Steam Machines -- the official term for the long-rumored 'SteamBox' --- will start hitting stores next year from multiple partners, Valve said Wednesday. It stopped short of naming the companies it's working with on the hardware.
"Entertainment is not a one-size-fits-all world," the company said. "We want you to be able to choose the hardware that makes sense for you, so we are working with multiple partners to bring a variety of Steam gaming machines to market during 2014, all of them running SteamOS."
While Valve was pretty hush-hush on specific details about the hardware, it did throw its fans a bone. Valve said 300 high-performance prototype machines would be made available to a select group of Steam users free of charge for testing.
To be eligible, users must join the Steam Universe community group, agree to the beta terms, make 10 friends on Steam, create a public profile and play a game in Big Picture mode. This must all be completed by October 25 for a chance to win a golden ticket.
Should users not want to pay for a Steam Machine, which will apparently be available in variety of configurations, Valve hastened to point out that this hardware won't be required to run Steam, even on a TV (thanks to the service's Big Picture mode).
"Everything that we’ve been doing on Steam for the last 10 years will continue to move forward," said Valve.
The Steam Machine marks Valve’s most direct move into a living room dominated by consoles from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. Valve still has another announcement coming Friday tied to this push, and while some have optimistically theorized that it could be the long-awaited reveal of Half-Life 3, a buried line in today's announcement points to Valve unveiling its own controller instead.
"Am I going to be using a mouse and a keyboard in the living-room?" the FAQs about Steam Machine asked.
"If you want," was the answer. "But Steam and SteamOS work well with gamepads, too. Stay tuned, though - we have some more to say very soon on the topic of input."
- Steam Machine