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Valve's Steam Machines Are More About Safeguarding PCs Than Killing Consoles

Soulskill posted about 8 months ago | from the protecting-a-business-model dept.

Games 296

An anonymous reader writes "CES has come and gone, and we've gotten a chance to see many different models of Valve's Steam Machines. They're being marketed as a device for a living room, and people are wondering if they'll be able to compete with the Big-3 console manufacturers. But this article argues that Valve isn't going after the consoles — instead, Steam Machines are part of a long-term plan to keep the PC gaming industry healthy. Quoting: 'Over the years, Valve has gone from simply evangelizing the PC platform — it once flew journalists in from around the world pretty much just to tell them it was great — to actively protecting it, and what we're seeing now is just the beginning of that push. Take SteamOS. To you and me, it's a direct interface for Steam based on Linux that currently has poor software support. To Valve, though, it's a first step in levering development, publishing, gameplay and community away from their reliance on Windows and DirectX (and to a lesser extent Mac OS), systems that cannot be relied upon in the long term. ... As for Steam Machines, they are a beachhead, not an atom bomb. They are meant to sell modestly. ... The answer is that Valve is thinking in decades, not console generations.'"

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What's the difference? (5, Interesting)

DaTrueDave (992134) | about 8 months ago | (#45928885)

Isn't keeping the PC game industry healthy by putting SteamBoxes in the living room the same thing as a console-killer?

The more open platforms available, the better.

I just need Steam to create a Plex app on Steam and I'm all in.

Re:What's the difference? (4, Informative)

master5o1 (1068594) | about 8 months ago | (#45928917)

SteamOS is Debian, so if there is something for Debian that sorts out Plex.

Re:What's the difference? (1)

DaTrueDave (992134) | about 8 months ago | (#45929065)

I'm already running a Windows nettop box with Plex Home Theater running on it. I want Plex Home Theater running from inside Steam.

As it is, I leave Plex running 24/7. I don't even use a mouse or keyboard anymore. Everything is controlled with my remote.

Re:What's the difference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45929205)

Plex plugin for XBMC, done. XBMC is a first class citizen on debian.

Re:What's the difference? (1)

DaTrueDave (992134) | about 8 months ago | (#45929277)

Does XBMC have a massive library of games that I can play in my living room?

Re:What's the difference? (1)

Behrooz Amoozad (2831361) | about 8 months ago | (#45929351)

Isn't that what we're talking about here?

Re:What's the difference? (0)

DaTrueDave (992134) | about 8 months ago | (#45929423)

I thought we were talking about Steam, not XBMC.

Re:What's the difference? (4, Informative)

master5o1 (1068594) | about 8 months ago | (#45929547)

We're talking about Steam boxes, which run SteamOS, which is Debian based and therefore can run XBMC.

There is a launcher from XBMC [xbmc.org] that will open Steam in Big Picture Mode.

Re:What's the difference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45929869)

XBMC can launch games, both native and emulated.

Re:What's the difference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45928919)

The steambox isn't going to kill anything except itself until they are price competitive.

Re:What's the difference? (3, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | about 8 months ago | (#45929139)

That is never going to happen. Consoles are commodity hardware *at launch* with the specific target of playing games on one platform in one way. With PCs, you've got video cards that cost a couple hundred dollars more than both the XB1 and PS4 *combined*.

A four and five star restaurant will never compete with McDonald's on price. What they *can* compete on is not serving you fetid shit in a paper wrapper. That requires that people give a damn. If people are just fine scarfing down a shitty box of styrofoam chicken nuggets, then you're screwed. It also requires that people make quality products for it. So many PC games are just shitty ports of console games, hindered by limitations of targeting consoles and leaving PCs as an afterthought. Then, you're crippled by trying to operate a four or five star restaurant when you're being supplied the same shitty ingredients as McDonald's.

Re:What's the difference? (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | about 8 months ago | (#45929191)

That is never going to happen. Consoles are commodity hardware *at launch* with the specific target of playing games on one platform in one way. With PCs, you've got video cards that cost a couple hundred dollars more than both the XB1 and PS4 *combined*.

