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Why Steam Machines Will Fail

/ Feb 27th, 2014 21 Comments

Steam

What is a Steam Machine? Is it a game console? Is it a PC? Is it a PC companion? Valve says a Steam Machine is whatever you want it to be. That convoluted message is causing confusion that will lead to the failure of the Steam Machine.

What is a Steam Machine?

At CES 2014, Valve revealed 14 companies are building a unique version of a Steam Machine. Manufacturers such as Alienware and CyberPowerPC unveiled versions of the Steam Machine that resemble everything from a futuristic PC to a giant wireless router. Some companies revealed specs but nothing beyond that.
 

Steam Machine

What will your Steam Machine look like?

We do know that Steam Machines will run on SteamOs, which Valve’s Gabe Newell insists will be an open source powerhouse for gaming that allows all types of games to be more accessible to all. But what that really means is still up in the air. Steam has a huge library of games but not all of them are currently compatible with Linux and SteamOS.

PC or PC Companion?

Steam Machines are not expected to have the same functionality as a PC. In fact, SteamOS is expected to be able to stream content from a PC or Mac. However, not all Steam Machines will be the same. It will be up to manufacturers to decide what exactly their version of the Steam Machine is capable of.

Some Steam Machines will feature customizable and upgradeable parts, a feature many PC gamers consider necessary in the fast-paced technology industry. However, parts and upgrades for Steam Machines will reach prices greater than equal or better parts for PC. At a more affordable price and featuring more customization options, PC users will have no reason to switch to a Steam Machine.
 

Steam Controller

The Steam Controller.

So, will SteamOS bring the keyboard and mouse experience to the living room? While Steam Machines will be compatible with a variety of controller options including the keyboard and mouse, Valve is developing a Steam Controller. The Steam Controller is aimed at providing the precision of a keyboard and mouse in the form of a control pad. If Valve fails to perfect this, games on SteamOS will have to be made compatible with a gamepad while still lacking precision and it will lead to the separation of Steam and SteamOS users.

You Get What You Paid For

The first Steam Machines will range in price from $499 all the way up to $6,000. Why are some Steam Machines the price of an Xbox One while others are so expensive? The problem for consumers is that it is difficult to determine the difference between an entry-level Steam Machine and a more expensive unit. Trying to figure out what each Steam Machine is capable of can be a chore. When future price cuts on outdated models are factored in, it will be even more difficult to decipher the usefulness of each unit.

Consumers will have a hard time forking over so much money for a gaming unit, especially if they don’t fully understand what it is capable of. It will be difficult to pay so much for a gaming machine that could be outdated soon when PlayStation 4 and Xbox One will be around for years and only cost $399 and $499 respectively.

A Steam Machine for Everyone

For Valve, the openness of the Steam Machine allows all types of gamers to get exactly what they want out of a gaming machine. By trying to appeal to everyone, the Steam Machine is instead failing to build an audience and is beginning to show the symptoms of a flop.

  

Ryan Bloom

Ryan Bloom

Chief Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Ryan Bloom is a writer and avid gamer from Orange County. He received a B.A. in Communications with a minor in American Studies from California State University, Fullerton in 2010. Follow him on Twitter @BloomsTweets.
Ryan Bloom
Ryan Bloom

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  • Joel Lukeš

    PS4 and Xbox 1 around for years????? so they wont release an elite or slim at xmas next year thats another 400 dollars oh and how many Xbox 360s or PS3s did you go thru before getting your next gen?? if you one of the very few people who only had to buy 1 theres another 300 dollars. so thats about 1,200 dollars so far thats weird my pc cost less than 1,200 dollars just like most of the steam machines non pro gamers will buy

  • Alex Chaudhari

    Good. We won’t be forced into restrictive freedom by killing consoles, competition, or gaming and appeasing some Race for power and graphics.

  • Alex Chaudhari

    This is why Nintendo is what keeps this digital monstrosities from taking over the industry. Nintendo is better than PC in my opinion.

    • Tyler

      Here is my friend code: EJDBFOWBWLF-DORBDODNR-FIDBWKEIDBDKFBRBRKRB-JDNDKDBDJD add me.

