Big-Screen Steam: Valve Want Your TV

By Alec Meer on February 28th, 2011 at 6:49 pm.

Freemanview TV

This is potentially huge, if it’s done right. This is, if I understand it right, Valve having a little nose at whether it’s possible for the PC to become a console. In fact, to be better than a console. They’ve just announced a “big picture” mode for Steam, which essentially is a revised interface and pepped-up controller support designed for playing your PC games on your TV. Gasp.

Heresy or the Singularity?

We haven’t got much at all to go on until Valve’s talk at GDC later this week (Jim will be there, and hopefully providing excited missives. Look out for him if you’re there – I think he took the purple mechsuit for this trip, but it might have been the green one. Not sure). In the meantime, we have this to decipher and conjecture from:

“…will offer controller support and navigation designed for television interaction. Big picture mode will enable gamers to enjoy Steam and their library of Steam games on more screens throughout the house.

“Our partners and customers have asked us to make Steam available in more places. With the introduction of Steam on the Mac, and soon in Portal 2 on the PS3, we’ve done just that,” said Doug Lombardi, VP of marketing for Valve. “With big picture mode, gaming opportunities for Steam partners and customers become possible via PCs and Macs on any TV or computer display in the house.”

The image that pops into my head is Microsoft’s Windows Media Center, which was a pretty good idea that I’m not convinced entirely took off – not least because Xboxes and PS3s started doing movie streaming perhaps a little more neatly than wiring up a PC to your telly. If the same concept is applied to Steam, I’m guessing they’ve reasoned PC gamers are a rather more techy bunch than the average PC user, and thus more likely to run a DVI or HDMI cable from their graphics card into a free port on whatever monolith of a TV is sat in their living room.

I really like the idea – it’s something I’ve done myself on occasion with various games, though generally have given up trying to balance a keyboard on my knee and reverted to desk + monitor instead. The really tantalising part about this meagre information is the talk of controller support and navigation, which suggests a) Steam will be navigable with a gamepad and b) perhaps there’ll be a little more Steamworks and other built-in support for pads in new games, as opposed to so many PC games’ tendency to treat them like a malodorous relative you know you have to smile at over Christmas dinner but secretly wish they were in a coma.

The lingering question is, of course, the raw practicality of the cabling. I’d need a seven metre HDMI cable to rig my current PC to the telly, or alternatively I could buy a second, dedicated TV PC. I’m not quite ready for either yet, because past experience tells me it’s a messy and laborious system either way. Maybe, however, big-picture Steam will have something up its big sleeves to change my mind – or at least make me think such travails are truly worthwhile.

Any TV PC gamers out there? What are we missing? What’s key to making it work well, rather than merely adequately?

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148 Comments »

  1. Arvind says:

    This could possibly be huge – console games are costlier compared to PC games, and I will gladly endure some extra hassle for saving $10 each time I buy a game (even more when those steam sales happen).
    I sense the one benefit of console games “I can play them on my couch” will no longer be there. So will there be a reason to have consoles? Will Valve become the giantest thing in gaming? Steam is probably as close to a monopoly as you can get in digital distribution already.

    • Arvind says:

      Of course, this is just speculation from myself. A lot of things can still go wrong.

    • agentgray says:

      EA game PC prices now are equivalent to their console counterparts–at least in the US of A

    • Arvind says:

      In India, boxed PC game prices at launch (for all games, AAA or indie) are the rough equivalent of $10 (Rs 999), while console games are still $60 (Rs 3k). So it’s a huge difference depending on where you live I guess.

    • sqparadox says:

      I have been doing this for years. I get all of my TV and my games through my PC on a 46 in LCD. I’m thrilled to see Steam moving in this direction.

      My PC died some years ago and I replaced it with an Xbox 360. Eventually I replaced my PC and after some time found that, not only was I only using my Xbox only for Netflix, but I was no longer watching TV at all. I then gave my Xbox to my roommate and shifted all my entertainment to my Home Theater PC.

      It’s a great system, I will never go back. Thanks to Xpadder, I even use a 360 controller for 99% of my windows control. The only downside is the lack of local co-op/splitscreen games available. I have several: L4D and L4D2, Trine, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, Lego Batman, and a long list of other to buy; but the selection is nowhere near that of consoles. I truly hope this will begin to change that.

    • Phyla says:

      Splitscreen multiplayer, or am I missing something?

    • battles_atlas says:

      If this boosted implementation of split screen multiplayer for PC games I’d be delighted. The one time I regret not having a console is when I’ve mates round. I once moved the pc downstairs for the evening for an evening of two player Streetfighter, but such possibilities are few and far between.

      The OP is getting ahead of himself though – consoles are still much cheaper at the point of purchase. Ok maybe right now with the current consoles pretty ancient you could get an equivalent PC for nearly similiar money, but for the first few years of the next cycle there will once again be no competition thanks to the subsidies from Sony and MS. Of course if you consider that people will spend several hundred quid on a basic PC/laptop anyway for the home, a bit extra to make it a gaming PC makes it easily a better option. But people are dumb. Console owners especially. So the console remains safe.

