Valve Moves into the Living Room

Seemingly everyone’s favorite PC developer-publisher hybrid, Valve, is planning to ship out prototypes of its so-called “Steam Box” micro gaming PCs within four months’ time. The Steam Box — of which there will be many varieties produced by different manufacturers, including one from Valve itself — aims to transplant the PC gaming experience into a living room near you.

Dedicated game consoles have dominated that space ever since the Nintendo Entertainment System brought the industry back from the precipice of what many prognosticators of the time thought was a no-continue bottomless pit the home console business had fallen into in 1985. Microsoft entered the console business in 2001 and has been anything but shy about its designs on owning the living room. Its next console, believed to be launching this holiday season, is no doubt being discussed by some individuals in Redmond this very moment. In addition to the usual competition from Nintendo and Sony, Microsoft’s next-gen Xbox will have to deal with Valve’s boxes attaching themselves to the back of consumers’ televisions like some sort of hidden bloodsucking leach.

Microsoft isn’t worried.

At least, the man at the top of its Xbox division isn’t. Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business, said “no” when asked this week at Microsoft’s TechForum if he viewed Valve as a competitor in the console space, reports The Verge.

His initial pithy dismissal aside, the Xbox boss isn’t completely down on Valve. “I love Gabe [Newell, the company’s founder], I was there for his lifetime achievement award so it’s wonderful to see what they’re creating,” said Mattrick.

Still, he doesn’t sound too concerned about beefing up Microsoft’s defenses despite Valve amassing its troops on the border in preparation of its impending living room raid. In fact, Mattrick sounds like he’s more worried about defending Microsoft’s position as ruler of the living room for 25 months straight on other fronts. “The scale of products and things that are being brought to market are probably a little bit richer when I look at Sony, Nintendo, Apple, and Google.”

Following the Steam Box’s initial public showing at the Consumer Electronic Show, Polygon reported in late January that Newell shares Microsoft’s concerns over Apple. “The threat right now is that Apple has gained a huge amount of market share, and has a relatively obvious pathway towards entering the living room with their platform,” Newell told a class at the University of Texas’ LBJ School of Public Affairs at the time.

Many in the industry have long been suspicious of the a lower-case “i” eventually charging forth from the back ranks into the fray of the living room battlefield. Apple has yet to announce anything in that regard, however, instead remaining content for the time being with its domination of the mobile gaming scene.

Several rumors have pointed to Microsoft announcing the follow-up to its Xbox 360 console during a dedicated event in April. But the console holder, showing no desire to give consumers a reason to think twice about buying an Xbox 360, has continually refused to so much as acknowledge the existence of a next-gen Xbox. For now, it’s all quiet on the (Pacific North)western front.

Sources: The Verge, Polygon and BBC