  • Crate – A – Day

    I liked the ideas of the Steam Machine. Even though I no longer plan on buying one, I have built a very small mini ITX machine this week for gaming. I guess the PC industry and Valve succeeded in getting me to think about my living room gaming with my PC. Only cost about $500.

  • CITIZEN9478

    My god this is an awful article. I expected an educated argument on why the steam machine will fail, instead I get this garbage. In the interest of educating anyone who reads this atrocity I’ll have to shred it to bits I guess.

    “What is a Steam Machine? Is it a game console? Is it a PC? Is it a PC companion?”
    It’s a game console. you can install windows, you can exit to Linux, but the SteamOS is designed to be played as a game console. They really don’t deviate from this. Media does, no one else does. Biggest difference is Steam doesn’t care if you mod it.

    “We do know that Steam Machines will run on SteamOs, which Valve’s Gabe Newell insists will be an open source powerhouse for gaming that allows all types of games to be more accessible to all. But what that really means is still up in the air”
    no it isn’t. It’s an open source OS to run PC games in the living room like a console.

    “Steam Machines are not expected to have the same functionality as a PC. In fact, SteamOS is expected to be able to stream content from a PC or Mac. However, not all Steam Machines will be the same. It will be up to manufacturers to decide what exactly their version of the Steam Machine is capable of.”
    This is flat out FALSE. the only thing true about this statement is that you can stream from another device running a version of Steam.

    “Some Steam Machines will feature customizable and upgradeable parts, a feature many PC gamers consider necessary in the fast-paced technology industry. However, parts and upgrades for Steam Machines will reach prices greater than equal or better parts for PC.”

    It uses standard PC parts for the most part? Not sure where you are getting your info here.

    “steam controller”
    Might be the only truly accurate statement in the article and a major concern of mine with the platform. Personally im excited for it. Innovative.

    “You Get What You Paid For”

    So far, (2) of the $499 units are guaranteeing 1080p @ 60FPS on all titles(something current consoles CAN’T). Think of the Digital Storm II and such as the premium Xbox One’s. And since the PS4 and XBOne won’t have evolving hardware, THEY will be the units outdated in a couple years. I can upgrade a steam machine.

    I would congratulate you on not perpetrating the myth that SteamOS doesn’t have games, but I’m fairly certain you omitted do to lack of effort and not knowledge of the actual numbers compared to next gen consoles.

    • Alex Chaudhari

      So the Wii U gamepad is not innovative, but this console killing device is? Nintendo is better than what this device can do game wise.

      • CITIZEN9478

        Eh? Who said anything about Nintendo?
        A) Nintendo has always been innovative – tho it doesn’t always work out
        B) Nintendo had sort of carved their own niche
        C) Nintendo Wii U is nowhere near pc gaming capabilities.

  • nonscpo

    I definetly agree that Valve and Gabe screwed up the anouncement by sending mix messages and confusing us along with our expectation.

    • Ryan Bloom

      That’s what the article is really about. The average consumer will be confused. The eight-minute CES press conference didn’t help clear anything up

  • The Doctor

    If the PS4 and XBONE can’t even compete with the 750Ti (an entry-level card) in 2014, I can’t imagine how outdated they’ll be when the next generation rolls around.

  • LOL

    lol so basically the steam machines will fail because the author of this article doesn’t understand them…? brilliant…

  • AG

    It seems like the author has just imagine that steamos will fail and has then presented the arguments to support his hypothesis. the biggest point that he misses out here is since SteamOS is free anyone can assemble a PC of his/her choice meeting SteamOS requirements and install and convert it into a Stream machine so one can always keep the cost in check unlike other consoles which you have to buy at their given price. also, this leaves room for endless up gradation which you cannot do with other consoles once they get outdated.

    also, since valve has a large game store and chances are they might get many exclusive titles for steam machines, customers might benefit.

    last but not the least, it provides a competition for Sony and Microsoft. more the competition the better for the customers

  • Alan Bowker

    Wow… Someone needs to go back to school. Comprehensiveness is definitely not your strong suit, or you haven’t been reading the official SteamOS, Steam Controller, and Steam Machine articles. The tests on the beta build of the Steam Controller were already as accurate as a keyboard/mouse combo. Essentially, all it does is remap keyboard/mouse commands to the Steam Controller’s trackpads and buttons. I would insult you more, but CITIZEN9478 has done such a great job already.

