Steam ‘Big Picture’ mode is Xbox-style interface for your TV

Recent gaming news:

Steam is billowing out of your bedroom and into your living room telly, with Valve releasing a brand new mode for its popular PC gaming platform.

The beta version of Steam’s ‘Big Picture’ mode went live yesterday, Kotaku reports, and converts the recognisable gaming software into an easy-to-navigate interface that you can surf using a game controller.

The new mode is highly reminiscent of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 dashboard, with chunky tiles arranged across a series of homescreens. The idea is that you can hook your PC or laptop up to your telly, then use a plugged-in game controller to navigate the Big Picture interface, or play games.

The new style is designed to make accessing your game library, chatting with buddies or buying games easier to do without using a mouse and keyboard. “Just ensure your game works well with a controller, and we’ll take care of the rest,” Steam comfortingly promises.

One particularly neat feature is a flower-shaped on-screen keyboard (shown below), with characters arranged in bunches of four, and assigned to a controller’s face buttons. Anyone who’s typed more than four characters using a game controller and an on-screen Qwerty keyboard will realise that this is a marvellous idea.

Steam’s barging into the living room will only fuel rampant speculation that Half Life company Valve is going to make a games console.

To me however, the ‘Big Picture’ mode is a sign that a new console may not be needed. If you can conveniently buy and play games through Steam by hooking your current gaming laptop or desktop up to your TV, then do you really need to spend loads of dosh on a new bit of hardware?

Valve told Kotaku it wants to get Big Picture into the wild and see how gamers take to it, “and then decide what to do next.”

Will you try Big Picture mode? Do you think it’ll destroy existing games consoles, or will gamers prefer the Xbox or PlayStation 3 when it comes to on-the-sofa gaming? Tell me in the comments or on our Facebook wall.

Image credit: Kotaku

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