  2. passingstranger says:

    It seems to me that this is going to have a hard time taking off as long as it requires the masses to run a video cable of whatever ungodly length from their PC to their TV. If there was a way to do this via Wi-Fi, however, that could be interesting.

    • Deston says:

      I agree with you on the wiring being a huge barrier, but we already have wireless HD protocols and devices. It’s just still in the early first generation right now.

      http://www.wirelesshdmi.net
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wireless_HDMI

      It’s only a matter of time before this kind of stuff takes off in a big way though… most people loathe wired solutions when there is an alternative, even if performance or security are often degraded somewhat.

    • passingstranger says:

      There are some damn cool products on the market, but I was speaking more about the necessity for these things to be mainstream as opposed to in the corner of a home theater specialty shop. That said, this does seem like the logical next step if things end up going PC-focused as opposed to other solutions like streaming media through consoles or set-top boxes.

    • plugmonkey says:

      Indeed. I’ve been saying this for ages:

      When it finally becomes time to upgrade, my next PC will almost certainly be some sort of console. Or my next console will be some sort of PC. Depending on which way you look at it.

      I’m very glad to see that Valve are thinking the same way.

  3. nayon says:

    Umm…. My PC is already connected to my HDTV… What’s the big deal here?

    • Maykael says:

      Same here, but I would guess that many people may have their gaming PC in a different room than their HDTV. Well hooray for long cables then! :) Couple that with an app for your smartphone that allows touch-pad control on the PC through Wi-Fi and you get a way better entertainment center than the PS3 and Xbox 360 combined. That’s actually the main reason I have yet to purchase an HD console.

      Anyway it’s a nice addition. Some games are meant to be played with a gamepad on a TV (think Prince of Persia or Tomb Raider). I’ve tried a shooter once like this, though.. horrid experience.

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      Did you read the article? The very first sentence of the press quote:

      will offer controller support and navigation designed for television interaction.

    • Sic says:

      I still don’t get what this is about.

      All that stuff is connected to my PC. Steam is on my PC. TVs are never going to implement any sort of hardware for Steam.

      What is this?

    • Martha Stuart says:

      Seriously i dont see the big deal here. i have had my PC hooked up to my HDTV for almost 2 years now. With XBMC and Win 7 media center plus a tv tuner card, i basically have a super badass cable box and custom DVR set up. now add in Steam for TV and you have a custom build console that will replace you Cable box/DVR, DVD player, Stereo, and console all in one fell swoop!!! Hurrah for VALVE!!!!

      And seriously people, if you cant get under your house and and run a few feet of cable, and install 2 wall plates then i dont know what to tell you.

  4. dartt says:

    I tried playing Men of War on my television and while it was pretty spectacular it was also slightly uncomfortable and I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps I’m used to leaning forward slightly and having to sit back and move my head around to look at things was off-putting.

    Obviously, I could move it back a bit but then it wouldn’t be much different than using the monitor and I think I’d find it harder to read smaller text at a distance even if it’s the same relative size.

    • LoopyDood says:

      To tell you the truth, that looks like an incredibly uncomfortable desk.

    • dethtoll says:

      It’s a very uncomfortable desk. I have just like it. I don’t use it anymore, because it’s falling apart sorta- so I stuck my big-screen CRT (which is over 10 years old) on it and as long as the desk is in a corner with a pair of walls to lean against it’s all good.

    • dartt says:

      Yeah, it’s pretty awful, I have to keep my chair low so my legs fit under the frame that goes around bottom, this frame also prevents the arms of my chair getting underneath the table so I can’t tuck myself in tight.

      I got it for free so it has stuck around but maybe I should look in to getting a new one…

    • hexapodium says:

      The text size thing is my concern, as well – at 1080p, “normal” size text is all but unreadable and you have to opt for an unmodded Oblivion-sized display of anything you want to interact with: give me my 10pt font datacubes of Deus Ex, damnit!
      Also, not all of us have graphics cards that can drive 1920×1080 at happy framerates. I’m sure my 8800GT would have trouble with anything but DX9 games.

  5. noom says:

    I do hook my PC up to the telly on occasion, though mainly for film watching. I’ve also done it for playing the likes of Trine, and any racing games I own (anything using a pad essentially). This is partially only possible due to living in a tiny flat, where everything I own is already located next to everything else I own. Otherwise I wouldn’t bother. The big issue that’s not touched on above is audio; I currently have my stereo hooked up with its speakers on either side of the telly, and it shouldn’t be too much issue to run the audio through properly with a straight L/R phono cable style thingum into its auxillary input, as soon as I get round to buying said cable (rather than the fairly awful option I’ve tried of running the audio straight from my PC headphone jack into the stereo’s mic input. Not recommended). TV’s might be a little more picky on their inputs, especially regarding the combination of separate audio and visual inputs, though I’m certainly no expert on that front. I only know my TV wouldn’t do it. Am I right in thinking that some GFX cards have inbuilt audio capabilities and can transmit audio down DVI/HDMI? Sure I read that somewhere…

    But yeah, I definitely think there’s scope here. Having a couple of long cables trailing about isn’t a huge issue, and they can be fairly easily unplugged when not in use. It’s an especially good option for multiplayer stuff as well, particularly with xbox 360 pad support becoming commonplace with PC games.

