An Open Letter to Valve

It has been a big week for you Valve. You have announced the new Steam Operating System, the long rumored steambox and even a controller meant for Steam. You are quickly finding yourself on your way to the home console market. But l want to put out a few requests…

First, don’t compete with the X-box, Playstation or Wii consoles. Instead, compete with Boxee, XBMC, Apple TV, and the Google Box. Make an HTPC, a good one. The HTPC market has long struggled to do games correctly, and though Microsoft and Sony continue to try to give you a home entertainment solution, to say they have much to be desired is an understatement. You already have the games down and you have more potential than most to get the movies and internet down too because you come from a PC environment.

Second, do a better job with letting the user customize the User Interface. Right now the interface of Steam is ok. But for television it is god awful. Sorry to say. I mean you made a good attempt with the Big Picture stuff, but all I got out of that experiment was not to use Steam on the Big Screen and instead download games separately and then go ahead and create my own screens with a real HTPC setup. Right now you can make categories, change the small banner, and change the faded background images in an indirect route. I want to change the layout more, I want to change the description, the links, I want to be able to add slideshows if I want. I want more customization with the visuals. I want to make subcategories!!!!

Third, get good partnerships. We all know that you are going to partner with Netflix, Hulu and probably Pandora. Everyone does. But get Twitch, Google (Youtube), and Spotify on board too just to name a few. The more like a real HTPC you can get the more successful you will be.

Lastly, Do better with the controller. It looks like ass. You indicate that games that work better with keyboards, like turn-based strategy games, should be great for this. I for the life of me don’t see how. I looked at it and thought that would be terrible for Civ. The only real nice thing about it is the touchpad that allows you to customize areas in it to be buttons. I thought that was a nice touch. Now I’m willing to give it a try, but I’m not overly optimistic. I was really hopeful you’d do better than that.

Now overall, I am quite excited by the Steambox. For the simple reason that I’ve been looking for a way to stream games to my television well and thus far I haven’t really found any good solutions. Steambox is promising to do just that and it is free software at that which is really cool. I also like the concept of the new sharing deal, though I’ll be interested to see just how many companies sign on to allow people to share. I assume at the very least Portal will be sharable, but I imagine no games that just get launched will have them. I am also curious as to what hardware requirements all this is going to take because I probably will build my own box and am curious at the cost of it. But I do think just on the base Valve has a very good start. They just need to correct some things from past iterations of Steam Big Picture.

Good Luck Guys.