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Valve's VR thrills, but Steam Machines are looking like a flop

Putting PC innards into smaller boxes is nothing new; if Steam Machines are to fulfil their purpose, they need to lower the bar to entry to PC gaming

There's not a lot to argue with the consensus view that Valve had the biggest and most exciting announcement of GDC this year, in the form of the Vive VR headset it's producing with hardware partner HTC. It may not be the ultimate "winner" of the battle between VR technologies, but it's done more than most to push the whole field forwards - and it clearly sparked the imaginations of both developers and media in San Francisco earlier this month. Few of those who attended GDC seem particularly keen to talk about anything other than Vive.

From Valve's perspective, that might be just as well - the incredibly strong buzz around Vive meant that it eclipsed Valve's other hardware-related announcement at GDC, the unveiling of new details of the Steam Machines initiative. Ordinarily, it might be an annoying (albeit very high-quality) problem to have one of your announcements completely dampen enthusiasm for the other; in this instance, it's probably welcome, because what trickled out of GDC regarding Steam Machines is making this look like a very stunted, unloved and disappointing project indeed.

To recap briefly; Steam Machines is Valve's attempt to create a range of attractive, small-form-factor PC hardware from top manufacturers carrying Valve's seal of approval (hence being called "Steam Machines" and quite distinctly not "PCs"), running Valve's own gaming-friendly flavour of the Linux OS, set up to connect to your living room TV and controlled with Valve's custom joypad device. From a consumer standpoint, they're Steam consoles; a way to access the enormous library of Steam content (at least the Linux-friendly parts of it) through a device that's easy to buy, set up and control, and designed from the ground up for the living room.

"Valve isn't building the machines itself, but since it's putting its seal of approval on them...it ought to have the power to enforce various standards related to specification and performance"

That's a really great idea, but one which requires careful execution. Most of all, if it's going to work, it needs a fairly careful degree of control; Valve isn't building the machines itself, but since it's putting its seal of approval on them (allowing them to use the Steam trademark and promoting them through the Steam service), it ought to have the power to enforce various standards related to specification and performance, ensuring that buyers of Steam Machines get a clear, simple, transparent way to understand the calibre of machine they're purchasing and the gaming performance they can expect as a result.

Since the announcement of the Steam Machines initiative, various ways of implementing this have been imagined; perhaps a numeric score assigned to each Machine allowing buyers to easily understand the price to performance ratio on offer? Perhaps a few distinct "levels" of Steam Machine, with some wiggle room for manufacturers to distinguish themselves, but essentially giving buyers a "Good - Better - Best" set of options that can be followed easily? Any such rating system could be tied in to the Steam store itself, so you could easily cross-reference and find out which system is most appropriate for the kind of games you actually want to play.

In the final analysis, it would appear that Valve's decision on the myriad possibilities available to it in this regard is the worst possible cop-out, from a consumer standpoint; the company's decided to do absolutely none of them. The Steam Machines page launched on the Steam website during GDC lists 15 manufacturers building the boxes; many of those manufacturers are offering three models or more at different price and performance levels. There is absolutely no way to compare or even understand performance across the different Steam Machines on offer, short of cross-referencing the graphics cards, processors, memory types and capacities and drive types and capacities used in each one - and if you've got the up-to-date technical knowledge to accurately balance those specifications across a few dozen different machines and figure out which one is the best, then you're quite blatantly going to be the sort of person who saves money by buying the components separately and wouldn't buy a Steam Machine in a lifetime.

"Valve seems to have copped out entirely from the idea of using its new systems to make the process of buying a gaming PC easier or more welcoming for consumers"

In short, unless there's a pretty big rabbit that's going to be pulled out of a hat between now and the launch of the first Steam Machines in the autumn, Valve seems to have copped out entirely from the idea of using its new systems to make the process of buying a gaming PC easier or more welcoming for consumers - and in the process, appears to have removed pretty much the entire raison d'etre of Steam Machines. The opportunity for the PC market to be grown significantly by becoming more "console-like" isn't to do with shoving PC components into smaller boxes; that's been happening for years, occasionally with pretty impressive results. Nor is it necessarily about reducing the price, which has also been happening for some years (and which was never going to happen with Steam Machines anyway, as Valve is of no mind to step in and become a loss-leading platform holder).

