Steam is looking to burst onto the living room scene with a new device that looks more like a cable box than a PC or a gaming console.

The prototype for these Steam Machines has just been revealed to The Seattle Times with Valve answering many questions in regards to how they plan on challenging Sony and Microsoft’s dominance. Indeed, much credit of the creation of he Steam Machine can be given to what reporter Brian Dudley calls “big industry players” “dropping the ball.”

Valve had to take its business model beyond just making video games and distributing them effectively. The company taught itself how to build PCs, how to design a comfortable controller and how to program its own OS.

And this new prototype Steam Machine is the result of all that hard work. Designer Greg Coomer had this to say about it.

“Really, every year you could watch one PC OEM or another say, ‘We are going to build the entertainment PC for the living room’ and build something that lives under the TV. “They would often do pretty well at cooling or industrial design, but that was only a fraction of the problems they need to solve for customers to have a good entertainment experience in the living room.”

Valve is also encouraging Steam to become an open platform, with anybody being able to build their own “Steam Machine” and simply installing the Steam OS as an option.

IGN has confirmed that Valve will not be making any “exclusive killer app for SteamOS,” so expect Half-Life 3 to be playable on every platform once it gets released. Coomer states:

“We believe that, in maybe five years from now, folks will find it a quite antiquated notion that you should assume that when you change devices or platforms, that you lose all of your other games and friends. We’re hoping to unify, to get Steam to be as platform and context agnostic as possible. You shouldn’t have to shed that every generation, or even slightly shed it.”

Not only that, but you never lose your video game collection when jumping generations, the main anchor holding me back from the PlayStation 4 right now. If Sony doesn’t make major Gaikai Streaming service announcement soon, making every older PlayStation game available through cloud services, it might lose me to Valve.

300 of these devices will be shipped to beta testers this year.

Any interest in a Steam Machine? The platform has been tearing up the PC distribution arena for the better part of a decade now. It has the momentum to take a bite out of the big boys’ pie, and Steam Sales are far and away the most exciting bargain on the net.