T3’s Matt Hill says Steam Ma­chines are nice but niche

Australian T3 - - RADAR -

As a big fan of Valve’s Steam gam­ing ser­vice for PC and Mac, I can un­der­stand the de­sire for a ded­i­cated box and be­spoke back-end to house its wares away from your Word files, throw­ing the many ace ti­tles up on your telly. The birth of some kind of base level for PC gam­ing is a good thing, too. That said, the idea of Steam Ma­chines as a promised land of gam­ing, stand­ing shoul­der to shoul­der with next-gen con­soles, seems wide of the mark.

The cur­rent crop is a frag­mented of­fer­ing, with sys­tems at vary­ing price points, us­ing a va­ri­ety of con­trollers and with cus­tomis­able set­ups that, depend­ing on your wal­let, may not run all of the games on of­fer at launch, let alone in a year. So, a bit like PCs, re­ally.

But then the death of the ded­i­cated games con­sole has been greatly ex­ag­ger­ated. Doom-mon­gers said that first phones, then An­droid mi­cro-con­soles would kill them off. Yet Nin­tendo’s 3DS just had the year of its life, while a stag­ger­ing seven mil­lion PS4s and Xbox Ones were flogged in­ter­na­tion­ally in the six weeks they were on sale in 2013, break­ing fastest-sell­ing records quicker than a speed­ing Sonic.

While cus­tomi­sa­tion has its many mer­its for push­ing bound­aries, the masses in­creas­ingly want some­thing cheap, easy to un­der­stand and that just works; big price tags amid a mess of specs and brand names is not that. For the time be­ing, Steam Ma­chines ap­pear to be aimed at Valve’s ex­ist­ing, spec-lit­er­ate fan­base, a mar­ket­ing ef­fort to per­haps halt the slide of PC sales rather than con­quer the main­stream.

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