Rather, it's about lowering the bar to entry, which remains dizzyingly high for PC gaming - not financially, but in knowledge terms. A combination of relatively high-end technical knowledge and of deliberate and cynical marketing-led obfuscation of technical terminology and product numbering has meant that the actual process of figuring out what you need to buy in order to play the games you want at a degree of quality that's acceptable is no mean feat for an outsider wanting to engage (or re-engage) with PC games; it's in this area, the simplicity and confidence of buying a system that you know will play all the games marketed for it, that consoles have an enormous advantage over the daunting task of becoming a PC gamer.

Lacking any guarantee of performance or simple way of understanding what sort of system you're buying, the Steam Machines as they stand don't do anything to make that process easier. Personally, I ought to be slap bang in the middle of the market for a Steam Machine; I'm a lapsed PC gamer with a decent disposable income who is really keen to engage with some of the games coming out in the coming year (especially some of the Kickstarted titles which hark back to RPGs I used to absolutely adore), but I'm totally out of touch with what the various specifications and numbers mean. A Steam Machine that I could buy with the confidence that it would play the games I want at decent quality would be a really easy purchase to justify; yet after an hour flicking over and back between the Steam Machines page launched during GDC and various tech websites (most of which assume a baseline of knowledge which, in my case, is a good seven or eight years out of date), I am no closer to understanding which machine I would need or what kind of price point is likely to be right for me. Balls to it; browser window full of tabs looking at tech spec mumbo-jumbo closed, PS4 booted up. Sale lost.

"Suddenly, the question of PC specifications has become even more important than before, because PCs incapable of delivering content of sufficient quality simply won't work for VR"

This would be merely a disappointment - a missed opportunity to lower the fence and let a lot more people enjoy PC gaming - were it not for the extra frisson of difficulty posed by none other than Valve's more successful GDC announcement, the Vive VR headset. You see, one of the things that's coming across really clearly from all the VR technology arriving on the market is that frame-rate - silky-smooth frame-rate, at least 60FPS and preferably more if the tech can manage it - is utterly vital to the VR experience, making the difference between a nauseating, headache-inducing mess and a Holodeck wet dream. Suddenly, the question of PC specifications has become even more important than before, because PCs incapable of delivering content of sufficient quality simply won't work for VR. One of the appealing things about a Steam Machine ought to be the guarantee that I'll be able to plug in a Vive headset and enjoy Valve's VR, if not this year then at some point down the line; yet lacking any kind of certification that says "yes, this machine is going to be A-OK for VR experiences for now", the risk of an expensive screw-up in the choice of machine to buy seems greater than ever before.

I may be giving Steam Machines a hard time unfairly; it may be that Valve is actually going to slap the manufacturers into line and impose a clear, transparent way of measuring and certifying performance on the devices, giving consumers confidence in their purchases and lowering the bar to entry to PC gaming. I hope so; this is something that only Valve is in a position to accomplish and that is more important than ever with VR on the horizon and approaching fast. The lack of any such system in the details announced thus far is bitterly disappointing, though. Without it, Steam Machines are nothing more than a handful of small form-factor PCs running a slightly off-kilter OS; of no interest to hobbyists, inaccessible to anyone else, and completely lacking a compelling reason to exist.

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Latest comments (27)

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development2 years ago
My take on this has always been that it was a "shit, Steam is going down" kneejerk reaction to windows 8 getting an online store built in.

