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Beta version of Steam Big Picture mode is launched

Couch potato gamers, rejoice: Valve's Steam today launched a beta version of its new Big Picture mode, which provides access to a TV-friendly version of the PC gaming platform.

The company posted a teaser over the weekend on its Steamworks The Big Picture site, inviting people to "come out of the den and explore a few more rooms of the house."

Steam's Big Picture mode is designed specifically for television sets, with easy-to-read navigation and redesigned text and icons that make for more comfortable viewing from the couch, instead of a desk chair.

Once the service goes live, users can buy games, browse the Web, and chat with friends – the same features the desktop client provides.

According to Kotaku, which tested the Big Picture experience, gamers will be able to work with a completely redesigned keyboard – Valve ditched the usual QWERTY device for something a little more flowery. The user now navigates through the characters with the joystick and the right-side buttons on the controller.

The new design also provides for multi-tasking – moving seamlessly between a game and the Web browser – and expects to include auto-correct and context awareness in the future, as well as the distant possibility of cooperative split-screen mode.

Greg Coomer, the head of the Valve team that developed the Big Picture mode, told Kotaku that gamers "want to be in the living room [and] use a game controller."

Valve is in the market now for customer feedback, hoping to learn more about what Big Picture users are looking for out of this service, before making any decisions about a possible future in the gaming console arena.

Gamers shouldn't worry that their keyboard-and-mouse-run Steam games are going anywhere. Big Picture users will be able to swap between input devices any time.