The Steam Box Is Real, But It's Not Just From Valve

Valve made a big splash on Monday when it announced SteamOS, its own gaming-flavored Linux operating system, but SteamOS was just one announcement in a trio. The second one's here and yes, it's a Steam Box.

Just like we heard way back when, Valve's Steam Box initiative isn't a one-size fits all deal; Valve still plans to work with a number of different hardware manufacturers to make a bunch of different options. But the piece of the puzzle we were missing last time around is here now: they'll all run SteamOS.

But all that pales in comparison to the real fun: Valve is also putting out its very own, first-party Steam Box as a prototype, to show folks how it's done. Call it a "hardware beta." That's the term Valve's going with. This prototype Steam Box is going to be a powerful, open machine, reppin' hardware upgradability and SteamOS. You know, the console of Valve's ideal future. The rest of the details are a little hazy.

And this hardware beta will start—and maybe end—with 300 of these prototype Steam Boxes which will be distributed to a lucky few Steam users for the low low price of zero dollars. All you have to do is make a Steam account (if you don't already have one), join the "Steam Universe" group, agree to some terms and conditions, make some friends, and play some games in big picture mode. Or in other words, let them get their hooks in you. And building up an increasingly all-encompassing fanbase of gamers and would-be-gamers alike is exactly what Steam is about.

What's it look like? What are the specs? Well, we don't know anything about that yet, just like we don't have plenty of SteamOS details. Hopefully, we'll get some pictures at the third and final reveal on Friday. Along with Half-Life 3: A SteamOS Exclusive. (9 and 27 are both divisible by three! Don't judge me! You can't kill my hope!)

When it comes to the actual Steam Boxes, it doesn't look like those will be first-party. The first available units will be coming out in 2014 from a "variety of manufactures." Maybe Xi3 is still among them? We'll just have to wait and see.

All in all, this sort of full-court press "Linux (SteamOS!) Linux!" makes a lot of sense, given Valve-master Gabe Newell's disdain for Windows 8, and especially so in light of SteamOS. It's one thing if games that don't support Linux don't support SteamOS, it's another entirely if games that don't support Linux won't run on the one-and-only flagship piece of hardware Valve has every made, and its legion of SteamOS-powered cousins. Better get porting. [Valve]