Relax guys, that was such an epic cock up that Steam now has no threats at all. Go back to doing what you excel at.
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Julian Williams Founder, WIZDISH Ltd.2 years ago
I've also wondered if it was kneejerk and whether it turned out to be less necessary and much more difficult to do well than anticipated. However it came about, as I think Rob is saying, it could provide them with a way to remove the guesswork for customers with respect to Vive and that could be critical to its success.
Something I haven't seen discussed much yet is that impact Vive may have on Oculus. Have Oculus just lost a major ally or were they siding with Microsoft as a result of Facebook? Aside from the technology race this seems to be turning into an epic political drama..
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Thomas Dolby Project Manager / Lead Programmer, Ai Solve2 years ago
I agree in that it does almost seem to be an afterthought for Valve now. They seemed to have some initial passion for it, but as Paul says, Steam doesn't seem to be in any kind of danger now so Steam Machines don't seem to have any fans anywhere, not even in the company that introduced the damn things.

It's almost as if they locked themselves into agreements with hardware manufacturers and now they can't back out, so they just deliver the minimum needed to hold up their end of the bargain. It's a really bad sign that I've never talked to anyone that's excited about Steam Machines, and even worse that most people haven't even heard of them.
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Show all comments (27)
Istvan Fabian Principal Engineer, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe2 years ago
Would be difficult to announce that they are no longer interested, so they just let it die or thrive on its own.
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Chris Payne Managing Director & Founder, Quantum Soup Studios2 years ago
I was definitely interested in what was essentially pitched as a Steam console. But the vast range of different hardware just announced is far too many to investigate the specs of each one. But the open license does allow anyone to have a go, and once the specialist press have investigated, I hope a few clear leaders will emerge. I'd be happy to pay a premium to have PC hardware that would Just Work.

I'm a bit doubtful about how much of their catalogue actually runs on Linux though...
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Craig Page El Presidente, Awesome Enterprises2 years ago
That's a pretty horrible combination of high console price, and limited amount of Linux games it can actually run. But I guess a $400 Steam Machine that runs Windows is impossible.
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Istvan Fabian Principal Engineer, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe2 years ago
No, the "new" MS would happily license Win10 for peanuts or even for free for any device.
But then Steam would have to compete with a shared ecosystem, where in reality there is no competition whatsoever for gaming in the Linux world. Obviously they would choose the monopoly position and full control - which in this case is going with Linux.
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James Gallagher Marketing Manager, Futuremark Corporation2 years ago
There is absolutely no way to compare or even understand performance across the different Steam Machines on offer
For what it's worth, we've updated our Steam Machine comparison page with all the new systems and specs announced at GDC and featured on Valve's webpages. For every Steam Machine where the hardware is known, we've estimated its 3DMark Fire Strike score based on real-world benchmark results from gamers with the same hardware. If the price of the Steam Machine has been announced, we show a value-for-money figure for comparison as well. You can rank the various Steam Machine by performance or value for money: http://www.futuremark.com/hardware/steam-machines
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Alex Comer Games Developer 2 years ago
How to choose a Steam Machine:
1. decide your price range
2. google a few reviews, check out James's link above, narrow it down to a couple of options
3. pick the one with the least ugly case

Not really that hard. I take the point that Valve could make it better by setting standards or grading the machines but really it's no harder than picking a mobile or a laptop or a washing machine or whatever people buy plenty of those things with little to no technical knowledge. You just pick your price point and read a couple of reviews.
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Dan Tubb Investment manager, Edge2 years ago
James, that is a really helpful page, thanks.

Immediately it looked like the Syber - Steam Machine K was the obvious choice. But then I saw a picture of it, and now my eyes are bleeding.
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Anthony Chan2 years ago
I love to take the cultural spin and apply the mindset of gamers to these debates.

The battle of the TV room has always been about simplicity and selling to the masses. Gaming rigs are the exact opposite - they are physical signatures of gamer prowess - how many times have you seen gamers boast about their rigs like macho football players boast about their manhood. A gamer's rig is like their signature, and unique to their gaming identity. This is why they hate consoles so much, there is no differentiation of who is actually elite (which starts with the rig for PC gamers).