  6. Al3xand3r says:

    Eh, it’s just a little bit of extra convenience for people who want their PC hooked up to a TV or similar scenarios. Bigger interface for the larger distance TVs are usually set at and the ability to navigate Steam with a gamepad so that they don’t have to switch between devices just to launch a different game. It’s not a big deal as implied (for what reason, I don’t really understand), but a nice acknowledgement of the different ways people use their so very capable and versatile PCs in, with some extra convenience for a good portion of them. It certainly doesn’t make the PC a console (thank God, lol). It seems people who think it’s a big deal aren’t aware that PCs can already be connected to TVs, and that a good portion of PC games can already be played with a gamepad. It’s not like they’ll add gamepad support to games that don’t have it already or like they’ll make it easier for people to connect a PC to a TV (it’s already simple enough) or like they launch a Steam console for sale, or whatever other hyperbole. Unless of course they actually announce crazy stuff like that during the GDC, lol.

  7. phuzz says:

    You can get wireless video gizmos now. Dunno how expensive/useful they are.
    I’ve gone the other way, and picked up a £10 usb telly dongle for my pc. Monitors are generally cheaper than TVs anyway (and a lot of monitors have HDMI inputs so you could plug one into your sky box or whatever).

  8. agentgray says:

    Simple. A Steam console.

    • Acacia says:

      A steam streaming console. Steamwoks + Onlive-esque service, is the missing link.

    • dadioflex says:

      The Apextreme (pronounced APE-EXTREME – don’t believe what anyone else tells you) was going to be a consolized PC. Did not catch on.

  9. mandrill says:

    Until the day comes when a PC game will load and work flawlessly on every one of the disparate collections of components that make up the current PC market then this is just window dressing and nothing like the PC being consolified.

    • Al3xand3r says:

      Heh. You’ll notice plenty console games don’t run flawlessly on every system (and if by flawlessly we go the extra mile and claim 60fps at at least 1080p with vsync then there are barely any examples, but I won’t go there), and there’s plenty of not always successful patching involved for console games. Not to mention all sorts of hardware failures. That the PC architecture is more versatile and organic giving you the choice to more or less upgrade when you choose, rather than when a single master company tells you it’s time (or you won’t be able to enjoy any new game ever again regardless of the power it really requires out of a system), thanks to the breathing room you get due to the different settings, as well as the fact great new games often don’t have that high requirements so don’t demand a new system, at least until your hardware becomes completely obsolette (which depending on the games can surpass the average console life cycle, if you choose wisely) is a bonus, rather than a flaw.

    • DrGonzo says:

      He wasn’t saying the PC was shit. Just that there are often hardware issues with PC games. Though I think his statement would be fairer if it read, all PC games and not a PC game, as plenty of games do run flawlessly on nearly all PCs, just not all. And it wouldn’t be fair to say that it should work flawlessly on ALL Pcs, as I have had many a console game go wrong for me, especially this latest generation.

    • Al3xand3r says:

      And I wasn’t saying he said PC is shit. So, great!

    • mandrill says:

      i wasn’t saying that the PC is shit, he wasn’t saying that I was saying that the PC is shit. What I am saying is that the PC is not as simple, either from the pov of the end user or the pov of developers, as the console. There is no such thing as a ‘standard’ PC and this means that devs have to cater to a huge range of different hardware configurations. Similarly, using a PC is complex, especially for games.

      Personally, I don’t have a TV since my 32″ flatscreen died, and even when I did it was used more as a monitor for the PC that was plugged into it rather than for watching the dross that is pumped out by broadcasters these days.

      Steam adapting their interface to be used with a controller on a big TV is not a bad thing, but saying that it is a step towards consolifying the PC is taking it a bit far. If it is a step, then it is a microscopic one compared to other steps that could (but shouldn’t be) taken to do this.

      Steam on a big TV will still have all the issues that are normally associated with PC gaming (invasive DRM, GFWL, Incompatible hardware, etc, etc) They’ll just be on a big TV.

      Another thing: Valve is known and renowned for its FPS games (Half Life, TF2, L4D, Portal), do you really see PC FPS gamers giving up the mouse and keyboard for a control pad just to play their gmaes on a big screen? Personally I loathe games whose menus are only useable with the keyboard or a control pad (console ports mostly) and don’t allow for the point and click of the mouse. It may be that this is step towards creating a Kinect style interface for Steam, which would be very interesting, but I seriously don’t see current Steam users getting too excited about using a control pad.

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      I seriously don’t see current Steam users getting too excited about using a control pad.

      I do, because if I’ve hooked up my TV to my PC and plan on using the control pad to play for several hours, I would much rather have a streamlined-for-controllers interface that lets me jump between game and use all of Steam’s features without having to prop up a mouse and keyboard in the middle of my living room.

