Experienced Points: Steam Machines

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Oct 1, 2013

Filed under: Column 77 comments

This story is huge. Valve isn’t just entering the console market, they’re dragging part of the PC market into the console space to create overlap where none existed before. In this week’s column I give a run-down of why this is interesting and what I think about it.

Sadly, the most interesting questions won’t be answered. I would love to know what made Valve want to make this move.

Yes, yes, “money”. Sure. Obviously. But there are a lot of routes to “money” and I would love to know why they think this is the best route to money. Consoles are expensive to launch and the success rate for new platforms is abysmal.

What do the folks at Valve think (or hope) is going to happen? Are they hoping to move into the console space for real, building a rival to the big three of Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony? Or are they just trying to make sure they don’t have all their eggs in the PC platform basket? Is this a response to the horribleness of Windows 8? Do they see a weakness in the console market that they hope to exploit? Do they see a demand for games that can seamlessly go from the office to the living room, allowing the user to take their friend lists and save games with them?

We’ll talk more about Steam Machines in the next Diecast, which will probably go up on Thursday.


From The Archives:

77 thoughts on “Experienced Points: Steam Machines

  1. Infinitron says:

    Super Bunny Hop did a good video on this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCDdESpkI88

  2. Licaon_Kter says:

    I think they’re covering all the angles, since you can’t really say new-order-consoles ( PS4/XONE ) are a different “basket” to begin with, not a “new-platform”, they are plain and simple “custom PCs”+lil’magic, and since Valve already has the plain PC, now they’ll have a new-order-console type too. DIY fans use it as usual, turn-it-on-works-out-of-the-box fans that might buy a console will now have a choice, and even more, more choices as their budget is either high or low.

    The future of Steam or Valve is tricky: (from 43:35) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8QEOBgLBQU&hd=1&t=43m35s but this is old news.

    Also, AMD is doing the all-platforms-are-alike dance with Mantle: http://www.anandtech.com/show/7371/understanding-amds-mantle-a-lowlevel-graphics-api-for-gcn but they can do this since they power both “big-consoles” now.

    And nVidia wants it’s share of the pie since PCs are it’s only game now, either through Steam ( http://blogs.nvidia.com/blog/2013/09/25/steam-rolling-into-your-living-room/ ) or through Linux directly ( http://lists.freedesktop.org/archives/nouveau/2013-September/014480.html )

    There is plenty of work to get Linux gaming up ( https://dolphin-emu.org/blog/2013/09/26/dolphin-emulator-and-opengl-drivers-hall-fameshame/ ) but now they have Valve herding up the sleeping giants of intel, AMD and nVidia.


    1. Mech says:

      “but now they have Valve herding up the sleeping giants of intel, AMD and nVidia.”

      Not to mention the herds of cats that is the linux dev community…

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        “herding up the sleeping giants” strikes me as one of the more malapropistic metaphors I’ve encountered.

        1. B. J. Girard says:

          Herding sleepwalking giants?

  3. MrGuy says:

    So, have we completely given up on HL2E3 as an industry at this point?

      1. MrGuy says:

        HL2E3 = Half-Life 2, Episode 3. Not Half-Life 3.

        Remember Half-Life 2, Episodes 1 and 2? They’re due a sequel. Would kind of like to see that arc finish before the launch of a brand new HL3…

        1. Andy_Panthro says:

          I kinda figured everyone was regarding them as essentially the same thing at this point?

          1. Zukhramm says:

            Aside from once hearing Valve say “we should’ve just made a third game instead”, I don’t see why we’d do that.

            1. That’s really bugged me – everyone seems to have spontaneously lumped episode 3 and half life 3 in the same basket, especially from 2010 onwards.
              In fact, Half Life 3 has become so prevalent that I wouldn’t be surprised if they just renamed took their Half Life 2: Episode 3 project and just called it Half Life 3.

