Sony And Microsoft Should Be Very Worried About The Steam Box

The future of home gaming. The next generation. For years now, the anticipation and excitement over what's to come has been dominated by speculation over what would come next from Microsoft and Sony.

In one day, Valve has changed all of that.

It's been hard to get excited about PC gaming in the way you do about a new console. The nature of the PC means it gets a little better all the time. You don't really notice how powerful the platform has become until you stop and look back at the games and hardware that have come before.

But new consoles are massive leaps. Relatively. Because you only get one every 4-6 years, when you do, it's a big jump in performance, visuals, capability, the works. The games designed for those consoles jump accordingly. Which is why people get so excited about them.

Because of this, the PC hasn't ever really been a threat to the spotlight and the spectacle of a new console launch. Until now (and, well, until 2012).

I can imagine executives at Sony and Microsoft now worrying, if only slightly, that Valve's Steam Box plans might steal a little of their upcoming thunder.

Putting aside the capabilities and promise of third-party Steam Box units (like Xi3's offering), the fact Valve is making its own PC means for the first time ever there will be a company in the PC hardware space that people love with the same fervour they do current console platform holders.

Then there's the matter of timing. We're expecting the reveal, if not the release of both the next Xbox and PlayStation this year. Until recently, they'd had the hype calendars all to themselves. Now, they don't.

Most important, though, and the reason both of those things matter, is that the Steam Box isn't trying to be simply a branded personal computer. It's trying to be a PC that replaces your consoles. It's direct competition.

From Big Picture Mode to the use of controllers to the small size of the Steam Box computers, Valve's entire push is aimed at taking the PC from the office and/or bedroom and dropping it right in the living room, plugged right into your big TV. The same one you have (or, Valve must be hoping, used to have) a console plugged into. Where you can play many of the same games, only with better graphics and the ability to use mods.

Sure, there are differences. Even slimmed down, the various Steam Box units are still PCs. They'll have an operating system and will need upgrades (though hopefully that process is streamlined), as opposed to consoles with their intuitive user interface and fixed hardware. A Steam Box will, in all likelihood, be more expensive than a new console as well. If, say, the next Xbox launched at $US500, and Valve's Steam Box launched at $US1000, I won't exactly be surprised.

In a battle between consoles and PC, those factors will count in a console's favour. But then, even though we're now in 2013, most console games are (and often have to be) purchased via physical copies. A Steam Box will let you buy games from Steam. Almost an entire platform's library, at your fingertips, and often at frequently-discounted prices to boot.

If Valve can sell that convenience along with the power and potential of a true living room PC experience, they won't be selling a PC at all. They'll be selling something that will be strolling right into the console battlefield and laying some of the sneakiest sucker-punches this business has ever seen.


Comments

    Don't forget about Steam's Cloud saves (for the games that support it)
    Play on your desktop for a bit, move to the couch and continue your game.

    Also, if you're like me and have hundreds of steam games already the steam box sounds like a pretty awesome idea.

    Of course you can just buy another computer and attach it to your TV it would do the exact same thing. I guess we will find out soon why you should get the steam box instead of just making your own.

    Get real, Luke. If Sony and Microsoft were worried about high end PCs stealing their thunder they never would have made consoles to start with.

      Luke has for once written a decent article, leave him alone in this instance.

    I think people are too hyped and not considering reality.

    The PS3 launch price was aful. Steambox will likely be $400 higher.

    Console people won't buy it. PC people might, but they already HAVE gaming PCs mostly. Why buy an verpriced, limited PC

      My guess for prices is about $600 'basic' and $1,000 for 'premium'.
      (assuming they can fit a decent graphics card in there)

        more likely it will use an APU like the more recent AMD chips.

    Consoles have been moving towards just being PC's designed to be attached to a TV for a long time. This is just a more open source version of a console (relatively speaking).

      minus the EA support

        Considering they're constantly talking about how it's not a closed system, can install other OS's and such, I'd be surprised if you couldn't install Origin.

          If Origin is available in Linux, then yeah I guess. But afaik it's not available yet.

