Valve Software has finally put its own name to the category of living room-tailored PCs that the community has been referring to as a "Steam Box", unveiling plans to put an official stamp on a variety of hardware configurations that they're calling Steam Machines
The announcement is devoid of any target specifications or device photos, but notes that Valve will be working with "multiple partners to bring a variety of Steam gaming machines to market during 2014" that will be natively running the recently revealed
Kicking off the initiative, Valve has constructed its own prototype Steam Machine, described as "a high-performance prototype that’s optimized for gaming, for the living room, and for Steam" and "completely upgradable and open", and in true Valve form, the company will be offering up 300 of them free of charge to Steam users for a very public beta testing.
We're conducting a beta of the overall Steam living-room experience, so we needed to build prototype hardware on which to run tests. At Valve we always rely on real-world testing as part of our design process. The specific machine we're testing is designed for users who want the most control possible over their hardware. Other boxes will optimize for size, price, quietness, or other factors.
All Steam users have a shot at being one of the lucky 300 by fulfilling the conditions below and earning the Steam Hardware Beta Candidate Badge
THE HARDWARE BETA ELIGIBILITY QUEST:
Before October 25, log in to Steam and then visit your quest page to track your current status towards beta test eligibility
1. Join the Steam Universe community group
2. Agree to the Steam Hardware Beta Terms and Conditions
3. Make 10 Steam friends (if you haven't already)
4. Create a public Steam Community profile (if you haven't already)
5. Play a game using a gamepad in Big Picture mode
That's essentially it for today's announcement. A FAQ at the bottom of the announcement confirms plans to ship the beta prototype Steam Machines in 2013, that multiple devices built to run SteamOS will be made available by different manufacturers in 2014, and that pictures and specs of Valve's own prototype device will be shown off "soon".
The FAQ finishes with a potential hint at the last of the three promised announcements from Valve -- due two days from now -- stating "we have some more to say very soon on the topic of input", suggesting Valve has some living-room tailored keyboard or controller peripherals to unveil. It has also been rumoured that the next iteration of Valve's in house Source Engine tech might be getting a look-in.