      And just to throw it out there, the fact that consoles have standard hardware isn’t preventing lazyass developers from making horribly unoptimized games that can’t even push a steady 30 FPS or release relatively bug-free games. You know, at least Steam downloads updates for all my games automatically and applies them as soon as I’m signed on, rather than having to wait 30 minutes staring at my PS3 updating and installing at an excruciatingly low pace. And if your console fails for whatever reason, good luck. You’re at the mercy of Sony/MS now, unlike on a PC where you can fix it yourself with far much ease. Don’t just assume gaming is simpler on consoles just because it’s easier to hook up. In many ways it’s far more annoying.

    • Al3xand3r says:

      No, Steam having larger text and gamepad support won’t change the nature of PC gaming. Newsflash: It doesn’t claim to and it’s not supposed to. It’s just extra convenience. It doesn’t need to get big, or go mainstream or whatever else. Its purpose is a tiny bit more user friendly experience for a portion of users who like their computers in their living room. They’re out there! Why you are down on this for not doing things it’s not supposed to be doing, or stating the obvious, is beyond me so I’ll leave it at that.

  10. noom says:

    I do hook my PC up to the telly on occasion, though mainly for film watching. I’ve also done it for playing the likes of Trine, and any racing games I own (anything using a pad essentially). This is partially only possible due to living in a tiny flat, where everything I own is already located next to everything else I own. Otherwise I wouldn’t bother. The big issue that’s not touched on above is audio; I currently have my stereo hooked up with its speakers on either side of the telly, and it shouldn’t be too much issue to run the audio through properly with a straight L/R phono cable style thingum into its auxillary input, as soon as I get round to buying said cable (rather than the fairly awful option I’ve tried of running the audio straight from my PC headphone jack into the stereo’s mic input. Not recommended). TV’s might be a little more picky on their inputs, especially regarding the combination of separate audio and visual inputs, though I’m certainly no expert on that front. I only know my TV wouldn’t do it. Am I right in thinking that some GFX cards have inbuilt audio capabilities and can transmit audio down DVI/HDMI? Sure I read that somewhere…

    But yeah, I definitely think there’s scope here. Having a couple of long cables trailing about isn’t a huge issue, and they can be easily unplugged when not in use. It’s an especially good option for multiplayer stuff as well, particularly with xbox 360 pad support becoming commonplace with PC games.

  11. 4xis.black says:

    Wake up, Mr. Freeman… You, uh, you fell asleep watching Star Trek again.

  12. tsmike says:

    “Our partners and customers have asked us to make Steam available in more places…”

    They were probably thinking more along the lines of Linux. From what I’ve seen people have been asking for a Linux client for years, I haven’t seen one person say “I want to access Steam from my TV.”

    • moondog548 says:

      I just saw you say it. Right there! See!

    • Pantsman says:

      This was just my reading, but by “partners and customers” I assumed they meant the publishers and developers who put their games on Steam.

    • Zhou says:

      As Pantsman said, I inferred that they meant “we’ve been listening to the guys who regularly give us big bags of money” ;p.

      (Note; I realise this may not be a perfect description of steam’s business model.)

  13. Bilbo says:

    I already do this, because my lounge is fairly pokey so I only need a short cable. I find it really enjoyable to play my PC games from my couch – not to mention how good it is to give my mouse hand and hunched shoulders a well-earned break – and am excited about the prospect of Valve spending some of those illicit TF2 hat dollars on research into making it a bit easier – it’s something of a faff at the moment.

  14. noom says:

    Well this is fun. I wrote a big long post here and it’s saying it posted but isn’t showing. I tried a couple times so if this thread his suddenly hit by noom-spam, I apologize.

    Assuming this post works of course…

  15. James G says:

    I’m wondering if it indicates that Valve are planning for some kind of inbuilt DLNA style live streaming streaming, a sort of in house OnLive/Gaikai kind of thing. Obviously the ‘media PC interface’ thing is the simpler possibility, but it isn’t the most exciting one.

  16. Xanadu says:

    After a bit of initial reluctance, I picked up a gampad for my PC recently and haven’t looked back. Particularly good for more cross-platform games such as Tomb Raider or Super Meat Boy. Actually as an ex-console gamer I’m quite happy to use gampad for tradional PC genres – please don’t burn me at the stake, but on my PS1 I played and completed both X-Com and Command & Conquer, and the save restrictions were far more onerous than the gamepad.
    I guess the bigger hurdle to playing Steam games on my lounge is getting a PC that is smaller/quieter than my desktop, and more mobile with fewer cables. Alternatively a laptop with more powerful/better graphics than usual. Whilst these are available, they’re less common and mainstream than “standard” laptops/desktops.

  17. Acidburns says:

    I think it’d be interesting to try. There is certainly scope of improving fonts and interfaces even on HD TVs. I don’t know what it would add over a 24″ widescreen monitor. More ways to play is great.

  18. shoptroll says:

    Computer is currently hooked into the TV via HDMI output on the second display for my Radeon 5850. Simple to push Ctrl+P to toggle to the TV and then I can get playing on the couch.

    Right now I use this primarily for Worms Reloaded or classic You Don’t Know Jack games inside a VM.

    If Big Picture mode is a simple hotkey to change the layout of the Steam app and overlay that would be great. Not a huge deal to me but that will make the difference when trying to navigate on the couch even with a keyboard + mouse. Youtube did something similar ago which worked pretty well I think.

