Valve has posted this update today on their Steam Universe steam page, announcing the shipping date for the beta release of Steam Machines and Steam Controllers. The 300 beta participants will be sent their consoles and controllers on December 13.
The Steam Machine is a console that runs a specific OS built by Valve, called SteamOS, designed to bridge the gap between PC and console gaming. The Steam Controller, which will ship with the beta units, is a touchpad/haptic controller designed specifically for PC use.
As of the time of Valve’s announcement, the eligible pool of beta participants was hovering around 420,000. A user could join this pool after meeting certain criteria given out by Valve, and the entry process ended on October 25. Those criteria included joining the group, agreeing to the Steam Hardware Beta EULA, having 10 or more Steam friends, having a public Steam profile, and playing a game using a gamepad in Big Picture Mode. 270 of the 300 were randomly selected from this eligible pool. The remaining 30 participants were manually chosen based on past beta participation.
The announcement also revealed that the beta will be U.S.-limited, citing “regulatory hurdles.” This has surprised and disappointed some of the members of the Steam Universe group. Moments after the announcement was posted, a thread started in the forum labeled “Direct the “U.S Only” Rage here!”
The announcement also revealed that SteamOS will be made available at the same time that the beta consoles ship. SteamOS will be a Linux-based operating system built specifically for gaming and entertainment. Valve did state in the announcement that, “unless you’re an intrepid Linux hacker already,” they recommend that “you wait until later in 2014 to check it out.”