Whitebox PCs are as "commodity" as it gets. And there are Nvidia graphics cards that meet the specs under $100.

Re:What's the difference? (1, Troll)

Seumas (6865) | about 8 months ago | (#45929555)

So all you're looking to do is meet the absolute minimum requirements and *maybe* match the performance and experience of a console, but with a PC box? What is the point of that? The only reason I would want to build a box to put the SteamOS on and attach to my home theater is if I could replicate the true PC experience on it. That means high resolution, high framerate, high graphical fidelity. I'm not going to accomplish that on $500 worth of parts.

Re: What's the difference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45929765)

Forgot my password... it's trivially easy to build your own PC with $500 that exceeds the specs of major consoles. (Granted, it was easier five years ago.)

Keep in mind that consoles have DRM technology that custom-built PCs generally lack.

Re: What's the difference? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45929973)

Steambox is not a PC. Steambox is nothing but DRM.

Re:What's the difference? (1)

dugancent (2616577) | about 8 months ago | (#45929227)

You have video cards that cost twice as much but aren't really needed. You can get by just fine on something much, much, cheaper and still play nearly every game available.

Video cards are a penis compensator.

499 US dollars (1)

tepples (727027) | about 8 months ago | (#45929243)

Xbox One: $499. Steambox One: also $499 [theverge.com] .

Re:499 US dollars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45929583)

Similar price... for similar features... where's the Kinect?

Re:499 US dollars (0)

tepples (727027) | about 8 months ago | (#45929687)

The Steam Machine doesn't need an NSA spying device. Besides, you could say the same thing about Xbox One: where's the mods?

Re:499 US dollars (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 8 months ago | (#45929981)

Yea, but if everyone you hang out with has $2000 PCs and they're playing team fortress all night long, now you're not shit out of luck. You can pick one up for $500 and hang with your friends. Not only that, but if you know how to use a screw driver you can build your own steam box for cheaper.

Re:499 US dollars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45930069)

PS4 is more powerful than that and $100 cheaper.

Re:What's the difference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45928937)

Most of the Steam boxes we saw were pretty darned expensive. They won't be going into any living rooms any time soon.

Re:What's the difference? (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | about 8 months ago | (#45928993)

Because vendors don't bring out the economy stuff for CES, they bring out the concept dream cars! You can build one much cheaper than a console. And some people will.

Small form factor (1)

tepples (727027) | about 8 months ago | (#45929263)

You can build one much cheaper than a console.

Case and all? I was under the impression that the small form factor needed to fit in next to a TV was a premium market segment, that PC cases the size of a PS4 and motherboards and power supplies to fit in them were more expensive than a "normal" tower case, motherboard, and power supply.

And some people will.

But do these people have the financial power to get these cheaper-than-console Steam Machines into stores?

Re:What's the difference? (1)

DaTrueDave (992134) | about 8 months ago | (#45929049)

I was under the impression that a SteamBox is nothing but a PC built with certain minimum requirements? Go looking at PC's from those same SteamBox vendors and I'm sure you'll find some that look great, but that are pretty darned expensive, too.

Re:What's the difference? (4, Insightful)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 8 months ago | (#45929337)

The point of the SteamBox and keeping things open is that Valve sees where Microsoft is heading with Windows 8 and beyond. They're heading for Apple/console model for Windows where they get full approval of all software and a significant cut of all sales. It's not good for consumers and it's not good for Valve. I'm a little surprised more software companies are not joining them in launching non-game software for them, but they may be more focused on the tablet market.

Re:What's the difference? (1)

bloodhawk (813939) | about 8 months ago | (#45930269)

You mean they are heading for the same model that Valve is currently using? If MS model is bad for consumers then so is the valve model. personally I think both models suck balls. I don't want to be locked into Valves walled garden any more than I want to be locked into Microsoft's, Apples or Googles walled gardens.

Re:What's the difference? (2)

houstonbofh (602064) | about 8 months ago | (#45928977)

I just need Steam to create a Plex app on Steam and I'm all in.

