In what is arguably its first meaningful sortie against the boxes beneath your living room TV, games developer Valve has fully released Steam Big Picture, a version of its popular games distribution platform Steam optimized for enormous televisions and navigation by a game pad.
The move is an attempt to persuade gamers that PCs, be they hulking towers with the latest graphics cards or modest boxes for more disposable games, are a viable alternative to the video games console when it comes to sitting on a couch and using your thumbs to make pictures jump around on a screen.
In an effort to bolster adoption and use of Steam Big Picture, Valve has launched a sale of controller-friendly games running through to December 10. The full list of games is worth perusal, though a hefty discount on Borderlands 2 stands out, as do the excellent Braid, Limbo and Sine Mora which are all available for a few bucks each.
The timing of the move is significant, coinciding with the launch of Nintendo's Wii U, and getting in ahead of the latest iterations of Xbox and PlayStation hardware.
There are reasons to take an under-TV PC extremely seriously as a games platform. Steam sees many of the latest triple-A releases available for download from day one, has a vibrant indie scene, and leaves the door open for hardware upgrades.
The once-mighty Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 now look very long in the tooth, graphically, if you put a recent AAA title side by side with the PC version. Given their surprisingly long life cycle, some gamers – particularly those that snapped up multiple consoles last time round – may see a few hundred dollars of upgrades every couple of years as a shrewder investment this time around.
The move adds zest to the rumors that Valve intends to release gaming hardware of its own – rumors that have to date coalesced around the name Steam Box. Regardless, the release of Steam Big Picture has increased the options in the basket for the gamers among us, and that can't be a bad thing.