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Retail

Valve is the champion PC gaming deserves

Valve is the champion PC gaming deserves

Fri 11 Oct 2013 6:30am GMT / 2:30am EDT / 11:30pm PDT
RetailPublishing

Taking the fight to the living room - Valve's Steam is the most dynamic force in PC gaming in decades

It's quite extraordinary to look at Valve's Steam platform today and think back to its first appearance - as the much-derided and rather unstable digital distribution millstone around the neck first of Counter-Strike and later, somewhat decisively, of Half-Life 2. From such humble beginnings, Steam has become the dominant distribution network for PC games and changed its creators at Valve from a single developer of wonderful if incessantly delayed games into the most powerful company in the PC gaming market - more powerful than any publisher (EA's Origin system is a minor challenger to Steam's dominance) and even more powerful than Microsoft, whose Windows operating system is no longer the only saloon in town for PC gamers.

"Valve's intention with these moves is not modest, nor is it in any way disguised. Valve wants to own PC gaming"

The story of Steam is fascinating precisely because anyone predicting this outcome back in 2003 would have been laughed out of the room - and Valve is clearly in no mood to sit back and crush its carefully-tended laurels. The industry is still digesting the potential impact of the company's three recent announcements. Valve's independence from Microsoft's operating system, which began with moving Steam to OSX (essential, giving the increasing dominance of Apple devices in the high-end consumer space) and then to Linux (which looked rather less essential at the time), now looks much more aggressive thanks to the firm's move to create its own Linux-based gaming OS. Meanwhile, it's finally confirmed plans to define and certify a hardware spec for living room PCs, known as Steam Machines, and unveiled an unusual and potentially very interesting controller for those devices.

Valve's intention with these moves is not modest, nor is it in any way disguised. Valve wants to own PC gaming - to the same extent that Sony owns PlayStation gaming or Microsoft owns Xbox gaming, if not in the same manner. Valve wants Steam to be a third pole of the core gaming market (fourth, if you count Nintendo, although they're really playing a different sport entirely) - one which appeals to a somewhat different market and operates on very different principles to the traditional consoles, but which is focused around the Steam platform for distribution and functionality just as much as consoles are focused on PlayStation Network or Xbox Live.

For this approach to work, the move to the living room is crucial. Ignore the would-be iconoclasts who claim that gaming on a TV with a controller in your hands is old hat, and we're all soon going to be doing everything with an iPad; this is little more than second rate soothsaying from tech-fetishists who consistently make the same fundamental error of assuming that just because something can be accomplished technically, it means consumers will actually want to do it, and just because something is technologically impressive, it makes it into a good and worthwhile experience. The reality is that the market for the kinds of experiences afforded by a big screen and a dedicated controller (be it a joypad, a keyboard and mouse combo, or something in between, as Valve's proposed solution appears to be) is larger than ever and will continue to grow even in the age of tablets and phones - in the end, it will be dwarfed by the games market on those devices, but will still end up being larger and healthier than it is today. Valve's move on the living room is not backwards facing, it acknowledges a realistic market view that's all too easily obscured by our newfound excitement at having cute little computers in all our pockets.

"The higher specs of Steam Machines will look great to some parts of the market but will also become outdated faster than consoles"

In Valve's worldview, the great advantage of PC gaming (and how long before we all start calling it Steam gaming, a term that's already got a certain degree of traction?) is that it can take pride of place in the living room without sacrificing the study or the bedroom. Valve starts from the opposite side of the pitch from Sony and Microsoft - it operates a supremely successful software platform with no hardware attached, while the others are hardware manufacturers (perhaps ironically in Microsoft's case) whose software platform evolved later and is still tied to specific hardware devices. That comes with big advantages - you can create an iconic hardware design that leverages enormous cost savings thanks to manufacturing tens of millions of units, and sell them to consumers at far less than the cost that a third-party box builder would have to charge. It also brings disadvantages, though. PS4 and Xbox One will never be general computing platforms, and they'll never be available in the sheer range of form factors that Steam can reach - from a Steam Machine under the television to a powerful tower in the den through to a gaming-specced laptop in the student dorm room. In Steam's hegemony, Steam Machines will still only be one possible option - every PC and Mac sold will still be a potential device for the Steam platform.

