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