And this is Valve's dilemma. How to sell unique rigs that could exemplify a gamer's epeen, while battling the standard fare that is already available. Original news showed us their passion to carve out a piece of the living room, but the fact they had so many specs revealed their flaw. Gamers who game predominantly in their living room are not PC gamers and do not flaunt epeen via their rigs. They never had to. Their skill was based off their own ability and really their only variable was their network connection - "I died because of lag, brah!!!"

Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo are not new to this. They knew the amount of investment needed going in, and they knew what return of investment they needed to be successful. They knew if they wanted to win, they needed to target the masses, the lowest common denominator, the 99% - sell the console to everybody, even NON-GAMERS. I feel Valve was not as certain on this point. They wanted to be "by gamers, for gamers" and that intention is quite noble - and by doing that they did win over the hearts of quite a few PC gamers. However, they did not win the gamers who exclusively only play console.

TL;DR summary: Valve failed to answer this question, what would drive the console gamer (exclusively), to decide that Steam Box is better than PS4 or XB1 or WiiU? Because of that, Steam Box is not a sure win. The PC rig will always be the go to weapon of choice for the PC gamer along with the mouse and keyboard. Putting them in the living room is just a novelty - and novelty vs bread and butter of Sony or MS is clearly not a wise investment choice.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Anthony Chan on 13th March 2015 5:50pm

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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 2 years ago
That numeric score thing is s great idea

That Microsoft had and implemented ten years ago.

@Paul

That's precisely what this is.

The Windows 10 effort of full Live integration is a far bigger threat, especially if Microsoft is smart enough, and manages to honor all existing Steam keys like EA did with Origin.

Its the "all my games are there" along with religious fervor that keeps Steam on top, not because it's good.

@Thomas

That's a very reasonable speculation. I have talked to people who are excited, but they're all planning on buying the Alienware deck that will quickly go obsolete, and are mostly interested in amassing $3 games they will never play. Valve probably I wish this has all been a mistake, as likely their partners, and they're just hoping to recoup at this point.

@Anthony exactly as I've been saying. valve doesn't understand the customer.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 2 years ago
Personally, I ought to be slap bang in the middle of the market for a Steam Machine; I'm a lapsed PC gamer with a decent disposable income... but I'm totally out of touch with what the various specifications and numbers mean.
That's bad, no doubt about it. But is this any different from the usual? My wife asked me to look for a new laptop just before Christmas, and even I (about 6 machines built in the past 10 years) had to fight tooth and nail with specs, Amazon reviews and various pros-and-cons before buying one. And I'm still not certain I got the best price/performance.

Which is not to say this situation is forgivable - it really should be easier to understand, and I'll be damn surprised if Valve don't do something before official rollout in November to make it easier. But look at any piece of home equipment, and there's a steep learning/knowledge curve. TVs, Cookers, washing machines, fridge-freezers... God, even hoovers! They all have it to some degree, and they all rely on sales-people to help fill gaps in consumer-knowledge. Why shouldn't Steam Machines be the same?

We're all in a weird position here, in that we already have knowledge, and we're trying to second-guess how the consumer will react once these Machines are out in the shops. But then, we're in the exact same position when we go into a store to buy a new TV, I think - we know more than the sales-people (who are trained to help complete "newbies"), but equally we know less than we need to to make the purchase.

@Istvan
But then Steam would have to compete with a shared ecosystem, where in reality there is no competition whatsoever for gaming in the Linux world. Obviously they would choose the monopoly position and full control - which in this case is going with Linux.
There's a positive and negative view to everything. Where you see Valve going into Linux to hold their monopoly (they're not a monopoly, but that's besides the point), I see it as a means of ensuring "PC gaming" is no longer "Windows (DirectX) gaming" (something which until now has been true). If Valve dominate Linux gaming, then it at least means that PC gamers aren't beholden to Microsoft (and DirectX) to play games, but can enjoy games with a free OS (and OpenGL/Vulkan).
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 2 years ago
The Windows 10 effort of full Live integration is a far bigger threat, especially if Microsoft is smart enough, and manages to honor all existing Steam keys like EA did with Origin.
Yup, no doubt. Although the 125m active Steam accounts says otherwise, MS could easily bull Valve out the market. But...