              1. What about “Half-Life The Third?”

              2. MadTinkerer says:

                They did. The two Episodes were done primarily to try incremental gameplay improvements and improve the cinematic experience, because like Left 4 Dead 2, they could make the next parts of the game/story more quickly like that than with the full sequel treatment. (Come to think of it, LFD2 might have garnered less ire if it was called L4D Episode 2.) When Episode 3 took longer than the first two episodes put together, it became obvious that it was no longer an episodic project. Eventually it got to the point where fans decided, especially in light of L4D2, Valve had better be working on a full-on Half Life sequel. After that point, there were some joking hints about “Ricochet 2” as well as a few actual leaks specifically naming Half Life 3 and mentioning what would eventually be named CS:GO (which was almost called Counter Strike 2) and DOTA 2, but no mention of Half Life 2 episodes except in the past tense.

                1. postinternetsyndrome says:

                  My vision is for them to release Ep3 as a sort of hype thing for HL3. It could be cheap and short and wrap up that silly cliffhanger from Ep2 and be done with it, leaving everyone stoked for what actual new experience the full HL3 would be.

                  1. Given how the G-Man magically transported Gordon from the end of HL1 to the beginning of HL2, there really doesn’t need to be much of a wrap-up to anything. Gordon can just “vanish” from the final scene in HL2 thanks to G-Magic and get dropped into the next place he’s “needed.” Any loose ends could be tied up off-camera, characters reset into new roles, etc. If they wanted to get emotional, Alyx’s attitude towards Freeman could change, feeling “abandoned” or perhaps she saw the G-Man whisk him away or whatever.

                    If they wanted to get trippy, they could have the G-Man take Gordon away and to the Borealis. Except, it’s into the past, and he fights alongside Dr. Mossman, doing so right after the transmission Kliener showed Freeman and Eli in Episode 2. Gordon appears to “return” not long after he “left” Episode 2, but with whatever macguffin the Borealis has to further the plot.

                    Given the amount of speculation and fanfic out there, Valve really doesn’t have an excuse to make a bad story. All they really need to worry about is how fun the game is. I’m thinking at this point, the logical “next step” in shooter mechanics would be to cannibalize their own properties and let Gordon get a hold of a Portal gun, at least for a while. Combining shooting and portal physics would be challenging yet fun.

        2. Steve C says:

          I want to see them launch Half Life 4:Episode 5. Just to make people’s heads explode about not getting a Half Life with 3 in the name. Bonus points if Valve pretends that that there was a Half Life 3 but nobody noticed it.

          1. That would be a fantastic troll. All of the characters refer to the events in HL3 as if it existed, talking about the fantastic and amazing deeds done and secrets discovered, like…

            “…but I don’t need to tell YOU that, Doctor Freeman. You were there, after all.”

    1. B. J. Girard says:

      Everything I read about Valve, where they get their money and where they put their efforts, points away from single-player linear shooters (and toward multi-player and player trades and player-generated content). So my guess is that few people inside Valve are still interested in the Half-Life franchise, that is not where the action is.

      One could make the case that Portal 2 was first-person, linear and shooty, though.

  4. Andy_Panthro says:

    I’m interested to see what their streaming tech is like, and if it’ll allow more than just streaming steam games. The price will also be a big factor, it really needs to be competitive with the next lot of consoles.

    I’m also not sure what that controller is going to be like, but considering how many games can use xbox360 controllers it’s really less of an issue.

    I’m sure Valve view it as expanding their user base, providing something for every console gamer that has thought about PC gaming but ignored it because it was “too expensive, and too complicated”. If they can create something simple and (relatively) cheap, they might be able to cut into the console market.

  5. Nano Proksee says:

    This could (and should) also simplify all the PC-gaming market. By establishing the Steam Box as blueprints for all gaming PCs they open up the market to more “non technical” people. What I mean is right now, if I want to play the latest strategy games I have to know a lot about graphics cards, RAM and so on.

    Also, the touch-pads on the controller apparently “clicks”. If that click is satisfactory (So it can be used exactly as the buttons on your current XBox controller) they’ve won that battle.

