We Know More About Valve’s Steam Machines Than You May Think

We Know More About Valve’s Steam Machines Than You May Think

When Valve officially announced its Steam Machines two weeks ago, it skimped a bit on the details — we know that there will be a wide variety of living-room-centric PCs, and we know they’ll run the Linux-based SteamOS operating system, but we don’t know much about specs, prices or options.


Let’s travel back in time. The year: 2013. The month: February. The place: Las Vegas.

The scene: Valve boss Gabe Newell delivering the keynote at the DICE gaming conference.

During his talk, Newell actually shed a lot of light on his company’s long-term plans for the Steam Machine, and now that Valve’s made the official announcement, we can give those remarks some more context.

“We think there’s actually gonna be a segmentation,” Newell said, laying out three possibilities: Good, Better, and Best. “The good-better-best will relate directly to both pricing and functionality.”

Valve hasn’t officially announced any of these Good, Better, or Best models yet, but looking back at what Newell said in February, we can figure out exactly what they’ll be like. Let’s break it down.


Specs: Low-end machines, more akin to an extra monitor than an actual computer, according to Newell. The “good” machines will stream games to your television from your real PC, which does all the processing — the “heavy lifting” — from somewhere else in the house. This fits with what Valve said last month about SteamOS’s streaming capabilities, and it also seems to be the company’s solution for getting non-Linux games running on their Linux-based operating system: if it can’t run natively, you’re gonna have to stream it.

Cost: “That’s gonna start at about $US100 and eventually go down to zero,” Newell said.


Specs: This is what you get if you want to replicate a next-gen console — the middle-end Steam Machines will compete with the likes of Xbox One and PS4, Newell said. Expect specs around that area. This machine of course won’t have the Xbox and PlayStation’s software exclusives, but it will be upgradable, and it will be a valuable soldier in the never-ending PC-vs.-console wars.

Cost: Also comparable to consoles, Newell said — given that the PS4 is $US400 and the Xbox One is $US500, we’re looking at what will probably fall into the $US300-$US500 range, depending what kind of models Valve offers.

(Worth noting: Newell doesn’t think the Steam Machine’s biggest competition is the console-makers; what really scares him is whatever Apple decides to do with games in the living room, if they ever make a move like that.)


Specs: This is the hard stuff — “the sky is the limit,” Newell said. We’re talking luxurious, ultra-powerful PCs, much like the high-end prototype that Valve will send to a lucky 300 beta users later this year. Titan graphics cards, i7 processors — that sort of thing.

Cost: Could be anything. “If you want a $US4000 living room box, I’m sure there are lots of PC vendors that are gonna send that to you,” Newell said. More realistically, we’re probably looking at a $US1000-$US2000 range, depending how Valve equips these machines. Our rough estimates, based on Valve’s first Steam Machine prototype, place the highest-end box at around $US1850 — and that’s without the controller or whatever other mark-ups Valve adds to the beast.

Granted, Valve’s plans may have changed over the past eight months, but this sort of categorisation fits with everything they’ve announced so far. We might see fancier names than Good, Better, Best, but we’ll definitely see options. No Half-Life 3, though. We’ll never see that.


    • Throwing in the entire Valve collection would be a great incentive to get them started and familiar to the environment of Steam and such.

  • Id be interested to see if a Steam Box that costs about the same as a new console will perform as well.
    Very wary about all of this. I can easily see it being poor value for money when compared to next gen consoles/custom build PC’s.

    • I’m 50/50 on this. I think that this will fill a niche area between people who build their own gaming rigs and those who buy consoles. I think Gabe may be trying to hone in people who don’t know enough to build their own PC (which, as an aside, I think is kinda silly as I had no technical knowledge and with a month of research via Google I built myself an awesome rig) but want access to PC games.
      In saying that, the chasm between console and PC games has shrunk with every console generation. A lot of games are now available across all three major players (M$, Sony, PC) and many “next-gen” releases say they are coming to “Xbox One, PS4 and PC”.
      From my point of view, this may be a disaster.
      In saying that, I didn’t build Steam up to a multi-million dollar platform and Valve as a multi-million dollar company so I’m pretty much talking out of my arse.

      • That’s right. Right now the layman only has three choices for getting into PC gaming.
        1) Build your own from custom part, best value for money but some technical aptitude required.
        2) Buy a standard pre-build, while simple and there’s variety, most distributors obfuscate specs and usually put the most under-performing hardware inside.
        3) Buy a gaming pre-build, in comparison with standard they are actually high-end and powerful, but boy do they charge for it.

        These Steam Machines are going to fill the gap and sell as a lifestyle device similar to Apple hardware: easily approachable, low variety, high brand recognition, designed to work very well with the software associated with it and at price points that reflect their actual value.