    Not sure what they plan to do with controllers though. To be honest the biggest problem I find with controller support is that MS’s certification process only checks for Xbox 360 support. I’ve found enough instances where there’s limited support for anything by Logitech which is severely irritating as their Wireless RumblePad 2 runs about $20 cheaper than a 360 pad and provides almost the same button layout (as a SNES and Playstation user I prefer the Dualshock layout more). Oh, and if the game was built with XNA you’re pretty much locked into a 360 pad as this API only supports that for some crazy reason when DirectInput should still exist in this day and age.

    Maybe they’re planning a 360 controller emulator / interceptor tool for Steam. That would probably do the trick. I can’t think of anything else aside from telling MS to support non-MS controllers in XNA.

  19. Lambchops says:

    Hmm, I might use this from time to time. I already hook my laptop up to my telly to use it as a DVD/Blu-ray player. Never quite got round to trying it for games yet but anything that means I don’t have to get off my lazy arse as often to use the mouse is alright by me!

  20. Gundato says:

    Yeah, I definitely wouldn’t mind this for using my laptop. When I was having massive computer issues for a while, I tried to play Jade Empire and Bionic Commando: Rearmed on my tv using my laptop, my 360 gamepad (love that thing. Every PC gamer should get one), and an HDMI cable. Worked fairly well (outside of the annoying need to get up and use the touchpad to boot things up), but would definitely have preferred to just use the controller alone (like with the PS3).
    That being said, I suspect/hope this has more to do with the coming Portal 2 on PS3. Maybe push a small portion of the Steam storefront to the consoles (sort of like how Hulu and netflicks work with the PS3). Only problem there will be how Sony/MS/Nintendo feel about a competing DD service.

  21. kwyjibo says:

    This is not going to take off, but it will be a useful feature.

    It’ll do better than Google TV, because Valve won’t have to fight the content companies to implement it. But on the other hand, the percentage of people who are going to go down the Media Centre route is going to be small.

    You either need a dedicated machine, which because it’s a PC will make it more expensive than a console. Or you need to be content docking your gaming-spec laptop in (which to be honest is most laptops produced today) which most people can’t be bothered with.

  22. Vandelay says:

    I remember one time my parents (or, more importantly, my mum) was away and I hooked up my PC to the TV. It is a pretty epic experience, but certainly not the easiest to control, what with it limiting the places you can comfortably place a keyboard and mouse. Like I say, the added inconvenience of not wanting to get in other peoples’ way also means it is something I wouldn’t do regularly or even infrequently.

    Would these additions to Steam make something like this easy? A little bit. Is it going to encourage me or anyone else who doesn’t already hook a computer up to a TV? I very much doubt it.

    Then again, I’ve often thought that, once I get my own place, having a computer hooked up to a TV for playing games suited to a controller/using Iplayer, 4od, LoveFilm etc. in the living room and another machine in a study or bedroom for the keyboard and mouse games, as well as working on, would be great.

    The dream though is to one day have a place with a basement, construct my own cinema, which also has a PC hooked up to it. Just imagine playing your games on a whole friggin’ wall!

  23. Miker says:

    This may very well bring over more console ports, which I’m honestly pretty excited about. I’m a big fan of 3rd person action games, and I’d love to see some more on the PC. But without a second PC, a long wire, or your TV in your PC room, it’s a bit impractical.

    Also, Alec, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to link to the full press release on Steam News.

  24. Novotny says:

    My next pc purchase is going to be a stupid-big telly anyways. Are you sure they’re not eyeing up Onlive?

  25. Vrokolos says:

    I’m a projector gamer and what I’d love to see is gamepad support on the steam overlay like what games for windows does with the guide button on the gamepad.

    Just FYI projectors and big screen TVs are not very suitable for non-gamepad games really.

  26. Tei says:

    This is for people that already own a TV.

    I don’t have one. How much cost one? 800$?, why would anyone pay that much for a I/O device?

    • Gundato says:

      Mostly because it is more comfortable to sit in front of a TV with loved ones/friends than in front of a computer.

      And, after a long day of work (especially if you are in a computer-related industry), it really is hard to sit down and use the compy again. Sometimes, just vegging out on a different type of LCD is what the mind needs.

      That’s actually why I love my PS3. It won’t replace a PC in my heart (if only because I like flight/mech sims and FPSes), but sometimes my mind just needs to sit down and do some mindless platforming/GTA-cloning on a TV/couch.

    • Novotny says:

      [humour]my wife costs far more than that and she’s little more than.. etc etc[/humour]

    • Al3xand3r says:

      What stops you from doing platforming/gta-ing on your couch with your PC? There’s plenty of that available, connecting a PC to a TV isn’t rocket science, and there are a lot more mindless stuff too.

    • Gundato says:

      In my case, it is largely because I don’t want a really long HDMI cable (let alone the mouse/keyboard).

      Plus, as much as people whinge about “this was consolified”, a lot of the games just seem to play “better” on a TV. I played Assassin’s Creed 2 on my PC and AC: Brotherhood on my PS3. All DRM aside, I had a much better experience with the latter (admittedly, gameplay may have been a factor). It just “felt” right.

