Couch-friendly Big Picture UI comes to Steam

We first heard about Steam’s Big Picture mode last February. At the time, Valve promised a couch-friendly user interface for its popular game distribution service. Few additional details were offered, and Valve became largely silent about Big Picture mode after the initial tease. Some 18 months later, the living room UI is due to make its beta debut. Check out the preview video Valve has put together to set the stage:

Big Picture mode looks like the sort of interface one might expect from a Valve console. There’s more than just big fonts and controller-friendly navigation, though. Valve has added its own web browser and a novel virtual keyboard, both of which have been designed with gamepads in mind. The browser looks particularly intriguing, and the folks at Kotaku seem seem pretty impressed by the keyboard. Of course, the video points out that you’re free to bring along a keyboard and mouse, if you prefer.

My Steam client doesn’t have the Big Picture beta just yet, but the update will reportedly roll out later today. The alternate UI seems to cover the bulk of Steam’s functionality, from game libraries to community features. There’s a store, of course, complete with sales and what I suspect will be a growing collection of multimedia content. Indie Game: The Movie is already available via Steam.

As someone who has had a Steam-equipped gaming box in the living room for several years, I can’t wait to try Big Picture mode. Valve may not be selling its own consoles (yet), but enthusiasts should have no problem rolling their own.

Comments closed
    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 7 years ago

    I wish that we could get games like bf3 and league of legends on steam… I also hope that this feature sees valve strike up partnerships with netflix, hulu plus, and espn all while building a media player into it so I don’t have to juggle between different apps and stuff.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 7 years ago

    Loving this feature. It has transformed my living room pc gaming experience. No it isn’t perfect but its off to a good start and with some Co-operation from developers could crack open a new market for high end gaming.

    • shank15217
    • 7 years ago

    Three Steps to [s<]World Domination[/s<] Valve Console 1. Create Linux port for Steam 2. Create Couch Friendly UI 3. Launch Console with PC hardware ...tear a new one in PS3 and Microsoft's Arse

    • ThorAxe
    • 7 years ago

    Only 50 million ACTIVE accounts – poor Valve, how will they cope? :/

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 7 years ago

    Begins slow clap…

    • TheBulletMagnet
    • 7 years ago

    Hopefully this provides some incentives for a good accessory to allow me to use my mouse and keyboard on my couch. Current lap desk kinda suck and/or blow.

    • sweatshopking
    • 7 years ago

    well, it’s a giant thing trying to get me to download more games. I get it’s a store, but why are they listing things i don’t have installed or purchased as part of my library?

    one thing i will say, however, is geez, what the F is with all the tiles? first google copies MS’s style for the play store, NOW VALVE TOO? can’t they do an original UI? this looks EXACTLY LIKE the windows start menu. if it’s SUCH AN OMG “CATASTROPHE” WHY DID HE COPY IT?

      • ALiLPinkMonster
      • 7 years ago

      Omg. You said something I agree with. Why is my tablet not bursting into flames?

      To be fair, I can’t think of a better way to present information on a large screen in a living room from which you are sitting quite a ways away. It is kind of ridiculous how EVERYONE is doing it though.

        • sweatshopking
        • 7 years ago

        i can’t either. I personally like metro, i don’t like the hypocrisy of valve’s statements, however.

          • BobbinThreadbare
          • 7 years ago

          Valve said Win8 was a catastrophe because it was going to be harder to make money, Gabe didn’t say anything about the interface.

    • Chrispy_
    • 7 years ago

    I’ll give this a try once it’s available, but why go to all the hassle of trying to replace a keyboard and mouse when you can get wireless bundles for less than a gamepad?

    I’ve been gaming on the sofa for, uh, fourteen years. With a mouse.
    Yah. I’ll be looking at y’all funny when you try and reply to my IM using a gamepad, too…..

      • khands
      • 7 years ago

      The lotus typing looks pretty cool, and definitely the best interpretation of a keyboard on a gamepad that I’ve seen for a long time.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 7 years ago

    Video would have been 100x better with the Cave Johnson character doing the voiceover.

      • ALiLPinkMonster
      • 7 years ago

      Mr. Simmons was probably busy doing Farmers Insurance commercials and weird subliminal movies about the sheepishness of society.

      • superjawes
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<][s<]Video would have been[/s<] [b<]Everything would be[/b<] 100x better with the Cave Johnson character doing the voiceover.[/quote<]FTFY

    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    doot doot doot doot dodadoot doot doot (end of consoles) doot doot doot doot, dootadoot

    All they need now is a major compatibility system overhaul to make game purchases a ton more friendly for the less technically inclined.