For some people, Steam is guaranteed absolute victory in the end simply on philosophical grounds - open always beats shut, they declare, which is a statement that needs a fair few more qualifications than you might like in order to actually make it true, but is still a provocative sentiment. Of course, Steam is only sort-of open. You can run it on any PC or Mac hardware, it's true, but you can't release any software you want on it - Valve still acts as a gatekeeper of sorts, albeit a bit more open than the console firms are (though they are both, at somewhat different rates, moving towards more openness on their publishing platforms). In that sense, Steam is a less open platform than, for example, iOS - although anyone who actually wants to step outside the Steam ecosystem need only drop back to a desktop and install anything they want, which makes Steam Machines and their ilk into the obvious gaming devices of choice for hobbyists and the technically inclined, just as PCs have always been.

What is far more important than the question of whether "open always wins" or not (spoiler: it doesn't, unless you seriously mess with your definitions of "open" to the point where they're practically meaningless to most people) is the fact that Valve's moves are absolutely designed to align PC/Steam gaming with console gaming in the living room, and create a genuine, workable third way for console gamers considering new pastures, PC gamers tempted by the simplicity of console, and newcomers dipping their toes in the gaming waters (yes, plenty of those still exist - they're not all simply getting as far as Hay Day and Candy Crush Saga and declaring themselves satisfied).

"It's the kind of input the PC gaming market needs to remain not only fresh, free and dynamic, but also commercially credible over the next five to ten years"

There are huge challenges to this approach, of course, and I fear that nothing Valve can do is going to smooth out some of the wrinkles involved with PC gaming. PC devices are more expensive than consoles because they're manufactured by third parties who want to make a profit from the hardware, and don't have the advantages of scale that console makers enjoy - so the Steam Machines will probably be great devices but will represent a much bigger investment than a console. Moreover, their higher specs will look great to some parts of the market (although they'll be gobbledegook to lots of other demographics) but will also become outdated faster than consoles - a major reason for PC gamers to 'lapse' to console remains the upgrade treadmill, and I have to confess, there's a certain pleasure for this lapsed PC gamer in sticking The Last Of Us into a 6-year-old PS3 in the absolute knowledge that it's going to play it perfectly. Steam Machines won't enjoy that advantage; for many, of course, they'll outweigh that problem with many advantages of their own.

It's easy to be a little bit spooked by the degree of dominance Valve is building over the traditionally open, free and somewhat Wild West world of PC gaming - but I think this is a development worth embracing. PC gaming may be a wild frontier, but it has always needed a sheriff - or rather, a shepherd, a company with a strong interest in guiding and developing the market while retaining its essential freedoms. Once, we all hoped that Microsoft would step up to that role, and for a while it actually did - hence the very existence of DirectX, for example. Of late, though, Microsoft's interest in PC gaming has been minimal, and even when it's stuck its oar in, it's rarely been welcome - Games for Windows Live being one memorable debacle. Valve taking the reins and delivering a great digital distribution and social play platform, following it up with credible pitches to marry the OSX and Linux markets to the Windows market and now proposing hardware outlines for living room gaming systems and a radical new controller - well, that's the kind of input the PC gaming market needs to remain not only fresh, free and dynamic, but also commercially credible over the next five to ten years, especially as tablets continue to usurp sales of consumer PC hardware.

Whatever your belief in the power of 'open', or your personal preference in gaming power, Valve's rise to being the dominant force in PC gaming and its representative in the wider industry is a positive and interesting move. It seems certain that core gamers' choices in the coming years will have to be carefully weighed between three different logos on the box - Sony's, Microsoft's, and Steam's.

37 Comments

JT
QA

26 17 0.7
More competition is always a good thing for the consumer, and Valve investing so much time into an open source OS like LInux speaks volumes.

Posted:10 months ago

#1

Thomas Dolby
Project Manager / Lead Programmer

331 279 0.8
Popular Comment
I for one, welcome our new Steam overlords.

Posted:10 months ago

#2

Edward Buffery
Pre-production Manager

148 96 0.6
Outside of the 2nd PC in the living room idea, the only thing Valve need to do to get a large portion of PC gamers to install and use their OS even on their 'primary' PC is to prove that it offers a tiny advantage to convenience or performance. If the time it takes to boot up, log in and launch a game is 30 seconds on Steam OS versus 40 seconds via Windows, and I'll get 2 more frames per second on Steam OS, I'll probably use it more than Windows, as will millions of other PC owners who use their computers primarily for gaming purposes. Can't wait for the in depth reviews and benchmarks to start appearing.

Posted:10 months ago

#3

Tim Carter
Designer - Writer - Producer

555 292 0.5
No one entity should have so much power over an entire entertainment medium.

Posted:10 months ago

#4

Kevin Patterson
musician

185 99 0.5
MS threw away their focus on PC gaming, and I am glad to see Valve give it the attention it deserves.

