RumorMILL: The Valve Box

March 4th, 2012 -

Hello everyone and welcome to a new segment called RumorMILL. Its pretty self explanatory to be frank but, yes in this segment current rumors will be discussed. John Stuart Mill, who is the pun in our fun (yeah I just did that), was a British philosopher. If you would like to know more about Mill and his philosophy check out the wiki page. However, for the sake of this segment his relevance is a pun, and he gets bonus points for being a philosopher.

But I digress, Back to the topic at hand. Could Valve software really be working on hardware?

According to recent reports on the Internet, random valve employee tweets and other various sources, it would seem so. The Internet as a whole is speculating that Valve Software, makers of such games as: Portal, Half Life, Counter Strike, Team Fortress and many other cult classics. Is now working on their own entry into the home console field? Details are sparse as this is still in rumor form but, from what we know its basically a Wii sized gaming PC.

The thing is, in order for Valve to successfully launch a new software platform. They need to take a lot of things into consideration. Like support from third party developers, manufacturing details, retail partnerships… its a pretty big venture. I’m not saying Valve hasn’t thought of this or can’t do it by any means. However, lets just look at some of the facts before we come to a final decision on what this could be.

Why it WOULD be successful.


First Party Games:
Valve already has a large cult following for most of their games as well as, a huge pocket full of gamers who will drop everything they’re doing when new Half Life 3 rumors are announced. If a new console popped out with Half Life 3 only available on it, that would certainly generate sales and hype. I’m not saying Half Life would carry their platform, but it would certainly give them an edge over other console manufacturers coming out of the wood work.

Steam:
You could argue that Valve has been considering this for a long time, and that Steam was just their way of building the console without anyone noticing. Steam works just like Xbox Live or the PSN and in some ways it’s better. Any other first time console manufacturers would struggle to keep up or even come close to what Sony and Microsoft offer with their online networks. However, if Steam was the online network for this new console it would already be up to speed with its competition.

Brand Awareness:
This isn’t Bob’s Electronics trying to release a home console. Its arguable that Valves name in the video game industry is worth its weight in gold. Obviously both Sony and Microsoft are a better household name because their hardware is sitting below your TV. That’s not to say that Valve doesn’t have an opportunity to make their name just as household known as Xbox or PlayStation. Which is a realistic possibility given their presence in the industry already.

Why it would NOT be successful.


First Party Games:
“Wait you just used this in the would be section?” Yes but, lets be fair here. Valve has already released most of its key titles on all of the major gaming platforms. In other words, if Valve offers TF2, Portal, the old half life games all on this new system through Steam? Why would I buy this console when I already have those titles on my Xbox, PS3, PC or Mac? Sure the new titles going forward could be exclusive, like Half Life 3, Portal 3 and so on. That would leave Valve having to carry its new platform with all new first party games. Which leads me into my next bullet point.

Third Party Saturation:
“Now available on PS3, 360, Wii, PSP, Vita, DS, 3DS, iOS, Android, Games on demand, Origins and Steam!” More and more game studios are realizing that its much more profitable for them to go multi-platform. If I can get all of the third party games and all of Valves games on a PC, and the only game I can’t get is Half Life 3? Why would I spend (roughly) $500 just to play one game? Now I’m sure there are die hard Half Life fans that would jump at the opportunity for this but, the general gaming population would not.

Steam Play / PS3 Steam integration:
Valve has recently started offering games through steam for Mac users, but that’s not all. With “Steam Play” the owner of the Mac version of said game, will also be able to use this game on their PC. Further more, They have also recently partnered with Sony integrating Steam services into the PSN and offering a free Mac/PC version of Portal 2 with the purchase of their PS3 copy. They have even been outspoken towards Microsoft for not allowing steam integration on Xbox Live. So why would a company so hell bent on offering their games and services to everyone, and not charging their consumer twice for the same game? Offer Half Life 3 only on their console? That seems rather counter productive to Valves business practices.

No reason to buy it:
So, if there are no exclusive games, then why buy it? As a home gaming console like the PS3 or 360 it would flop. If Microsoft offers you Halo and Sony offers you Uncharted. What would Valve have to offer you in a home gaming console besides Steam? If Half Life 3 isn’t exclusive then nothing. So if its not a home gaming system, does that mean Valve is getting into the PC market? Is it gaming focused and marketed PC, like the XPS or Alienware systems? As fun as that would be to talk about, is it really that practical for Valve’s audience? I’m willing to bet that the people chomping at the bit to get their hands on Half Life 3 are more then likely the type to build their own PC. So why would they want a run of the mill factory gaming machine?

Conclusion

Personally, I see this as an opportunity for Valve to put a PC on TV’s across America. If this rumor is true, I don’t see it as a gaming console or a gaming PC. I see it as a Roku box like machine made by Valve. A device that you plug into your TV that can stream Netflix, Pandora, Hulu as well as grant you access to all of Steams wonderful games and services. This device would not be made for the Half Life 3 waiting audience. It would be made for the “I’m sorry who did you say? Valve Software? I’ve never heard of them…”

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