Here you go. https://forums.plex.tv/index.php/topic/87253-linux-builds/ [forums.plex.tv] Feel free to send me money if you want. :)

Re:What's the difference? (1)

DaTrueDave (992134) | about 8 months ago | (#45929019)

No, I want a Steam app that is integrated. I'm already running a Plex server on unRaid. I want living room convenience, not command line hell.

Re:What's the difference? (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | about 8 months ago | (#45929025)

IMHO, a computer primarily designed for gaming is a console. If it's an open system, then great! But it's not like a closed system like an N64 doesn't compute in the same way. Though you might want to draw a line so that it's a console when the manufacturer spends extra effort to limit its computational abilities in order to make it cheaper. Which, IMHO, does not compute.

Personal computer vs. appliance (5, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | about 8 months ago | (#45929301)

IMHO, a computer primarily designed for gaming is a console.

So is a Wintendo [catb.org] a "console". Another definition of a "console" is a computer whose case and UI are designed for use with a TV as its display.

Though you might want to draw a line so that it's a console when the manufacturer spends extra effort to limit its computational abilities in order to make it cheaper. Which, IMHO, does not compute.

To me, a "personal computer" is a piece of computing hardware where the person who owns it controls what computing it performs. For example, a device running SteamOS (or other X11/Linux distributions), Windows, OS X, or Android is a personal computer. A device running operating system whose publisher has veto power over apps, such as Windows RT, Windows Phone, Apple iOS, Nintendo iOS (Wii, Wii U), Sony GameOS (PS3), Sony Orbis OS (PS4), is an "appliance".

Re:Personal computer vs. appliance (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | about 8 months ago | (#45929441)

To me, a "personal computer" is a piece of computing hardware where the person who owns it controls what computing it performs. For example, a device running SteamOS (or other X11/Linux distributions), Windows, OS X, or Android is a personal computer. A device running operating system whose publisher has veto power over apps, such as Windows RT, Windows Phone, Apple iOS, Nintendo iOS (Wii, Wii U), Sony GameOS (PS3), Sony Orbis OS (PS4), is an "appliance".

This! I hate the way "PC" is often used to refer to a Windows box, when a Linux/BSD installation is generally much more personal(ized) than the same old Windows you see everywhere. That said, this is a matter of degree, so it's hard to draw a line -- a closed OS makes computing more limited, but even a Free OS is often handicapped by non-free BIOS and firmware.

Re:What's the difference? (1)

mjwx (966435) | about 8 months ago | (#45930099)

Isn't keeping the PC game industry healthy by putting SteamBoxes in the living room the same thing as a console-killer?

Not quite. The primary goal is the protection of the PC platform (which is Valve's revenue source).

The console killing properties are just an added bonus.

a atom bomb (0)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 8 months ago | (#45928909)

that atom cpu sucks for good gameing

Re:a atom bomb (4, Funny)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 8 months ago | (#45928943)

It also sucks at running your spell checker.

Re:a atom bomb (4, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 8 months ago | (#45929077)

Running a spell checker on Mr. Tard School's posts is like sticking a band aid on Marie Antoinette.

Re:a atom bomb (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45929087)

I hear you're good at sucking a dick but I was keeping it quiet. Maybe you should do the same.

Re:a atom bomb (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 8 months ago | (#45929033)

Sorry, what atom cpu is being used in gaming for these boxes? Ah that's right, none. [slashdot.org]

Re:a atom bomb (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 8 months ago | (#45929043)

Odd. /. at a url to bluesnews. Let's try that again. [bluesnews.com]

Re:a atom bomb (0)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 8 months ago | (#45929335)

it's a joke

Re:a atom bomb (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 8 months ago | (#45929425)

it's a joke

Might make sense if there was a joke in it, but as it stands it might be closer to trolling.

Maybe just maybe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45928913)

Maybe it's about profits and the people at Steam aren't on some quasi-crusade to save anything other than their own business interests? Why does everything need to be some modern day jihad to the people around here?
 