Now that MS might have some competition in that space, they might actually start investing in it again.

Posted:10 months ago

#5

James Ingrams
Writer

215 85 0.4
Steam has been too powerful for too long. It forces you to install to one partition, for example, as though you have an ever expanding hard drive! Gamersgate and others allow me to install where I want. Steam is the only retailer that demands you have to specifically go offline to not get Steam taking up bandwidth and shoving advertising in your face!

If they get any more powerful, I don't know where it will end, but it won't be good!

Posted:10 months ago

#6

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,516 1,302 0.9
@ James

FYI, the forced install to one partition no longer applies, except for a few random games. I believe it's the Steampipe back-end update that also allows installation of the client to one drive, and games to another (in whatever combination you like). As for advertising, go to Settings > Interface, and you can turn off notifications regarding new releases and updates. Hope this helps your experience with it. :) (Also, if you're getting annoyed with it, I imagine other people are... You'd think Valve would advertise such improvements in the system more.)

Oh, and you can also manage how much bandwidth Steam uses (also in the Settings menu).

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 11th October 2013 5:49pm

Posted:10 months ago

#7

Darren Adams
Managing Director

230 407 1.8
I used to hate Steam, but now I have over 100 games that have been bought through Steam.

As always, convenience wins the day.

Posted:10 months ago

#8
PC gaming, at least for me is fine where it is. It doesnt work for me in the living room. It doesnt work for me on the couch, or love seat, recliner.
I am PC Gamer first and foremost, love em, but I still dont get this. What is new here, the "steam machine" is just a "desktop tower" which have been around since forever. SO it has another OS on it perhaps? yeah so?

The PC is fine where it is, what is this obsession with the living room. The consoles work better there, they just do. As for outside, on the deck, in the kitchen, laptop and tablets work fine.

There is a reason that there are many options, and many of these are viable businesses. because one size does not fit all. Be happy with what you are. Its like a singer wanting to be an actor etc..

Listen I love PC gaming and computing, but it doesnt and will not work in my living room. I dont want it there, its not comfortable there. There are better options.

Own the study, own the den, own the office and be happy with that.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 11th October 2013 7:14pm

Posted:10 months ago

#9

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,516 1,302 0.9
Own the study, own the den, own the office and be happy with that.
There's two responses to this. One is that it's an ideological/creative crusade. Open OS, open architecture, new input device - the closed nature of Windows gaming is restrictive, especially when you consider the advances in graphics/frame-rates open APIs could potentially have over the MS "owned" DirectX.

The other is that it's a business decision. In this sense, what's good for Valve is good for anyone who has a finger in the PC pie, whether its developers, publishers or manufacturers. How many devs would like to see their games being bought/played by more people? Isn't that one of the many reasons why The Chinese Room went for PS4 exclusivity with their next game?

Posted:10 months ago

#10

Felix Leyendecker
Senior 3D Artist

181 200 1.1
I'm not sure if valve really owns PC gaming. Seems like they own multiplatform port and indie PC gaming. Most of the breakthrough PC phenomenons in the last years have never been on steam (minecraft, LoL, Blizzard games, Battlefield, etc). You could argue that these are some of the most influential titles that make the PC the platform it is.
So it's not like the steambox will blow console gamers hair back with amazing exclusives. Sure, sales are great, but so is lending/sharing/reselling games.
I don't see how steam machines fundamentally change the value proposition of buying a gaming PC. In the eye of the core gamer audience, this value proposition has been inferior to consoles for the better part of the last three hardware generations, as evidenced by the changed gaming landscape. Steam machines may improve some aspects of PC gaming, but any such initiative can only go so far on an open platform.

Posted:10 months ago

#11

Nicholas Pantazis
Senior Editor

1,017 1,463 1.4
@ Felix I doubt many would argue recent Blizzard and Battlefield games are breakthroughs.... atrocities, perhaps.

Valve certainly has the biggest marketshare by far, and many of the biggest games (Portal is a bigger phenomenon than the above). As for the value of Steam, more people log into Steam every day than Xbox Live. I would say you're right, the core gamer audience has spoken, and are quite happy to keep using Steam, even at the expense of consoles.

