September 26, 2013, 3:19 PM — Valve's Steam Machines
In a column a few days back, I mentioned the possibility of Valve going after Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony in the living room. Well, it didn't take long for Valve to confirm that by announcing its Steam Machines.
A powerful new category of living-room hardware is on the horizon.
Join the hardware beta now. Choose the model right for you in 2014.
Entertainment is not a one-size-fits-all world. We want you to be able to choose the hardware that makes sense for you, so we are working with multiple partners to bring a variety of Steam gaming machines to market during 2014, all of them running SteamOS.
While these products are still in development, we need your help. As always, we believe the best way to ensure that the right products are getting made is to let people try them out and then make changes as we go. We have designed a high-performance prototype that’s optimized for gaming, for the living room, and for Steam. Of course, it’s also completely upgradable and open.
This year we’re shipping just 300 of these boxes to Steam users, free of charge, for testing. You can make yourself eligible to get one. How? Read on!
Sony, Microsoft and NIntendo cannot be happy about this. Their consoles have already had to weather the proliferation of mobile device gaming, and now Valve is aiming to directly muscle in on the traditional console business with an open system designed for the living room.
I've noted before that this is an exciting time for Linux gamers, but this announcement just kicks the adrenaline up to sky high levels! It's going to be a lot of fun watching the Steam OS platform take off in the next year or so.
Valve also is promising to partner with other companies, and to allow users to build their own Steam Machines. So it looks like there's going to be lots of choices for Linux gamers to make when these systems are available in 2014.
Valve is looking for beta testers for the new Steam Machines too. Be sure to see the "how to participate" section at the link above.
Steam OS Versus Windows
PC World thinks that Steam OS will give Windows gaming a run for its money.
Though Steam Boxes aren’t an immediate danger to Microsoft’s supremacy, the love PC gamers hold for Steam is fierce, and if SteamOS picks up popularity, Valve’s love for Linux could encroach upon Windows’ gaming stronghold.
“Possibly more important than the ‘PC vs. console’ question is that Valve’s move toward Linux cuts Microsoft Windows out of the picture,” Pollak says. “This then circles back to PC gaming in its traditional form. Will developers make—and people play—Linux-optimized games on the desktop?”
Yes, it sounds crazy to go toe-to-toe with the Xbox and PlayStation in the living room, and yes, challenging Windows’ dominance on the PC will be an intense uphill battle. But don’t forget that it was just as nutty for Valve to require you to sign up for Steam to play Half-Life 2 all those years ago, and look how well that turned out.
Like I said: If any company has the brawn to shift PC gaming to Linux, it's Valve—especially if Gabe Newell is crazy enough to make the much anticipated Half-Life 3 a Steam-for-Linux exclusive. Windows will reign supreme for a while yet, but watch for those AAA titles coming to SteamOS in 2014.
The replacement of Windows as a gaming platform can't come soon enough for me. For years I've loathed the fact that so many games are Windows-only, and I'm very pleased to see that that might be changing soon.
It has not been good for gamers or the gaming industry to have so many titles tied directly to the Windows platform, particularly given Microsoft's jump into the interface abyss with Windows 8.
Microsoft is Watching Steam OS
IGN notes that Microsoft is already paying careful attention to Valve's announcement of Steam OS and the Steam Machines.
In an interview with Eurogamer, Microsoft corporate vice president Phil Harrison was asked about this week's announcements by Valve, which have so far revealed a Linux-based operating system called SteamOS and prototype hardware designed for that OS. With the news still being so fresh -- and one announcement still to come -- Harrison wouldn't talk much about it, though he did say, "The announcement was only made last night so I'm still studying all the facts Valve has released. But Valve is a very impressive company, and obviously we're going to be watching what they do with great interest."
I bet they are paying attention to what Valve is doing! Not only might it affect XBox One sales and revenue, it may even be a dagger to the heart of Windows gaming as well. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft reacts when the Steam Machines actually hit the market next year.
What's your take on all this? Tell me in the comments below.