  • Alexander Prime

    {{Citation needed}}

  • CITIZEN9478

    It’s both good and bad. Hard to break out of a niche, but it guarantees a stable customer base of sorts.

    That’s Back to innovative thinking, not capabilities. There is literally nothing a Wii U can do that a pc can’t emulate with some effort.

    Fyi indie gaming has never been bigger thanks to steam – which I’m happy about. Story/gameplay trumps graphics every time. Doesn’t mean I don’t like games to look like a VR stimulation tho.

    • CITIZEN9478

      When I say pc can emulate it, I mean it’s capable of it btw. Not that it’s commercially able to do it. Nintendo will always get props from me for outside the box thinking.

  • http://bearswithteeth.blogspot.com.au/ BearsWithTeeth

    I know why these articles are written now…. to attract us to these sites, full of righteous steam fury and to spend time typing long rebuttals. All the while, we are exposed to large banner adds and enticing articles with headings in the format of “# something so special you should read it” Mr Bloom you are a villain sir…

  • Chandler Broderick

    I believe that the steam boxes will succeed, console or not, and here is why. Ask yourself, what is it that truly makes pc superior to consoles? The answer I believe is that a pc can be upgraded (particularly with better graphics cards and more RAM.) While on the other hand if you have a console, you are stuck with the same hardware for the entirety of the console’s life cycle. So even if you had a pc and a traditional console with identical hardware, the console will become outdated because the pc can be continuously upgraded. But, what if someone were to build a new type of console? One that could, like a pc, be continuously upgraded. Well that is when you get something called a steam machine “a.k.a. Steam Box”. Not only do you get the ability to upgrade this new console as you would a pc, you can also customize it to your own liking. If you don’t like the operating system on a traditional console, too bad, your stuck with it until you buy the next console. (I’m looking at you sony.) But with the steam box, if you don’t like steam OS, throw it out, install Windows 7 (or 8 for the 6 people reading who don’t despise Windows 8.) This is good for those of you who prefer to use the xbox 360 controller to the steam brand, it is also noteworthy to state that you can use a mouse and keyboard with a steam box. Or if you don’t want Windows, you can install any other OS that would be compatible with a pc.

    This is my opinion and reasoning concerning the success of steam’s miracle console. If you have any critiques or corrections involving my argument please respond.

  • Chandler Broderick

    I believe that the steam boxes will succeed, console or not, and here is why. Ask yourself, what is it that truly makes pc superior to consoles? The answer I believe is that a pc can be upgraded (particularly with better graphics cards and more RAM.) While on the other hand if you have a console, you are stuck with the same hardware for the entirety of the console’s life cycle. So even if you had a pc and a traditional console with identical hardware, the console will become outdated because the pc can be continuously upgraded. But, what if someone were to build a new type of console? One that could, like a pc, be continuously upgraded. Well that is when you get something called a steam machine “a.k.a. Steam Box”. Not only do you get the ability to upgrade this new console as you would a pc, you can also customize it to your own liking. If you don’t like the operating system on a traditional console, too bad, your stuck with it until you buy the next console. (I’m looking at you sony.) But with the steam box, if you don’t like steam OS, throw it out, install Windows 7 (or 8 for the 6 people reading who don’t despise Windows 8.) This is good for those of you who prefer to use the xbox 360 controller to the steam brand, it is also noteworthy to state that you can use a mouse and keyboard with a steam box. Or if you don’t want Windows, you can install any other OS that would be compatible with a pc.

    I apologize if I have provided any misinformation here in advance, please notify me if I have.

    • Chandler Broderick

      Pleas forgive me for posting the same comment twice, my old dinosaur of a computer is being intolerable, but the statement above is the final revision of my comment

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