Posted:10 months ago

#12

Christian Keichel
Journalist

634 866 1.4
moving Steam to OSX (essential, giving the increasing dominance of Apple devices in the high-end consumer space)
I never noticed that OSX computers dominate the "high-end consumer space", last time I read about the OSX market share, All OSX versions combined were overtaken by Windows 8.
Valve wants Steam to be a third pole of the core gaming market (fourth, if you count Nintendo, although they're really playing a different sport entirely)
I don't see why NIntendo should be playing a different sport entirely, their games compete with MS and Sony over the same shelf space (as do PC games in retail, that have to be activated on Steam). Their games are listed in the same charts as the PC, 360, PS3 games. Their machines get a lot of the same games as the PC, 360, PS3 (for example Batman, CoD, Assassin's Creed, Watchdogs). So to me this seems it is taking Nintendo out of the equation to paint the chances of Steam in brighter colors, Valve isn't competing with MS and Sony, they are competing with MS and Sony and Nintendo about the living room.

@Nicholas
As for the value of Steam, more people log into Steam every day than Xbox Live.
I just tried to find XBox Live and Steam daily user statistics, had no luck with XBox Live, just found the Steam numbers, do you have any numbers for XBL? But I would say, even if they are higher, the ammount of people logging in on Steam on a daily basis is hard to compare to the number of people logging in on XBL, just because Steam automatically starts with WIndows (unless told not to). This means, everytime you boot up your computer, you log ion on Steam regardless of what you do with your PC, maybe you just wanted to write an email, surf the net or transfer some photos from your camera to your PC, in all these cases Steam will count you as an user. On the other side, if you log in to XBox Live, it means either you will play a game or use one of the XBL services. Because of this I think the user statistics from Steam should be taken with a big grain of salt.

Edited 5 times. Last edit by Christian Keichel on 12th October 2013 10:55am

Posted:10 months ago

#13

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,072 1,007 0.9
Popular Comment
Here is what Valve is competing against:

Xbox 360 in one paragraph:
Microsoft released a console notorious for overheating and dying. People were happy paying extra for multiplayer and developers were happy allowing Microsoft to monetize their game in such a way. You could meet other players in voice chat, learn exiting new insults, making it 15% more likely to be tased when the police finally pulls you from the home of the predator who abducted you. The copy protection was broken by altering the DVD drive of all things which makes you slap your head three times. The UI was drastically altered multiple times to include more ads. There was a terrible failure called HD DvD and when Nintendo slaughtered their competition saleswise, there was the Kinect, a device only enjoyable for those without any self reflection and expectation of there being any correlation of own movements and on-screen events. The box added a few video streaming services and shrouded itself in a few more packaged deal myths before it now fades out.

PS3 in one paragraph:
Sony released a notoriously expensive console people were happy updating instead of playing the game they just bought. Logically, nobody ever thought of communicating in team-chat making owners of PS3's score ten points less in the urban dictionary test for entry level Oxford students in the East-End cultural studies department. The copy protection was broken due to a random number generator returning the same number each time, ironically, the Japanese number of death and the number of slaps to the head you should give yourself. If you own a PS3, you probably changed your credit card at some point and installed a few video apps. If you live outside English speaking countries nobody thought of offering you original versions making it as exciting as HD-DVD. When Nintendo slaughtered their competition saleswise, Sony released the love child of a rave party glow stick and a dildo with the input lag of a bedazzled corpse. Your only hope is to hold it up ironically while Singstar uploads your sorry act for others to see. At least the UI stayed the same as well as your reasons to hate it. At some point you could install a pointless version of Linux bereft of any actual use; be sure to be mad because Sony removed that of all things. When people still did not stop buying that damn thing, Sony put it into the cheapest plastic they could find and began charging money for a slightly less annoying version of PSN. That plan to destroy the brand did not work either.


Is there a universe in which Gabe Newell and his team cannot compete with that? If so, in which way?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Klaus Preisinger on 12th October 2013 10:27pm

Posted:10 months ago

#14

Keldon Alleyne
Handheld Developer

431 406 0.9
Well Valve are also competing against PC's, tablets, and the next Android powered solution. I've no idea how this will turn out but I think it will be an interesting offering and I'd love to try out the joypad.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Keldon Alleyne on 12th October 2013 10:30pm

Posted:10 months ago

#15
Actually Claus, The steam box will be competing against xboxone and PS4, and an installed user base of last generation console users which is so strong that GTAV topped a freakin BILLION dollars in sales in 3 days. Numbers like that make Hollywood and every entertainment industry go...WOW.. But you seem to think otherwise?

Valve should stick to what they do well, and dont over reach. Valve and steam have a nice PC game distribution system going, what makes them think they can suddenly become living room hardware giants?