      • ALiLPinkMonster
      • 7 years ago

      Naw, there will always be people willing to pay Microsoft to access the internet that they are already paying for on a device that is maybe half as capable as a decent PC. I should know, I’ve been one for a while. I’m one of those weirdo gerbils who actually likes Halo.

      • Game_boy
      • 7 years ago

      Nintendo will never concede Mario, Metroid, Pokemon or Zelda to a PC.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 7 years ago

        If they could make more money they would be happy I’m sure to leave the hardware business.

          • khands
          • 7 years ago

          They develop their hardware specifically around ideas they want to implement in their software, I don’t think they’ll ever stop being a hardware company in some capacity, even if it’s just peripherals.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 7 years ago

            Fair enough, but I doubt they care much about deciding what CPU/GPU/RAM etc their programs are running on.

        • Bensam123
        • 7 years ago

        Imagine what would happen if they were released on the PC…

        I never said anything about developers not making games anymore…

        • SonicSilicon
        • 7 years ago

        And yet [url=http://www.mobygames.com/game/mario-teaches-typing<]Mario Teaches Typing[/url<] and [url=http://www.mobygames.com/game/mario-is-missing<]Mario is Missing![/url<] exist for DOS. They are third-party developed and published, but Nintendo still did license the property.

    • Xenolith
    • 7 years ago

    I was already using Steam in my living room. I have a nice keyboard mouse setup there. Nice to have this improvement, however.

    • indeego
    • 7 years ago

    “50 million.”

    And then they show at the end 3.5 million online.

      • ALiLPinkMonster
      • 7 years ago

      Because everyone who ever had a steam account is constantly sitting at their computer and has no life outside of video games.

        • indeego
        • 7 years ago

        You’re right, only 3.5 million worldwide are on at any one time. So when I sit down to play a game, far less than 10% of my potential friends will be there also. Whereas with other platforms, they have their devices on them 24/7, and are much more likely to play right then/there.

        Steam’s penetration isn’t growing enough to make it as a serious gaming social networking platform.

        Steam’s focus on the living room is a warning sign to me. We’re playing games more and more mobile, not in the living room or from TV.

          • ALiLPinkMonster
          • 7 years ago

          My point was that obviously the number of users online at a given time won’t be anywhere near the total number of users. It could have easily been during a time when the majority of users aren’t online.

          As for your other points, this isn’t targeted at people who play Angry Birds or whatever horrible FB games people are into these days. It’s for people who play their PC games in the living room with a HTPC setup because they refuse to settle for the mediocre hardware found in consoles. There are more of those types of gamers than you seem to think.

            • indeego
            • 7 years ago

            Are there any more than 3.5 million? Color me bored in the grand scheme of things.

            Also color me unsurprised if Valve was a takeover target within next 3 years. They just aren’t keeping up.

            • ALiLPinkMonster
            • 7 years ago

            Aren’t keeping up with what, exactly? Origin? People buy the crap out of Steam games and usually when Valve themselves put out a game we gobble it up. They make great games that win awards and (sometimes) push the envelope. They are essentially a legend in the gaming world and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Granted they haven’t had a MAJOR release since Portal 2, but they can easily ride on their Steam money while they work on whatever comes next (I don’t need to mention what everyone is hoping for). I’m fine with that, because I will gladly wait an eternity for them to get it right rather than rush to meet deadlines and regurgitate the same old crap (*cough*COD*cough*) or screw up the ending to an otherwise brilliant series (*cough*ME*cough*).

            • indeego
            • 7 years ago

            > “Aren’t keeping up with what, exactly? Origin?”

            Origin ain’t doing all that great either. Yeah, Facebook gaming is kinda ghetto now, but the potential is there to move markets away from the PC once and for all. iOS, Android, s[Windows Phone]s are where I’d put all my game development dollars, the growth potential is absolutely massive a few generations from now, where they reach last-console performance status.

            Do you really think we’re going to be immobile to play games much longer? The concept is a cute one, but it’s going away fast.

            So no, they aren’t keeping up with any major player. People don’t buy their games on a large growth trajectory. I know Valve is wildly popular with geeks like us, I’m thinking bigger picture.

            I would be much more impressed if they came out with a mobile partnership with a mobileOS developer, hell, even them+Firefox new mobile OS might be very interesting to me.

            • ALiLPinkMonster
            • 7 years ago

            Okay, I can see your point. I just don’t see the PC dying. Sure, mobile gaming is convenient and clearly the majority of people will prefer casual gaming, but nothing compares to the immersive experience of a solid gaming PC and the precision of a mouse and keyboard.