      I would posit that third-person games with lots of movement largely “feel” better on consoles/TV (at least, to me) due to the more movie-like experience. Whereas the more first-person atmospheric games tend to feel better on the smaller PC screen (often with headphones).

      Could that be obtained on the PC? Probably, Steam might prove it. But until then, there is just that hard to describe feeling.

      Plus, Symphony of the Night. A 300 dollar PS3 is totally worth it just for Symphony on the PSN. Everyone needs to play Symphony.

      And, in less stupid news, the aforementioned media-server aspect of a PS3 is nice.

      But either way, the dude was asking about why a TV. So if you use your PC on your TV or a console, I think we can all agree that a TV provides a different experience.

    • Al3xand3r says:

      Huh? Yes, games like AC (a shallow repetitive platformer with no real challenge, but anyway, it’s just an example) are better suited to gamepads as other games are better suited to mice as other games are better suited to touch or motion controls. Although I have to disagree with your vague all encompassing comment about third person games being better on traditional gamepads, since plenty third person games play almost exactly like first person shooters, and thus are better with a mouse or at least a new fangled pointing device which comes close enough.

      Still, none of that plays into what I actually said because, well, newsflash: gamepads and other input methods aren’t console exclusive!

      What makes consoles more cinematic exactly? The display device dictates the type of content that is put on it? Since when? Plenty people watch movies on their computers, whether that’s on a TV or a nice monitor as it connects to both just as well, them saying that PC is more cinematic for this reason wouldn’t be valid, just as what you’re saying isn’t.

      The often awful frame rate (where you can’t even lower the settings to make it perform better) and muddy low res visuals that don’t take advanage of even a decent HDTV’s native res don’t somehow make it more cinematic either.

      Yes, there are PS3 exclusive games, 360 exclusive games, Wii, DS, PSP, etc, exclusive games and, here it comes, PC exclusive games! None of that is really relevant here, we’re just discussing potential TV gaming and I’m personally arguing against the notion that the PC is somehow deprived from that, when it’s really not, as it’s up to what the invidual wants. There’s no commandment that says a console shall not be on a monitor and a PC shall not be on a TV.

      What the majority does is irrelevant when it’s just as easy to not follow the majority. It doesn’t take a genious to connect a PC on a TV nowadays, nor very specialised hardware. If you have some kind of psychological block for either case, I’d say you’re in the minority, with most people considering these devices generic hardware that they use however they see fit, even if how they see fit tends to fit your descriptions.

      Although, laptops especially are very often connected to TVs or other monitors. That doesn’t make laptops more cinematics than PCs either, heh.

    • Gundato says:

      What makes consoles different?
      I would argue, it is the mentality of the gamer.
      PC gamers tend to favor “skill based” games like CoD and Instagib in Unreal Tournament (ie. twitch based gameplay). Ironically, we also favor the other extreme in that 4x games and (large scale) turn-based games thrive on the PC. And, of course, there are the hardcore sims that just don’t work on consoles. If you want to be pro-PC gaming, we like sophisticated movies that actually have plots and talented directors. If you want to be honest, we are like the art snobs who like to watch independent films.

      Console games tend to favor the kind of game where you say “Holy crap. Dude, get over here and watch me kill this monster with a boat!”. That leads to a preference for “stylish” FPS games (say what you will about the Modern Warfares, it is kind of hard to not think the mass of quicktime events that was the ending of MW2 was pretty cool), platformers, and action games. Plus, there are the party games that just don’t work on the PC (oh yeah, everyone crowds around the keyboard. THAT ends well). For pro-console, we prefer movies that are fun to watch, as opposed to one guy saying “moist” over and over in a single room for three hours. If you want to be honest, we like explosions and Ahnold’s jiggling pectoral muscles.

      PC Gaming (for the most part), just doesn’t evoke that same sensation. We tend to prefer the kind of gameplay feat that makes one say “Holy crap, I am awesome” (like winning a Trial of Possession against a bunch of clanners) as opposed to “Holy crap, mass of polygons is freaking awesome” (like beating Zeus to death with your bare hands). You could do both of those on a console or both on a PC, but you generally only find the former on PCs and the latter on consoles.

      We get angry when control is taken away from us and we are forced to do a QTE on a PC game. Why? Because being hunched over and looking at a small screen (the “standard” PC gaming style) tends to lead to very focused and character driven games. But on a console, it isn’t that bad, since you tend to not get so heavily focused on the player character, and tend to appreciate the zany environment more. And you tend to have friends and family sitting around you who say “Holy crap, I never thought two old guys beating the crap out of each other on top of a submarine could be so awesome…”

      One is not necessarily better than the other. And there are definitely cases where there is a pretty huge overlap (Just Cause 2 is a pretty good example. Same with Max Payne 1/2. Or the plethora of turn-based games on the consoles, for the other angle). But, at the end of the day, there are experiences on both platforms that just can’t be replicated/haven’t been replicated. Maybe this new thing from Steam will help, but only time will tell. That being said, I doubt it will fully bridge the gap. Because PC gamers still prefer their kinds of games, and it is almost always going to be easier to plug a PS3 or XBOX in and never deal with it again, as opposed to periodically having to run updates for Steam and Windows/Mac/whatever else Valve port Steam to.

