Steam's Next Big Thing
With the recent announcements of Valve's new Steam OS, Steambox, and controller, lots of questions and speculations have been raised by the gaming community. What exactly is it? Who is it meant for? Will it pose a threat to upcoming consoles? Do I even need this if I already own a PC?
I've broken down and dissected the various components of Valve's announcements and have come up with a guide for those interested in Valve's next big thing.
Steam OS is an operating system designed to stream Windows and Mac games, along with music and movies, from a computer to a TV screen. The OS is Linux-based and also incorporates Steam Family Sharing and Big Picture Mode for TV friendly gaming. The Steam OS will be available for free and also will be the main OS on the upcoming...
Rumored for months, the fabled “Steam Box” finally revealed itself as the Steam Machine, a machine that will allow users to stream games to the living room. The Steam Machines are currently being produced by a variety of manufactures and are set to be released in 2014 under different configurations and, most likely, varying price ranges.
Each machine will run under Steam OS and utilize the Big Picture UI. 300 units are currently being prepped to ship to beta testers, with some of the machines running high-end specs using off-the-shelf PC parts. It has also been announced that each Steam Machine can be fully customized.
Steam PC Controller
The third announcement from Valve was the reveal of a new controller designed to be compatible with every game available from Steam as well as legacy support for some older titles.
Instead of analog sticks, the controller uses touch pads along with touch surface and screen that allows you to customize the controls to your liking, thereby removing the limitations of buttons and triggers typical of traditional controllers. Valve promises the use of touch pads on the controllers will ensure that gamers will have precise control over “frequency, amplitude and direction of movement.”
What does this mean for gamers, and do you really need to purchase a Steam Machine when they start releasing next year?
For those looking to get into PC gaming without the hassle and fuss of building a gaming rig or dropping a small fortune on a gaming laptop, this system is a great option. By offering a variety of different ways to play and using one of the largest digital platforms for PC gaming, users are guaranteed a large backlog of games, as well as games from Valve and other publishers that promise future Steam OS integration.
The PC has an almost endless supply of titles that I've dreamed of playing from the comfort of my own living room chair. Due to the awkwardness of setting up my gaming rig in my living room, I’ve never done it. Now that Valve is offering all the benefits of an uber-powerful gaming PC with the comfort and convenience of a console, this dream is finally becoming a reality.
It is too early to declare this a winner over the new batch of consoles. A lot depends on the marketing and pricing; however, even if this system doesn't convince the console gamer to switch over to the PC side, the possibilities alone would still benefit PC gamers looking for a more accessible way to play. Combine that with various machine configurations and price points and there should be something for every PC gamer.
The only major issue I currently see with this is the use of a Linux OS. Not every game currently supports or runs on Linux, but knowing Valve, they will most likely strongly support this OS and make a strong push for major publishers and games to support it as well.
This will not be an easy task for Valve. They need to win the support of hardware manufacturers who do not currently support Linux, build and promote tools that the core demographic will use, and develop apps that will get people interested in the platform. However, if Valve can successfully complete these tasks and deliver a system that allows us have this level of convenience and functionality, it stands a chance of taking PC gaming off the desk top and into the living room where everyone is welcome to watch and play.
While it may be early in the game, I am eager to see where Valve will go, and honestly, am really eager to play the PC version of Skyrim (with mods) in my living room from the comfort of my sofa.