    They also should sell a really cheap Box to compete with the Apple TV, Apple just added controller support for iOS and they are The big player in mobile gaming.

    I dunno, my opinions. Either way, great article.

    1. ET says:

      Personally, I don’t think you need to know much about PC specs to play good PC games right now, unless you want to max out the shiny pixel settings.
      Honestly, most computers will be good enough for most people, as long as they have some kind of video card and not integrated video.
      And if you’re hardcore, sure you’ll have fun maxing out the resolution for about five, maybe even five hundred minutes.
      But the very first time you get insta-gibbed by grandma because your framerate hitched, you’ll be turning those graphics settings waaaaay down, so you can have a 100+ FPS. :)
      I myself stopped caring about anything except the video card and amount of RAM after 2003-ish, and lately RAM is cheap enough that even a crap laptop will have enough for any game on the market.
      Another couple years and I won’t even have to care about video card specs anymore. :)

      1. Nano Proksee says:

        Yeah, you are kinda right, I don’t pay much attention to specs either. The longevity to the PS3/XBox 360 era kept the graphics of the AAA market restrained and the indie market flourished in the las flew years, so my old(-ish) rig plays everything I need at reasonable FPS.
        But I still feel like the “general public” finds PC gaming hardware complicated.

      2. Syal says:

        Although, I got Crusader Kings 2 on my 2005 laptop and the delay is bad enough to make the game a headache at the lowest settings. It doesn’t affect every game, but it does affect enough of them that I have to know what my specs are.

    2. MikhailBorg says:

      They don’t even have to compete with the AppleTV. If they can get a Steam Machine down to a couple hundred bucks, you can have an AppleTV, and a Roku, and a Steam Machine for less than a PS4.

      1. Nano Proksee says:

        Yes, totally, and that’s the good thing about the “multiple partners”. Somebody, sooner or later will make a cheap one, even if Valve doesn’t.

  6. B. J. Girard says:

    As for Valve’s motives, my guess is to introduce standardization among gaming PCs, with the different specs of their Steam Machines acting as standard builds, and SteamOS actively optimized to those specs.

    Hardware standardization is an advantage, one that gaming consoles already enjoy. It lets developers cut costs on testing, and it lets engine programmers pull off hardware-tailored tricks to boost performance.

    I remember that John Carmack addressing that last point in one of his keynotes, on how the PC is so powerful but all that power is hidden by the Windows operating system, because Windows has to be optimized not for performance but for compatibility with as many hardware variations as possible.

    Long term, standardization of gaming PC hardware would lower development costs for everyone that sells games through Steam.

    Long story short, I can imagine a future where building a gaming PC means picking from 5 standard builds, because all the latest games, drivers and middleware are optimized for those builds in mind.

    1. shiroax says:

      I agree, only they aren’t doing that, are they? Their announcement says many different machines by many different manufacturers for many different tastes

      1. B. J. Girard says:

        It would depend how many is “many”. If “many” is around 6, and for example they all use AMD cards, then that would be a step towards standardization.

        Is “many” is more like dozens with components from any manufacturers, well then that will prove me wrong.

    2. Hitchmeister says:

      My hope is that Steam Machines bring a degree of sanity to gaming PC specs. So many people are afraid of PC gaming because “it’s too expensive.” That’s mainly because the “Glorious PC Gaming Master Race” likes to pretend you need to spend several thousand dollars to run 2560×1600 at Ultra with high resolution texture packs at 120FPS.

      With any luck Valve will be able to build a Steam Machine that will take advantage of SteamOS being adapted for gaming to run 1080p at console level graphics and textures at 60FPS at a competitive price (somewhere between $400 and $600).

      That controller looks weird, but people seem to miss the point (or maybe I am). Sure it’s probably not as good at being a conventional controller as an Xbox or Dualshock controller are, but it’s made to get games designed for mouse and keyboard to the couch with having to balance a mouse and keyboard on your lap. I don’t think anyone can judge how well it does that without actually trying it. As far as games that work better with conventional controllers, you can use the Xbox controller or Dualshock with Linux, so just stick with those.

