2019 UPDATE: What Do You Think About The Upcoming Steam Box?
- March 27, 2019
- Posted by: Craig Chamberlin
- Category: Gaming
A few years back I was asked “What Do You Think About The Upcoming Steam Box?”
It’s clear now this product actually never made debut. In fact, it appears Steam got very gun shy after the Steam Controller received mixed reviews among many fans and users. The Steam Box aimed to make PC gaming more accessible to the television.
Here are the most likely reasons the Steam Box died before it became a thing:
- Steam learned that the Steam Box, while clever, faced an impossible implementation strategy.
- Steam was never really a hardware company, keeping hardware fresh would require 3rd party intervention.
- The implemented SteamOS ran on the Linux Kernel – which would require custom drivers for games.
- The invention of Steam’s SteamLink TV streaming solved the in home streaming problem.
Essentially the Steam Box was killed by the SteamLink and Steam In-Home Streaming. For those of you who do not know what the SteamLink is, essentially it is Steam’s in home streaming hardware that lets you stream your PC games straight to your TV. It even maps your controller, keyboard and mouse!
Both of the above technologies allows for Steam to make PC gaming more accessible in standard TV and living room environments. Many smart TVs even come with SteamLink and Steam In Home Streaming integrated right into them!
For those who are not yet aware, The Steam Box, or Steam Machine, is not a console gaming system. “Steam Machines” are the names tied to computers built to run Valve’s recently released SteamOS (Operating System). The basic idea behind SteamOS is to create a standardized platform for PC gaming. This platform will allow PC gamers, no matter what hardware they use for gaming, to have access to their video game library.
But will Valve’s vision of the Steam Box, or “Steam Machine”, revolutionize PC gaming as we know it? Many critics of the Steam Box don’t fully understand what Valve is going for with this technology. Many PC gamers, in particular, don’t understand why they would even bother getting one. The truth is, all the Steam Box really does is create a platform for PC gaming that encourages gamers outside of the standard PC market to get involved in the PC market. That’s the whole point of the Steam Box.
Limitations Of The Steam Box And SteamOS
My Steam Box Debate video on The Craig And Chris Show discusses some of the pros and cons of the upcoming Steam Box. It’s not a perfect technology, obviously. The Steam Box is still in it’s early stages. In order for Valve’s Steam Box and SteamOS to succeed, here are few issues they will need to address:
- Price Point. Steam Boxes are pretty expensive for what you get right now.
- Hardware Standardization. Development of a standardization for frame rate and resolution manufacturers must adhere too.
- Cross Platform Support. Not all Steam games work on the Steam Box because SteamOS is built on the Linux platform.
- True Family Sharing. The current form of Steam family sharing doesn’t allow users to access the same library at the same time.
Another legitimate concern people have is the Steam Controller. Realistically, the controller will not be able to compete with a keyboard and mouse setup. However, very few people have worked with the controller, so it’s hard to determine whether or not this is the case. The Steam Box also supports a mouse and keyboard configuration, so using the Steam controller is completely optional.
The Real Reason The Steam Box Should Excite Gamers
With the SteamOS, Valve is doing for Gaming what Google did for smartphones. SteamOS is to game consoles what the Android OS is to smartphones. Valve is getting in the business of creating an operating system and letting the hardware vendors compete with one another over creating the best hardware for the user.
This strategy allows Valve to continue it’s focus on what they do best:
- Distributing games at insanely good deals.
- Negotating with developers for logical Digital Rights Management (DRM) licensing.
- Promoting the SteamOS operating system that everyone can develop for.
Motorola, Dell, Acer, HP, CyberPowerPC and Alienware can go out and compete with one another over the best possible Steam Box. So Valve creates the ecosystem, manufacturers create the hardware and it drops the price on the hardware over a couple of years. Then gamers can go out and buy a decent Steam Box custom tailored to their needs at a competitive price.
The Steam Box revolution goes much deeper than “making the PC into a console”. For the first time in history, there will be a video game console with real games that has an open platform operating system. Development will no longer be hardware dependent. Playstation, Xbox and Nintendo always require that you have the hardware from the originating vendor. SteamOS is an operating system that can be put on virtually any piece of computer hardware. This opens up countless opportunities and markets for developers.
Will The Steam Box Replace The PC?
In short, no. Most gamers choose their platform and stick with it. Many PC gamers, including myself, will likely “supplement” their existing gaming experience with a Steam Box because their video game library and saved games will be playable on their TV with a controller. Let’s face it, some games just play better with a controller. It is also likely the Steam Box will draw in more Console developers who saw their games as “only playable on game consoles with a controller”. Traditionally, most console games feel clunky with a mouse and keyboard.
The PC is here to stay, and it’s a strong market. Valve is really just offering a whole new way to experience PC gaming from the comforts of our couch. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty good to me.