  • $300-500 to close to $2,000 seems like a bit of a dramatic leap to me. Surely they can put out something that would be a powerhouse for $1K. If cost really is a factor they would be able to subsidise with steam sales.

    • There is no reason why there couldn’t be a multitude of Steam Machines in between those 2 points. What I see being great is if Valve setup a site like Apple’s and had a “design your own” section. This would allow you to customise the console to your needs whilst not requiring much knowledge at all, especially if there was an example list of what games would run on this machine and how well.

  • If it works half as well as they imply for 100 bucks I will definitely get a box for the living room. Main PC will be in the other room but to provide a couch session, well worth it

    • Especially if the $100 box will also serve as a nextflix/hulu/media player. like a Roku or Apple TV does now.

    • I could easily see a streaming Steam Machine for $100. The Apple TV has the same streaming tech (Just laggier) and that is only $100 which includes any possible “Apple Tax”.

  • May have been answered elsewhere but im lazy, does origin run on these units or does that mean no bf4, also same goes for having to sign into uplay on some games

    • I don’t think anyone has said anything about Origin or UPlay on Steam OS. Probably to early to tell, however these will be PCs like any other and you should be able to install windows as normal.

    • The better question is: are you a sado-maso? Because you will be thoroughly reamed by everyone playing BF4 with mouse/kb, while you sit on couch with controller. 🙁

  • I get the $100 option (seems awesome).

    Wouldn’t the mid and best setups be just the same as building a PC yourself? I can’t really see them selling you over the counter computer components cheaper than you can pick them up at MSY or anything?

    I get that there’s an advantage to buying a steam box (they might be able to optimise things on your hardware because they know what’s possible).

    For me I see the whole steam OS thing as:
    a) A great way to get my existing machine streaming to my living room
    b) Chucking some old parts together to make a streamlined machine next to my tv.

    The notion of shelling out $500+ for a dedicated steam machine seems crazy…. wouldn’t people just prefer a PC that can do everything…. as well as run PC games?

    • It’s the idea, it’s hardware put together that will knowingly run the games that are on Steam, for some people they want that experience but have no idea where to start and possibly don’t know anyone that does and they don’t want to go to a computer store and be taken for a ride saying they need this, this & that, when they really don’t.

      I know a few people who would jump at the option of a 500 dollar pre built gaming computer that is guaranteed to run games that are on Steam. Hell if Valve price it well enough i’d even look at getting a mid range one to hook up to my TV to use for more couch orientated games and stuff like Rocksmith and as a replacement for my Raspberry Pi which has been issue after issue.

      • Do you run your raspberry pi for streaming media/will the steam OS’s allow this?

        I get what you’re saying but I can’t see a $500 machine being any good…. realistically that money needs to include (case, power supply, motherboard, cpu, ram, hdd, graphics card)… and of course shipping/recouping marketing costs etc. Suddenly $500 isn’t really gonna build you that great a pc… ESPECIALLY for gaming (heck a decent gfx card is like $300-$500 alone). So I’m stumped as to how good this machine will actually be/is it actually worth it?

        I guess it’s a good idea for people who literally have no idea, but then again wouldn’t these people just ask a friend/shop on ebay/get a console? Surely there’s not that many people who have 0 clue about pc’s yearning for a mid-low specc’d machine just to run steam games? If that was me in the situation I would always just assume the worst and put my money towards an XBox because I know nothing (relatively) can go wrong with it.

        If the Steam OS covers more ground like media streaming and pvr’ing then it is starting to corner more advantages to having a pc in your living room (which is what Xbox one is trying to do).

        Once again, I’m loving the idea but I’m skeptical as to how much they’ll sell because it’s still a bit of a weird zone ($500 for a pc turned console)…. why not just get a pc… or a console (or both if you’re a spoiled nerd/brat :)).

        • I use it as a media player, but it’s not exactly ideal, it’s laggy and seems underpowered to playback 720P content =/ and it’s the one with 512mb, though I think it may be the install of XBMC. I really need to check that out, but i’m lazy.

          Well last year I went out and bought a core i5 2500k, GTX 560, Gigabyte motherboard, 8gb of kingston ram & a 500Gb seagate HDD for just under 600, and it runs most if not all games perfectly fine on high. For another 100 bucks you could throw in a case with power supply, but I already had those & 2 optical drives. You don’t need to spend big to have a really decent computer these days.

          The Steam OS will be a Linux kernal, so XBMC is plausible, same with plex, both as far as I know have PVR capabilities. If Valve partner with hardware companies for a good discount rate then they could be on a real winner, Remember we pay full retail, Valve being the company they are in the PC world could probably get a decent discount on it all and churn them out for possibly the prices that are quoted here.

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