Valve’s digital gaming service Steam is one of the original platforms for digitally downloading PC games and playing them with friends, and with over 54 million users, Steam’s player base easily rivals those of the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The additions of robust community tools along with a general trend towards digital distribution in the industry has led to many rumors of Valve creating a Steam console.
These rumors certainly aren’t much of a stretch; Steam has the player base and the software to become a major player in the console industry if it wanted to. The Steam community has a similar friend, grouping, matchmaking, and achievement systems to those found on Xbox Live and Playstation Network. In addition, Steam has a better handle of the digital download market than Sony or Microsoft, as they’ve been in the business for much longer.
Steam has proven time and time again that they are the masters of the digital download through many downright absurd sales, with the best deals in the dog days of summer. Examples of some of these ridiculous deals include the original Half-Life going for $0.99 or Psychonauts and Knights of the Old Republic each going for $2.50. If there ever was a Steam console, Sony and Microsoft would find themselves hard-pressed to compete with these deals.
Recently, Steam unveiled a new feature called big-picture mode, which allows the user to play Steam games on their television, with a controller. This is just the first step in what seems to be a path towards a Steam console, and based on their track record in the digital download and community spaces, Valve and Steam have the tools to become as important a player in the hardware space as they currently are in the software space.