"As we've been working on bringing Steam to the living room, we've come to the conclusion that the environment best suited to delivering value to customers is an operating system built around Steam itself," Valve said today on its official SteamOS page.
"SteamOS combines the rock-solid architecture of Linux with a gaming experience built for the big screen. It will be available soon as a free stand-alone operating system for living room machines."
Valve describes SteamOS as a "cooperating system", and it will allow users to stream games running on Windows and Mac machines onto a TV-connected box running SteamOS.
The OS will also allow for music, TV, and movie streaming "once partnerships are in place".
Othe features include family sharing, so multiple users have access to the same games, and parental control. Every Steam game will work, either natively or through in-home streaming.
The Linux-based system is also 100% free, and licensable by anyone. Its timing comes mere months ahead of the release of Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PS4, and seems like an effort to beat those gaming powerhouses to the punch.
Steam itself is a digital distribution, digital rights management, multiplayer and communications platform developed by Valve Corporation, and is is used to distribute games and related media online, from small independent developers to larger software houses.