            If nothing else it will just continue transforming into an elitist sort of thing. “My PC can chrun out BF3 on ultra at 2560×1600. What can your silly phone/tablet/console do?” It will always be that way because of the simple fact that you can fit more transistors/cores/memory/whathaveyou in a bigger space, and you can always get more control out of a large set of keys and a high DPI mouse than a touchscreen or a few thumbsticks and colorful buttons. Yes, perhaps the day will come when the pocket sized low power device on which I call my grandmother is more than capable of running that same instance of BF3, but my PC will be running Battlefield 9 on supermegadang settings at 6000×10000 (too lazy for math) with 200 players on a map the size of Rhode Island. And it will be freakin sweet. Laugh shall I at the people playing the gimped Xbox version with relatively crap graphics and only 100 player maps the size of MAYBE a small town.

            Point is there will always be PC enthusiasts who want the best experience possible, so there will always be companies like Valve who want to cater to them.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 7 years ago

            What do you mean by impressed? Like as a potential investor or as a customer?

            People still go to movie theaters and sit down to watch movies on their TVs, I don’t see why they wouldn’t to play games.

            They will probably *also* play mobile games, but I don’t see why the traditional market would die.

            Also, those are the kinds of games that I want. The kind where you have to sit down and allocate a significant amount of time. The kind that offer deeper experiences than Draw Something.

            • kamikaziechameleon
            • 7 years ago

            Seems you are miss informed. The pc gaming crowd is pretty hard core and devout vs the more casually motivated console crowd they will fall first.

            • khands
            • 7 years ago

            Obviously you haven’t been keeping up, there was a new york times article about Valve the other day that specifically mentioned EA talking to Valve about a buyout that was estimated around $1bln back pre-Origin. Newell said they have a better chance of dissolving and the employees each going their own way than a buyout ever happening with a Golden Parachute for a few key people at the end.

          • BobbinThreadbare
          • 7 years ago

          I think there are different markets and Valve is doing an excellent job focusing on theirs rather than trying to serve other markets poorly (one of my concerns with them selling non-gaming software).

          Valve’s market is gamers who are going to take the time to sit down and spend at least 30 min in a row playing.

          • sweatshopking
          • 7 years ago

          you’ve hit the nail on the head. steam isn’t growing, and valve knows it.

            • khands
            • 7 years ago

            I would say it’s not growing at the same rate it was, there’s plenty of opportunity for it to do so though, especially with the new markets they’re trying to get into. We’ll just have to see whether or not the Metro Marketplace takes off or not, that may be the death knell for Steam if it takes over the market.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 7 years ago

            I wonder how much Valve cares. They don’t have shareholders, from all accounts they have more money than they know what to do with. So what if they don’t grow? Being a 2.5 billion dollar company might be enough.

    • DragonDaddyBear
    • 7 years ago

    I’m dreaming here, but I would love to see something like this as a plug-in for XBMC. XBMC + MythTV + Steam = the ultimate HTPC, replacing a number of devices I already have (cable box, Boxee/roku, and 360).

    And I like that interface for text with the game pad.

    • drfish
    • 7 years ago

    I might play with this but as someone who shudders at the thought of a TV that isn’t hooked up to a PC I’ve been perfectly happy using the normal Steam interface from my couch for years. The bigger fonts might be nice but the controller integration is useless to me. Kudos to them all the same though.

    • BobbinThreadbare
    • 7 years ago

    I have two burning questions, 1) is it possible to turn on a PC using bluetooth? 2) Can I navigate Windows with a controller (like is there a 3rd party controller->mouse driver)?

      • yokem55
      • 7 years ago

      I don’t have any direct experience, but usually Bluetooth host devices are connected into the system via USB, and if the machine can be woken up via USB, it might work out.

      • sweatshopking
      • 7 years ago

      xpadder is a controller mouse driver. works well enough with an xbox controller.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 7 years ago

        That sounds like the kind of thing I’m looking for. I’ll probably be using a PS3 controller, but the drivers I have for it can make it identify as 360 Controller.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 7 years ago

        And ssk, you should enjoy this, making my own steam box might get me to buy Win8. Metro should work really well on a TV, and the only Windows license I have laying round is for Vista. That $40 upgrade is sounding good right now.

          • sweatshopking
          • 7 years ago

          get the 15$ upgrade. if i have any coupons left over come oct 26th, i’ll let you know.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 7 years ago

            Will that upgrade work with Vista, and how do I get one without buying a computer?

