Today was the big day for the second of three announcements from Valve, and the news today was focused distinctly on hardware. From the SteamOS that would power such hardware to the hardware itself, Valve is really opening up some exciting possibilities, and it may well have substantial implications for gaming as a whole.
Valve has, at last report, developed a new prototype for the Steam Machine
line, and plans to offer up free Steam Machines for 300 Steam users who apply for the beta test, so that any issues can be winnowed out before the devices go live. Valve is already, according to the earlier announcement, working to pull in several hardware manufacturers to get several different Steam gaming systems up and on the market in 2014, backed up by the SteamOS package. The different machines will emphasize different points, at last report, with some devices focusing on lower price, while other devices focus on ambient noise levels generated and others even focus on being of the smallest size possible.
Those interest in getting in on the prototype, meanwhile, will only be able to qualify after completing what Valve is calling an “eligibility quest” that stars with joining Steam Universe, agreeing to the company's beta terms and conditions, making a total of 10 friends or more on Steam—those with 10 friends already have passed that part of the quest—and then setting up a Steam Community profile and playing a game using a gamepad and Steam's Big Picture mode.