But, let's be honest here. What publisher is really going to go with MS exclusively after the failure of G4WL? There's still games being converted from G4WL to Steamworks (Resi5 just a couple of weeks ago). You can argue that MS has the clout, and (finally!) the synchronicity to get into the PC market properly, but publishers aren't going to go along with it - not when the Steamworks API is free, Steam patching is a piece-of-cake, there's no Steam certification process, and 125m pairs of eyes are looking at Steam. And if they don't go exclusively to MS, then Steam still wins.

Also, using Origin as an example isn't great. It's not like they're winning anything against Steam now, and MS has less exclusives that PC gamers care about than EA. Oh! Also, EA don't honour all keys, unless something changed recently - Mass Effect 1 doesn't redeem on Origin, because the key pre-dates the key redemption system on Origin. So, double-dip if you want all ME games on Origin. :/

(Sidenote: I think Steam needs competition, but competition from a company which will offer Steam keys as well as their own, and compete on features, not on market share or exclusivity :) )

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 13th March 2015 10:23pm

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Mats Holm Technical Writer, Electronic Arts2 years ago
EA will honor all your Steam keys if a build exists on Origin. If you have any issues redeeming them, contacting CS will get them to added to your account.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 2 years ago
There are plenty of people that want everything in one place. Microsoft doesn't need exclusivity. Let's face it, they can buy Valve with their pocket change. They've lost 4x it's net worth on Bing alone (we know Gabe ain't selling)

They have a superior service, an actual customer service department, and if they can get just 30% of Steam's customers, that's plenty

I never believed the statistics they give. Peopke are booting the client with their computers, 125 million people are not using Steam on a regular basis.

The publishers already have existing relationships with Microsoft, and they tie things like Royalty Breaks, EA Acces style programs, lots of options. There's also nothing stopping Microsoft from allowing Steam Games from also accessing Live. There's a lot of things to do, and gamers, especially with the free upgrade will be on Windows 10 en masse quickly.

The only reason I used Origin as an example is that the first time I booted it, all my Steam EA games were automatically added. It's a way to get people to switch.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 2 years ago
The silly thing is, I don't actually think Steam Machines will take-off in a crazy way, but for one reason no-one has mentioned: Lack of consumer recognition of the manufacturer's names. Alienware and Scan are the only two with any form of brand "outside our sphere". No Lenovo, no Dell (though they own Alienware), no Acer, no Asus, no HP. How many people (average Joes) choose their household electronics based at least partly on name-brand recognition? Who chooses a Dell because it's a "trusted brand?" They might come on board after a year or so, if the idea flies, but it's a shame Valve couldn't get them at launch.
There's also nothing stopping Microsoft from allowing Steam Games from also accessing Live.
No, this is true. I suppose my question is, are you trying to propose MS will break Steam, or just act as competition? Breaking Steam requires MS to move users across (hence my point about exclusives), whereas competition when publishers have literally lost money on converting older titles to a format that has actual support is doubtful. Pubs may already have an existing relationship with MS, but do they really want OS, graphics API and store under the same closed roof? On the "open" platform that is PC?

Origin has, at a guess, about 40m accounts (they had 28m Summer of 2013). That is fully one third of Steam's numbers. They're not doing much to bull Valve out, nor are they really growing (in fact, they barely sell third party titles anymore). Certainly MS are larger than EA, and can throw more money at the situation, but it's an interesting prism to view your argument through.
EA will honor all your Steam keys if a build exists on Origin. If you have any issues redeeming them, contacting CS will get them to added to your account.
Ah, this is true, yes. ME1 doesn't automatically redeem. And I don't care enough about Origin to jump through hoops with CS. Sorry for the misinformation. :)

Edited 7 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 14th March 2015 7:36am

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Daniel Chenoweth Freelance Editor, Reviewer, Writer 2 years ago
Great article Rob, mirror's my own thoughts and concerns better than I've articulated it :)

FYI, Valve has actually commented publicly on this exact issue before, but it was incredibly under-reported at the time considering how big of a deal I think it is. Valve's Greg Coomer touched on it in a presentation during the Steam Dev Days event back in February last year:
"Customers are going to have a lot of ways to make choices, to help figure out 'what is the right Steam Machine for me?'. In part though, we think that this as a to-do item for ourselves, as platform holders really, that we need to make sure that there's an incredible amount of transparency and tools on Steam that help people understand this landscape, and what is going to be the best kind of price/performance trade off for them.

