Valve’s new Big Picture Mode for Steam is meant to change the way we interact with the service on televisions and large displays. Instead of using the traditional mouse and keyboard interface, Big Picture mode simplifies the user interface to work perfectly with controllers. It sort of sounds like a console doesn’t it? However, existing consoles are not in danger because of Steam’s new interface. Valve needs to make hardware in order to pose a big threat to Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo in the living room.
In its current form, Big Picture mode is wonderful for users that already connect their PCs to large displays to play games through Steam. PCs these days are more powerful than the PS3 and Xbox 360. The vastly improved graphics and customizable aspects of certain games make PC gaming the ideal console. However, obtaining a PC good enough to surpass a console isn’t cheap. Sure there are some people out there that claim at least $600-$700 is enough money to build a reasonable gaming PC, but that’s far too time consuming and complicated for the average consumer. With consoles, all a user has to do is open the box, connect it to a TV and start gaming. All this simplicity will set a user back between $300-$500 during a new console launch.
Valve has to sell a console for a few hundred bucks in order to completely disrupt the console market. It has to come with Steam pre-installed, and not require navigating through any interface other than Big Picture mode. It also has to have good enough specs to play the vast majority of games on Steam on average settings.
As of right now, the average console gamer will not jump ship because of Big Picture mode. It’s still easier, cheaper and more reliable to buy a traditional console. It’s definitely a step in the right direction, and I suspect Valve will release its own console within the next few years.