A lack of steam in a machine

Valve’s Steam Machines were launched some seven months ago. They’ve made no impact on the consumers’ habits or to the general scene. The industry expected them to have an impact or challenge the existing consoles, but the reality is, nobody outside hardcore Steam fans gave a damn about them.

Not even their controller has made a huge impact. They’ve sold about a half million Steam controllers according to themselves (which may or may not be an exaggerated number) and the number compared to the amount of Steam’s users is laughably low. The thing is, computer is the king of input devices. You can essentially add any input device you want and even build your own, and then hope for the best the games on Steam support it, and that their anti-piracy system doesn’t screw you over. But that’s the point; PC itself is that Wild West of every thing’s free, but Steam limits the user, and Valve trying to push the Steam controller is an example of further putting that console twist to what essentially is a digital console.

However, are all these controller sold separately? Without a doubt no. This half million sales figure most likely includes sold Steam Machines as well, which would mean that the Machines have probably sold less than a half million in six month’s sales period. There are no exact numbers anywhere, and we’ll most likely never hear any. Valve had partnered with numerous companies from Alienware to NEN to deliver their machines, a thing that caused more confusion to the general public than anything else.

People who already wanted to play console games on a power PC already had their gaming rig build and ready to go, and those who didn’t want to spend few thousands to build a supercomputer were satisfied with the console versions for their own reasons.

The Steam Machine is a physical iteration of a digital games console, and it showed that people aren’t willing to dish out money on yet another machine to play games when they have a computer to run Steam on. Both the PlayStation 4 and Xbone sold over a million units on their first day back in 2013. To compare how well those two sold compared to Steam Machine, PS4 had sold 10.2 million units and Xbone 5.5 million in the same passing of time.

Steam Machine has been barely a splash in a puddle, comparable to any other dud console in the game history, especially with Valve’s status. If we’re completely honest, Steam OS is an idea worth jack shit as it supports no standards widely used. Linux is a nice thing but has its own problems, while Windows still rules as the standard OS across the world in most cases, followed and overtaken by Apple’s machines in certain fields. There is no reason for a consumer to move from their standard current setup to a dedicated Steam console. There are no benefits to do so, especially when Steam is free to download.

Steam Machines have nothing to do with PC gaming, much like how the only thing Steam has to do with PC gaming is that it’s a software on PC that functions like a game console. Giving Steam Machines any credit for driving Linux gaming is stupid, as Valve already released a version of Steam catered for Linux users before Steam Machines.

What appeal do the Steam Machines have? I have to ask this, as it seems that everything was against them. They had no exclusive deals that other consoles had as all titles that were offered through it were also available on the Windows Steam. The controller had put off a lot of people due to its general functions, especially in an environment where you can put a goddamn fleshlight into the USB jack and play games by using your hip movement. Their price range is rather on the high-end, starting from around five hundred dollars if their site is to be believed. That puts it automatically above the basic budget the common consumer wants to put into a game console, and both Xbone and PS4 are cheaper. Whatever capabilities the Steam OS is wasted on a  Steam Machine, when you probably have a computer sitting next to your desk.

Steam Machine baffles me. What was the point of it in the end? To make a computer more user-friendly for a console user?  If that was the intention, they’ve underestimated their consumer base in a major way.  A console is just a box to play games on, and without anything special on a particular console (especially in the price range they are in) Steam Machines withered fast. It doesn’t help that after the Steam Machines’ launch, Valve did exactly jack shit with them and their promotion has been worse than the new Ghostbusters’.

The only good thing from all this is the fact that Valve really is intending to push Linux gaming further, but as said, Valve had been pushing that before Steam Machines. Without a doubt they are one of the major reasons why they are doing it now, and perhaps had planned it beforehand. Valve should drop their nigh stupidly manical ideas of pushing a physical iteration of Steam any further or an Operating System dedicated to it, and stick with driving more Linux and OS compatible titles.

The last thing that shows that Valve failed with Steam Machines that there is no buzz about them. There is not discussion on the general level or even news about them. Occasionally you can see news about Xbox or PlayStation, even about the Wii U. People will discuss them and their games. Steam Machines will be a footnote on electronic gaming history alongside Atari Jaguar.

However, that controller of theirs has still something in it. It’s floating in the ether and pops up in discussion about controllers, but that seems to be it. Still a failure in the end.

