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Valve's Steam Machines Are More About Safeguarding PCs Than Killing Consoles 296

Posted by Soulskill
from the protecting-a-business-model dept.
An anonymous reader writes "CES has come and gone, and we've gotten a chance to see many different models of Valve's Steam Machines. They're being marketed as a device for a living room, and people are wondering if they'll be able to compete with the Big-3 console manufacturers. But this article argues that Valve isn't going after the consoles — instead, Steam Machines are part of a long-term plan to keep the PC gaming industry healthy. Quoting: 'Over the years, Valve has gone from simply evangelizing the PC platform — it once flew journalists in from around the world pretty much just to tell them it was great — to actively protecting it, and what we're seeing now is just the beginning of that push. Take SteamOS. To you and me, it's a direct interface for Steam based on Linux that currently has poor software support. To Valve, though, it's a first step in levering development, publishing, gameplay and community away from their reliance on Windows and DirectX (and to a lesser extent Mac OS), systems that cannot be relied upon in the long term. ... As for Steam Machines, they are a beachhead, not an atom bomb. They are meant to sell modestly. ... The answer is that Valve is thinking in decades, not console generations.'"
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Valve's Steam Machines Are More About Safeguarding PCs Than Killing Consoles

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  • by DaTrueDave (992134) * on Saturday January 11, 2014 @07:50PM (#45928885)

    Isn't keeping the PC game industry healthy by putting SteamBoxes in the living room the same thing as a console-killer?

    The more open platforms available, the better.

    I just need Steam to create a Plex app on Steam and I'm all in.

  • Explain (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aaronb1138 (2035478) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @08:08PM (#45928995)
    This quote makes zero sense:
    "...reliance on Windows and DirectX (and to a lesser extent Mac OS), systems that cannot be relied upon in the long term."

    Really, because my experience with Linux and backwards / forwards support for both software and hardware has been vastly worse than Windows from XP through 8. Sure before XP, Windows 9x was terrible, but are we really going to keep basing derp derp FUD on a 5 year window of hard lessons from nearly 15 years ago?

    Can we just fess up and admit that SteamOS is an effort predicated on a personal beef Gabe Newell has with Microsoft and especially the fact that Windows 8 included it's own store and that store was not Steam. The story is well documented and the whole industry is going to blow a lot of money on development just to satisfy one man's ego.
  • Oh, well (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mephistro (1248898) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @08:17PM (#45929053)
    You can build your own steam machine for peanuts, if you are technically inclined. If you aren't, you can request the help from a friend, and if you can't/don't want to do that, you can still buy a suitable PC an add SteamOS on top. If you're too lazy even for that and have money to expend, you can purchase one of these pretty Steam machines. At the very least you'll be free from the Windows tax and still you'll end up with a full fledged PC with a serious OS (Linux) that can run lots and lots of 'serious apps' + a growing number of games. I think Valve has hit the nail in the head with this one. Kudos to them.
  • Re:Explain (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Escogido (884359) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @08:28PM (#45929097)

    Whatever his true motivation is, it makes sense from a business standpoint. Microsoft would love to become for Windows what Apple is for OS X / iOS, and Valve doesn't want that - it's understandable. From a certain angle, Steam machines are not unlike Google+: there are some diehard fans that would kill for it, many go like "why do we need another [social network / console platform]?" and the company behind it is big enough and has enough mindshare that the product is guaranteed to have some visibility even if it is not quite on par with what the rest of the market has to offer, and eventually gain enough of a market share to make sense, even with all backwards / forwards support issues you pointed out. And for consumers more competition is always good, so sure why not.

  • Re:Explain (Score:5, Interesting)

    by neuro88 (674248) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @08:48PM (#45929199)

    This quote makes zero sense: "...reliance on Windows and DirectX (and to a lesser extent Mac OS), systems that cannot be relied upon in the long term." Really, because my experience with Linux and backwards / forwards support for both software and hardware has been vastly worse than Windows from XP through 8. Sure before XP, Windows 9x was terrible, but are we really going to keep basing derp derp FUD on a 5 year window of hard lessons from nearly 15 years ago? Can we just fess up and admit that SteamOS is an effort predicated on a personal beef Gabe Newell has with Microsoft and especially the fact that Windows 8 included it's own store and that store was not Steam. The story is well documented and the whole industry is going to blow a lot of money on development just to satisfy one man's ego.

    Linux supports older hardware than windows 7 and 8, no question. Regarding the software... You definitely have a point there. Almost. The Linux kernel itself actually has backwards compatibility for userspace software going back quite a bit. It's mostly glibc that breaks this. If it isn't happening already, it will eventually. You'll be downloading games from that simply ship with their own libraries. I believe a lot of Windows software works this way.

