Steam Big Picture Mode beta goes live today

Valve admits living room-friendly user interface could feature in a potential Steam Box

The beta for Steam Big Picture Mode will be available today, giving testers a sneak peek at a living room and controller-friendly version of Valve's PC gaming platform.


Once downloaded, users will be able to switch to an interface catered towards televisions. Text, icons and menus have all been redesigned for comfortable viewing from the couch and interactions are streamlined for controllers over keyboard and mouse.

In terms of functionality the Big Picture Mode is on par with its desktop equivalent, offering the same buying, chatting and browsing experience as you would get on the PC.

Steam's Big Picture mode also includes a redesigned keyboard, which requires users to navigate to petals using the left thumbstick and then press a button for the assigned letter. The alternative design also includes a tweaked web browser and support for multi-tasking.

Although Big Picture Mode can be used on a PC monitor, it isn't as elegant and is unlikely to be a good alternative to the standard Steam interface.

According to Valve's Greg Coomer the majority of gaming takes place in the living room, and users want an experience that is designed around this.

"We're confident in some things that customers want," he told Kotaku.

"They want a full-screen experience. They want to be in the living room. They want to use a game controller. They wanna have a social gaming experience. And we have this platform that lets us ship a significant portion of that experience."


It has been speculated that Valve's long-rumoured, oft-denied Steam console will support Big Picture Mode. On the subject, Coomer said the company is planning to monitor how Big Picture is used and consider hardware production if it "really makes sense".

"What we really want is to ship [Big Picture mode] and then learn," Coomer said. "So we want to find out what people value about that. How they make use of it. When they make use of it. Whether it's even a good idea for the broadest set of customers or not. And then decide what to do next.

"So it could be that the thing that really makes sense is to build the box that you're describing. But we really don't have a road map. And we think we're going to learn a tremendous amount through this first release."