      The biggest hurdle will be getting publishers and developers to port their games to SteamOS (Linux). But favorable exposure on the Steam storefront might be incentive enough for that.

      A huge potential benefit for users would be with a Steam Machine in the living room and a gaming desktop wherever you keep your computer, you no longer have to decide whether to buy the console or PC version of a game. Anything you buy on Steam gives you access any and all versions they have available. Also Steam cloud saves should allow you to move between versions freely.

  7. Nathon says:

    I’ll be interested to see what this does to the Linux gaming landscape. nVidia’s recent cooperation with the nuveau people, related or not, bodes well.

  8. Karthik says:

    “But there are a lot of routes to “money” and I would love to know why they think this is the best route to money.”

    So would I. There are so many angles to look at it from, and so many narratives floating around: Hedge against MS locking down on Windows, open up the console hardware (and maybe software) ecosystem, get the living room casual types onto Steam, establish a platform better suited to PC gaming, get a slice of the Xbox/PS market, and more, no two of which are mutually exclusive.

    I don’t know about the Steam console, but I’m looking forward to the OS gaining traction, especially if it stays as open as they promise.

  9. Fake McFake says:

    Valve is procrastinating. It’s doing every single thing it can think of besides the one thing it’s supposed to be doing.

    1. Grudgeal says:

      More game card booster packs?

      1. Eruanno says:

        Don’t forget the hats!

  10. Anon Y. Mous says:

    Is it just me, or is “steam machine” a dumb name? Personally, I think we should call them “Pistons”, because they’re machines that are also a critical part of steam engines.

    1. Andy_Panthro says:

      There’s already a “Piston”, which isn’t a steambox and costs $999. The main selling point seems to be that it is very small.


      1. Mephane says:

        From what I’ve read the Piston is a complete rip-off, and Valve once even publicly stated they have nothing to do with the thing or the company that makes it.

    2. swenson says:

      Everybody already calls it the Steambox, why not use that?

      1. Anon Y. Mous says:

        Well, it just seemed like a good idea to keep up with the theme naming. You know, Valve, Steam and now Piston, but if the name’s already taken, then I guess “Steambox” will have to do.

    3. Alexander The 1st says:

      The Piston is a different machine, made by a different company.

      I suppose we could call the Steam Machines the Steam Valves, but then you get Valve’s Steam Valves, and…well…

      1. Mephane says:

        Not only that, but from what I’ve read the Piston is a complete rip-off, and Valve once even publicly stated they have nothing to do with the thing or the company that makes it.

    4. Peter H. Coffin says:

      There is a thing called a “steam chest”. On reciprocating steam engines, there’s four driving parts: the piston, the cylinder that the piston moves in, the valve (which is that little double piston-y thing usually above the main piston on locomotives), and the housing that the valve works in and which actually directs the steam from one side of the piston to the other is the steam chest. So, it’s even a near parallel: The SteamChest holds the Valve stuff.

  11. swenson says:

    I know a guy who’s already got plans to build his own Steambox… if the price was right, I honestly might buy one just to get my hands on the controller. (although I might build one too, depending on how expensive they are/what sort of equipment is required) I am terrible with controllers, but I am really fascinated by the trackpad-that-isn’t-trackpads part.

    I wonder–could you just dualboot SteamOS on a pre-existing computer, or is it going to require some specific setup?

    1. Klay F. says:

      SteamOS is basically just another Linux distro, so yes. In fact I’d be very surprised and disappointed if you couldn’t dual-boot. They might have even specifically mentioned something like that in their FAQ, though memory escapes me right now.

      1. MrPyro says:

        Unless they’re insane they’re just going to use GRUB as the bootloader (why re-invent the wheel?); getting GRUB to dual-boot is pretty simple and easily automated as part of the setup process.