    You can actually get a lot of old loki games to run in linux by installing older versions of various libraries. Although, you do encounter some issues. For example, Simcity 3000 won't give you sound since it wants to use esd (which hasn't seen use in years), but the game will otherwise run. This takes some work to setup, but if the games on steam do this for you, it's a non-issue.

  • by tepples (727027) <{tepples} {at} {gmail.com}> on Saturday January 11, 2014 @09:14PM (#45929301) Homepage Journal

    IMHO, a computer primarily designed for gaming is a console.

    So is a Wintendo [catb.org] a "console". Another definition of a "console" is a computer whose case and UI are designed for use with a TV as its display.

    Though you might want to draw a line so that it's a console when the manufacturer spends extra effort to limit its computational abilities in order to make it cheaper. Which, IMHO, does not compute.

    To me, a "personal computer" is a piece of computing hardware where the person who owns it controls what computing it performs. For example, a device running SteamOS (or other X11/Linux distributions), Windows, OS X, or Android is a personal computer. A device running operating system whose publisher has veto power over apps, such as Windows RT, Windows Phone, Apple iOS, Nintendo iOS (Wii, Wii U), Sony GameOS (PS3), Sony Orbis OS (PS4), is an "appliance".

  • by shastamonk (2453530) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @11:39PM (#45929913)

    Think about up the next generation of game developers - kids growing up right now. If they're gaming on a console and using a tablet or smart phone for their other computing need, they have no real exposure to programming, 3D modeling, audio software or any of the other things that go in to designing games. If Windows and MacOS are moving towards closed software ecosystems and a mobile interface type of simplified UI that hides everything but Twitter and a browser from the user as they both seem to be, Linux is going to have to play a larger part in gaming development in the future. The more devices and distributions tailored for different purposes and specific hardware while still allowing users to peel back the curtains to access everything available on the OS, the better off we'll all be. Kids are curious and will do what they've always done since the advent of personal computing; making cool stuff for fun and to impress people, and unless some change like this takes place, fewer and fewer people will ever be exposed to these tools.

    I know my nephew got his parents to buy an iPad just so he could play Minecraft. While the mobile versions of Minecraft make it hard (impossible?) to use addons and mods, I'm sure more than a few kids have been pushed in to building a PC or getting a gaming laptop to really take advantage of what that game has to offer. It'll just take one killer app that allows people to be creative and do things on a Steambox(/Windows/MacOS/Linux) that can't be done on a closed platform to start moving these things.

    And in the meantime, Valve will be taking things slow and steady like they always have and building partnerships with hardware and software developers to get SteamOS ready to take over when the inevitable decline of support from MS and Apple for desktop users pushes the hardcore audience over where the games will necessarily follow. Totally agree with the article's author, Valve isn't trying to win a war but positioning itself for a future that's seeming pretty likely if not certain. The Steam machines that are launching now are a low risk investment from everyone involved. Free advertising for Valve, and a simple rebranding of exisiting hardware for the manufacturers. The real test will be how seamlessly and well the streaming works to entice hardcore gamers into putting a HTPC or steam box in their living room, and so far we haven't seen anything there.

  • by aiadot (3055455) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @01:56AM (#45930431)
    Everything capable of computing and is owned by a person is a PC: macs are PCs, the PS4 is a PC, smartphones and tablets are PCs, even my brand new Panasonic smart rice cooker is a PC. What people call "pc gaming" is nothing more than windows gaming. Windows games only work on windows/x86 machines(at least out of the box). Steam Machines are not an example of Valve trying to save windows gaming.

    IMO, valve is instead trying to create a new version of "pc gaming", in the shape of an open home console(as opposed to the sony/nintendo model closed model) while also trying to expand in the next hot market: smart TVs/living rooms. Having it's own software and hardware platform where your service is the default is also a great way to reduce the visibility of rival game appstores like GOG, Origin and non steam popular games(Minecraft, LoL, Blizzard games).

    Not only that but Valve is trying to save something, this something is itself. The business may look great nowadays, but it's foolish to think they're invincible. Windows and Mac are becoming walled gardens, not very friendly towards apps outside the official app stores. Windows PC sales are in record decline. 65 million steam accounts may look impressive at first glance but considering that steam is a FREE service and that even the PS3, the overpriced console that sold the least the last generation, still managed to grab 80 million users(let alone way over a hundred million PSN accounts), it's clear that Valve doesn't have as close as many users as it could. If Valve lose it's momentum, they could easily become irrelevant.

    On the other hand as long as Actvision/Blizzard, Minecraft, EA and LoL (and in Japan, porn VNs) exist, Windows PC gaming will exist. Contrary to popular internet forum belief, Windows PC gaming is much more than Steam. I personally believe that, if wasn't for the crazy seasonal sales and mandatory steamworks in some games(Civ5 in my case), many people(including myself) wouldn't even bother with the service.

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