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 13th October 2013 12:49am

Posted:10 months ago

#16

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,516 1,302 0.9
what makes them think they can suddenly become living room hardware giants?
Because they went from a no-name software company who produced a couple of amazing games, to the premiere digital distro company, in the space of 10 (or so) years. And they did that by being very forward-looking, building customer-trust, and creating something that a lot of people enjoy using. In that sense, they start from an equal-or-better footing than Sony or MS did all those years ago. Certainly it could be hubris - just as the PS3 was, initially, shrouded in Sony's ego - but there's no real reason why Valve can't transition to living room hardware. It's all about the customer-take-up - just as every new console is.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 13th October 2013 9:11am

Posted:10 months ago

#17

Christian Keichel
Journalist

634 866 1.4
Because they went from a no-name software company who produced a couple of amazing games, to the premiere digital distro company, in the space of 10 (or so) years.
It would be fair to say, they did so in a time, where PC gaming lost a lot of overall market relevance. Yes they may be the number 1 distributor for PC gaming, but PC gaming itself became a lot more niche, than it was when Valve entered the scene.
And they did that by being very forward-looking, building customer-trust, and creating something that a lot of people enjoy using. In that sense, they start from an equal-or-better footing than Sony or MS did all those years ago.
When Sony entered the console hardware space in 1994, their machine was a runaway success because of it's low price and it's sheer number of high quality exclusive titles (1st party and 3rd party). What Sony achieved back then was to expand the whole video game market by making video games something cool amongst the 20-30 male demographic, a group that either hadn't played video games before or stopped playing, because they had the feeling games were something "childish", not something to talk about in public.
In many ways Sony did the same thing Nintendo did before with the Gameboy and later with the Wii, they expanded the market to new untapped audiences. I really don't see how Valve can do such a thing with the Steam Box.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Christian Keichel on 13th October 2013 12:29pm

Posted:10 months ago

#18

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,072 1,007 0.9
they expanded the market to new untapped audiences. I really don't see how Valve can do such a thing with the Steam Box.
Here is what Valve can offer right this day:

Indy Culture Games
The PC rules supreme when it comes to indy games. Sony isn't taking aggressive steps to be onboard that ship for no reason. Microsoft not being aggressively pro-indy has earned them lots of negativity. Maybe not from the mainstream, but certainly from the core audience. The Steambox can deliver, from Kickstarter to Greenlight, to release. The full indy experience.

f2p Culture Games
The consoles are still lacking a strategy, vision and timeline when it comes to getting the existing f2p eco-system on their consoles. Think of f2p what you will, but it is a factor and a gaming culture large in size with little to no ties to Sony and MS. A few alibi f2p titles are not going to change that. The Steambox might be more fit to be sold in Korea and China than any competitor, which is not to be underestimated.

Browser based games and services:
It is hard to imagine SteamOS not being able to run Firefox and Chrome. A few services might be Windows bound due to being based on Silverlight, but the sheer amount of browser-based services available in comparison to PS4 and Xone will be staggering.

Most of the console games:
Sure MS and Sony have their exclusives, but so does Valve and the PC. Which makes the controller such a crucial piece of the puzzle. It unlocks a large number of existing games in a place where those games used to be incompatible or ridden with bad joypad conversion controls. Valve has the best of third party publishing and exclusives not found on consoles.

A full library of games to choose:
Right out of the gate, Valve has a large catalog of games in every price segment. PS4 and Xone are starting relatively feeble with a few expensive full-retail games and maybe a bunch of cheap micro-games.

Windows Compatibility:
This might be the real insult coming from Valve, but the Steambox also makes for a great PC with Windows, Steam and Origin. Ever tried doing your homework on a PS4? Valve has the chance to give its device the "more than a toy" feeling of the PS and Xbox brands. Something Nintendo struggled with back in the day of Commodore and Atari. We talk about Valve trying to own PC gaming, when they in fact could be the reason to own a PC in the first place.


The Steambox is not a mere "me too" device trying to take market share away from Sony and Microsoft. It makes sense in a lot of ways the Xone and PS4 do not yet make sense. The new consoles coming out this year are currently build around keeping things the way they are with new iterations of games having slightly better graphics. Steam is rooted in another type of gaming culture trying to invade console space, or at the very least expand that culture to a level where having an additional console is not longer required. We see Sony and Microsoft dabble a bit in f2p and a bit in indy games and a bit in having additional services. Ever reluctant to go the full step, because it might be slightly less profitable to do so. In my opinion, Valve is just the welcome competition and market pressure they need.