    2. Abnaxis says:

      That right there is my plan. I pretty much already play a hillbilly Steambox, using with my PC hooked to my television and an XBox360 controller.

      I couldn’t care less about the console, I want that controller and Linux distro

  12. Joshua says:

    And I’m thinking that the linchpin of their master plan will be that they will release Episode 3 finally….only on their new console.

    1. Nick says:

      That’d be shooting themselves in the foot. By all means they’d want to release it on the console – but also on PC to their existing userbase, which also lets them play it on the console.

      If they keep upping the number of games that work on both then they don’t lose out if windows stop doing proper desktop OSs, and they can build a userbase that can easily switch back and forth depending on mood. That’s incredibly powerful.

  13. Irridium says:

    Well, we do have digital sales numbers for one game, at least. The Witcher 2. Let’s take a look…


    irect2Drive, Impulse and Gamersgate's combined sales combined hit about 10,000, GoG sales got to 40,000, and Steam sales were 200,000. Again, it’s just one game, and these numbers are two years old, but still I’d be willing to bet sales numbers from other games would tell more or less the same tale.

    1. Supahewok says:

      Actually, I recall that since GOG is operated by the same company that made The Witcher 2, and thus kept all the money from the sale, they offered a better deal than Steam did. I think the deal was that you got The Witcher 1 with it, or maybe it was $5 cheaper or something. Don’t remember anything more than that they offered something extra, besides the usual DRM free and little goodies like wallpapers and such. So that says 2 things: 1, even with that, Steam sales outnumbered GOG sales by 5:1, and 2, the deal probably lead to more people buying from GOG than from Steam than usual in this one case, meaning The Witcher 2 is an outlier. Which means the average discrepancy is very likely greater than that 5:1.

      1. Irridium says:

        Yeah I know, when I said sales numbers for other games are probably similar I meant that Steam would dominate sales numbers compared to other storefronts. Not the actual breakdown in sales numbers from each place.

  14. Paul Spooner says:

    I think the most exciting thing about this whole announcement package is SteamOS. Having big bucks behind an operating system designed to turn PCs into gaming consoles is fantastic. Sure, it might fail, or flop, or misfire, or be a terrible platform, but the knowledge community that they build can only do good things for software platforms in general, and game systems in particular.

    1. Aristabulus says:

      I think it’s highly unlikely that SteamOS will fail on technical merits. The odds are very good for it being Debian-based, as that’s where all the good free-as-in-beer and free-as-in-speech work has been happening for a while. (also where Valve’s previous efforts towards Linux + Steam have focused)

      SteamOS will be tying into mature roots. Debian-family Linuxes are also where a lot of the work is happening on usability for people who don’t like command lines and wading through source code, meaning less work to get to “just works.”

      Being open source allows the community to help, if it’s inclined. (some will, even if they’re a vanishing minority compared to install base) Got a low priority bug rubbing you raw, and you’ve got some chops for code? Chase it down and send in the commit. Got an awesome idea for a UI mod? Go write it.

  15. Klay F. says:

    I think the main motivation factor behind all of this for Valve is Microsoft. I think Gaben saw the writing on the wall ever since he witnessed Windows 8. Whether he is right or wrong is largely beside the point here, but he thinks Microsoft will use their famously anti-competitive and anti-consumer strongarm tactics to try and muscle Steam out of the PC market share. Now there would be a variety of ways to combat such a thing if it were to ever occur, and for what its worth, I think he chose the most interesting and least scumbaggy route.

    One thing you have to admit regarding Valve is they always keep things interesting. Could you imagine Actiblizz or EA even conjuring up an idea like this? I’d think they would be more financially capable of doing something like this than Valve could ever be. Then again, maybe this move is all the proof we need of just how deep the Valve money pit is?

