Gabe Newell, all things considered, is a pretty knowledgeable and straight forward guy (just don't ask him about Half Life 3), so if he says PCs in the living are the next big thing -- well then it's worth listening too. Speaking with Kotaku at the Spike VGAs, Newell said the biggest obstacle is how to make a PC work better in the living room. Despite the obstacles, Newell believes PC packages designed for the living room will start selling next year, and that Valve won't be far behind them.
"We'll do it but we also think other people will as well," are Gabe's exact words, which is pretty clear code that Valve isn't planning on releasing a console-level hardware platform. Instead, they want to offer an option or an alternative the a market the believe will thrive better with competition. Instead, Valve is likely working to ensure that Steam with Big Picture is the de facto software installed on every box.
"The nice thing about a PC is a lot of different people can try out different solutions, and customers can find the ones that work best for them."
Kotaku pressed further for more information on Valve's hardware plan, which I don't think was the most interesting aspect of Newell's comments, but likely the best easiest to turn into a big news story. Newell clarified that of course any hardware Valve put out would be a "very controlled environment." He substantiated this by recognizing that PCs are known for their flexibility, but in the living room people just wanted a "turnkey solution."
When I think about Valve and the next console cycle, I don't think about what sort of hardware they're going to put out. No, I think about Steam in the living room, the potential for indie-development to flourish in the console environment, and sales. Not just sales because I'm cheap, but because the introduction of true price competition in a digital environment is absolutely thrilling. Microsoft and Sony have settled on their haunches with their monopoly on console digital sales, but hopefully Big Picture changes that.
Man, I wish Gabe Newell got out of his office at Valve more often. The guy makes me excited to cover this industry every time he talks.