FFS, it's gotten old.

Re:Maybe just maybe... (0)

chill (34294) | about 8 months ago | (#45928925)

FFS, I've gotten old.

FTFY

Re:Maybe just maybe... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45929287)

Fixed what? You're a faggot and a cunt ass bitch.

Re:Maybe just maybe... (1)

adolf (21054) | about 8 months ago | (#45928975)

Maybe it's about profits and the people at Steam aren't on some quasi-crusade to save anything other than their own business interests? Why does everything need to be some modern day jihad to the people around here?

Because we're mostly in the US, where we've been forced to spend our childhood years learning the writewashed details of every past war and conflict, but very little other history, and therefore demand that every competition have exactly one clear victor because that's what we're used to?

Re: Maybe just maybe... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45929009)

Whitewashed...

Re:Maybe just maybe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45929969)

That's exactly what it is. PC gaming isn't dying and is nowhere close to it. The number of PC gamers is greater than all console gamers combined. The number of games coming out for PC is greater than all consoles combined. The back library of PC games is greater than the combined libraries of all consoles ever made.

This is just a way for Valve to pretend to be "one of us". It's a marketing stunt, nothing more.

Good (5, Insightful)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 8 months ago | (#45928947)

I'm all for building my own gaming box, especially if it removes Microsoft from the picture.

"Sell modestly" ? "Decades" ? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45928971)

... dafuq you talkin bout, nigga ?

--
Valve management

Explain (5, Interesting)

aaronb1138 (2035478) | about 8 months ago | (#45928995)

This quote makes zero sense:
"...reliance on Windows and DirectX (and to a lesser extent Mac OS), systems that cannot be relied upon in the long term."

Really, because my experience with Linux and backwards / forwards support for both software and hardware has been vastly worse than Windows from XP through 8. Sure before XP, Windows 9x was terrible, but are we really going to keep basing derp derp FUD on a 5 year window of hard lessons from nearly 15 years ago?

Can we just fess up and admit that SteamOS is an effort predicated on a personal beef Gabe Newell has with Microsoft and especially the fact that Windows 8 included it's own store and that store was not Steam. The story is well documented and the whole industry is going to blow a lot of money on development just to satisfy one man's ego.

Re:Explain (2, Interesting)

Escogido (884359) | about 8 months ago | (#45929097)

Whatever his true motivation is, it makes sense from a business standpoint. Microsoft would love to become for Windows what Apple is for OS X / iOS, and Valve doesn't want that - it's understandable. From a certain angle, Steam machines are not unlike Google+: there are some diehard fans that would kill for it, many go like "why do we need another [social network / console platform]?" and the company behind it is big enough and has enough mindshare that the product is guaranteed to have some visibility even if it is not quite on par with what the rest of the market has to offer, and eventually gain enough of a market share to make sense, even with all backwards / forwards support issues you pointed out. And for consumers more competition is always good, so sure why not.

Re: Explain (1)

Spottywot (1910658) | about 8 months ago | (#45929147)

Unfortunately Microsoft seem to be looking to looking to emulate Apple by taking a cut on every piece of software released for the platform, and raising the barriers for entry for indie developers in the process. I think that the competition for their traditional gaming market by players such as Steam has the potential to persuade Microsoft not to backtrack on their previous business model. Either we get what we have been used to as gamers and developers from Microsoft, or we have a new place to go which is based on Linux. I really don't see the problem here.

Barrier to prevent a crash (1)

tepples (727027) | about 8 months ago | (#45929385)

Unfortunately Microsoft seem to be looking to looking to emulate Apple by taking a cut on every piece of software released for the platform, and raising the barriers for entry for indie developers in the process.

How is an entry barrier necessarily unfortunate? Entry barriers exist for a large part to prevent conditions like those that led to the 1983 crash [slashdot.org] .

Re:Barrier to prevent a crash (1)

Spottywot (1910658) | about 8 months ago | (#45929703)

Unfortunately Microsoft seem to be looking to looking to emulate Apple by taking a cut on every piece of software released for the platform, and raising the barriers for entry for indie developers in the process.