Posted:10 months ago

#19

Christian Keichel
Journalist

634 866 1.4
Indy Culture Games
f2p Culture Games
Browser based games and services:
All these games can be found on todays Windows PCs, why spend money on an additional box, if you already have a Desktop/Laptop PC being able to play all these games?
Most of the console games:
Last generations 10 Best selling console games per platform
360: CoD MW3, GTA V, CoD Black Ops, Halo 3, Minecraft, CoD MW2, Gears of War: Gears of War 2, Halo Reach, GTA IV
PS3: Gran Turismo 5, Gran Turismo Prologue, God of War III, CoD MW2, Uncharted 3, Uncharted 2, The Last of Us, MotorStorm, CoD: Black Ops, Metal Gear Solid 4
Wii: Wii Sports, Mario Kart Wii, Wii Sports Resort, Wii Play, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Wii Fit, Wii Fit Plus, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Wii Party
(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best_selling_video_games#Wii)
Of the 10 best selling 360 games 4 games were platform exclusive and 1 games wasn't available on PC, from the 10 best selling PS3 games 8 are platform exclusive and from the 10 best selling Wii games 10 are platform exclusive. Out of the 28 different titles, the Top 10 of all 3 systems consists of, only 5 were available for the PC.
A full library of games to choose:
Valve's Box isn't competing with the XBox One and PS4 only, they are competing with Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, this means, their monthly releases are in direct competition to the 360, PS3, XBox One, PS4 and Wii U and their back catalogue is of course in direct competition to all these systems too. Even more, as the installed user base of the HD Twins is already 150 million and releases for these systems aren't slowing down at the moment. The chances are good, that potential PS4/XBox One/Steambox customers already own a PS3/360, which they will continue to use.
Windows Compatibility:
Only interesting, if you don't already have a PC. Besides doing your homework on a Full HD television set sounds awfull.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Christian Keichel on 13th October 2013 2:34pm

Posted:10 months ago

#20

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,156 1,073 0.5
The title to this post made me laugh and I didn't know why until a day or so back when I caught the end of The Dark Knight and after a bit of quick rewriting, came up with this:

Kid: Steam Machine? Steam Machine! Why's it selling, dad?

Dad: Because we have to buy it.

Rabid fans lined up at midnight launch: Okay we're going in! Go, go! Move!

Kid: What the hell is going on?

Dad: Because it's the hero PC gaming deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll buy it. Because it can take it. Because it's not our hero. It's a silent guardian. A watchful protector. A Steam Machine.

OK, I had too much time on my hands this weekend recovering from a crappy cold. Sue me later (but a least admit you laughed first)...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Greg Wilcox on 14th October 2013 4:56am

Posted:10 months ago

#21

Shane Sweeney
Academic

355 267 0.8
Steams movement into the lounge is "safe".

It does not eat into the existing market for people who prefer to game from their desktop, the existing PC fanbase see this as a pointless move, which is why this is a good move. As it moves Steam into new markets.

I'm excited because I can build my own Steam Box on whatever platform I want. I already use a Media Center PC running Windows, if the Steam controller works, then I am all aboard. I don't know about buying myself the Steam Hardware, but Valve don't care. They take their cut whether I use custom equipment or the Steam OS or the Steam Box. It's pretty perfect.

It's what people said Microsoft should of been doing forever now.

Posted:10 months ago

#22

Nick Parker
Consultant

280 144 0.5
Let's not forget that Steam is a community, not just an installed base of households who own a piece of hardware. This community is substantial and self-propogating and is set on an exponential trajectory until some robust disruptive competition arrives. Steam is also the primary port of call for indie PC developers at the moment and often the 3rd favourite platform after iOS and Android (console online networks can be thrown in here as well) to develop for. Steam is recently doing the right things for its community (I'm not a great fan of the Greenlight initiative as getting through it is sometimes as risky as putting all your money on red) such as Early Access which shows it understands its community as being literate in the games development process and wish to be involved as well as offering income to developers prior to launch (do PC games ever launch these days?).

Debating whether PC gaming has a right to enter the living room club is not relevant as it's a personal gamer choice which Valve is making available, not a cultural shift. Do as you please.

Posted:10 months ago

#23
Morville, I agree with Christian. Steam got its grips in and took over PC Distribution because at that time there was the opportunity to do so, the timing was right, there was no entrenched giant doing it. As they say, timing is everything. And as Christian again points out, Sony came into the hardware scene also at an opportune time, the market was down, the leader Sega and Nintendo left a huge market share and room for a big competitor to come on in and grab its share. As for Microsoft, well they just decided to bully their way in to the living room, they were willing to lose billions and billions each year for almost a decade to get its market share. Only now is the xbox hardware division finally showing some profits.

