Half-Life studio Valve today confirmed it is working on a new hardware initiative, revealing Steam Machines, described as a "powerful new category of living room hardware." The announcement comes two days after Valve revealed SteamOS, its own operating system.
Multiple models from several manufacturers will be available in 2014. Gamers can apply for a beta test today through Valve's website.
"Entertainment is not a one-size-fits-all world," Valve said. "We want you to be able to choose the hardware that makes sense for you, so we are working with multiple partners to bring a variety of Steam gaming machines to market during 2014, all of them running SteamOS."
Valve said it has designed a "high-performance" Steam Machine prototype that is optimized for gaming, the living room, and for Steam. It is upgradeable and open, Valve said.
"While these products are still in development, we need your help. As always, we believe the best way to ensure that the right products are getting made is to let people try them out and then make changes as we go," Valve said.
To that end, Valve said it will ship 300 of these Steam Machines to Steam users, free of charge, for the purposes of testing.
Users can make themselves eligible for participation in the Steam Machines beta program by completing an Eligibility Quest on Steam. To do so, users must log into Steam before October 25 and perform the following actions.
1. Join the Steam Universe community group
2. Agree to the Steam Hardware Beta Terms and Conditions
3. Make 10 Steam friends (if you haven't already)
4. Create a public Steam Community profile (if you haven't already)
5. Play a game using a gamepad in Big Picture mode
Users can complete the steps in any order they wish. Once all steps are completed, users will be awarded a special badge that will grant them placement in a pool of people that Valve will choose participants from.
The list will be finalized on October 25. A small pool of 30 or fewer will be chosen based on their past community contributions and beta participation, while the remained will be selected at random.
"Your help is critical to our design process," Valve said. "Your feedback will shape both the new OS version of Steam and the new category of gaming machines that will run it."
Valve did not provide specifics regarding the specifications of its own Steam Machine, but said its rig is designed for "users who want the most control possible over their hardware." Other boxes, from other manufacturers, will be optimized for size, price, quietness, or other factors, Valve said.
Gamers can use a mouse and keyboard for Steam Machines, but Valve pointed out that Steam and SteamOS "work well with gamepads, too." The developer also teased an imminent controller announcement, saying, "We have some more to say very soon on the topic of input."