It’s here! It’s finally here! After ages of waiting, I thought all hope was lost. I figured we’d have to keep viewing Steam on the humblest of screens: magnifying-glass-worthy monitors, puny laptops, screen doors. But now – after having its arrival heralded by semi-obscure videogame publication The New York Times – Big Picture’s open to everyone. Granted, it’s still technically in beta, so you’ll have to opt in. After that, though, you’re good to go. And goodness, it’s bringing some neat features to the table. The one in your living room, I mean. Because that’s where televisions live.
Unsettling Apple-esque presentation aside, that’s quite the formidable lineup of “Duh, why did no one else think of that? Oh, right: Valve features. The button-based Daisywheel (actual name) might just make typing on controllers not the most painful chore in the history of mankind, and the first-person browser seems like an intriguing concept, if nothing else. Perhaps one day, we’ll even be able to shoot webpages in it – sort of like with this thing. We can only hope.
It also comes with apps for Facebook, Google, Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube, so clearly, Valve’s focused on taking this thing’s utility pretty far beyond only games. Valve’s plan, then, is to let users have a look around, take their feedback, and then add new features accordingly. If having your brain mercilessly mined for information sounds nice to you, the Big Picture setup process is literally three steps long. Introducing the process actually took more words than the process itself.
So, right then, this all sounds pretty Steam-Box-y, doesn’t it? I doubt Big Picture will suddenly have console disciples embracing the Way of the Newell, but – hypothetically speaking – I could certainly see it providing a nice test bed for features that might show up in a Steam Box. As for the obvious advantages that a PC hooked up to a TV has over a console right now – nicer graphics, PC’s giant library of games and mods, more options, etc – I don’t think those things alone will be enough to lure console users into our fold. Many of them want simplicity without too terribly much muss, fuss, or setup, and Big Picture requires a bit of all three.
Then again, we live in an era that’s seen console players forced to adjust to firmware updates, constant patches, different hardware SKUs, and even some online requirements, so the gap is narrowing. Really, though, this whole scenario could go a million different ways. I can’t predict what users or Valve will do next, but I’m certainly looking forward to finding out.