PC game market is wide open for the taking

Valve’s an interesting company. They have managed to further turn legions of PC game players into console users with the Steam, and with their recent announcements of SteamOS and Steam Machines, they’ve essentially abandoned PC game market. Valve has decided to cannibalise the console market instead, mainly the upcoming PS4 and Xbone.

StOS is essentially a way to turn your computer into a game console. It’s a Linux based OS that allows your computer to run games better, if I’ve understood the little info I’ve read correctly. But that’s beside the point. The point is that your PC with the StOS is now dedicated to run games. It’s not anymore a virtual console, but an actual, physical console.

Whoever thinks that this will challenge Windows’ place or whatever Apple is pushing out needs a reality check. A dedicated OS like this won’t appear on workplaces or in schools. StOS is aimed at the people who want to play games easily on their computers, but people who want to play console games will buy a console to play these games, and people who want the computer game experience are shunned.

A company like Valve shouldn’t put their resources into developing an operating system. Operating system has nothing to do with games. Valve hasn’t even made games in a long damn time now, they’ve just repacked the console idea and have been reselling console games for the PC market. Games like La-Mulana are console games and sell for something like three bucks on Steam. Valve hasn’t been a game company for a long time now, and now with StOS they solidify that they’re a non-game software company. They want you to play games, but games through their software. With Steam Machines, they’re also saying that they want you to play games on their hardware.

Valve’s SteamBox is now something else. Nobody really knows what, as Valve didn’t show any of the Steam Machines or tell much about them. It’s a generic market trick, that seemed to work on the hardcore Steam fans. But who is the targeted person here? If Valve has really decided to split modern dumbed down PC consoles’ functions between multiple machines, they’re really making a stupid decision. Actually, they’re talking about streaming services with Steam Machines, as in that the Machines are to stream Steam content from a PC. That’s stupid. If you have a Steam capable PC, even the stupidest person realizes that it is possible to connect your PC to a television and have wireless controls from your couch to your PC.

Valve claims that Entertainment is not a one-size-fits-all world and there’s a small truth in there. If asked from a random person on the street, they’d be glad to take one machine that could to everything in their livingroom, from playing music to DVDs. Having multiple machines that all do different things different ways and in different fashion will confuse the customer, unless they’re know exactly what they want and how they want it, and we all know that this kind of customer is extremely rare. Yet, they’re intending to say that they want to invade the living-room with multiple machines by different manufacturers that would optimize your experience. This sounds like something a tech geek would cream over, not the general customer. People who want multiple pieces of equipment to run one thing are generally speaking a rare sight. So yeah, one size doesn’t fit for all in entertainment, but is sure does fit for the majority of them. As before, a console’s just a box to play Mario on. Now Valve’s saying that there’s a vast need for multiple boxes to streamplay Mario. And to stream video. And to stream music. And most likely photos as well. Can’t forget those.

Actually, why the hell do consoles have image viewing software in them? Hell, even my TV is capable of showing pictures via USB-memory. What’s the damn point? How many people have actually transferred images to a USB-stick and used their console or TV to to view images? The only time I have seen anyone viewing images in 360 was when I was testing a Kinect at a friend’s place, and that just when the game took in-game screenshots. Otherwise people just use their computer screens to do so, and the older folks just want the damn pictures printed. For fucks sake, it’s completely useless and they’ve been pushing these image viewing software into everything they can think of. Next thing I know they have a damn alarm clock that has a screen showcasing pictures while waking you up.

No, don’t tell me that such a thing exists. It’s stupid idea enough that somebody has already designed and massproduced it.

Perhaps The worst statement what they’re offering is that you can do whatever you want to the Steam Machines, from installing your own software into them to building a robot out of it. We all remember how successful piece OUYA was with the same promises.

What information we have now, we can say that Valve’s new scheme to further consolise the PC game market has an awful design in it, and mostly Valve fanboys will be eating this like the tastiest porridge ever. This would offer an interesting competition with the other gaming consoles, but to think that now almost all the consoles are offering same games same way with same extras. We already can see that Steam Machines are going to offer video and music streaming from certain services, so they’re further parting from consoles and closer to… modern consoles.

It’s mind boggling. If Valve’s really pushing StOS out as their biggest and best service, and Half-Life 3 as their trump card, I really hope that they have a large amount of people convincing themselves that the project was a large success.

You know how Valve would have made more money? By putting their resources into developing games. If Valve and their higher-ups cared for games, they would have put out Half-Life 5 out this year and the numerous DLCs to rack up some more money. Instead they’ve been coasting on their initial success with most famous games all this time, as well as coasting on the success of other games via Steam.