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Opinion: Who Needs A Steam Box?

by Jeff Cork on Sep 25, 2013 at 04:00 AM

On Monday, Valve announced that it is developing SteamOS, an operating system designed specifically with gaming in mind. It was the first of three announcements coming from the company this week, and some are speculating that news on the Steam Box – a nickname for Valve’s long-rumored gaming PC – is coming soon. If anyone is actually waiting for such a device, great. But they should know that the living-room solution for PC gaming has existed for years now.

Are you interested in playing PC games on your television, from the comfort of your couch? Do you already have a relatively modern computer? Here’s a two-step solution:

1: Buy an HDMI cable

2: Plug it into your television

You’re welcome. 

I’m being facetious here, but I stand by the fundamental point. I understand that moving an existing PC isn’t always an option. You’re not going to want to edit text documents or do most work-related tasks on a TV display, for instance. Or maybe your water-cooled monster clashes with the rest of your décor (or so says your significant other). But anyone who pretends that PC gaming in the living room is next to impossible without a dedicated console is fooling themselves.

If you feel as though you are missing out on a ton of great games by not having a gaming PC (and you are), it’s easily remedied. Just about any contemporary machine that’s capable of playing games will have an HDMI output. Use it. Adjust your video card to your TV’s resolution, and you’re set. Steam's Big Picture Mode makes things even easier, scaling the service's UI to make it more legible on TVs. Living-room gaming won’t solve everything; you might find that games that require mouse and keyboard inputs are unwieldy. That would be an issue regardless of the PC form factor, however.

Could a dedicated Steam Box be a good thing? Of course. Having a standard setup would not only keep prices down, but it would also provide a hardware benchmark for developers to aim for. It could admittedly be easier for novices to set up, too, but PCs aren’t scary alien artifacts – if you can build a Lego set, you can put the parts together and be up in running in an hour or two. In the meantime, however, I feel bad for anyone who’s sitting in the sidelines waiting for a living-room solution when it’s already here.