Steam is pretty well positioned to build tools like that, being able to harvest real-world performance data from how games are running on actual hardware out in the world, and pipe that through to show end users what that picture looks like, and compare machines. So we're in the process of building a couple of versions of tools that will be as simple as we can make them, but also provide a tonne of value and help people with that decision making."
There's a few more choice comments in this coverage article I published at the time.

So it surprised me when they launched the Steam Machines page on the actual Steam website with no sign of these sorts of tools. I very much hope something arrives before the hardware goes on sale.

As some other commenters mentioned, I really hope they haven't taken those ideas off the burner because the perceived threat from Microsoft has scaled back.

IMO, with the way MS is posturing the Windows Store now, and in Win 10, it's still not too hard to imagine a future where the average consumer might elect to stay within that walled garden and not bother venturing into the wilderness to install Steam.
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Adam Campbell Game Production Manager, Azoomee2 years ago
Like I said before, I was initially excited by the concept but there is really nothing I couldn't do better with a Windows PC. Steam Machines and its OS are a surplus to my requirements as a consumer.
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the real problem is 99% of the consumers hear steam machine and think.. Its something to clean carpets.
The marketing for these things has been non existent.
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Nick Parker Consultant 2 years ago
A Steam machine allows gamers to play Steam games in a more social environment outside the office or bedroom, on a large screen. OK, I get that but I'm sure it will depend on the demographic of the gamers and the types of games they play. How many Steam members playing MOBA type games, will want a console experience for them? How many Steam members, or any gamers of a certain age, feel the need to take their experience away from where they are now (bedroom, study, a room in a sole occupier apartment)? The cross hairs will hit some Steam gamers, I'm sure, but the price will also act as a barrier to those who'd like one.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 2 years ago
@morvile

Origin has 40 million accounts. How many of those are people on consoles playing Battlefield, Sports titles, etc? I bet it's a ton. I'd even put money on over 50%. An origin login is required to play online.

Your point about trusted brand is a good one. If you walk into a no -enthusiasts house, chances are all their electronics will match. In fact, many people believe that a Panasonic Blu-Ray player will not work with a Sony TV! I will say one thing, at least some of these Steam machines look like they're meant to sit with those devices, which is a big part where a lot of previous attempts at this have gone wrong from the start. You "eat with your eyes" first.

The consistent pattern of the new direction of Microsoft is that they're looking at their OS and devices to be a conduit to services. The most valuable asset Microsoft has, as Google does, is analytics. If you're running live while you're gaming on Steam, they get that telemetry. The big thing they have over origin is that people are already on Live, already have a friends list and relationship with the service. A great example of an opportunity to disrupt is Rock Band 4. There's a bunch of gamers who switched to PS4 for whatever reason, and now they're mad that they can't take their hundreds of songs with them. While there's no PC version in the works right now, apparently there isn't much more to it than pushing a button on the xompiler for Windows 10 (programmers correct me if this is wrong!). So while supporting older games may be problematic, new stuff might not be. So MS could, in theory, make sure RB4 PC has Live support, which is the only way to access your old DLC outside X1. Same thing can go for bringing saves over from games like Mass Effect. The goal, if I were running the show, outside of a direct effort to kill Steam, which probably wouldn't go well politically, is to simply side load themselves in there with benefits and goodies, and let nature take its course.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 2 years ago
The goal, if I were running the show, outside of a direct effort to kill Steam, which probably wouldn't go well politically, is to simply side load themselves in there with benefits and goodies, and let nature take its course.
*nods* This is where EA went wrong - it would have benefited them far more to continue the partnership with Valve/Steam, side-loading Origin at every possible opportunity, and then bailed out of Steam 6/7/8 years after. How many of those 125m Steam users would have had an Origin account by then, as opposed to how many have one now? In this sense, MS could definitely play the long-game, but the more people use and interact with Steam, the more comforting it is to stay with it, so the timing has to be weighed.

