by David LeMieux
Just a thought:
Valve recently announced a beta release of Big Picture. Big Picture lets you access and play your Steam library of games (or at least the compatible portions) on a large screen or TV using a console controller. Valve's main selling points for doing this are that a player doesn't have to give up all the collateral - friends, games, and achievements - when he or she decides to play video games "in the living room." A very interesting idea, but I have been wondering lately if maybe something else is going on.
Valve developers seem to be upset about the horizon of PC gaming. With some open concern about Windows 8 and what seems like a continuous march towards limitation and control from OS makers (app stores, sandboxes, etc.) it makes sense that Valve would start to explore alternate means of distribution. If you take the recent Big Picture announcement and combine it with even more recent news about Steam for Linux and add a sprinkling of desire to be free of OS overlords, it seems to me, at least, that Valve might be thinking of a future in set top devices. Or, if nothing else, linux powered machines that can run Steam powered games and allow players to play them on a large machine. Add in a controller and you've essentially created a console.
If anyone is going to disrupt the console market, I suppose Valve is in a unique position to do so. They already have the distribution and game mechanics architecture and have been learning how to scale both. They have a nice library of games, many of which already have console counter parts. Valve also has a tremendous fan and user base that would be willing to give things a go. If Valve stays consistent with their other marketing strategies, they are poised to take on the larger players.
That said, this could also be seen as a sustaining innovation. Either way, if Valve is considering a move toward set top hardware or alternate means of distribution to get around what they feel are too many OS restrictions this Big Picture beta test will give them at least a glimpse in to how users might react.
Then again, this is pure speculation. I could be 100% incorrect. I like to hope that there is at least a smidgen of truth in this thinking though, because it would be cool.