to the living room couch. However, for those of us with friends on Steam, a tight budget or even just a preference to console gaming could truly enjoy Valve’s latest project.
The setup for Steam’s Big Picture requires the simple task of connecting an HDMI cable to your PC or laptop. The catch being both have to be HDMI-compatible. However, the software alone isn’t restricted to televisions. The Big Picture can be run on any computer, and played with a controller or the traditional mouse and keyboard. The mouse and keyboard can also be utilized for play on the TV, but Steam emphasizes that Big Picture was ultimately designed for controllers. For those of us who love Steam, but lack the hardware to run the latest and greatest games, the Big Picture is fantastic. Now one doesn’t have to choose between Xbox Live friends and Steam friends. One isn’t limited to the capabilities of a dying PC or a budget laptop. Console lovers don’t have to give up their controllers for a mouse and keyboard. The Big Picture is versatile enough to fit anyone’s gaming preferences.
tags: big picture , Console gaming , daisy wheel , first person web browser , hardware , opinion , PC gaming , software , steam , valve