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

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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  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @08:01PM (#45928947)

    I'm all for building my own gaming box, especially if it removes Microsoft from the picture.

  • by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @08:35PM (#45929139)

    That is never going to happen. Consoles are commodity hardware *at launch* with the specific target of playing games on one platform in one way. With PCs, you've got video cards that cost a couple hundred dollars more than both the XB1 and PS4 *combined*.

    A four and five star restaurant will never compete with McDonald's on price. What they *can* compete on is not serving you fetid shit in a paper wrapper. That requires that people give a damn. If people are just fine scarfing down a shitty box of styrofoam chicken nuggets, then you're screwed. It also requires that people make quality products for it. So many PC games are just shitty ports of console games, hindered by limitations of targeting consoles and leaving PCs as an afterthought. Then, you're crippled by trying to operate a four or five star restaurant when you're being supplied the same shitty ingredients as McDonald's.

  • Let's be honest (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TrollstonButterbeans ( 2914995 ) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @08:57PM (#45929235)
    Let's be honest, here is one major advantage of a Steam Machine.

    Teenagers and pre-teens rock at getting viruses, malware and such on a Windows computer. This is why everyone buys them tablets.

    Windows is starting to be its own worst enemy, Windows 8 is terrible (and I have it on 2 machines) and Windows 7 --- while almost perfect --- at the hands of an inexperienced user the default settings aren't the best.

    Typical users ARE NOT looking to tweak, break-in a system, uninstall crapware.

    This is where the Steam Machines can excel --- bringing PC quality gaming to the masses without Windows update installing countless GB of mostly unwanted stuff at 3 AM. And Mac computers, while great, are not mainstream economical (I have 2 Macs and I love them. But they are pricey).

    Consoles are a trade-off --- they offer gaming with training wheels (no mouse, can't offer bleeding edge graphics, overly sandboxed and limited from a developer perspective at times I would guess) --- SteamOS can offer PC quality gaming without the drawbacks of Windows maintenance/OEM crapwares.
  • by Nerdfest ( 867930 ) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @09:19PM (#45929337)

    The point of the SteamBox and keeping things open is that Valve sees where Microsoft is heading with Windows 8 and beyond. They're heading for Apple/console model for Windows where they get full approval of all software and a significant cut of all sales. It's not good for consumers and it's not good for Valve. I'm a little surprised more software companies are not joining them in launching non-game software for them, but they may be more focused on the tablet market.

  • Re:Pretty much (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @10:07PM (#45929603)

    I mean, suppose all of a sudden Intel, AMD, and nVidia got together and decided to totally change everything. New ISA, no more DirectX or OpenGL, etc, etc. Everything would need to be reported, redeveloped, and it would be a massive problem.

    This wouldn't happen, because, as you say, everything would need to be re-developed, and it would put these companies out of business. I don't just mean Linux software would need to be re-ported, I mean they'd have to wait for all-new software of every kind to be developed to run on their chips. It's not like MS can port Windows to a whole new ISA in 3 months and the companies which use OpenGL/DX would be able to get together and develop a new graphics API and port all their software to it in that time. It would take years for the dust to settle, and I'm just talking about proprietary software here, and totally neglecting open-source stuff. So the very idea is just ludicrous.

    This idea that a Steam Box is needed for some kind of stability is silly.

    No it's not. It's about control. With Win8, MS is trying to take more control over the PC software ecosystem by emulating Apple's "app store", and they're also moving development in a new direction with the Metro UI. Independent software companies which are mostly tied to the MS platform, and don't like the way it's going, would be stupid to put all their eggs in one basket, which of course is why you see more software for Macs these days that 10 years ago. Valve's direction makes total sense: they're trying to get more control over the platform their software runs on, and that's pretty easy to do with Linux since it's open, allowing you to build custom OS builds easily, and also allowing software vendors a certain amount of power in dictating the direction of development of the OS if they wish (and the existing players agree with them and accept their patches), which you simply don't get with a proprietary OS vendor.

    The parent has it right: It is an ego thing, and a thing to try and protect Steam.

    That's not an "ego" thing, that's good business sense. Putting your company's future in the hands of another company which doesn't have your interests at heart, and which actually competes with your company in some ways (MS has their own games division), is utterly stupid.

