Big Picture mode, a full-screen Steam interface suitable for TVs, released in December (opens in new tab) as part of Valve's attention-grabbing campaign to plant PC gaming in the living room. In an interview with Polygon (opens in new tab) , Valve Product Designer Greg Coomer spoke of capitalizing on the untapped niche of couch-side PC hardware.
According to Coomer, Big Picture arose from Valve's surprise that hardware manufacturers didn't try engineering a gaming-centric PC setup for the living room until now. "Maybe there's a situation in the industry where that got tried a number of times in the past and the focus was on HD video or different ways to get into the living room," he said.
"We've thought about how existing operating systems that we're building on just aren't meant for that use case. They're not meant for TVs, and they're not meant for controllers. So we think about what gamers really want from this experience. Windows has never been interested in running in that environment. Media Center kind of worked, but it didn't do well for other reasons. So we saw this need for this software piece to get addressed, especially for gaming."
Coomer also stated that a large influence on Big Picture's creation was Steam users' desire for a greater degree of access to their libraries across multiple devices, saying, "In some ways, they were ahead of us in having that expectation. They were already clearly playing games in the living room, they had all this stuff that they loved about Steam, and it was frustrating for them to not be able to access it in a place that seemed like a natural fit for the kind of content that they were playing." I think a good measure of operability is whether or not I can launch Scribblenauts from my bed.
Valve's next step is its Steam Box project, the hardware counterpart to Big Picture. Valve boss Gabe Newell shared his thoughts in an earlier interview (opens in new tab) regarding the Box, the future of Steam, and other topics including biometric controls and the "giant sadness" of Windows 8.