How is an entry barrier necessarily unfortunate? Entry barriers exist for a large part to prevent conditions like those that led to the 1983 crash [slashdot.org] .

It's quite simple, the market for computer games was very naive back then, people believed hyperbolic quotes on the back of games, and the misleading screenshots and cover art. We are now dealing with at least 2 generations of tech savvy consumers, and poor games simply won't sell, it's not like poor releases can taint the industry anymore on the same scale as the early days of cheap computing. Barriers to entry enforced by dominating entities such as Microsoft just mean that they get to define the playing field to suit themselves, whereas more competition means the playing field has more of a chance of being defined by the consumer or developer.

Re:Explain (5, Interesting)

neuro88 (674248) | about 8 months ago | (#45929199)

This quote makes zero sense: "...reliance on Windows and DirectX (and to a lesser extent Mac OS), systems that cannot be relied upon in the long term." Really, because my experience with Linux and backwards / forwards support for both software and hardware has been vastly worse than Windows from XP through 8. Sure before XP, Windows 9x was terrible, but are we really going to keep basing derp derp FUD on a 5 year window of hard lessons from nearly 15 years ago? Can we just fess up and admit that SteamOS is an effort predicated on a personal beef Gabe Newell has with Microsoft and especially the fact that Windows 8 included it's own store and that store was not Steam. The story is well documented and the whole industry is going to blow a lot of money on development just to satisfy one man's ego.

Linux supports older hardware than windows 7 and 8, no question. Regarding the software... You definitely have a point there. Almost. The Linux kernel itself actually has backwards compatibility for userspace software going back quite a bit. It's mostly glibc that breaks this. If it isn't happening already, it will eventually. You'll be downloading games from that simply ship with their own libraries. I believe a lot of Windows software works this way.

You can actually get a lot of old loki games to run in linux by installing older versions of various libraries. Although, you do encounter some issues. For example, Simcity 3000 won't give you sound since it wants to use esd (which hasn't seen use in years), but the game will otherwise run. This takes some work to setup, but if the games on steam do this for you, it's a non-issue.

PulseAudio can emulate ESD (2)

tepples (727027) | about 8 months ago | (#45929361)

For example, Simcity 3000 won't give you sound since it wants to use esd (which hasn't seen use in years), but the game will otherwise run.

Wikipedia's article about PulseAudio [wikipedia.org] claims that PulseAudio can emulate ESD. Or is this emulation too broken to work with SimCity 3000?

Re:PulseAudio can emulate ESD (1)

neuro88 (674248) | about 8 months ago | (#45929429)

Wikipedia's article about PulseAudio [wikipedia.org] claims that PulseAudio can emulate ESD. Or is this emulation too broken to work with SimCity 3000?

I have no idea... I didn't know about this so I never tried... But thanks for the info, I just may give this a shot!

Difficulty of greenlighting and modding (1)

tepples (727027) | about 8 months ago | (#45929371)

Can we just fess up and admit that SteamOS is an effort predicated on a personal beef Gabe Newell has with Microsoft

I'll consider that when you answer this question: Is it easier for a startup video game developer to get a game greenlit on Xbox One or on Steam? Is it easier for a user to install a community-maintained game mod into a game from Microsoft stores or from Steam? Perhaps Gabe N.'s beef is not with Microsoft as much as it is with the concept of people being locked into unmoddable major-label games. Case in point: had Half-Life been a console exclusive or otherwise lacked modding tools, there would be no Counter-Strike.

Pretty much (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 8 months ago | (#45929509)

Yes, MS may eventually go out of business, or discontinue Windows. They also might eventually change the way it works so substantially as to break things. However, it is a pretty unlikely scenario, they have pretty good history and a good definition of their support lifecycle.

Nothing in the universe is certain, of course, but neither would be something like Steam Box. Being Linux based doesn't mean anything. I mean, suppose all of a sudden Intel, AMD, and nVidia got together and decided to totally change everything. New ISA, no more DirectX or OpenGL, etc, etc. Everything would need to be reported, redeveloped, and it would be a massive problem.