  • by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @10:15PM (#45929639)

    Nope. Hardware sales are projected to decline very slightly over a couple of years and then start to return. For a market that is constantly under the claim of "dying", they sure are selling an awful lot of $1,000 video cards and $300 CPUs and $300 chassis' and making whole businesses out of catering to even more niche markets like water cooling nuts.

    Steam has 65,000,000 users. That is more than XBOX (but less than Playstation). That's not PC gamers. That's just *Steam* gamers.

    Consoles are $300-$500. The lowest end gaming PC that you can get by with starts at that price. Further, games have largely been targeted at consoles and ported to PCs in such a way that they just don't really demand much of the PC hardware.

    In other words, PC gaming is as big as it has ever been. Even if mobile and console platforms grow massively, that doesn't detract from PC gaming. You can do more than one platform. It's just that software necessitates the increase in hardware capacity and software just hasn't been making those demands for a long time, leaving PC gamers to make longer use of their PC hardware. That reflects in hardware sales. A reduction in hardware sales means just that - a reduction in hardware sales; not a reduction in people playing on their existing hardware.

    Additionally, we've been told for years now that *console* gaming is dying and will soon be dead. And so will all handhelds that aren't a tablet or mobile phone. Of course, that is bullshit. Steam's user numbers, the popularity of PC-only games, and the 8,000,000 PS4 and XB1 consoles sold in the last two months is evidence that it is bullshit.

    I am skeptical about the future of PC gaming, but not because of some perceived lack of interested gamers. The only thing that can harm PC gaming is if developers and publishers continue to treat PC gaming like a redheaded stepchild. If they continue to put out PC ports in a half-assed and often-broken fashion and months or years after the console versions of the same game. And if they continue to not exploit the power of the PC, but just port over console versions of games that look and play progressively worse over time as the console platform ages.

    If PC gaming dies, it won't be for lack of interest. It'll be because it was sabotaged and undermined by the developers and publishers.

  • Re:Oh, well (Score:3, Insightful)

    by schnell ( 163007 ) <me.schnell@net> on Sunday January 12, 2014 @01:24AM (#45930343) Homepage

    it simply isn't going to work well if you try to run it in an environment that absolutely needs to be 100% compatible with Windows software and standards. However, this is true for Mac OSX too, and I don't ever see anyone saying "Mac OS is not a serious desktop OS".

    I guess it depends on how you define "serious desktop OS." I don't think most people define it your way, e.g. "100% Windows compatible." I think most people define it as being explicitly supported "out of the box" by a critical mass of parts of the PC ecosystem:

    • Major commercial software vendors
    • Networking equipment, printer/scanners, and other accessory vendors
    • Native commercial game ports/support
    • Support from ISPs, cloud backup services, etc.

    The reason is that most people who use computers - not most Slashdotters, but most people - want to buy things with which other important things will "just work." Geeks will seek out how they can make things work in unapproved configurations - and will find it great fun! - but the vast majority of computer users and even corporate IT departments will not.

    So basically unless you can walk into a Best Buy or something and walk up and down the aisles of boxed software, games, peripherals, monitors, yadda yadda and see your OS listed under in the "Supported Systems" or "System Requirements" fine print on the boxes, then you are not a serious desktop OS for the mass market.

    Your mileage may vary - I am just proposing a definition based on mass market usage. There are Slashdotters, I'm sure, who use Plan 9 every day and it is a "serious desktop OS" to them. But for the world at large, I think most people find a different definition.

  • by gerddie ( 173963 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @07:51AM (#45931267)

    You are completely disingenuous. As a practical matter, it will not be simple to "sideload" 3rd party software on a Steambox. It will practically impossible for another store to compete on this platform.

    Nonsense: SteamBox is a computer with Debian + Steam + some specific drivers and some tweaking. Everything that is available for Debian can be directly installed on SteamOS.

  • Re:499 US dollars (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Therad ( 2493316 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @08:29AM (#45931369)
    And where is the free multiplayer? And the steam sales? And backwards compatibility? A steam machine will be cheaper in the long run. No questions about it.

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