Steam Big Picture: why consoles shouldn’t be worried

Monday, 10th September 2012 21:19 GMT By Patrick Garratt

If some are to be believed, Valve’s imminent Steam Big Picture beta is the company taking a pop at the console space. Patrick Garratt begs to differ.

Is Steam Big Picture a move at the console market? No. It’s about PC gamers being able to interface with PC games wherever they happen to be. A PC with a nice text input system isn’t an alternative to PlayStation 4.

Steam Big Picture’s beta is upon us, bringing the world’s most popular PC gaming walled garden to the television in a bespoke format. Long awaited, and debuted yesterday in a Kotaku preview and YouTube video, Big Picture fills out the living room LCD and comes with controller functionality.

To listen to certain quarters of the PC games community, this is a play on the console space. Valve’s promo video, Appley voice and all, tells us that sometimes you just want to “kick it in the living room”. You certainly do, daddio. Either PC gaming’s just noticed there are other areas in the house aside from desks and toilets, or the idea that Valve’s seriously making a play for the Xbox and PlayStation market is arse about tit. Spoiler: it’s the latter.

Big Picture isn’t about replacing Xbox, but rather to do with Valve engendering platform ubiquity for Steam, regardless of what’s going on with its competitors. Valve wants Steam on all your screens. If you want to use Steam through your TV – or, as we’ve seen Valve supply this year, through your mobile phone – then voila.

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that you still need a fast PC connected to your TV to get the best of it. Yes, there’s certain to be people in the comments below this article extolling the virtues of the $300 PC, but you still need another computer to make this happen outside your office/den/fudge-dungeon; unless you’re keen on building PCs and sourcing cheap components to do it, you’re looking at considerably more than that to live the Steam lounge dream. So don’t be throwing your 360 in the bin just yet.

And while it may be true that you want to take your Steam friends with you to the TV, that doesn’t mean you want to vapourise your Live and PSN contacts. Just because you’re using the service on another screen, one doesn’t immediately negate the other. Xbox Live’s pretty popular, word has it.

That’s not to say Big Picture doesn’t look attractive. There was some cool stuff in that presentation. The text input GUI for pads is genius. And a browser on a TV that actually works! Who knew. This is pure Valve obviousness, fixing daft problems that need fixing and giving us more reasons to want to kiss it on the front bottom.

But this is still open-ended gaming for the PC fan. I’m sure there are a bunch of people in the VG247 audience tempted by Big Picture enough to want to screw next-gen console early adoption, drop the cash on a new PC and hook it up to the TV. But aside from a small impact among the ultra-core, it’s logical that Big Picture won’t make any significant impact to Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo at all. It’s a different proposition for existing users. It isn’t a console. It doesn’t replace the service offered by Xbox or PlayStation, and nor will it ever: the truth is that there are millions of customers that just want to buy an eco-system in a box and stick with it for a generation. Steam Big Picture doesn’t cater for that.

It could be argued that Big Picture is a viable alternative to console gaming for an older, more knowledgable audience, providing the more affluent – and patient – with a way to play third-party games on TV. The truth, though, is that anyone with the wherewithal has been able to play PC games on TV screens forever. Big Picture just makes it easier and prettier.

Is Steam Big Picture a move at the console market? No. It’s about PC gamers being able to interface with PC games wherever they happen to be. A PC with a nice text input system isn’t an alternative to PlayStation 4.



  1. Lord Gremlin

    Consoles are not about TV, they are about games that always work perfectly fine the moment you put the disk in. And in this generation that main feature taken a huge hit.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. OlderGamer

    I have to say I disagree with you here Pat.

    What about tablets that conect to TVs and play games?

    There is a host of dedicated devices that are heading to market right now that are defently not consoles, yet will play games on the TV.

    I think your looking at from a traditional gamer pov.

    Plus the standards are changing. I own a 2200sqft home. It has an office and two living rooms(one is more of a sitting room, to be fair). My PC isn’t in the office. It is in my living room. Infact I have two of them in there, each with their own TVs. My brother inlaw does the samething.

    Years ago people just watched TV, today they get online, beit games or otherwise. Putting the thing I do the most in the best room in the house just made sense.

    I own a desktop. It isn’t that heavy or hard to move. I can understand that some folks won’t do that. But what about laptops? The point of them is mobility. And the page on steam does mention laptops by name.

    I think that traditionalist tend to see gaming as consoles, handhelds, or PCs. The truth is gaming is becoming all of those things. We are going to see some very powerful tablets that can be both a PC and a game console. And those tablets will prolly have Steam on there.

    I think there will always be high end gaming. But what I don’t know is if high end gaming will still be mass market in the years to come. More people may play on laptops and mobile then play on traditional dedicated under TV boxes.

    And lets talk about price. It is a good point, if we assume that the only people wanting to use PCs are the high end types, price can be prohibitive. But I spent near the same amount for my new PC that I spent for my PS3 when it was new. My PC cost me a tad less actualy.