Now that is exceedingly unlikely to happen, but just another example that you can't have some solution that is perfect, forever, and will never go away no matter what.

Hell look at the console market. You can't rely on shit there, yet it still seems to do well. You don't know if a new console will come out, if it does when, when it does if it'll be backwards compatible, etc, etc.

This idea that a Steam Box is needed for some kind of stability is silly. The parent has it right: It is an ego thing, and a thing to try and protect Steam. Valve loves Steam because it means they can fuck around and do as they please, no worries about money because it rolls in for very little effort. However if people started using the Windows Store to get their software instead (not likely, Microsoft is making a big hash of it) then Steam's market could dry up and that would suck for Valve.

Re:Pretty much (5, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 8 months ago | (#45929603)

I mean, suppose all of a sudden Intel, AMD, and nVidia got together and decided to totally change everything. New ISA, no more DirectX or OpenGL, etc, etc. Everything would need to be reported, redeveloped, and it would be a massive problem.

This wouldn't happen, because, as you say, everything would need to be re-developed, and it would put these companies out of business. I don't just mean Linux software would need to be re-ported, I mean they'd have to wait for all-new software of every kind to be developed to run on their chips. It's not like MS can port Windows to a whole new ISA in 3 months and the companies which use OpenGL/DX would be able to get together and develop a new graphics API and port all their software to it in that time. It would take years for the dust to settle, and I'm just talking about proprietary software here, and totally neglecting open-source stuff. So the very idea is just ludicrous.

This idea that a Steam Box is needed for some kind of stability is silly.

No it's not. It's about control. With Win8, MS is trying to take more control over the PC software ecosystem by emulating Apple's "app store", and they're also moving development in a new direction with the Metro UI. Independent software companies which are mostly tied to the MS platform, and don't like the way it's going, would be stupid to put all their eggs in one basket, which of course is why you see more software for Macs these days that 10 years ago. Valve's direction makes total sense: they're trying to get more control over the platform their software runs on, and that's pretty easy to do with Linux since it's open, allowing you to build custom OS builds easily, and also allowing software vendors a certain amount of power in dictating the direction of development of the OS if they wish (and the existing players agree with them and accept their patches), which you simply don't get with a proprietary OS vendor.

The parent has it right: It is an ego thing, and a thing to try and protect Steam.

That's not an "ego" thing, that's good business sense. Putting your company's future in the hands of another company which doesn't have your interests at heart, and which actually competes with your company in some ways (MS has their own games division), is utterly stupid.

Re:Explain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45929575)

T
Really, because my experience with Linux and backwards / forwards support for both software and hardware has been vastly worse than Windows from XP through 8.

Define what you mean by backwards/forwards support for software and hardware? Pretty much every version of linux that there was is still freely available. Hardware support was flaky in the early days (I remember having to deal with the junk that WinModems used to be) but for years now this is a non issue. In case you missed it Steam has been working with the graphics card vendors and linux support for graphics cards as it stands now is as at least as good as it is for windows.

Re:Explain (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 8 months ago | (#45930023)

I think his point is that right now, if Windows dies, PC gaming basically dies.

He wants to get a non-trivial number of Linux PC game boxes out there so that more people are targeting PCs, not Windows.

I doubt it (2)

koan (80826) | about 8 months ago | (#45928999)

This + tablets = even lower PC sales.

Re:I doubt it (1)

Seumas (6865) | about 8 months ago | (#45929155)

I don't understand your comment.

Are you saying that the whole "Steambox" thing will be such an utter failure that it will turn people off from buying PCs *period*, thereby killing sales even further?

Of course, PC sales aren't bleeding out by any means, overall, so...

Re:I doubt it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45929417)

Call it a hunch, but anytime someone says "We aren't doing this" well...

And yeah maybe a little of what you said.

Re:I doubt it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45930271)

Steambox is a PC. So are the PS4 and Xbone. PCs aren't dying, consoles are. It's not hard to see that gaming machines are converging and that will lead to a bunch of manufacturers making PC hardware that all run the same games.

