The official launch for Valve’s Steam Machines project starts today in the U.S. and some European countries, and the company is understandably excited about the launch, and eager to see their initiative prosper. For as long as computers have existed, people have tried shoving them into a living room to see if they could make it serve better as a console than any console could. And while the platform is capable of performing better for most, it wasn’t until Valve’s Steam client came up with Big Picture mode that things really started to take a turn for the better. Now the company is launching their Steam Machines platform after months of delay, and Valve’s head honcho, Gabe Newell, claims that his company’s products are better value than any console you could buy today. Hit the jump for more.
In an interview with Develop-Online, which secured some time with Newell, he claimed that at the entry level price points Steam Machines offered more and better configuration options than consoles typically allowed for, which is true depending on which games you’re playing. Steam Machines are pre-loaded with SteamOS, a Debian Wheezy-based distribution that has a customised desktop and interface for use with a Steam controller, or a Xbox 360 or Xbox One remote.
“At console price points, we’re going to have machines like Alienware’s, which are faster than today’s consoles,” said Newell. “So the same price point as today, except you get better performance and you’re connected to everything you like about the PC and the internet. Our perception is that customers are always going to make the best choices for what they want.”
While Newell is correct, there are several pitfalls that SteamOS is still trying to dodge successfully, the least of which is software compatibility. Most games available today aren’t coded to use OpenGL renderers, and fewer still are made with newer graphical APIs like Vulkan in mind. Some developers are able to successfully traverse, and even concurrently develop, for both DirectX and OpenGL, but smaller teams won’t have that time, money, or possibly expertise to port over their game systems, and thus progress is slow for many developers not making their games on platforms like Unity.
However, I do think that Gabe’s point about consumers making the best choices for them is quite apt. If a Playstation 4 or Xbox One works better for you, go for those. If you’re more comfortable playing on Windows than Linux, do that. No-one is forced into a platform decision by default, and SteamPlay does help with moving to different OSes that might support the games you currently play.
Chiming in to the interview, Rust developer Garry Newman pointed out to Develop-Online that many independent studios want to make games that would be suited for a home console like the Xbox One or PS4, but couldn’t get into it because of other requirements like funding, development kits, software expertise, and time.
“We might have been put off making games that are tailored to TV/controller before because of all the stupid stuff you had to go through to get a game on a console,” he said. “But now we might be thinking this makes it easy, let’s make that console-style game we were taking about.”
You can check out some of the Steam Machines already on sale here, and with Steam’s switch to using the South African rand later today, I think we’ll also be one of the countries open for orders for the Steam controller and Steam Link. If you have a compatible system, you can always download Linux and install Steam. Otherwise, just stick with Windows! Use what works for you.