Why There’s No Reason To Buy A Steam Machine

By trying to get the perfect mix of PC and console, Valve have created something which doesn't appeal to fans of either.

After what feels like eons since they were first announced, the Steam Machines are finally on their way. At GDC 2015 Valve proudly stated that these pieces of “living room hardware” would be upon us come November. Rather than the internet exploding with an outpouring of excitement – as Valve probably hoped – this announcement was met with an overwhelming amount of apathy; you could almost hear the sounds of “meh” emanating from the gaming public.

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Part of this lack of interest comes from how much technology has moved on since the idea for these machines was first put forward by Valve. Several years ago, everyone knew PCs were gaming powerhouses compared to the consoles of the day, but desktop computers stayed on the desk and consoles under the TV – that’s just how it was. Now, with the Xbox One and PS4 being a lot closer to most PCs in terms of gaming quality, the majority of today’s console owners aren’t as interested in the concept a PC which could replace their machines.

 The Problems With A PC/Console Hybrid : Welcome To The World Of The ‘Ponsole’

A big problem facing valve is the fact that most people these days are more computer savvy than a few years ago. A lot of gamers who want a small, unobtrusive, and powerful PC – as opposed to a console – simply build one themselves; and it’s starting to look like this would be a cheaper option than buying a Steam Machine.

It does seem that the Steam Machines are pretty pointless; nothing more than a PC in a small box, with a restrictive operating system and a controller that’s probably not going to be very good at replacing the mouse and keyboard – or even matching current controllers, for that matter.

It does seem that the Steam Machines are pretty pointless; nothing more than a PC in a small box, with a restrictive operating system and a controller that’s probably not going to be very good at replacing the mouse and keyboard – or even matching current controllers, for that matter.

The Linux-based Steam OS is geared primarily towards gaming – even Valve doesn’t recommend it for desktop use. It’s certainly not trying to compete with Windows. So it appears as if these machines are aimed at people who would like to play PC games, but who also want the simplicity of a console’s user interface – doesn’t sound like a large potential market.

There’s also the issue of Valve’s joypad: its functionality as a game controller is still being questioned, and it would never be able to replicate the same level of control a keyboard and mouse combo brings. It will also be compatible with the Windows operating system, should you have a burning desire to own without also using SteamOS.

Target Audience? What Target Audience?

So let’s say that you’re a big PC fan who would like to play your Steam games on the living room TV. Moving your huge tower into another room isn’t an option, and you don’t want a 30 foot cable running through your house. You’re not quite tech savvy enough to build a PC, and you even quite like the look of SteamOS, so maybe you’re the target demographic Valve are aiming for… Of course you could just buy one of their Steam Links for $50 and follow Valve’s simple instructions on how to download SteamOS.

It does seem that the Steam Machines are pretty pointless; nothing more than a PC in a small box, with a restrictive operating system and a controller that’s probably not going to be very good at replacing the mouse and keyboard – or even matching current controllers, for that matter. The price will vary depending on the hardware in each machine, with some said to be competitively priced against Microsoft and Sony’s consoles. Although it does seem if people are willing to spend that much money solely on a games machine, they would tend to go for an Xbox One/PS4.

On the flip side of the coin, if the sales of Steam Machines are better than expected, then it will be good news for the PC platform as a whole. There’s also the fact that, unlike consoles, these machines can have their hardware upgraded (though anyone who has built a PC using a mini-ITX case will know this is easier said than done).

Next From Valve: The Steam Iron

Valve haven’t so much created a PC for the living room, as shoehorned their operating system into the existing market of small form factor PCs. The strength of the Steam name has allowed them to put this idea forward to personal computer manufacturers, with the claim that they’ll sell more PCs with their name on it; maybe this will be the case. But if you’re a complete technophobe who wants something to only play games on, then get a console. If you want a living room PC for the Steam library, functionality, and number of programs Windows can run, then get a small form factor PC (or learn to build one yourself). If for some reason you want something that doesn’t offer the best features of either platform, then get a Steam Machine – brand marketing at its best.


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Author
Rob Thubron
Lover of all things PC and a fan of inserting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin. Remembers when 'geek' was an insult. Still passionately believes Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines was the greatest game ever made. Also works as a reporter/feature writer for TechSpot.com and a producer of YouTube video scripts.