The Future of Steam and Final Thoughts
This is probably the most important part of this look at Big Picture - the future of Steam, and Valve. I've talked about this before in that the gaming world needs a new hero - and Valve could do this with "Steam Box ", their version of a console.
I think that Big Picture is a tease of things to come of the UI of their console, and having it work with controllers and TVs pretty much cements that they could definitely be working on a console that hooks up to your TV.
Imagine that - the entire Steam library, Steam Box games that simultaneously release on the PC at the same time. The next-gen Xbox and PlayStation simply can't keep up with that - sure, they have their Halo, Gears of War, Unchartered and so forth, but they're no match to Half-Life, CounterStrike, Team Fortress and Left 4 Dead in the community's eyes.
Valve has always looked after the community, and they know that the community will look after them - in the form of buying a console from Steam if they were to make it different to the usual way of buying consoles. What we have now is a down payment for the console at around $500-$600, then around $50-$100 per game depending on the country you're living in.
From there, we have monthly access to Xbox Live, but the PlayStation Network is free. Controllers and accessories have to be pretty much console-exclusive, but the Steam Box could go in an entirely new direction.
USB support would be offered through its Linux-based OS, and it would play every game that is on Steam - which is a lot of games. There's no need to tout "backward compatibility" when it would offer the ability to pretty much play anything on PC, as well as community-made games. This is another factor of Steam; it's newly unveiled "Greenlight". Greenlight allows the community to vote for which games get released by smaller, indie developers - another sign that Valve isn't some monolithic, shareholder-pleasing company. Valve are a private company and don't need to bend over to the share market and continue to drive revenues to make its business look like it's continuously doing well - Valve just release groundbreaking games at its own pace.
Imagine if Gabe Newell took the stage of E3 next year, and said he has something to show us - the screen behind him goes blank, and a crowbar comes up - 5 minutes of absolutely eye-bursting Half-Life 3 comes up in Source 2.0, built completely from the ground up for next-gen. The crowd goes crazy... and Newell says next - available on our Steam Box. The stage lights up and there's a box in front of him - motion controllers, normal controllers, USB peripherals - the works. He states it'll be a $20 per month fee for two years for the Steam Box, or a once off payment of $399. It comes with Half-Life 3 in the box.
How many units do you think Valve would sell in six months? Five million? Ten million? It could be more than the next-gen consoles combined if Valve were to offer something insane like Half-Life 3 with it. This could be the entire reason they've pushed Half-Life 3 back so far... or maybe I'm dreaming. I predict we'll see some form of hardware from Valve next year - and I'd be shocked if we didn't. I'm excited at the possibilities.