So with three entrenched giants in the living room, Is Valve going to bully its way in. Is it going to be willing to lose billions every year for a decade? because that is what it may well take. I dont see it. I see NO marketing for this steam machine. You say steam machine the world thinks carpet cleaning. It will take billions to change that.
Steams movement into the lounge is "safe".
huh? its anything but safe, for this to be anything but a half ass attempt, its is going to require them to gamble BILLIONS.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 14th October 2013 10:08pm

Posted:10 months ago

#24

Rodney Smith
Developer

80 40 0.5

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rodney Smith on 15th October 2013 12:46am

Posted:10 months ago

#25

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,516 1,302 0.9
@ Todd

Fair fair. I get what you're saying. And, as I said, it's all about customer take-up. However, to say there's no market for this is pushing it. :)



Now, how large this market is, and whether there are parallel markets, are the real questions. And you're right, they have to go big or go home. But remember that they're obviously spreading the cost of the Machines with PC manufacturers, and those PC manufacturers are desperate to stem the tide of dwindling sales.

Posted:10 months ago

#26

Olorunsegun Adewumi
Writer/Blogger

4 5 1.3
The problem with calling Valve the head of PC Gaming is that there were no takers. PC Gaming has always been disjointed, its the Confederate States of America rather than the United States of America; a weak central government with many strong states. While Valve is avoiding the huge losses by pushing hardware construction onto third parties this also takes the power out of Valve's hands. How long with third parties lose money, how good will the construction of the consoles be, how will Valve ensure a standard of excellence?

Valve is a software company, much like Microsoft was, and they have no experience in that part of PC Gaming. At the end of the day I wonder whether the PC Gaming community will even care about 'Steam Gaming'. The Confederacy didn't like to be governed, somehow I don't think PC gamers are going to any more amenable to the idea.

Posted:10 months ago

#27

Edward Buffery
Pre-production Manager

148 96 0.6

Posted:10 months ago

#28

Keldon Alleyne
Handheld Developer

431 406 0.9
While Valve is avoiding the huge losses by pushing hardware construction onto third parties this also takes the power out of Valve's hands. How long with third parties lose money, how good will the construction of the consoles be, how will Valve ensure a standard of excellence?
But look at what that did for Microsoft and Google?

Posted:10 months ago

#29

Christian Keichel
Journalist

634 866 1.4
@ Edward
Why? Steam OS won't do anything more/different/better then your already installed OS. Quite the opposite, you won't be able to run as many games on it as on your Windows PC, because a) not every game is on Steam and b) not every Windows game will come for Steam OS.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Christian Keichel on 15th October 2013 9:45pm

Posted:10 months ago

#30

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,516 1,302 0.9
It's a niche market (maybe? maybe it's larger than even I think), but do you know how many PC gamers tweak settings to try and eke out a few more frames-per-second, or get better reflections and AA without a performance hit? It's lots. Lots and lots. (Relative to PC gamers in general, anyways). If (and, yes, I agree it's a big if) SteamOS gives a performance boost over Windows equal, to, say, overclocking a K Intel CPU, there'll be plenty of PC gamers who will install the OS to get the extra quality and frames.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 15th October 2013 10:03pm

Posted:10 months ago

#31

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,072 1,007 0.9
In Germany it is common for a store to carry more PC games than all consoles combined. Except for Gamestop maybe, but they are an odd market presence anyway. Managing your settings is something I know every PC player does. It is not black magic, it's what you do being a PC person.

Let's also not forget that gamers get older on average, there is higher average income that comes along with that as well. Even if the games have trouble growing up at the same speed as the console owners.

Diablo 3 claims to have sold more than 10 million copies long before there were any console versions. If that is the PC being nearly dead, you don't want to see it awaken. The PC has one weakness though. There is no single entity which controls the narrative about its success as a platform the way Sony and MS do regarding their consoles.