            • sweatshopking
            • 7 years ago

            well, it seems… that there is no registration beyond saying you bought one. the upgrade should work with vista. I HAVE purchased computers in the time frame, but i have 10 keys from bizspark, so i won’t likely be using them.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 7 years ago

            Well, I’ll live with Vista for now, and thanks for the offer of the coupon even if you end up using them all by then.

            • sweatshopking
            • 7 years ago

            the difference between vista and 8 will blow your mind 🙂

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 7 years ago

            Hey, I have 7 on my desktop, just don’t have a spare license.

            • sweatshopking
            • 7 years ago

            it’s quite a bit faster than 7

      • atryus28
      • 7 years ago

      Don’t know of one off the top of my head but I imagine it could be done since you can use a remote with windows so the underlying ability is there. Mapping it out to may be a different story. Don’t know if the same people who do open source stuff like this for TV are also into playing games on it and making a controller work.

      • yogibbear
      • 7 years ago

      If you can’t get the controller working you can buy one of those logitech mini-keyboard/remote things. Has a full keyboard including touch supported mouse and wake from sleep controls.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 7 years ago

        Yeah, but I’m trying to do something as cheap as possible.

      • Bensam123
      • 7 years ago

      Standby with your keyboard being able to bring your computer out of standby?

      From the video it looks like you can use the controller as a mouse too.

    • yokem55
    • 7 years ago

    This looks awesome. I’m hoping the next round of the system guide will feature a “Steam Box”. Basically an HTPC build that can accommodate a high end graphics card and a beefier CPU.

      • drfish
      • 7 years ago

      *pssst* [url<]https://techreport.com/review/23204/tr-summer-2012-system-guide/10[/url<]

        • yokem55
        • 7 years ago

        Baaaaa,….Well, don’t I look sheepish…

    • atryus28
    • 7 years ago

    This looks pretty cool, and adding media is a nice feature as well. However, the plethora of services and getting them to work nicely in one interface kind of sucks. It’s annoying to have some videos in hulu, something in amazon, another thing in netflix, or itunes or whatever. Hopefully someone will come up with a nice all in one interface so that the multiple “stores” work together nicer.

    My sagetv setup is still kicking it pretty well but it’s life span is obviously limited since google bought them over a year ago and nothing has replaced it. I cut the cable before this and don’t miss it, but not being able to smoothly record OTA signals, have my movies, music, weather and video stores (hulu and amazon) with the same interface all through the house is going to suck.

    Adding Steams big picture mode looks nice and will be great if they can rather will allow other video vendors to fold in with it nicely. I don’t see that happening though. 🙁

      • superjawes
      • 7 years ago

      Getting a “catch all” [software] player shouldn’t be that difficult. If you can use a browser for most, then you just need to be able to “catch” the data and browse your stuff. With the exception of Apple and iTunes, that should be fine with companies, too, since you’re not stepping on their turf, just enabling their functionality.

      And it would be an easy leg-in to offer something better than WMP or QuickTime. I’m sure users would appreciate that.

        • atryus28
        • 7 years ago

        I know it is completely possibly the question is, will anyone actually do it? No one is doing it now. and if Valve wants to start getting into the media space they aren’t likely going to want to help out the competition. I use playon with a sagetv plugin to be able to easily watch Hulu, Netflix, Amazon etc without using anything other then my extender box. It’s nice that I only need a TV, Remote and Sage Extender box to watch all of our video options in one place wiht one UI and even keep track of everything you are/were watching.

        My hope would be that Steam tries to do that so that any HTPC can be used the same way with Steam and allow you to “suck in” all your other media store options.

        I may be the exception to the rule but I do not want to watch stuff on a dinky little screen when I have a 50″ HDTV in the living room. 30″ is fine for the bedroom ( plenty bigger then 9″) and my PC is good enough if I ever wanted to watch something there. However my furniture is pretty comfy, so I can’t imagine sitting at my computer desk to watch videos.

          • superjawes
          • 7 years ago

          I couldn’t tell you if anyone would do it…not sure what business case you can make for it (even though users would like it).

          Steam is a good cadidate for it, though. I have a feeling that digital distribution is going to be similar to releasing games per-console in that space, which means that you would only need apps within Steam. Origin could jump on that, too, and whoever else decides to go strong into digital sales.

    • superjawes
    • 7 years ago

    Valve: “We aren’t going to make an official ‘Steam Box,’ but we’re going to keep developing things that would work perfectly with one.”

      • willmore
      • 7 years ago

      Cool, so I can roll my own. Sweet.

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