Saturday, May 03, 2014

Steam Music

Steam just launched its music beta. For those in the beta, this means that Steam, while in big picture mode, can now play music files. Valve has used media players in the past for game trailers and maybe even short, gaming-related films. This idea isn't new to Steam, but this is their first large step into becoming a content platform, and not just for gaming.

Right now, the Steam Music beta is pretty limited. It can only be used in Big Picture mode and can't play every file type (FLAC being notable, but there is an active pole right now to decide which types are the most in-demand.) As far as I understand, it will also only play music locally, but I've yet to attempt to set up a Network File Share so I can't be sure. I also assume that it's accessible on every platform because the notes say that it can be used only in "Big Picture Mode and SteamOS."

The Media player
Other than that, the media player works quickly and well. It will start up a short playlist or single file instantly and it easily indexes and searches all music quickly. Adding music was one of the quicker experiences I've had with a media player. Search is a bit odd, but works fine. There is a lot to workout overall, like the lack of easy shortcuts and the player itself lacks many features, but everything necessary is there. The lack of detail control over browsing is annoying as well. The library system seems to only index a handful of files at a time. While somewhat quick to move around files (even on an older external hard drive) it can be annoying to find an album by hand every time. The worst offender is the background noise emanating from Big Picture mode itself. From my experience, the futuristic noises don't stop when the music starts. Also, exiting Big Picture mode doesn't stop the music, and there is no way to stop it on the desktop.

Overall, this only proves that Valve is serious about overtaking platforms dominated by iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, and the like. It seems like every company is on the prowl for the living room. A cloud music/movie collection might be the next step for Steam, or an easy and quick way to setup network shares. Steamboxes are meant to live in harmony with powerful desktops. I'm not super excited for this shift, but I'm hopeful that there won't be a shift at all. I think Steam, while attempting to move into the living room, won't soon forget their core audience and I'd really like to see these moves be more accommodating to them than anything. Edit: I forgot to mention that Steam is planning a desktop utility, so we gamers aren't forgotten.

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