            "Steambox" will support windows as well though.

              really? i thought it would run a dedicated linux OS thats based around steam.

                It'll be an open platform, you can install Windows on it if you want to.

                  Okay, I read about it. It comes with a Linus based- OS, but you can install Windows if you want. Question is, would one need to completely format the OS off of steam or is there a choice of dual boot.

                  BTW, i wouldn't confidentally call it an open platform yet, since I'm under the assumption that the Steam OS used is closed, if its anything like the Big Picture. Hardware-wise I guess you can call it open, since you can apparently install/boot other OSes, but that's pretty much what a PC can do as well. But I guess we find out as more details surrounding the OS is unveiled.

            If lots of people buy these boxes, why wouldn't EA want to support it?

              You should ask EA about that. Why did they pull Crysis 2 out of steam and not put BF3 on when its the largest digital distributor out there?

    I'm not really sure how this is any more of a threat to MS / Sony than all those PC's out there that have already been connected to Steam for years? It's just a Valve/Steam-branded PC that's going to have the same pros and cons that PC gaming already has. The games will be the exact same PC games that you can play on any other Steam-connected PC, and you still won't have access to any of the console-exclusive titles that are the whole reason you buy a console in the first place.

    Steam box is a great idea, not everyone has a convenient set up for hooking a gaming pc to a tv. But i honestly still think there will always be a market for console. As someone who gave up the pc master race for convenience, i feel qualified in saying that while the games don't look as good on console as they do on pc towards the end of a generation it just doesn't matter.

    As other people have stated, people who are invested heavily in steam MAY use this, but most of them already have a nice sized screen hooked up to their easy to upgrade rig, so why would the fork out more money just to make it a little easier to hook up to the lounge room tv. There just isnt enough reason to. At least a pc gamer MIGHT (and it is a big might) buy a console for platform exclusives, but will they really buy another PC?

    I hope Valve releases that rumoured trackball controller. Just make sure to put the trackball on the right. Those concept images with it on the left seem to me like a dumb idea... unless you're left handed I guess. Think of all those console COD players coming to Steam Box because of that extra precision. Think of that first Steam sale that will make them swear off overpriced console games forever. Yes, Sony and Microsoft should be very worried... Except in countries with bad internet, Steam Box will flop there. Actually that could create a new market. Games retailers selling Steam Backups for a couple of bucks a game. You take in your portable hard disk and copy the games you need. Take them home and restore them to your Steam Box. I'm surprised they don't offer that service already.

      trackball...gah...so 2001...

        A touchpad on the right then? No too much real estate.
        Have the tracking laser built into the controller and just run your finger over it? No too much eye damage.
        Man I suck at inventing. I'm happy to settle with old ideas that work.

          neural interface!!! lol

            I like it!!
            I can hear the COD smack talk already. "Your thoughts betray you".

      Ha that won't work, video stores have been trying to do that shit internationally for years, people who shop retail these days generally have no idea about technology or the Internet Or are after physical copies of games and collectors editions etc, sorry I don't think steambox will work most pc gamers prefer their own customized aesthetically pleasing pc and the gamers that don't care own consoles because they are cheaper and offer differences that make them worthwhile, steam box is arkwardly in the middle ground of that with a hefty price tag

    It's a $1000+ computer that can probably only play valve games.

    The hype train has well and truly pulled out of the station. Me, I'm waiting for the next one.

      It'll be the same old situation you get any time you try taking a train - you'll sit around waiting for 5 or 6 months until E3, then 2 hype trains will come along at once :P

    Think About it, your paying for one box which can potentially run up to 8 game sessions on 8 separate screens! The lan just got mightily easier. Furthermore if you live with a bunch of gaming fanatics then this cuts down on the amount of consoles/pc's you feel the need to buy. Not to mention how much you will be saving on AAA games by going through the steam store. Add in a huge range of indy titles and you've got a pretty nice package. Fact is consoles have been moving into the "home entertainment" realm for a while. Look at the 360's dashboard now compared to release, It's crowded with advertisements for music and movies. This box is a real competitor whether you consider it a console or not.