      But we digress, the main reason this massive reply stream started was because someone was asking why get a TV. And I think we can all agree that some things are better experienced on a larger screen while sitting on a couch.

    • pipman3000 says:

      Console games tend to favor the kind of game where you say “Holy crap. Dude, get over here and watch me kill this monster with a boat!”

      unless they’re playing demons souls, then they say “Holy crap. Dude, get over here and watch me die for the 80th time!”

    • Al3xand3r says:

      Eh, that’s silly. It’s like saying what makes PC gamers different is the 13 hour gaming streaks in MMOs. Yeah, the highest selling PC game currently is an MMO and the highest selling console game an FPS, that doesn’t show what the users are like, just what is being marketed the most. RPGs sell well on consoles (see the cries of fans of certain franchises for consolised sequels, heh). Even Civilization, a turn based strategy game, has had popular ports from 2 or before, not to mention there are plenty strategic series that originate on consoles (mostly from the Eastern developers). On the other hand, FPS (duh) and action games sell well on PC. Even platform games do. See Super Meat Boy selling better on Steam than XBLA for example (but of course being an indie game the numbers are nothing like say, a Super Mario entry, heh).

      Any difference in gamer attitude has more to do with marketing and even more to do with the rest of the hardware and how plug-and-play-friendly it is rather than the display it’s connected to which is largely irrelevant and everyone goes with what they have, want, and find convenient rather than a mental block telling them don’t connect this to that or else.

      And no, most PC gamers don’t have tiny screens that they need to hunch over. Perhaps smaller than a living room TV but considering the distance to them, they’re pretty big, and with the same or higher fidelity than any HDTV. If you hunch over, you probably should get a decent chair and sit properly…

  27. Teddy Leach says:

    But… But why do we need a TV to play games? We have monitors!

    • skinlo says:

      This. People talk about a bigger screen, but they sit a lot further back from it so in real terms the difference is negligible. I have a comfy chair to sit on, a desk at the right height, and a superior control system, why would I try and replicate a console experience with my PC. If I wanted a console, I would have bought one.

    • bildo says:

      Becasue, you can :) Brb, I have to go buy 4 video cards so I can plug em’ into my liquid nitrogen cooled system with everything OC’d by 1000%

  28. tengblad says:

    Interesting. I’ve been playing around with the idea of building a smaller, quieter PC that I can hook up to my TV and play some of my multi-platform Steam games on. Things like Dead Rising 2 and Red Faction: Guerrilla would probably play better on a big screen TV with a proper sound system. This (potential) announcement makes that idea all the more tempting…

  29. xfxian says:

    Screw this! I vote HERESY!

  30. Xanadu says:

    There’s a certain irony in reading this (on my mobile) after being kicked off the PC by my wife (work > games) in front of a large screen tv with no means of playing games on it…

  31. Vague-rant says:

    I’m currently gaming mainly on my laptop (not particularly beastly hardware wise, but plays every game I’ve thrown at it OK). So my dock is set up near my TV with the HDMI and controller dongle thingy plugged in. I just dump my laptop in the dock, boot it and PC gaming on the TV is go.

    I hope this doesn’t mess too much with my current system. Right now I have Xpadder set up exactly how I like with about 50 different automatic profiles for different games/programs, and it would be a huge pain to mess with things again.

    Edit: Using steam with a gamepad isn’t actually too difficult, if all you want to do is launch games. Just leave steam in tile mode most of the time, map scrolling to the Dpad and use the cursor with an analogue stick to click on the giant tile buttons. Once you’ve set Xpadder up, runs fairly smoothly.

  32. JRubRub says:

    The thing that made mouse/keyboard gaming really work for me on a projector was a keypad (Logitech G13, Nostromo, et al) beside me on the couch, rather than a keyboard on my lap and a hard mouse pad to sit on the armrest. Once I got used to it, it was as comfy to use as sitting at a desk, and at least on a projector, I never found interface element size to be a bother. I had my main computer hooked up like that for half a year before I realized the lamps were only going to last 9 months if I used the projector that much. If I could justify a dedicated gaming computer, it would be going right back up on the projector.

  33. Riaktion says:

    Thats great news, I PC game on my 42 inch TV and having a bigger steam would be a good thing

  34. HunterZ says:

    Been thinking of installing Steam on my HTPC and playing Monkey Island or something on it. This news makes it all the more tempting.

    • battles_atlas says:

      Thats exactly what I did and I recommend it heartily. Monkey Island, Braid and Goo, those are about all my HTPC can manage. Damn do they look good though

  35. matrices says:

    I have hooked up my gaming PC to the 54″ Plasma in the past. Used wireless mouse and keyboard and two Tablemate IIs. Did it work? Yes. Did it look great for most games? Yes. Was it as comfortable as using a controller? Hell no. I eventually retreated to the desk.

    It’s not going to work for the masses: the console already *is* what this thing is trying to become, so why would Steam want to do this? Probably for the reason they already listed: to expand the potential space of Steam. But it’s hardly going to be “big” in the sense of mass adoption.

