‘Steam Box’ far from flawless
Published: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 22:10
In the past few weeks, all around good guy company, Valve, announced plans to aggressively pursue the living room gaming market. For years, Valve has dominated digital PC game sales, much like iTunes has dominated digital music. However, as many 18-49 year old males would tell you, the majority of core video games are played not on a PC, but on a console connected to a television. Despite a crowded marketplace dominated by Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft, Valve has decided to enter the market.
There were three notable elements to Valve’s announcements. First was the introduction of the Linux-Based Steam OS, designed to power such a console. Second, was the announcement of various partnerships with hardware manufacturers to bring a series of so-called “Steam Boxes,” consoles with varying degrees of power, to market starting in 2014. The last announcement, perhaps the most intriguing, was the announcement of a Steam-branded, Valve-designed controller for these consoles that does not feature traditional joysticks, but rather touch sensitive finger pads in their place.
While not too much is known about the controllers besides their design, it is quite interesting to see Valve try to make a major change to the industry standard controller with touch-sensitive finger pads that are supposed to more accurately represent the control and precision featured by using a keyboard and mouse.
As for the introduction of the SteamOS and Steam based consoles, I can be counted a bit on the skeptical side. First of all, many games available on Steam, such as “Civilization V” and “Dota 2” are designed to be played with a keyboard and mouse and won’t be played by a majority of living room centric gamers. Secondly, the software in comparison to other console manufacturers is severely lacking. New games from EA, the largest third party publisher in the world, are no longer released for Steam, but instead are only available for EA’s Origin service. In addition, as a first party developer, Valve produces one or two titles a year at best. The biggest hurdle Valve faces with its concept, however, is consumer confusion. By allowing machines with varying degrees of power on the market, consumers will eventually find that their machine isn’t powerful enough to run a certain game. Unlike on other major consoles, you don’t have the security of knowing that if you buy a game for the system, it will play. And surely, a system as powerful as the “real” next-gen systems will cost just as much to manufacture and produce.
As it currently stands, based on the information we already have, I doubt the introduction of Steam-based consoles will make any noticeable impact on the industry. While it is great that Valve is trying to bring its fantastic consumer positive distribution model to the living room, I think that its model of allowing multiple versions of a Steam based console to make it to market, months after the release of the true next-gen systems, Playstation 4 and XBOX One, will ultimately falter, unable to find a foothold against the current industry heavyweights.