“Half-Life” creator Valve attempts to take the gaming PC back to the living room

Remember when computers were touted as the be-all end-all device for your home theatre system, and when the HTPC was the perfect solution for home entertainment? One company still believes that computers have a place here, and it’s bringing its massive gaming network into the living room to take on consoles.

The online gaming store operated by Valve is coming to TVs everywhere, provided you drag your computer out of the bedroom and office, and plug it straight into your television.

Released today as a public beta for Windows PCs, Valve’s “Big Picture” mode for its Steam gaming network not only brings the huge selection of games already available on Steam to TVs, but also changes the way you interact with them, allowing you to use either the standard keyboard and mouse configuration, or throw in a slightly more comfortable gamepad design and start playing.

Controllers from Logitech are supported, as are Microsoft’s Xbox controllers, which generally rely on USB ports with the wired models. Even better, the controls have been tweaked so that the controller can be as good as the traditional keyboard and mouse, with a special joystick setup for writing messages, a tabbed web browser built for using controllers and not just made to look like it is, and the games you may already own on Steam working with a controller on a bigger screen.

Currently, the setup requires a minimum of Windows Vista, with at least a dual-core Pentium 4 or higher, a decent 3D graphics card, 1GB of storage, and a broadband connection, which should be an easy enough ask for anyone who has bought a computer in the past two or three years.

Anyone keen to give it a try can do so for Windows, with Mac users receiving the opportunity shortly.

The release fuels rumours that Valve is working on a piece of hardware of its own, a console-esque box that is can make available to consumers who want a console that can grow with them and provide decently priced downloadable games without needing to use optical media.

While there’s no confirmed news on this rumoured “SteamBox,” you can at least see the concept presented with Steam’s Big Picture mode in the video below.