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      I don’t know too much about accounting (I dropped my accounting class in college because it was too boring to endure) but, estimates are that Valve is worth around $3 Billion US dollars. EA’s total equity is only $2.4 Billion, so they are on roughly equal footing, financially speaking. Activision Blizzard, on the other hand, has a whopping $11.5 Billion total equity. Of course, as with any company, most of the value is locked in to capital and staff, which are usually specialized toward a particular end.

      So, to me, the interesting thing isn’t that Valve can afford to make this move, but that they want to in the first place. It’s not like Gabe Newell mandated this action, that’s not how Steam is run. Everyone worked together to get here, but it’s anyone’s guess as to why.

      1. Klay F. says:

        I know that Valve handbook or whatever says there are no bosses, but you know somebody with a lot of clout decided to pursue this. There is no way they’d go through with something so potentially risky otherwise. Maybe they all started to drink Gaben’s “Windows 8 is a disaster” kool-aid? Either way, they decided that their marketshare on PCs will be in grave danger sometime in the future (likely when Windows 9 is being rolled out). EDIT: This may entirely be a future that never actually arrives, mind. I think maybe the Xbone taught Microsoft they needed to listen to what people tell them. So if people make enough of a stink, Windows 9 might not be as Orwellian as we all expect it to be.

        Unrelatedly, I personally like the idea of blurring the line between console and PC gamers. It might go a long way to stifling the idiotic console war. Also, there might be a good chance that a move like this could end stupid shit like exclusivity. For that reason alone, I hope that Valve succeeds with this.

        Regardless of whether any of my speculation is right or wrong, I think Valve is playing the long game, and we won’t know the true result until a decade down the line.

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          While I don’t work at Valve, I do work somewhere with a very similar corporate culture. These companies are certainly influenced by their founders. Here at EI we call the people with the final say “Low POs” because purchase order numbers are sequential, and everyone has one. You can tell who has been around longer with a simple numerical comparison. In that sense, you’re absolutely right, the important people decided this was the way forward… Or, perhaps “a” way forward is a better phrasing.

          But because everyone gets to decide what they want to work on, the Low POs can’t just do whatever they want. They have to convince people to work for them every day. Can’t convince the right people to work on his project? I guess it’s going to be late, or the PM will break his back doing all the work himself. Some projects end up getting canceled because no one wanted to work on them. The responsibility flows both ways.

          That goes all the way up to the owner too. In the long run, any of us can work anywhere we like, and it’s the owner’s job to make his company more that place than anywhere else. Everyone at EI wants to have fun and make money designing aircraft tooling. Everyone at Valve wants to rule the world of gaming with the Steambox. If we didn’t want to be right here, doing what we are doing right now, we are welcome a lot of other places.

          And often for better pay too.

          1. Klay F. says:

            And exactly this is why this is so risky for Valve, moreso than it would be for someplace like Actiblizz. There is nothing really stopping employees from just losing interest and moving on to their next fancy. Hell I’d be more then willing to wager money that this is exactly what happened to HL3.

            1. Paul Spooner says:

              Agreed on both points. Of course they very well could be simply refining it until “the proper time” comes, whatever that may end up being.

        2. harborpirate says:

          Yeah, this does feel very much like a reaction to a hypothetical “windows 9”. Two things:
          1. Valve seems to be frightened of a future where microsoft goes full on Walled Garden and cuts Steam completely out of the action.
          2. Kudos to Valve for playing the long game. That kind of vision is all too rare these days.

          1. Klay F. says:

            A few more things to add. The press seems obsessed with framing these announcements as “VALVE IS TRYING TO TAKE OVER THE LIVING ROOM!” which is about as shallow as reporting gets. There is no way they are dumb enough to think they can just release hardware and have it be a success, and they certainly don’t have the capital to strongarm their way into the market like Microsoft did. I’m pretty sure they realize that IF they find success, it’ll be quite slow, and I think they’ll remain niche for several years, at least until word of mouth gets around.

