Valve has finally put their cards on the table and announced the Steam Machines, as well as the SteamOS and Steam Controller to go along with it. It’s not a surprise move, it’s not even what I’d consider bold: it’s a move I think most people expected would be inevitable, and it has made speculation from the past two years very much a reality.
When the long-rumored Big Picture Mode became a reality on Steam last year, I had a strong feeling that this would be the next major push: to start up in the console market. It makes sense, for Valve, at least, since they have stockpiles of money from the success of both their games and Steam itself. They can take a calculated risk, and if it doesn’t work out, they have services that will continue regardless, almost completely unaffected. On top of that, it seems that the majority of Steam-based hardware will be third-party developed, and be built much like PCs now are made to order.
The real quandary I keep running into is: who is this for? I mean, ideally, it’d be for me. I’m someone who doesn’t have a gaming PC, is primarily a console gamer, and who is most comfortable playing games on the couch– yet still longs for that superior PC experience.
Even then, is this really for me?
These machines will all be running Valve’s SteamOS, and that’s a Linux-based operating system. Sure, it’s built to support games and reduce latency, but that will never change the fact that Windows has, and almost definitely will continue to be the lead development platform for PC gaming. Not unless there is a significant change in the go-to platform for gamers, which I don’t see happening anytime soon. I think it’s smart to worry about the support of this platform.
Past using just me as an example, who would actually want this? These machines sound like they’ll be designed for broad specs, so PC users will still prefer to use their custom-made, powerhouse PCs. The most use PC games would get out of a Steam Machine would be to get the light-weight version, whatever it may be, and use it to stream games to their TV, from their custom PC.
I just can’t see this as an appealing device, at least not until I know what it’ll look like, how it’ll work, and what’s going to be inside it; not to mention price-points. There are just too many unknowns here to even allow myself to be excited. The real question I just keep coming back to is, who is this for?
In the final week of September, Valve made three big announcements. The first of which was the SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system designed to stream games, music, TV and movies from a PC to a living room screen, with native Linux games. Next up was the Steam Machines, a series of different boxes for varying player needs, all running SteamOS. Finally Valve announced the Steam Controller, a gamepad with trackpads in the place of analog sticks, attempting to bring keyboard-and-mouse gaming to the couch. The question is though, should you be excited?
I myself am first and foremost a PC gamer. The truth is, I haven’t actually always been a PC gamer. In recent years, I have seen myself gravitate more and more towards the PC side of gaming and Steam is one of the main reasons why. With Steam, I have been able to get games at an extremely affordable price, whether that be in the Summer sales or just weekend deals that Steam likes to give to it’s dedicated community. So with the news that Steam is now trying to take over the living room, am I excited? Well, kind of. Don’t get me wrong, I have more faith in Valve than any other company out there, but the only thing that has really caught my attention is the SteamOS.
Let’s face it, with the introduction of Windows 8, it doesn’t seem that Microsoft is looking too good on the PC gaming front. Gabe Newell, the co-founder of Valve, has recently went on record saying that Windows 8 is killing the PC gaming market. Other developers such as Notch, the creator of Minecraft, have also spoken their concern about the platform, with Notch stating, “I’d rather have Minecraft not run on Windows 8 at all than to play along.”
With the SteamOS making a move to Linux I can’t help but be happy. Why? Well, Linux uses a lot less resources than a Windows OS, which will help your rig be more efficient and powerful for gaming. Linux is also a free platform, and gone are the days which would have you spend $100 on a new Windows OS. Valve has also stated that the SteamOS will fully embrace the openness of Linux, letting modders have their way to modify and change the OS at will.
I personally have little interest for the Steam Machine. With the ability to use the SteamOS on any computer I don’t see the need in purchasing a pre-made rig, albeit because I have my own custom computer. However, for a low-end Steam Machine I could be persuaded. With the SteamOS you can stream games, movies and music from one computer straight to another. This is where the low-end Steam Machine would have my attention. I would love to be able to play a game on my desktop and then go to bed and continue playing from there, all without the hassle of having to move my humongous computer case about.
I have recently heard people express concern that with the Steam Machines, the market may become fragmented, but I honestly believe that the Steam Machines are just a step into having the SteamOS pre-loaded onto the system the same way Windows usually is. I doubt there will be much more fragmentation in the PC market than there already is. I personally don’t think that Valve is waging war against the console market as many assume, I believe it’s against the Windows OS itself.