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If it exists, Valve's rumoured Steam Box console could change gaming for the better as drastically as the PS1 did. But it could also just tank. I explained all of this at length in a recent feature called Valve's Steam Box: Why it would change gaming as drastically as the PS1 did. But could also just tank. But if you read that feature (or and if not, you can now if you want. Go on, feel free. I'll wait for you right here), you'll know that I currently come down very much in the former camp.
A machine bringing the free, open platform of PC gaming into the increasingly closed, controlled living room entertainment space usually reserved for corporately-regimented console gaming would be an important breath of fresh air, and an industry-changing shake-up that many (myself included) feel is now borderline vital in terms of the creative health of games as a medium.
Valve of course, has not admitted that the thing exists. In fact Valve Marketing Director Doug "Don't call me Falco" Lombardi has stated that while Valve is openly working on biometric feedback devices and its new 'Big Picture' mode - which will allow Steam games to be effortlessly run on any TV screen, with full controller support - that stuff is "a long way from Valve shipping any sort of hardware". He did however, refuse to rule out the possibility that it would at some point.
You know what certainly doesn't rule out that possibility? A new Valve job ad for an Electronics Engineer. One which lists as its recommended personal requirements a skill-set including board layout, thermal management, power supply management and system design. And you know what else doesn't rule out a Steam machine? A tweet from computer engineer and chip designer Jeri Ellsworth claiming to be working on next-gen gaming hardware at Valve.
Is something beginning to take shape here? Of course it's entirely possible that all of this stuff still just relates to the biometric kit and Big Picture test machines that Lombardi has already mentioned, but something about this whole thing is starting to emanate the whiff of something bigger to me. The job ad even flat out references the development of hardware platforms. Take a look at the full text below and let me know what you think.