Remember when Steam only sold games? Valve's digital games marketplace is becoming quite the all-access shop these days, between its in-home streaming capabilities, the new SteamOS operating system, those fancy Steam Machines... and now we can add one more to the list: music playback.
Valve recently announced yet another invite-only beta, this time for a "Steam Music" service.
Steam has long had a web browser in its pop-over interface (activated by hitting Shift-Tab while in a game) but now the company is looking to add local music playback functionality — sort of like running Windows Media Player within Steam itself.
Users point Steam at their local music library, and from there Steam indexes full Album and Artist lists for perusal. Valve says the beta currently includes the "most fundamental set of features to offer a great music listening experience within Steam," with more to come based on user feedback.
The beta currently only runs in SteamOS or — on a Windows or OSX desktop — through Big Picture Mode, though support is on the way for those who use the standard desktop client. Steam Music can be pulled up by hitting the Guide button on an Xbox 360 controller, or in Big Picture Mode's main menu.
Once activated the interface is fairly attractive, though it's hard to tell whether you can browse your music as a list of text or if you're once again limited to Steam's standard "scrolling pictures" format (similar to iTunes's Cover Flow mode). The latter could be a hassle if, like me, you have thousands of albums worth of music.
Considering that you can already run music software while you game on Windows, the new feature seems modest at first glance, though it's sure to be a handy feature on the much more streamlined SteamOS operating system.
If you want to get in on the beta, head on over to the Steam Music community group and join with your Steam account. If you're accepted, Valve will contact you saying your account has been approved to participate. After that, like most Valve betas, it's probably a matter of downloading the latest beta client build — nothing too strenuous.
Hopefully we'll get our hands on this feature soon. I can't wait to load up "Bodies" by Drowning Pool and recreate all my favorite Call of Duty montage flicks.
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