Living room gaming will no doubt change quite a bit over the next few years. Sony and Microsoft will release their new consoles, sure, but they’ll be up against a whole new cast of competitors, such as Android-based consoles like the OUYA and the forthcoming third- and first-party Steam Boxes. And while Microsoft and Sony are surely quivering in their boots at the potential of the Steam Box, the feeling isn’t necessary mutual: as far as Valve co-founder Gabe Newell is concerned, the real threat here is Apple.
Polygon was in attendance at a talk Newell recently gave at the University of Texas. Newell discussed, amongst other things, his thoughts on the future of gaming, and where the Steam Box may (or may not) fit into it.
"The threat right now is that Apple has gained a huge amount of market share, and has a relatively obvious pathway towards entering the living room with their platform. I think that there's a scenario where we see sort of a dumbed down living room platform emerging — I think Apple rolls the console guys really easily. The question is can we make enough progress in the PC space to establish ourselves there, and also figure out better ways of addressing mobile before Apple takes over the living room?”
If Apple’s rumored Smart TV proves to be a reality, that’s one very clear path for them to become a major player in living room gaming. It also wouldn’t be a stretch to see the iPad serve as a sort of console, and allow for players to squirt any and all games they own onto their TV. This would require Apple to release a controller with physical buttons, but that too is certainly a possibility.
Newell also went on to discuss the upcoming onslaught of products that promise to bring PC gaming to the living room.
"There are going to be a huge set of products that say, 'If you want something that's incredibly cheap, at a price point well below anything that consoles will be able to reach, you're going to take advantage of the PC that's running somewhere in your house.'”
A few products that match that description have already been revealed. There’s the box Xi3 Corporation is working on (with Valve’s blessing), as well as Nvidia’s Project Shield. Although they vary greatly in form factor and capabilities, they’re both being developed with the intention of letting you play PC games on your TV.
While it may sound like what Newell fears most here is the wellbeing of Valve, his true concern lies with the fate of gaming. Apple dominating the living room would mean the open-source ethos of Steam would be nonexistent, and players would be at the mercy of Apple’s more closed platform. That’s no doubt a worthwhile concern, and it will be interesting to see how all this shakes out in the years ahead.
Is it just me or are we on the verge of some of the most fascinating times this industry has ever seen?