      Eight games at good settings at the same time, hey?

      Looking forward to that $6K console.....

    The xi3 couldn't even get their kickstarter funded. So yeah I doubt MS/Sony should be worried

    I've had something like this for a long time - it's called a Commodore 64.

    I'll be tempted if the games in Australia on Steam cost the same as they do in the US.

    Best thing about Ps3 is being able to buy/import games at international prices.

    If we have to pay the Australia Tax on downloaded software with the Steam Box, no sale.

      Valve isn't in charge of pricing except on their own games. Complain to the various offending publishers if you want prices to come down.

        No sale.

      You dont have to buy through Steam though.

      Check out Greenmangaming, I've pre-purchased Alien Colonial Marines for about $33 and it's just a Steam key.

        Green Man Gaming recently started introducing australia taxes at the behest of the publishers to give 'local retailers' the chance to compete. Fuck them.

          Kind of a shame how services like GOG.com and GMG try to give us a chance to compete only to get smacked around.

          I wonder how much longer ozgameshop and play-asia will last.

      Most of the games on Steam AUS store, are the same price as US.

      Those that aren't, you can always buy a CD key from another website (e.g. GreenManGaming) at the US price and activate it on your steam account.

        Greenmangaming now does regional pricing, as of December 28th. They are actually more expensive then Steam now.

          Nah, in my experience they're still cheaper.

    Yes, I think Sony and Microsoft should be worried. Not just because of Valve, but because of the wealth of gaming options that are out there. Even Ouya is going to be swamped in competition before long and will be one of many Android based consoles. Apple's bound to want to stretch its legs sooner or later too. And do we think that Samsung is going to sit back and watch this industry being eaten alive. Maybe.

    In some ways the Steam Box to me lacks excitement - afterall it's just a PC - we've always been able to go out there and buy a PC. Sure, it's a small PC. But there are other small PCs out there. Even Dell was selling small PCs a few years ago.

    Valve getting into the PC market should have been really easy. There's 1,000 PC makers out there. They buy parts, fit them together, done. OK, the better ones have elements of their own design and source the best parts to work together etc, but essentially most PC makers do not produce any, or hardly any, of the components - they just assemble the units.

    Valve doing this is pretty smart. They are the only gaming company producing gaming hardware. Sony is an electronics company, Microsoft is a software company. OK I forgot about Nintendo, but then haven't we all. They will win alot of mind-share from established and long-term gamers. Imagine Half Life 2 Ep 3 available on next gen consoles and steambox - how many units will that sell. It will get close to CoD and GTA levels - so many of us recognise Valve as a premium developer.

    But apparently Valve has more to offer. They have other hardware to be released soon. That will be the honey that will trap the bees.

    At the moment I'm locked into PSN+ and after another 2 years membership (already paid for) I'm going to have dozens of downloaded games. Will I want to move to another ecosystem? I can only see myself moving to Steam to be honest. They're known for having super low cost games, and if I do get a Steam Box I'll also be able to play on my notebook when I don't have access to the lounge.

    At the same time, I probably won't want to spend $1,000 on something that my next notebook will be able to do perfectly well.

    I think the gaming industry is fragmenting and I think consumers are being served extremely well. Somethings got to give.

    In the end what really matters is the games thats available in each of the platform. Sure Steam is nice in a way that if youre already a steam user you have a whole batch of games you already bought available to you (albiet limited in a sense that Linux doesnt support all steam games) but MS/Sony have their own exclusives that People go for (Halo/Uncharted) and they will come up with their own ideas to cater to the oh-so-revered indie game scene.
    Personally I'm not exactly hyped for this thing but we'll see how it goes.

      There's already an indie game section on the Xbox 360. You just can't use it in Aus because of the way our classification laws work (I think).

        I guess what I meant was allow indie developers more flexibility to develop for their consoles. Obviously Playstation Store and XBLA is available now, but i do remember hearing about FEZ or something not updating properly cos of the costs or something.