            I think Valve’s biggest challenge relates to something Adam Sessler said. They are going to have to become more vocal and more aggressive in selling their product than they’ve ever been. As we all know, being vocal is not something Valve does. Can Valve make the transition to making presentations at gaming expos like E3, PAX Prime and East and others every year? That’s the game they’ll have to play I think, if they want to be anything thing other than the nichest of niche in the console space.

            There is no way to really tell until the time comes. Which is just another way of saying this is all wild, pointless speculation. It okay though, I’m not a journalist. :)

    2. wererogue says:

      I’m with this train of thought. It seems like a way to push non-windows PC gaming into people’s homes. And I’m OK with that.

  16. Forty-Bot says:

    It’s a contingency plan. In his talk at LinuxCon (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gzn6E2m3otg), he says that if he could stop time now, he would. SteamOS/Box is Valve’s way of ensuring that they can always develop games for the pc.

    1. That’s a disturbing definition of “old” you’ve got there. :)

  17. MrPyro says:

    It’ll be interesting to see how hackable* Valve make this. I remember the PS3 having official support for installing Linux when it was released, but subsequently pulling it in a software update, which pissed off a few people.

    Given how active the modding community around games can get, and how much good work they can do, a modding community around the operating system could be interesting.

    *hackable in the “getting into the guts and messing around for fun” sense, not the “breaking security” sense.

    1. wererogue says:

      “Will I be able to build my own box to run SteamOS?


      Can I hack this box? Run another OS? Change the hardware? Install my own software? Use it to build a robot?



      “With SteamOS, “openness” means that the hardware industry can iterate in the living room at a much faster pace than they've been able to. Content creators can connect directly to their customers. Users can alter or replace any part of the software or hardware they want.”


      1. This’ll be interesting, especially when you look at the Android OS. For the most part, it’s been awesome to have out there since it can (usually) be rooted and the customer can get rid of stuff they don’t want and add things they do.

        Of course, those who license the OS are often trying very hard to keep that from happening, offering their own (awful) app stores as opposed to Google Play or making you keep crapware on your device unless you find someone who has discovered how to wipe the phone and put in a custom ROM.

        Will this mean cheap Chinese Steam boxes in the way I can get a Chinese Android tablet (with all the risk that involves)? It’ll be an interesting development.

  18. Darren says:

    I’m hoping that they want to make it easier than ever to upgrade your rig. I’m a pretty big PC gamer, but I’ve never been comfortable upgrading my own machine, let alone building a new, top-of-the-line type thing from scratch. However, it’s cheaper and better suited to my needs, so I pay my best friend (who IS technically minded and also enjoys doing that kind of thing) a little extra for advice and actually doing the construction.

    However, a dedicated gaming rig with a dedicated gaming OS which is built so I can just pop out the graphics card and put a new one in, without having to stress out about the OS and motherboard and all that stuff that I probably shouldn’t worry about as much as I do? That’s a wonderful idea, and it lets the relentless march of PC graphics and performance take the fight to the living rooms.

    1. You should be able to pop out the graphics card and pop a new one in without worrying about the OS right NOW. The only limitation is what kind of slot your graphics card goes in (depending on the age of your machine), but you should be able to find that out via the control panel.

  19. Smejki says:

    “I have no hard numbers on the market penetration of Origin, Games for Windows LIVE, Direct 2 Drive, Gamer’s Gate, Origin, and Good Old Games. In fact, I don’t think anyone has the complete picture of what people are using.”

    According to some quotes of developers, and according to what a certain small-sized developer I know personally told me, Steam makes about 95% of all digital sales. Which was all told before GOG.com (only real consumer-deasired competition) started selling new games and I believe also before Origin started selling 3rd party games. But I doubt it has changed any dramatically since then.

