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Look out, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo: There’s a new player in the living room.

Valve, the video-game company behind the Steam distribution system, plans to launch the public beta of its “Big Picture” mode later today, giving PC gamers a new option for playing PC games on large-screen displays such as TV sets.

It’s part of a broader effort by the company to push the boundaries of its business and the video-game industry, as documented in a story today by the Nick Wingfield of the New York Times, including a first-hand experience with the company’s augmented-reality gaming prototypes.

The new Big Picture mode adjusts the Steam interface for the large screen, but the neat trick is that it also works with existing console controllers.

To get a better sense for what it’s like, Jason Schrier of Kotaku has a good preview. He writes, “The fonts, icons, and menus are all large enough to be comfortably viewed on a big-screen television, and the prompts are designed for a game controller. You can use Big Picture on your normal monitor with a mouse and keyboard, but that would defeat the purpose: this is an interface designed for your living room. Because the living room, Valve says, is where most people prefer playing video games.”

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