    You know what would be great? If all the game consoles were combined into one, running steams big picture. Halo 4, God of War, Valve/Steam games, all from the one console. Heaven!

    Steam Box looks to be a low-end Linux PC with steam preinstalled. I don't think Microsoft will be particularly worried. The hardware won't be powerful enough to compete and even if it is, the amount of fiddling involved with keeping a Linux machine running properly is still well above what the average consumer can handle (sorry Linux fans, but it's true. When it works, it works well, but when it doesn't you have to roll up your sleeves and fix it yourself, and most people can't handle that) plus the number of games that natively support Linux are still few and far between. You'll end up installing Windows on it. Microsoft get their pound of flesh either way.

    They should just make it a High End Media Centre with a blue-ray player, massive hdd, a/v inputs etc

    Consider that this is similar to google producing the structure for android.

    I dont get it, Is it a pc or a console that uses steam?

      Pretty much a Mini PC using Linux with Big Picture running as the skin for the OS.

    This article is misleading. It looks like the Steam box is more an idea and a standard than an actual physical machine.

    "Valve engineer Ben Krasnow has gone on record with Engadget as stating that the Xi3 is not the Steam Box, but merely one potential Steam Box."

    It seems as though Valve is actually engaging multiple hardware companies like Asus and Dell to discuss the idea of the Steam box, create a standard and then market them all as offerings.

    Sony and MS need not worry about it, especially MS because I see people getting frustrated with the lack of linix compatibility and buying Windows for their steam box anyway.
    I don't think people realise how big a job it is to port a big DX11 game to linix, add to this the size of some modern pc games is over 30GB's which will fill any SSD or flash ram very quickly, and once you add an external HDD the all in one box starts to lose it's point.
    If that Piston really costs close to a grand and only offers low to mid performance now it will be a paper weight in a year or two, at least when the new consoles do come out you will get 5 years out of it.

    This is going to fall flat very quickly post the honey moon period on launch. Simply because it doesn't know whether it's a console or PC. First you have very weak specs, limiting you to only the older titles or simpler games. Then you have Linux, further limiting you to the mercy of compatibility. The very last thing that'll determine it's luke warm success will be price.

    ...Then let's not forget that Gabe himself has already confirmed that this won't be an open platform.

      He said specifically that it IS an open platform - you can install windows on it if you want:
      "We’ll come out with our own and we’ll sell it to consumers by ourselves. That’ll be a Linux box, [and] if you want to install Windows you can. We’re not going to make it hard. This is not some locked box by any stretch of the imagination."

      Source: http://www.theverge.com/2013/1/8/3852144/gabe-newell-interview-steam-box-future-of-gaming

        He only said it's not a locked box. Being able to install Windows doesn't mean the platform isn't closed. The platform we're talking about is the Steam flavour of Linux. Installing Windows just means you're getting out of their platform.

    I just hooked my full tower to my TV, not rocket science you put the HDMI into the HDMI. It's more difficult to hook my xbox up.

    Steambox, depending on which model you have you can run these game at various qualities.
    Seriously are PC developers going to make sure that their games run on Steambox V1.0 in 2 years? 3 Years?

    X-Box/PSX, if the game was made for the system it works.

    I'm not making a call yet, it could be a very affordable media PC that plays some games which would be awesome, but if it retails for $1000 why am I not just building my own PC for that kind of money? Because in 2-3 years I can up the Video for a couple of hundred and get a new lease on life. I need a PC seperate from the TV that I share so I can amuse myself while it's in use.

    Gabe of Penny Arcade made an interesting comment about the Wii U in this regard, he can play COD:BLOPS2 while his kids or wife watch TV, and when their done he just swaps back to the big screen. Now say what you want about the Wii U, but that ability seems to be good some people and I quote:
    "If you’re not a single guy who can sit around his apartment all day in his underwear eating chips and playing CoD I’m telling you, the Wii U version is a gift from God. In fact it’s so good that I will probably buy every multiplatform game for the Wii U from now on as long as it has this functionality."

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