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.
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.
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
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 It will be difficult to pay so much for a gaming machine that could be outdated soon when PlayStation 4 and Xbox One will be around for years and only cost $399 and $499 respectively.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.