Thursday, 26 September 2013

But I Digress | Steam Powered

Last week, Valve teased three impending announcements. The first, SteamOS, made a lot of sense. The second I'm not so sure about. The last one is still to come, at the time of this writing, but it's going to be about a Steam Machine controller, of course.

There go my dreams of Half-Life 3!

But it wouldn't do to gloss over the big news, which is that the Steam Box is real. Some of you must be wondering... the Steam what? Well, as Dark Horizons reports:
After years of speculation, Valve have confirmed the existence of their long-awaited Steam Box video game console, or rather the Steam Machines which will release in 2014. 
Rather than a single, one spec box like a Playstation 4 or Xbox One, Valve is working with multiple partners to launch a variety of Steam gaming machines for the market next year. All will run Linux-based SteamOS, which was announced on Monday. 
The aim is to bring the popular Steam gaming service into the lounge room, allowing users to play PC games on your big screen TV with a game controller rather than a keyboard.
This is good news for any number of reasons.

In the past year I've personally played any number of games on my PC through Steam, and I know I'm not alone in this. With the 360 and to a lesser extent the PS3 looking awfully long in the tooth, even mid-range systems like the tower I built late last year do a better job of handling the demands of today's AAA games. Admittedly there's new hardware on the horizon now, and I'm sure I'll end up with one console or the other this coming Christmas, but the desire to play games on my PC is in me now. I have, however, often wished I could do so in the comfort of my living room, on the big screen and with the full force of my sound system in effect...

Next year, Valve mean to make my dreams real.

I say more power to them. I can certainly see myself buying a Steam Machine, presuming the price is right. That said, I think they've missed a trick. As noted in the originating Dark Horizons article, there won't be one, but many of these machines:
Different manufacturers are expected create all sorts of boxes with different levels of power and at different price points (just like they do now with PCs). Valve isn't so much attempting to enter the game console war as it is trying to create an entire category of gaming machines.
Which is ambitious... but, I worry, rather wrong-headed.

By all means bring multiple models of the Steam Machine to market, Valve — have an entry-level version and a bleeding-edge box — but too much choice stands to kill this concept before it's even born. A single Steam Machine, or two at a push, could unify a disparate market to the point that the PS4 and the XB1 might well be rendered irrelevant; making ten or more models is simply taking the piss.

Thoughts from the peanut gallery, please! Can you see yourself buying a Steam Machine?


  1. making ten or more models is simply taking the piss.

    I picked up a brochure for the new Skoda Octavia last week. This comes in four basic models, each available in hatch or estate and each of these in at least four different engine sizes. So that is 46 different models (without getting into optional extras) for just one of their makes of car. Seems to me Steam are just doing common market segmentation and it is the console industry that have been out of synch.

    1. But surely the Steam Machines represent Valve's attempt to crack the console market, where fragmentation has been a particular problem in recent years. The PC is and will continue to be a platform of infinite variance, but as I understand it, Valve are trying step into a separate sector here, and I can't help but think they're going about it all wrong. Pleasing every master, perhaps, rather than the one that must matter most: the new consumer, who will in all probability be put off by an overabundance of options.

  2. I have always been for a more compact but still powerful and upgradable PC. I need or at least prefer a portable version, and have been using two middle sector gaming-capable laptops in a row for many years, but I have always seen that they are too big a compromise in price, performance and upgradability.

  3. This is something I would totally consider buying, not only because so far every game system scheduled has a major flaw that turns me right away from it and this is a good alternative, not only because Steam stupports some awesome indie games, not only because of the cross-platform playing, but also because dangit, I love gaming but hate sitting at my computer and using keyboard controls so much, and would much rather sit in a comfy chair in my living room with a controller in my hands!

  4. Thank you very much, this is very good, and i would like to recomend the steam powered for every people out there. I love the post. And i have been always thinking that steam is the best games provider.