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Is Steam Challenging Console Gaming?

Is Steam Challenging Console Gaming?

Following in the footsteps of some of the industry’s most notorious cases of vaporwareSteam has plans to finally take PC gaming away from, well, the PC.

Steam LogoI haven’t had much experience with Steam as I prefer to breathe new life in the forgotten and dejected consoles and accessories I’m constantly on the hunt for, but it seems that the folks over at Valve want to issue a serious challenge to the rising 8th generation of console gaming.  Valve has plans to beta test it’s new SteamOS starting this year followed by a wider release sometime in 2014.  And that’s not all.  In addition to the fully-customizable and FREE SteamOSthere are also plans for pre-built “Steam Machines” allowing PC gamers to enjoy their favorite titles on their TV.

Minimum specifications for SteamOS have yet to be revealed, but Valve has stated that it will ensure “significant performance increases in graphics processing” and that issues of lag will be addressed.  Several companies are already hard at work designing and building these Steam Machines but exact details regarding their function remain secret.  SteamOS will play Linux-based games from Steam’s selection on its own and will also provide the means to stream PC and Mac titles (from a PC or Mac with the Steam Client installed)  across home networks.

Steam Machine

And there’s more.

Steam ControllerThe Steam Machines will come with the Steam Controller, a very different animal than we’re used to seeing.  Both console and computer controllers have taken various forms over the years, but as the 6th generation closed we began to see some serious homogenization of controller shapes.  When laid side by side, you won’t notice any wild differences between between the Xbox One, PS4, and Wii U Pro Controllers.  Even the Wii U’s Gamepad mimics the general function of these devices, albeit with a giant screen in the middle.  For several years the standard has been a roughly rhomboid configuration of 4 action buttons, dual thumbsticks have gradually supplanted other solutions for moving in 3D environments, and the rarely used L and R buttons of the SNES and 3DO have evolved into the nigh-essential shoulder and trigger button pairs.

The upcoming Steam Controller promises to give us our first truly unique controller design since the Wii Remote with it’s intent to imitate the experience of playing games with a keyboard and computer mouse.  Instead of thumbsticks, the Steam Controller is equipped with recessed touch pads, and 4 action buttons surround the center, which is fitted with a generous touch screen.  It retains a pair of trigger and shoulder buttons on each side, ostensibly for the play of first-person shooters.

Steam has finally found a solution where so many other efforts have failed.  The ApeXtreme, Indrema L600, and The Phantom all promised to bring PC gaming into the living room, but it looks like this long-lived concept will finally be realized by the Steam Machine.  Will it stack up to the likes of Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft?  Or will the schism between PC and console gaming remain as irreconcilable as the division of the Roman Empire?  Hopefully we’ll only have to wait as long as 2014 to find out.

Be sure to read Malefico’s take on what one of these “Steam Machines” might look like!

Written by The Cubist

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist

Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

Email me anytime, about anything:

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  1. Pingback: Has Xbox One Already Sealed Its Fate?

  2. It kind of depends on who they’re targeting with the OS, and what the endgame is. Maybe there will be a Steam console in the future? They already pretty much rule a large segment of PC gaming, so logically speaking the next step might be to expand into the console market. They already have over 2000 titles in their library ranging in price from $3 to $60, and probably host more new releases than anyone due to the large number of indie developers that use them to distribute new titles, plus the fact that a lot of big developers go though Steam as well. They already have Big Picture, the controller and the OS in the pipeline. They could offer a box based on the Mini-ITX form factor and it would be almost as small as the consoles and have expandable memory and storage, fit a full-size video card in there and outdo MS and Sony in performance, or take a more conservative route and use some kind of APU configuration. Something to think about.

  3. Shadow Links says:

    Lol, clever. Nah that will be the name of their next game engine after Source.

  4. “Steam Machine” does have a nice ring to it…but my god why can’t we have the…STEAM ENGINE!!??

  5. Shadow Links says:

    The controller design is definitely intriguing. Not sure about the OS though. A media center basis is pretty cool, but i do other things with my computer. Back at college we did have a dedicated media center computer that was always hooked up to the TV, which would have worked though.

  6. It looks like a 360 controller turned inside out. I didn’t even understand the parts of it until I read up on it.

    Waaaay back, like 2 whole years ago, I bought Stronghold 3. I thought it was gonna be a run of the mill installation, but instead, I had to also install Steam which was a long and awful process. I was actually really excited to play Stronghold 3, but every time I loaded it it brought up the giant Steam thing and my damn computer just crawled. My comp was only a year old at that point; I mean I imagine people with computers far older and less powerful were running Steam as well, but I dunno. It just seems like when computers *start* crawling they never quite return to their normal selves. I don’t really like mixing my computer with gaming too much anyway though, but if I had a dedicated piece of equipment for it, PC games are probably something I’d look at just a closely as any other “system” I had.

    • Man, I really don’t understand why you had that experience. Steam has changed a lot over the years; their pricing and promo models have changed for the better, and I think the basic Steam app at this point ends up being less than 2MB installed, and took about 20 seconds on the decrepit tower I’m sticking to for the game reviews. If you were running Vista I’d be tempted to say that might have been part of it. 7 is what Vista should have been. In fact, I’m convinced they only released Vista as a sick joke, so they wouldn’t be out of pocket while they finished developing the “real” OS.

      • Luckily (I guess?) my PC experience skipped over Vista. But even people who I’d never heard talk about computers complained about it.

        Maybe I’ll give Steam another shot then, someday. Perhaps Stronghold 3 itself was the problem? I don’t know enough about computers in that regard to do any more than guess.

  7. Great piece! I love it. I’m friggin goin crazy over the controller concept! It looks awesome! I mean, I don’t play Steam…… Ever! But I’m still interested to at least make love to a Steam controller!


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