Last week at CES Valve officially started showing off some of the first Steam Machine Models. For anybody who hasn’t heard the Steam Machines are essentially going to be gaming PCs that are more simple and console like, and hook up to your TV. This is essentially Valve’s big push into our living rooms. I only really dabble with Steam. I play most of my games on consoles, and use my laptop mainly for little indies that I hear are great, and don’t look like they will be coming to console any time soon. Leading up to this announcement I was really excited for the prospect of Steam Machines. But looking at everything we know right now, I just can’t make myself care.
Cost vs Consoles
Since the Steam Machines are for the living room they are undeniably in direct competition with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. So why should I pick up a Steam Machine instead of one of those consoles? Other than the potential to look better it really seems like the biggest pro is just having access to Steam itself. Which can save a lot of money over time. Steam sales are amazing, quite possibly too good. How many of us just buy games on Steam knowing we will never play them? Simply because they were all so cheap. The least expensive Steam Machine will be $499.99, which is the same price as the Xbox One, and $100 more than the PlayStation 4. Going up from that entry level model some of the more expensive Steam Machines will get up into thousands of dollars.
It could be debated that after years of buying games for less money on Steam the more expensive Steam Machines will eventually save you the cost of the initial investment. But the consoles are doing better with sales now than in years past. Not to mention how ridiculous PS+ is. So just looking at this from a financial perspective I don’t know if it would be worth it in the long run.
What will the game selection look like?
Then there is the potential issue of games. A big deciding factor when it comes to choosing what console you want is what exclusives the console will get. It seems like there won’t be any Steam Machine exclusives. Any game that comes to Steam Machines will have to also be available on Steam itself, so anybody with a PC will be able to play it. These machines just won’t have any flagship characters or franchises.
Plus we can’t forget about all the games the Steam Machines just won’t get. By running on Linux the Steam Machines limit themselves to only running games made for Linux. That is a fairly small portion of Steam’s otherwise steller library. But I also have to also mention that a lot of games aren’t even on Steam. EA and Ubisoft aren’t known to release their games on Steam, neither is Blizzard. If somebody makes a Steam Machine their primary console they will likely be missing a lot.
Losing the simplicity console gamers are used to
These machines are also overly complicated. I know people love to talk about open systems, and customization being good things; they might very well be. But do console gamers want that at the cost of simplicity? My 4 year old has known for years which game case is a PS3 game vs a Wii game. Simple. Also the PlayStation Store isn’t going to show me something I can’t play on my console. How will the Steam Machines filter what I see on Steam? Will games that I can’t play just not show up? Or am I supposed to check the requirements before every purchase on a Steam Machine? That’s a pain. Lastly how long will the life span of a Steam Machine be? If I go buy a PS4 I know everything that says PS4 on it will work in my machine. If I go buy a $499 Steam Machine how long will it be before new releases don’t work well on it? And how will I be told before I buy the game? I am a fairly intelligent man in his mid twenties and I barely want to deal with this stuff. Good luck to any random parent who buys a Steam Machine because they know their kid wants a console, then gets stuck trying to figure this all out.
Steam Machine vs my Laptop
This one will be short and sweet. If I wanted to play one of my PC games on my TV I could just use a handy HDMI cable. I could even put SteamOS on my laptop. Why should I go buy a minimum $500 machine to do this?
Time will tell how this whole Steam Machine thing works out. Much more info will probably become available before they become commercially available, and something could potentially change my mind. But right now I just can’t make myself care about Steam Machines.
Are you guys excited about the Steam Machines? Why? Why not? Am I just PC illiterate and missing the point? Feel free to comment below.