Opinion – Valve's Wasted Year
The beginning of 2014 started well enough for Valve and its initiative to bring Steam fully into the living room with the SteamOS, controller, and Steam Machines. However, with Valve delaying Steam Machines and the controller into 2015, what momentum there was for Valve's plans have dissipated; further calling into question the whole enterprise.
At the beginning of the year the new home console systems were still finding their footing, and the previous announcement in the fall of 2013 that Valve was going to make a push for the living room gave hope to PC and home console gamers alike that they could ditch home consoles in lieu of a single box unified around Steam and the promise of usability.
But with each passing month of 2014 home consoles – the PS4 in particular – gained more and more sales momentum, and this holiday we've finally seen games that truly belong on the new systems. This continued ascension will make the timing of Valve's Steam Machine program harder to sell to the public. And let's not forget – this initiative's whole reason for being has been questioned from day one. Since you can already hook up your PC via HDMI to your TV, use Big Picture mode, upgrade your PC to your liking, and play Steam games via a controller, the gaming world doesn't have to hold its breath for Valve.
Due to the delay, companies like Dell and its Alienware Alpha PC – which has Windows 8 and not the SteamOS (which is in beta) and no Steam Controller – have been forced to put out their not-quite-Steam-Machines. Valve, of course, works on its own timeframe and that's its right, but getting the Steam Machine specs, controller, and SteamOS out the door is not an evergreen situation when you've got third parties involved and serious competition in the shape of the home consoles.
Speaking of which, as much as Valve can tweak its specs as time goes on, the home consoles themselves will also continue to get better, with updates improving functionality and feature sets, more console-exclusive games, and perhaps even a price cut to make them more attractive compared to even the lower-end Steam Machines.
When Valve talks, people listen – but by the time the company starts to talk meaningfully about the Steam Machine program, the moment will have passed.