Posted:10 months ago

#32

Christian Keichel
Journalist

634 866 1.4
In Germany it is common for a store to carry more PC games than all consoles combined. Except for Gamestop maybe, but they are an odd market presence anyway.
The chart in this article shows the portion of the PC game sales (retail and digital) in germany over the past years
http://www.4players.de/4players.php/spielinfonews/Allgemein/3933/2129572/
Managing your settings is something I know every PC player does. It is not black magic, it's what you do being a PC person.
I didn't noticed anybody saying otherwise, but what has the management of settings to do with the Steam OS?
Diablo 3 claims to have sold more than 10 million copies long before there were any console versions. If that is the PC being nearly dead, you don't want to see it awaken.
Diablo III is not the norm, it's the exception. In the last generation plenty of games sold for consoles sold 20+ million copies, the sales went up to over 40 million units for some titles. The PC seems to have found it's niche with games like Starcraft, WoW and Diablo III (you can call it the Blizzard niche), but the sheer number of console exclusive games (either solo platform exclusives like Halo, Mario and Gran Turismo or multiplatform console exclusives like Final Fantasy or Red Dead Redemption) speak volumes, when compared to the low number of PC exclusives. The situation is different in the independent games market, but for these games a high end Steam Box seems a bit overpowered and I think even the low end Steam Box will cost to much, because most people already have a PC able to run these games.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Christian Keichel on 16th October 2013 3:13pm

Posted:10 months ago

#33

Edward Buffery
Pre-production Manager

148 96 0.6
Christian, the responses about PC settings and to your question of why will PC owners try out Valve's free OS was actually in my first post. If Steam OS is a (relative to Windows), lightweight OS specifically optimised to run games on Steam, then given Valve's expertise it's highly likely that it will result in a slight performance boost compared to Windows. Since 75% of the games I play are on Steam and gaming is 90% of what I use my PC for, SteamOS could even become my default boot option and I'll need a reason to boot into Windows, not the other way round. If you're a PC gamer, you care about getting the best performance out of your current hardware. Microsoft will never design an OS optimised for playing games as their first priority, nor will they ever make Windows free. On the other hand, if you can agree that there is at least 1 valid reason to try it, then given that SteamOS will be free, what reason is there for a PC gamer to NOT try it out?

Posted:10 months ago

#34

Christian Keichel
Journalist

634 866 1.4
@ Edward
If Steam OS is a (relative to Windows), lightweight OS specifically optimised to run games on Steam, then given Valve's expertise it's highly likely that it will result in a slight performance boost compared to Windows.
The Steam OS is not something Valve developed from scratch, it's a Linux derivate and Valve can't afford to stray away form it's roots to far, because they rely on driver support for the OS. Valve can't write the drivers for any PC hardware on the market (besides for certain devices e.g. GPUs no open source driver on Linux ever reached the performance of what AMD and NVIDIA deliver with their closed source drivers).
Right now, modern engines don't run faster on Linux. Valve claimed L4D2 runs faster on Linux, then on Windows, but you have to wonder why? Because other Open GL games and benchmarks don't show an advantage of Linux over Windows.
http://www.g-truc.net/post-0547.html
http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=system76_windows8_ubuntu&num=1

And on the other side, Microsoft managed to improve the performance of DirectX. Games with a DX11 renderer show higher framerates , then when the game uses a DX9 or DX10 renderer.

http://www.pcgameshardware.com/aid,700136/Stalker-Call-of-Pripyat-Benchmarks-from-DirectX-9-to-DirectX-11/Reviews/
http://www.tomshardware.de/world-of-warcraft-cataclysm-directx-11-performance,testberichte-240687-7.html
(sorry articles are in german, but the benchmark charts speak for themself)

Right now it has to be seen, how games with Mantle support will perform, Battlefield 4 will be an indicator, but Mantle will be on Windows and Linux and it remains to be seen, if it can be an alternative to DX, which OpenGL isn't, at least not at the present state.
Since 75% of the games I play are on Steam and gaming is 90% of what I use my PC for, SteamOS could even become my default boot option and I'll need a reason to boot into Windows, not the other way round.
What makes you think, that every game, that is availabe on Steam on Windows will be available for Steam OS? Right now, there is Steam for OSX and Steam for Linux, but it doesn't mean every PC game is available for Mac and/or Linux. Even worse, for years the most successful PC games aren't on Steam, no WoW, no Diablo, no Starcraft and because or Origin it also means no Battlefield, no Sim City, no Fifa on Steam. Maybe these games aren't reasons for you to boot into Windows, but they are the best selling PC titles for years now, to me this means they are very good reasons for people to boot into Windows and launch the Steam Client from there, instead of restricting themself to Steam OS.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Christian Keichel on 16th October 2013 7:02pm

Posted:10 months ago

#35

Edward Buffery
Pre-production Manager

148 96 0.6
Christian, good points. If they can't at least match the gaming performance of Windows and make it easy enough for developers to release SteamOS SKUs then they will have a tough time convincing people to pick it up. I'm probably filling in several of the technical unknowns with more optimism than most people on account of being a Valve fan, and their habit of not releasing things until they're happy with them.

Posted:10 months ago

#36

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