    And for Origin, one cannot count Origin-exclusive EA-made games – that is not a competition. Competition is in selling Origin games which are also available on Steam. And I’d bet nearly nobody buys games on Origin aside from those exclusives so this ratio is probo like 99,9% in favor of Steam. Hah I don’t doubt EA will be all cocky again about size Origin user base, which has no desired-information relevant value. I use Origin only because of the EA Humble Bundle and only because I was forced to. But EA got no money from me (all the Humble money went to charity) and I believe never will. I don’t see it as a real competition at all. It is just isolationist platform for EA games and a tool to raise revenue from selling them. And as such, it works pretty well. Which I belive lowers any motivation of EA to change it into real competition (= ~same catalog, competing in prices and services).

  20. Adam Fuller says:

    I think desktop PCs are dying and this is Valve’s response. People are moving away from desktops to lightweight, portable devices which can do _almost_ everything a desktop can do. Except play big, AAA games. Consoles, on the other hand, can play games–but not all games. They don’t do well with games that have complex input schemes, and they don’t do well with indy games.

    Valve’s new console is an attempt to bridge the gap between console and PC, offering an out for people who would otherwise have a desktop solely for gaming purposes. If successful, it may result in the near death of the desktop in the home environment.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      While I agree with the main thrust of your statements, you seem to be conflating PC and Desktop.
      The term PC stands for Personal Computer, and really includes “lightweight, portable devices”. Desktop, on the other hand, generally refers to a computer where the IO devices are distinctly packaged from the data processing and storage core.

      People are certainly moving away from desktops. This is not so much because of any particular gaming trend as it is due to ongoing hardware miniaturization and packaging convenience.

      But, by this definition, the Steambox IS a desktop. It has a core data processing and storage unit that is separate from input (controllers) and output (tv/monitor) devices. In that sense, Steam isn’t trying to eliminate desktop computers. They are trying to become the dominant supplier of desktops for gaming purposes.

      They are trying to do get what Alienware had for hardware, as well as Microsoft for OS (windows), Sony for controllers and platform (the PS1), and Nintendo for catalog. It’s an absolute killer move… and it just might work. Not sure if that’s good or bad for us though.

      1. I don’t think people are really moving dramatically away from desktops. It’s just that most of the people who use desktops the most aren’t buying new ones as often. I mean, there are a few things people use desktop computers for because they like a big screen and a comfortable keyboard and like that.
        But aside from games (which have moved towards consoles let’s face it) most of those things don’t need a whole lot of actual processing power, memory or such. Word processing, spreadsheets, fiddling with photoshop or GIMP or whatnot, surfing the web and watching video with a nice big screen, none of that needs a new computer, you can just use your old one. So people are still using their desktops, but the market is shrinking because they’re not buying desktops as much.

    2. Smejki says:

      I don’t think *desktop* market is shriking any dramatically. It is the laptops though which make like 50%?) of PC gaming devices. I myself use my laptop (secondary computer) less and less since I got to own a smartdevice. Laptops are really getting more and more pointless imho. If you buy desktop I can’t think of any strong enough reason to replace it with tablet or smartphone. And if there is, you shouldn’t have bought the desktop in the first place and you are using you money wrong.

  21. Atle says:

    To me it looks like they’re initially escaping Windows 8, but wanting to stay on the PC in order to still have the extra power you don’t get on consoles.

    But then adding some console controllers, interface and ecosystem to challenge the console market as well.

    It does seem that the next time I’ll be buying a PC for work I’ll look for a Steam machine. The last time I bought a PC it came with Win 8. I didn’t even bother going through the setup before I ejected it from the system and installed Linux. It look forward to having more options to buy PCs without preinstalled Windows in the future.

  22. You know, it occurs to me that the subsidy problem for a PC-hardware-based console would be temporary, or at least, um, episodic.
    I mean, PC hardware improvement iterates much faster than console hardware improvement. So OK, right now a new console generation of PS and Xbox was just released, so it’s fairly current and to compete in price/power requires subsidy. But in two years, not so much–PC hardware will have improved in power and cost, while those consoles will still be pretty much exactly the same. Theoretically, chances are Steam would be able to taper off subsidies over time and remain competitive. Then they’d have to reinstate subsidies when the closed consoles did a new generation, taking a new snapshot of the state of the art.

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