Steam’s Big Picture Mode is here and despite Valve denying any immediate plans to enter the hardware market, the new streamlined big-screen Steam application seems like the perfect way for Valve to gain the attention of console players before making their move with the rumoured “Steam Box”.
Opt-in to the Steam beta program on your client, reboot the program and be prepared to see hot Steam – yeah, that’s right, I made a pun.
Big Picture Mode is primarily a way to remove a bridge in PC gaming. Sure, we love a mouse and keyboard, but we’ve all felt the strain of hobbling over our set-up for hours on end yelling at the opposing League of Legends Annie player as she emerges from the trees with her angry demon teddy bear. Big Picture Mode may not be the thing to transform every PC game into a perfectly crafted controller-born time sink, but it makes cycling through our games a breeze – and if your library consists of only controller-centric games, you’re in for a GUI more enticing than that of the big console systems!
As a warning, if you’re hoping to get a whole load of cable to set up big picture in a room opposite to the one housing your beast though, I feel inclined to warn you of those 10m HDMI cables, they have a tendency to burst into artifact hell at 60Hz.
Even if you’re all gung-ho over your expensive mouse and keyboard (and why wouldn’t you be?) the smart interface, smoother performance and just the change in scenery is probably enough to coax your over to the streamlined Steam experience while still retaining the wrist/4-finger precision of your desk set-up.
Steam have managed it. If they’re using Big Picture Mode as a way to experiment with the idea of hardware further down the line, they’re got the interface near perfect already. It may lack the features to compete with the Xbox dashboard or the Playstation’s Xross Media Bar should it come pre-loaded with Valve’s eventual affair with the console players, but they’ve certainly created a system that feels more special to use than the GUI’s companies have had years to refine already – and the keyboard is pure genius too. It’s sleek, fast, intuitive and relaxing enough to leave on in a darkened room while the ambient sounds echo throughout regardless of whether you even plan to play a game today. It’s a good starting point for dedicated Steam hardware to bring console players into the benefits of PC gaming, but without the Steam Box in a console denizen’s room, it’s only going to grab their attention with a loose grip.