  36. Hairball says:

    If they are adding more ways to access Steam I would have thought a linux client be more appropriate but this could turn out well.

  37. Dominic White says:

    I already play PC games from my sofa, on an HDTV, with wireless controllers. It’s pretty great. Having built-in gamepad support for Steam for simple navigation/launching would be better still.

    I am typing this from my sofa RIGHT NOW.

    • Monchberter says:

      So am i! Trying to play TF2 on a pad on my HTPC however…

      Get your house in order Valve! And make splitscreen gaming native for your multiplayer titles!

      I enjoy Fallout NV, Super Meat Boy, Dirt 2 etc much more on my flatscreen tv than at a desk. AND of course most games look much better through a half decent pc than their console equivalents. Much to the envy of my Xbox360 owning friends. What’s even funnier is that with native pad support, I can even play Crysis slumped on my sofa!

    • Dao Jones says:

      Same! I have been using my PC on my 40″ TV for over a year now and the only problem I have using this setup is with Steam chat and menus. I can’t seem to make the font any bigger. Stinks since the big plus playing PC games on my TV is I don’t have to wear my glasses as often. :-\

  38. mlaskus says:

    Right now using Steam on a TV is painful, mainly because it doesn’t allow to scale the text. Which is rather perplexing as it uses Webkit for rendering the content and I’m pretty sure scaling is already implemented in it.

    • appropriate touching says:

      Yeah, the major problem with steam’s interface on a TV has always been the stupid fixed font size, something they amazingly didn’t even fix with the redesign. So maybe they’ll finally get around to that, now that it’s less of an issue since most people have massive TVs anyway…

  39. bildo says:

    I have a Kate Archer TV. It’s near my computer too. Valve wins again.

  40. pupsikaso says:

    Heresy.

  41. bascule42 says:

    I have my PC permanantly connected to the the TV with an HDMI cable, (got a 10m HDMI cable from e-bay for £7.50, the seller had missed a “1″ off the price – stroke of luck). Shortcuts for enabling/disabling extetended/copied desktop to the TV in ATI, sry, AMD’s CCC. Works pretty well for some games. Though the resololution is be slightly blurry on the TV. Not good for RTS at all. At the mo, I just use to watch DVD’s and TV catch up services, (iPlayer, 4oD). It’s OK for racing games, though I only play NFS Shift now and then and other games where you can sit back in comfort to play. But it’s a permanant setup and very quick to use.
    But…it didn’t feel like a PC gaming session. Strange, I know but that’s how it is for me. And I would imagine for many that despite it definitely being the PC running your game, that the PC Gamer within will balk at this idea of sitting like a console gamer. Sounds silly I know. It is silly. But from my experience playing Arma 2 on the TV, I wanted to get back into my chair, at my desk, with my keyboard on it’s little drawer and the mouse above it – even if I did have the keyboard on an extended USB cable with the mouse plugged in the back of it. I still felt AFK. Not good for PC Gamers.

  42. Iztli says:

    IGN interviewed Doug Lombardi at a recent EA press event, and are now reporting Valve’s interest in providing a gamepad peripheral:

    Though there are certainly gamepads out there for PC players to use (the Xbox 360 controller, for example), Lombardi states that Valve is very much interested in producing its own. “It’s actually something that, I mean there’s nothing to announce yet, but it’s something we’re definitely looking at. … There’s a lot of games coming out right now on Steam that might be better [with a controller].”

    It seems like all the pieces are coming together with this new Big Picture mode

  43. Crescend says:

    Right, guess its time to buy a TV then :P

  44. Duffin says:

    Am I the only person who does NOT like to play my games on the couch. Nothing better than a nice snuggly office chair.

  45. Cross says:

    I don’t even have an HDTV in my room, so it is of little personal effect to me, but i strongly approve of Valve waltzing into our living rooms and telling Sony and Micro$oft to GTFO and let some proper game developers in.

  46. Wang Tang says:

    I hope they’re thinking about LAN-streaming, i.e. streaming a game from my PC to the HTPC, which is already connected to my TV, and streaming the inputs back. That would also be awesome for underpowered laptops…

  47. Optimaximal says:

    This could be a good application for Light Peak Thunderbolt!

  48. Mooglepies says:

    Sounds good. I have a 40″ 1080p telly that I hook up to my PC regularly (used it as a monitor for 3 years), so this is more than welcome.

    It does mean that developers need to make controller support more consistent as well though; one of the (only?) good things to come out of Games for Windows was that when a game for it came out, you knew it would at least have support for the 360 controller.

  49. Eolirin says:

    Having 360s around only makes Media Center better, since it’s super easy to set up the 360 as a Media Center Extender. You can stream video from a PC directly to it for display on your TV. It’s really nice, especially considering the crazy price difference per gig between 360 hard drives and PC hard drives. Media Center also has *much* better codec support, so you don’t need to fiddle with converting files into formats the consoles can understand.

  50. Fumarole says:

    While I don’t game on my TV, I did once hook up a video output to my TV so my sick roomie could lay on the couch and watch me plough through Max Payne (with the Kung-Fu mod of course) in a six-hours-long marathon of a session. That was a fun Saturday.