I felt it important to post this video on my blog. Like MundaneMatt, I am a Nintendo fan. If you grew up with Nintendo like MundaneMatt and I did, do yourself a favour and give this video a watch. It’s a welcome walk down memory lane.
Finished watching? The first issue I wish to discuss concerns the thirteen different models. What is the point of having more than one? Not only are these Steam Machines competing with Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony, but they are competing with each other. Before continuing on this point, let me add my own perspective to this. To start with, I’m not a PC gamer for two reasons. The first is that gaming PCs are far more expensive than game consoles. The second is, even if I had the money to buy one, I have no idea what kind of specifications I should be looking for. This is why I buy consoles. I don’t have to worry about specifications or whether I will need to replace parts anytime soon. There is no need to worry about any of that. When console gamers give these thirteen Steam Machines a look, as Rich said, they will be intimidated. How will they know which one to buy? Considering the prices of the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, the iBuyPower and the CyberPowerPC models will probably be the ones that console gamers gravitate towards. Even with only these two choices, there will still be enough confusion as to which is better to keep many console gamers from buying either. Referring back to Rich’s point on this, the fact that there is not one, and only one Steam Machine undermines Valve’s original plan, which was to simplify PC gaming. How does this simplify PC gaming? The truth is that it doesn’t. The decision to have more than one will scare away console gamers, which brings up my next point.
Another issue raised by Rich in his video, which is the second I wish to discuss, concerns the Steam Machines’ varying specifications. To be more specific, will the Steam Machine that gamers purchase be able to play PC games a few years from now? As MundaneMatt stated in his vlog, since PC games become more and more demanding over time, Steam Machines will have a shorter life span than the other game consoles. Will it be worth it to buy one of the inexpensive models or should gamers buy the more expensive ones and hope they will get their money’s worth? Once again, these are not issues the Xbox One, the Nintendo Wii U or the Playstation 4 have to deal with. Console gamers don’t have to worry about whether or not the next Halo, Mario or Uncharted will be playable on these next-gen systems. These games are produced for a specific console, with that console’s hardware limitations in mind. If all Steam Machines were equally capable, even with varying features like addition hard drive storage, this wouldn’t be as big an issue. PC games would be produced with the Steam Machine’s limitations in mind, restricting developers from making games that couldn’t be played on these systems. As it sits right now, these restriction don’t exist, and because of that, PC game developers will be producing games in a few years time that only the more expensive Steam Machines could play.
The third issue, which I haven’t seen many people asking about, is what kind of gamer is Valve marketing these systems to? As I stated earlier, if your approach doesn’t simplify PC gaming for console gamers, who do you expect to buy this product? Even if console gamers wouldn’t be intimidated by the large selection of different Steam Machines, these consoles are being released after all other next-gen systems have launched. As MundaneMatt stated in his vlog, with a base model priced at five-hundred dollars, who could afford one after picking up an Xbox One or Playstation 4? If the Steam Machine is supposed to compete with the next-gen systems, why wasn’t it released earlier, before console gamers had bought their systems? For those who have yet to but a next-gen system, what incentive do console gamers have to buy a Steam Machine? In terms of games, it doesn’t have the first-party or third-party exclusives that the other systems have. Also, as MundaneMatt said, console gamers are generally not interested in PC games. Whatever games do catch the attention of console gamers are eventually ported over from the PC. Knowing this, why would a console gamer buy a system that doesn’t have many, if any must-have first-party or third-party exclusives? Despite wanting to appeal to console gamers, the Steam Machine would really only appeal to PC gamers, which brings up my final point.
Considering who will actually buy a Steam Machines, PC gamers, what is their incentive to do so? As I stated previously, the Steam Machines will not only be competing with Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony, but they will also competing with each other. Add to that list of competitors PCs that already have the Steam service already installed on them. Gabe Newell may have thought his response to Xbox One sales numbers was smart, but it was actually pretty stupid. It demonstrates that neither he nor anyone else at Valve have thought this through. Assuming this number is even accurate, what is the incentive for these sixty-five-million people, who already own a PC capable of running the Steam service, to buy a Steam Machine? The luxury of being able to play PC games on their high-definition television (HDTV)? Most HDTVs have PC inputs, and most modern PCs also have HDMI outputs, so connectivity isn’t an issue. In fact, many people, including myself, already use their HDTVs as a monitor for their PC. How about access to exclusive titles? PC gamers would already have access to whatever first-party and third-party exclusives come to the Steam service. Would Valve deny those who don’t have a Steam Machine access to these games? I doubt would considering how many people use the Steam service. I could continue, but I’ve already made my point.
The warning bells are already going off. Gabe Newell may be a genius when it comes to PC gaming, but he doesn’t understand the console gaming market. IGN is already having their doubts after spending time with the Steam Machine controller, and the more gamers hear about Valve’s console(s), the less impressed they are. Despite Rich’s cautious optimism, I don’t think that I will be picking up a Steam Machine. I already own a Nintendo Wii U and a Sony Playstation 4, and if I had enough money and the desire to buy another gaming console, I would buy an Xbox One because it actually has exclusive games I would like to play. In the end, I don’t see any reason for anyone, especially console gamers, to buy a Steam Machine. It’s just thirteen poorly planned and horrible marketed boxes of unwanted frustration.