Hot on the heels of the announcement of its own Linux-based operating system, SteamOS, computer game developer and distributor Valve has announced a range of SteamOS gaming computers called Steam Machines. The machines will be built by other companies with the aim of bringing PC gaming firmly into the living room.

The announcement is the latest twist in the ongoing Steam Box saga. Though the Steam Box name was never used by Valve, the company was known to be developing its own gaming hardware to run PC games acquired and managed using Steam, its own games distribution, management software and social network.

Following this latest announcement it seems Valve's hardware efforts to date will culminate in Steam Machine prototypes. The company says that it will distribute 300 prototypes to chosen Steam Users before the end of the year. Among the requirements for eligibility are having 10 friends on Steam, and playing a game using a gamepad in Steam's Big Picture mode.

The company says that a number of Steam Machines will be available in 2014, with different models optimized for different users. "The specific machine we're testing is designed for users who want the most control possible over their hardware," Valve says. "Other boxes will optimize for size, price, quietness, or other factors."

The big question at this stage is who will make the Steam Machines? Though Valve's lips are sealed at this point, Wired notes a concurrent press release from Nvidia emphasizes the company's involvement with SteamOS. With Project Shield, Nvidia has already demonstrated its willingness to develop stand-alone gaming hardware, and it would appear to be a strong candidate as a potential Steam Machine manufacturer.

Addressing gamer concerns on being forced to use a certain type of input device, Valve says that users will be free to use a mouse and keyboard, but reasserted its position that gamepads work well with Steam and SteamOS. Most intriguingly, the company said it will shortly say more on the subject of input, which raises the possibility of a novel input device. Watch this space.

Sources: Valve, Nvidia