It's official: Steam's Big Picture mode is finally ready for prime time. The couch-friendly user interface for Valve's game and content distribution service was revealed more than a year ago and has been in open beta since September. Today, it becomes available in the standard Steam client.
In addition to a supersized interface that's easily readable from the couch, Big Picture mode includes some controller-specific enhancements. There's a "first-person web browser" optimized for use with typical game controllers. Valve has also come up with a custom on-screen keyboard to simplify text input for gamepads. More new features are promised, but that's all that's available right now. Users should still have access to all the features they'd usually expect from Steam.
Big Picture mode provides access to the Steam store and your entire library of games. However, only certain titles will work properly with game controllers. True to form, Valve has launched a celebration sale filled with discounts on controller-friendly games. Included in the mix: Limbo, Mark of the Ninja, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Portal 2. Almost 400 games on Steam offer at least partial controller support, although only a handful are part of the sale.
I've used Big Picture mode a fair bit since September, and I like it a lot. The interface looks good, everything seems well-organized, and I haven't had any issues playing or purchasing games. Admittedly, I haven't spent much time with the browser or the funky, controller-based text input. My tablet is better for web surfing, and I have a wireless keyboard for text input. I still have to give Valve credit for doing something different in its bid for the living room, though. Big Picture mode would work nicely with that Steam console we've been hearing rumors about.