The Potential of the Valve Steam Box/SteamOS - Talidan Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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The Potential of the Valve Steam Box/SteamOS

This is my first serious blog post and I feel like it would be most appropriate to introduce myself as part of a circle of people sitting in cheap folding chairs, gathered in a dimly-lit room, most likely in the basement of a church, or community hall, that you reach by entering a door with a paper sign reading, "Gamers Anonymous".

So, hello, I'm Daniel, and I'm a gamer. (To which you should all respond with, in unison, "Hi, Daniel")

Why do I feel I should introduce myself in such a way? Because gaming is truly an addiction for me. Is it one I let get in the way of my life, or cripple my bank account? Not at all, but it's something that is constantly on my mind and I have this compulsion to devour as much information regarding the subject as possible. It consumes me in the sanest, safest way possible. Considering how some people are out there, I'm thankful my obsession is as limited as it is.

My main form of gaming is done on the PC, and despite the attitude that surrounds the peers of my chosen platform, I would like to think I am not so conceited, but it is what I feel is the best platform for me. 

So, when news started to break that Valve was stepping into the hardware arena, I was foaming at the mouth. Valve, arguably the savior of PC gaming, moving forward from its glorious gift of Steam, as THE software platform for computer players, towards a living room solution befitting the general elitist crowd I belong to...what could be better? 

Compared to the usual console creators, Valve practically treats its customers as royalty, always looking for ways to improve its game distrubition platform for us and giving amazing deals on what we desire the most. Obviously, they don't do all that they do specifically to please us. If they did, then they wouldn't charge a cent for a game. They do it because they are a business. One that has found that by giving the consumer most of what they really want, their wallets get bigger. It's a wonderful way of doing business that works so well for both parties that you have to wonder why it isn't done more often. Truth is, it's done all the time by successful companies. It's how business works, but Valve has been so careful to not upset their consumers by slowly building things that the usual overly-vocal minorty of "haters" of a company, as they are commonly known as, are drowned out by the even more vocal lovers of this company in particular.

These lovers of Valve, of which I am one, can so very easily put their unwavering faith into the new hardware venture because they know it will be done in a way that will satisfy the majority. Though, speaking honestly, I do not know for certain how they plan to play this out. My faith tells me they will execute this perfectly, but the realist in me is telling me that they could fall flat on their face. Given their track record, it isn't likely, but it can happen. Just about every company has made a business move so horribly stupid that they run the risk of toppling everything they have built up.

  Up ahead in this blog post are some plays they could make that are absolute speculation on my part and could potentially set Valve up in the living room of not just PC gamers looking for an objectively better living room experience, but gamers that have been dedicated to the usual three major console companies who might see a cheaper yet more optimal gaming experience. 

Let's start with the SteamOS. It's the easiest place as many features have just been announced and most assumptions can be safely made considering what the Steam platform has shown already.

Linux itself has been a very tricky operating system to make likable for the average tech consumer. Several distributions have managed to creep into a somewhat mainstream light, but still remaining in the advanced PC world. As gaming is one of the few ways for PCs to reach home users, it's probably the best way to bring Linux to the mainstream with a distribution built primarily for the activity.  While this is a benefit for Linux, it's probably not why Valve is doing it.

Why are they, then? Because it's an easier way to develop an OS customized to a specific use than building one from the ground up. That would take so much unnecessary work, and funds, that it would be better to trash the SteamOS idea completely. Rather than dumping it, they're utilizing the openness of Linux to create a free OS platform for gamers. 

While at the start, the benefits of this may not seem obvious, due to the smaller number of games compatible with Linux,  developers may soon start taking the OS seriously, putting more games out on the platform. You might ask, "What's in it for me?" and the answer is close to the reasoning behind consoles: A gaming-focused system that will put more resources towards video games instead of extra services that only slow games down. 

To that, you may follow up with, "So, why not get a console instead?". Well, nothing would stop you from choosing to do that, but wouldn't you like something similar to a console, made primarily for video games, but gives you the freedom of PC and then some? You could easily surf the web, download movies, type up your book report, and do serious gaming with either a controller OR keyboard/mouse from the comfort of your living room, or work desk. 

Just about everything you can do on a regular computer, you would be able to do from one device that is potentially as optimized for gaming as a console. 

What if you wanted to keep your Windows PC experience? Honestly, there are many, MANY programs that will not run on Linux that you might still need Windows for. Isn't that a deal-breaker? No, not really. You'll be able to install Windows right on the same system if you felt so inclined. That's right, I'm telling you that you'll be able to have basically a console experience and your usual Windows experience all in one.

Most of the features that are part of the SteamOS have been announced today and how you feel about them are totally up to you and many of them are added convenience that may not make you run head-on for the platform. It's nice to have some of those features, but they're not big sellers.

One thing that I have not seen people mention is the fact that this is going to be PC gaming with the usual online multiplayer we have seen for decades on the platform. That means it will be free. With both the PS4 and Xbox One requiring monthly payment to be able to participate in most online gaming, that can be a huge selling point and might help move the official hardware if the system is priced reasonably.

Now, with most of the SteamOS stuff talked about, it's time to move onto the Steam Box. With the SteamOS that will be released for free to all, any computer can become a Steam Box. Your Windows, Mac, or Linux computer, with a (hopefully) quick install will suddenly be a gaming machine. This is pretty cool, but still not something that will launch the Steam Box into a console-killer.

What if I told you that you could have a mid-range PC gaming system, with about the same performance, or better, than the next-gen consoles for about the same price, or cheaper? Right now, you can go to Newegg.com and order the parts to put together a gaming rig with a graphics card said to be about on par with the next-gen systems for under $500. That's pretty great if you want to build your own. Keep in mind, though, that's consumer price. 

Valve would be able to get the same components, or better, for cheaper, for mass producing gaming PCs for the living room. This puts them in a position to challenge consoles, which is what people are saying they won't be able to do. With a price-point on the same level as consoles, why wouldn't they be able to?

What if I told you there is potential for it to be even cheaper than that? Valve will be in a great position to release a competing system for $400 or under by selling at a loss. This would allow them to compete directly, with a cheaper system, allowing them to more rapidly grow their user base. Valve takes about a 30% cut from game sales sold through Steam, which could allow them to make up the cost of selling the Steam Box at a loss. 

I have no idea how Valve is actually going to being playing this out, but despite what people say, there is great potential that they could compete head-on with the consoles. My own personal belief is that they will do something like this with the Steam Box hardware because it would be the best way to get a foothold in the living room, appealing to more than the niche crowd that already uses PCs are their preferred platform. By offering all the features of a PC, but in an environment comfortable for console players, with added features like streaming games from other PCs, combined with the insane sales the Steam regularly offers, the Steam Box has the potential to be the best gaming platform of all time. 

Or it could fail. We'll see. Personally, I'm excited to see what happens, no matter the result.

 

(I am sorry for errors in my syntax, spelling, or if my writing is just all over the place. I used to write for a gaming site, but it's been years so I am very rusty and I tend to write better in response to someone because the majority of my more serious writing is to reply in comments. So, comment and I will probably elaborate on my opinion better than what I have written here.)

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