    All i am saying is I think Valve knows what they are doing. I think they see the living room space opening up down the road, and they are getting their foot in the door now. If they launched this BigPicture the same time MS and Sony luanched new console, that would be foolish. But I think now is a good time for them to stake a claim. it will be interesting to see what they have planed down the road. And also what Apple have up their cuff as well.

    I think the living room is wide open, and expect to see a race from entertainment companies to carve out their space.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Talkar

    I still don’t see the point of big picture mode…

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Kabby

    Then you’re… missing the big picture.

    Badum. Tsh.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Talkar

    Haha nice! xD

    #5 2 years ago
  6. manamana

    @1 wise words.
    @4 reply of the year.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. CyberMarco

    @4 +1 :p

    #7 2 years ago
  8. monkeygourmet


    Bravo :)

    #8 2 years ago
  9. silkvg247

    I don’t get it. Yeah the vids so far are neat but.. I want gaming on tv? I take my pc and connect it to the tv. Not rocket science.

    The only thing I’d need to improve my experience are ultra long cable mouse / keyboards or wireless ones with ultra fast response and long range.

    FPS games will never be more playable on controller, so I don’t get the stance on using the controller. It is a purist gamer’s step backwards.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. freedoms_stain

    What it should do is make Sony and Microsoft look at their designs and say “We need to do better”. Because a Valve beta UI shits on what is supposed to be their arena.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Moonwalker1982

    If i understand correctly, this is basically like connecting your laptop or pc to the TV?

    #11 2 years ago
  12. Kabby

    Valve’s intention is to ape Xbox Live/XBMC/Apple TV.

    ‘Big Picture’ at the moment is just an interface that is designed to be navigable with a joypad.

    We will just have to wait and see what else it offers and if it’s an improvement over current console interfaces. Given how Steam’s interface has never evolved or improved I am curious to see what the same team can achieve with this new mode.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. freedoms_stain

    It’s a gamepad optimised UI for Steam designed to be viewable at a distance, for example on a TV.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. Moonwalker1982

    But is this also the rumoured ‘Steam console’ or is that an entirely different story?

    #14 2 years ago
  15. OlderGamer

    No Moon, but it may be the UI they use(or the one they will modify later). Remember the recent interview valve gave, they said they were going into a period of learning. I think that starts now, with BP. If there is a SteamBox, I don’t think we will see much about it till later on.

    I think this is just step one, a long walk ahead.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Moonwalker1982

    Ok thanks for that. A bit more clarity on that now then. I hadn’t been following the news much on that. It could eventually turn out to be really interesting, and if it becomes a competitor for MS and Sony, always good.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. Erthazus

    Consoles should not worry at all if it is just Another service.

    But if it is a console?? That’s a different story.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. freedoms_stain

    It’s live now. Pretty slick.

    #18 2 years ago
  19. dex3108

    It’s amazing. So fluid and simple i don’t want to use old steam anymore :D

    #19 2 years ago
  20. OlderGamer

    If they put this on a decently powerful SteamBox,and price it fairly, it could really shake things up. It really works nice and is indeed smooth.

    The only downside I can see is the games themelves don’t all use control pads. The same ones that used to, still do. But the ones that didn’t, still don’t. You still have to use KB&MS on games that don’t have controler suport.

    I know that makes sense. But it could be something that holds BigPicture back. To really make a play for the Big Screen TV space, you really need to make every game(as many as possible) controler friendly.

    Personaly I use a wireless MS&KB when I play on my main TV. Easy enough to fix, but I was hoping to use a controler on Titan Quest, that would have been great.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. freedoms_stain

    Valve aren’t going to patch controller support into other Studios games.

    Titan Quest would not work with a controller without a massive overhaul, and Iron Lore don’t even exist anymore, so that statement just sounds mental to me tbh.

    Big Picture is for games that suit a controller. Valve aren’t going to go chap on the door of Paradox Interactive and mandate controller support in Crusader Kings II so it’s cozy with Big Picture.

    #21 2 years ago
  22. Old MacDonald

    I just wonder when they’ll offer media streaming functionality through Steam. Because now it’s making sense.

    #22 2 years ago
  23. OlderGamer

    Mental to hope? Nah, I don’t think so. I was hoping. But with something like this, going forward, we could see an emphises on controler support in steam releases.

    #23 2 years ago
  24. viralshag

    I for one am always happy to see more pad support in the PC space so even though I don’t really need this (I have my PC hooked up to my TV anyway) it sounds neat.

    Doubt this would change minds about buying a console though.

    #24 2 years ago
  25. Joe_Gamer

    “A PC with a nice text input system isn’t an alternative to PlayStation 4.”

    How is it not? The PS3 is basically a mid range PC with the “text input system” removed, and from what I’ve read the PS4 is going to be built with even more standardized parts. Consoles ARE PC’s, but what do I know, I have all three consoles and a computer set up in my living room, talk about a waste of money, no wonder I have to pirate 95% of my PC games…

    #25 2 years ago

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