Some gamers are PC purists while others are console purists, but for those who don’t swear total allegiance to any particular platform, the new line of Steam Machines from Valve are an intriguing hybrid. At CES earlier this week, a selection of 14 Steam Machines from various manufacturers were unveiled, designed to bring the PC gaming experience into the living room.
With prices ranging from $500 to over $2000 and a wide variety of designs, the Steam Machines run on the Linux-based SteamOS and allow gamers to play their PC games without having to wire a laptop or desktop to their television each time they want to play on a big screen. Yet many remain skeptical about the line’s potential, so Valve’s Jeff Cain has outlined exactly why he thinks people will want to own one before long.
Speaking to Polygon at CES, Cain explained that the development of the Steam Machines was driven by a desire to meet consumer demands, not an attempt to muscle in on console territory. The Steam Machines, says Cain, are designed to give people what they were already asking for:
“We’ve been hearing for quite some time that [our customers] don’t want to leave all the features that Steam offers just because they want to switch the rooms in which they play their games. So our focus has really been on taking that Steam ecosystem, all the features and capabilities that Steam offers to our customers, and basically transporting that to the living room so they can have the same experience there.”
It’s a bold move, but Valve is in a strong position to make it. Steam currently has an install base of 65 million users and recently hit a milestone of 7 million concurrent users. The success of the service is built on a number of factors, from the huge range of games available on Steam (both mainstream and indie) to the staggering seasonal sales that bring gamers flocking to buy titles for up to 90% off their usual price.
Only a fraction of Steam users would need to purchase Steam Machines in order to catch up with the recently-launched Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles, which sold a collective 7.2 million units in 2013, and it’s possible that steadfast console gamers will be more amenable to the idea of Steam now that there is a way to easily play PC games in the living room. Cain also reaffirmed Gabe Newell’s recent comments on the subject of Valve manufacturing its own Steam Machine, saying:
“We think if there’s a role we can play where we add value to the space, we’ll do that. And if that calls for releasing hardware, then that’s something that we’re open to doing.”
In general, however, Valve’s role in the making of Steam Machines will be roughly analogous to Microsoft and PCs: the company will provide the software, but leave the manufacturing of hardware up to other companies. Cain believes that having a range of different manufacturers making their own Steam Machines is ideal:
“There’s going to be plenty of choice and there’s going to be a lot of different options available for our customers at varying performance levels and price. I think, really, it’s a philosophical choice that we make that we think that choice is a good thing and having multiple options is a good thing.”
Has Valve sold you on the idea of Steam Machines? Tell us in the comments if you’re already planning to make a purchase, if you’d rather wait for more details, or if you think the whole enterprise will be a disaster.
Valve’s line of Steam Machines will be available from multiple retailers and manufacturers soon and throughout 2014.