January 08, 2014, 12:18 PM — Why Valve's Steam Machines Might Fail
ZDNet has a very skeptical take on Valve's Steam Machines.
Surely Valve, with its 65 million Steam subscribers, along with 13 big hardware makers can't be wrong? Steam Machines are a guaranteed success, right?
Let's take a look at five reasons why Steam Machines might trip over their own shoelaces while walking along the precarious tightrope towards potential success.
- Lack of uniformity
- Ferocious competition from established consoles
- Why not a PC?
- All the problems of PC gaming and Linux in one device
Despite the negativity, I find ZDNet's skepticism to be a positive thing. It's good to question products that have been given so much media attention and buzz. But I think ZDNet is quite wrong and here's why.
Price shouldn't be a problem for the simple reason that there will be plenty of choices. Valve isn't making customers buy one particular Steam Machine over another. Gamers can pick and choose which ones they feel are worth their money. The market will decide which Steam Machines survive over the long run.
The Lack of uniformity is actually a good thing. This also fits in with the idea of choice, which is something that Linux has always stood for over the years. Why should there be just one model for consumers to buy? Some gamers might want a higher end experience, and others will be more casual. Fine, let each person make up his or her own mind.
Competition from Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft was a given. Valve knew that right from the start, and they haven't been intimidated at all by any of it. Valve also knows that today's market leader in technology can easily be tomorrow's also-ran. We've seen this many times over the last thirty years. So let the big console companies rage about Steam Machines all they want. In the end it will be gamers that decide if Steam Machines are successful in the marketplace.
PCs and Steam Machines are complementary. Some folks will prefer a PC, and they can use that if they want. But others prefer to buy a machine focused on gaming only, and they too can spend their dollars as they will. Steam Machines and PCs are two sides of the same coin, and each will be a valid choice for gamers.
Unlike ZDNet, I think the combination of PC gaming and Linux is actually a very positive thing. Valve is not a stupid company, they know that drivers have to be available and that performance must be at acceptable levels for gamers. They've been in the gaming business for a long time, and so they will make sure that they have all of the important technology bases covered.
What's your take on the possibility of Valve's Steam Machines failing? Do you think it's a real possibility? Tell me in the comments.
Steam Machine controller problems
GameSpot takes a critical look at the Steam Machine controller.
This early in the game, it wouldn't be fair to write off the Steam controller, but Valve clearly has a lot of kinks to work out before its ready for the mass market. Outside of enthusiast PC gaming circles, most consumers shun peripherals that aren't immediately viable, or those that require exhaustive tinkering. Luckily for Valve, it's in a position where it can afford to merely court early adopters, but if it hopes that its controller will become the de facto PC gaming peripheral in the long run, the burden is going to fall on Valve's engineers and software partners to make it a reality.
Image credit: Steam Store
I haven't used the Steam Machine controller, so I can't give you my own assessment of it. But I will note that it is still very early to be making any kind of judgement about it. We'll have a much clearer idea of how well it will work once the entire system is in final release, and once the games have been tweaked to use the controller.
New Steam Machines announced
On a more upbeat note, ZDNet is reporting that Valve has announced more than a dozen new Steam Machines.
Valve's new hardware partners are Dell's Alienware, Alternate, CyberPower PC, Falcon Northwest, Gigabyte, Maingear, Material.net, Next, Origin, Scan Computers, Webhallen, and Zotac. Prior to Valve's small CES news conference, Digital Storm and iBuyPower announced that they will be building Steam boxes. Many of these are small, obscure computer OEMs, but three of the companies -- Dell's Alienware, Falcon Northwest and Gigabyte -- are major PC gaming powerhouses.
The details on these new gaming systems are still sketchy, but here's what we know now. First, only one or two of these boxes are likely to be available commercially in the first quarter of 2014. Most of them, in fact, won't be going to market until the second half of 2014. Most will come use Valve's new SteamOS gaming controller, but some will have their own unique controllers. When they hit the shelves, you'll have a wide variety of choices, from iBuyPower offering entry-level machines at $499 to Falcon Northwest with a top-end $6,000 system.
Image credit: ZDNet: Meet the Steamboxes (Gallery)
Wow! $6000 for a Steam Machine? Anybody who would buy that certainly classifies as a hard-core, dedicated gamer. Yikes! But as I noted above, one of the best things about Valve's Steam Machines is that gamers get plenty of choices. If you've got $6000 to spend on one then have at it.
Each gamer gets to make his or her own choices about the machine they use. In that sense Valve has really captured the spirit of Linux in the Steam Machines. Choice is a beautiful thing!
What's your take on all this? Tell me in the comments below.