If you don’t know Steam, then you should brush up on that here. The Cliff Notes… Steam is a free application that acts as a digital marketplace for purchasing thousands of games as well as doubling as a fully functioning social networking service for gamers. Upon purchase, games are downloaded directly to your system’s hard drive. The Steam service has worked similarly and been in place much longer than PSN or Xbox Live. It is arguably the best at what it does. With more than 50,000,000 registered users and 1500 games, we can all understand why.

So it’s no wonder the Bat-rumor beacon shown so brightly in the sky with speculations that Valve (Steam creators/owners) was breaking into the console hardware market. The Verge published a story back in March, claiming  Valve had demoed an i7-powered “SteamBox” console-esque unit at CES 2012, months prior. Valve has since refuted such claims. The official word had more to do with Valve prepping for what we have here in front of us.

Steam’s anxiously awaited, Big Picture mode is now working on the existing Steam service. When you launch the application it will update with an option to view Steam in Big Picture mode? Big Picture essentially, converts Steam to a television-ready version of itself. It resembles PSN or XBL but is all very familiar Steam fair. Think “Windows Media Center” with Steam content and you get the idea. It features complete support for gamepads and controllers like the Xbox 360 controllers (wired or wireless) and only requires a simple HDMI connection from computer to TV to get it up and running. The video below calls it the “first First-Person Browser”. Take a look!

I’m a 10+ veteran Steam user. I use the service daily and I must say… The Big Picture is incredible! I love how it scales text and images for display on 1080p TVs. Navigating through menus and my games library is a breeze. Plus the social features–easily one of the most polished set of features–are all retained and made pretty for the big screen. Even the TV-ready web browser “doesn’t suck!” All this wonder is  at your fingertips via a simple gamepad. You can imagine how embarrassingly easy a wireless controller makes things. Yet to my surprise the stellar RemoteX iPhone app actually works just as well. Ha!

I’ve been immensely impressed with the short time I’ve spent with Big Picture. But I can’t wait to tool through it more. Moreover it makes the gorgeous Trine 2 all the more accessible to my 8yr-old! With a not-so-simple patch Valve is now waving Steam in front of more potential users than it ever has. It’s now poised to compete, in lock-step, with its console-based e-tailing counterparts.

Rumors are entertaining. While Big Picture holds equally big implications, many still believe Valve is toiling away at the next Xbox replacement. They are officially seeking an “industrial designer” to help the company with their frustration over “the lack of innovation in the computer hardware space though”.  More on the literal and figurative big pictures as they develop.

In the interim, tell us how you feel about Steam Big Picture and where you see Valve striking next.

 










Shawn Sanders

 
Shawn loves gadgets, literature, history and games. For 10yrs+ he's straddled both the comic book & video game industries, as a writer, editor, marketing officer & producer. Shawn got his start in tech & games as an editor & Hardware Director for GameRevolution.com. More notable accomplishments include Executive Producer on mobile games Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved & The Shroud.