@ Nick
How many Steam members playing MOBA type games, will want a console experience for them?
You're looking at the wrong demographic. There'll be a number of Steam users who want to game on the 40inch TV in the living room (Ori is apparently fantastic on a large screen), but they're a captive Steam/PC audience already. The real market being aimed at here is not people who already have a Steam account, but those who don't - console gamers, social gamers and those who don't see the point in spending oodles of money for a machine with four "killer apps" on it. The people who have a PS3 and don't see the point of a PS4 just yet. The people who have a Wii/WiiU, but aren't tempted by the new-gen consoles. The people who have a desktop PC for the kids to do homework on, but don't see the value in getting an XBone for 2 or 3 games.

God only knows if it'll work - but it's an interesting set of groups to go after,
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Richard Pygott Level Designer 2 years ago
I have always wondered who the Steam Machines target markets where,

Its not really current PC gamer's as they already have a Gaming Rig that they use to play PC games, sure there might be a few early adopters from this category, but not many that I can foresee that will spend the extra money purchasing a Steam Machine on top of their current systems.

I don't think there will be much awareness of want for any of the typical casual PlayStation / Xbox consumer either,

In the same vein, its only really the PC gaming community that has any awareness of Steam, let alone their own standalone console type offering, and this community as i said before are mostly already sorted for a PC based gaming platform.

Couple this with the fact that as there are many Steam Machine offerings with different configurations, prices from many different manufacturers that will already confuse prospective customers, well, the writings on the wall already.

They should have released a standard, One specification machine at one price

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Richard Pygott on 16th March 2015 1:58pm

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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 2 years ago
@Richard

That would involve Valve actually spending money, and given that they won't invest in basics like a customer service phone number, how likely is it they'd want to drop the kind of cash it takes to do a console? God knows how much they wasted on that controller no one wants.

You're absolutely right that Valve and Steam have virtually zero name recognition outside the hardcore gaming community. And that's also what's going to keep people away. Sony and Microsoft were brands people knew when they went console.

The target markets or Steam Machines is honestly millenials. I'm going to use generalizations here, but the have absolutely no clue how their technology works and how to fix it, or do anything beyond clicking an app. A friend of mine considers himself a PC gamer, how's a hot rod rig, but needs me to walk him through the most basic of maintenance operations, or put a new hard drive in. Most of the research I've done points to exactly one reason anyone who isn't already gaming on PC wants one, the $2 games. When they discover that in a year or so it won't run things well, they'll go back to their Xbox. There's tons of their peers who don't even have a TV. If OC gaming is to ever grow out of its niche, the graphics tarts need to be brought under control, and any system you buy has to be guaranteed to be able to run the next five years of stuff.

Not happening.
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Sandy Lobban Founder, Noise Me Up2 years ago
Having worked at Sony on several different console developments and launches, I can see the pros and cons of letting others compete on making the hardware for you. I would say its a good move for Valve at the moment. They dont know the living room, they dont have the manufacturing processes in place, they dont have the logistics in place to do the less exciting bit of getting consoles in peoples hands through retailers, and they dont know how consumers behave day to day in bricks and mortar shops to do effective advertising. It's just not part of their culture to do all that and its huge. So, steam machines are probably the best fit to test the water and learn some stuff along the way. I think they will take a share of the market over time, but console domination is probably not their intention.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 2 years ago
@Sandy

The issue is that there's no advantage for the hardware people. The margins are razor thin on anything price competitive with consoles, and without any set specs, it's just a PC with a Steam logo where Valve takes virtually no risk

As we've said above. We all know how well 3do worked out
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