Valve is giving 300 lucky Steam users prototype 'Steam Machines', computers running SteamOS, its new Linux-based gaming operating system. It's a very limited launch of the long-rumoured Steam Box, before other companies make their own versions next year. The winners will get the boxes later this year.
"Entertainment is not a one-size-fits-all world," Valve says on its website. "We want you to be able to choose the hardware that makes sense for you, so we are working with multiple partners to bring a variety of Steam gaming machines to market during 2014, all of them running SteamOS.
"While these products are still in development, we need your help," Valve says. "As always, we believe the best way to ensure that the right products are getting made is to let people try them out and then make changes as we go. We have designed a high-performance prototype that’s optimized for gaming, for the living room, and for Steam. Of course, it’s also completely upgradable and open."
To be eligible for a Steam Machine, you have to complete several simple steps. First, log into Steam. This "quest page" tracks your eligibility. Then, join the Steam Universe group and agree to the Ts & Cs. You'll also need to have 10 Steam friends and a public profile -- and have played a game in Big Screen mode.
When you're done, you get a special badge and are entered into the draw. Make sure you do all the steps before 25 October! Valve says it'll pick 270 people randomly, and another 30 will be specially chosen for their community contributions.
Valve promises to release more information about its own Machine, and those of its partners soon, but says they'll be available in a range of specs and prices.
Don't forget the company has one more announcement this week, on Friday evening. Fans have been following the series of mysterious symbols on its site: O, [O ] and O + O.
O was SteamOS, announced earlier this week. [O ] is tonight and O + O is next, 48 hours from the time of publication. It could be anything, of course, but everyone's hoping for Half-Life 3.
Will you be entering the draw? Does a Steam Machine get your gears going? Steam up the comments, or our well ventilated Facebook page.