Oh, well (5, Interesting)

Mephistro (1248898) | about 8 months ago | (#45929053)

You can build your own steam machine for peanuts, if you are technically inclined. If you aren't, you can request the help from a friend, and if you can't/don't want to do that, you can still buy a suitable PC an add SteamOS on top. If you're too lazy even for that and have money to expend, you can purchase one of these pretty Steam machines. At the very least you'll be free from the Windows tax and still you'll end up with a full fledged PC with a serious OS (Linux) that can run lots and lots of 'serious apps' + a growing number of games. I think Valve has hit the nail in the head with this one. Kudos to them.

Re:Oh, well (1)

Seumas (6865) | about 8 months ago | (#45929167)

I think the problem is the concept of building a really nice gaming rig and then locking it away to your home theater, where it becomes fairly useless as it becomes nothing but a game console and home theater box.

Re:Oh, well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45929255)

So, you're saying that all game consoles and HTPCs are useless?

Also, don't forget the other class of steambox, where a cheap/small/cool machine is put under the TV and the high-performance gaming happens on a desktop, with the video streamed to the TV.

Re:Oh, well (1)

Seumas (6865) | about 8 months ago | (#45929597)

No, game consoles and HTPCs are not as expensive as a high end gaming PC. I don't mind throwing $400 at a PS4 to stick in my home theater that does nothing but play games, because it does that one thing well and is only $400.

I'm not going to cram my current desktop rig into my home theater, because it's a powerful machine that is capable of doing far more than spitting out a movie or playing a Steam library. I'm not going to invest in a less powerful PC to dedicate to the home theater, because if I'm going to play a PC game, why would I play it on the lower power system when I have a much better one at my desk?

I am hoping for the best out of SteamOS and even these Steamboxes, but I am not quite understanding where the niche is they expect to truly capitalize from. A high end system is expensive and wasted dedicated to just gaming on your couch, but the opposite end of the spectrum isn't compelling when you can just play on your existing system at your desk for a far better experience.

It would seem to me the only real market is for people who don't already have a decent gaming system and are looking for a low-end low-cost replication of a low-end console experience, but with the PC. In which case, that's totally fine, but . . . seems pretty limiting...

Re:Oh, well (0, Flamebait)

Tom (822) | about 8 months ago | (#45929487)

and still you'll end up with a full fledged PC with a serious OS (Linux) that can run lots and lots of 'serious apps'

*cough*

Sorry, but Linux is not a serious desktop OS. And I say that as someone who had hoped for almost a decade that it would become one.

Using it basically as a black-box OS where the end-user is only ever exposed to your custom app and never to the OS itself is precisely the right move, because that's what Linux is really good for (other than, say, windows which regularily graces bulletin boards or kiosks the world over with blue screen, "new software updates are available" windows and other "why the fuck can't the OS stay in the fucking background instead of jumping into your face?" bullshit.

Re:Oh, well (1, Troll)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 8 months ago | (#45929631)

Sorry, but Linux is not a serious desktop OS.

Yes, it is. I've been using it as my sole desktop OS since 1999. Many governments have adopted it as their sole desktop OS as well, including Munich Germany. It works great, as long as you keep in mind its limitations (just like any OS, or anything at all for that matter). If you're trying to use it as a clone for Windows, it's going to fail; it simply isn't going to work well if you try to run it in an environment that absolutely needs to be 100% compatible with Windows software and standards. However, this is true for Mac OSX too, and I don't ever see anyone saying "Mac OS is not a serious desktop OS".

Re:Oh, well (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45930275)

There is no professional software that runs on Linux without crappy emulation and broken bits.

Let's be honest (4, Insightful)

TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) | about 8 months ago | (#45929235)

Let's be honest, here is one major advantage of a Steam Machine.

Teenagers and pre-teens rock at getting viruses, malware and such on a Windows computer. This is why everyone buys them tablets.

Windows is starting to be its own worst enemy, Windows 8 is terrible (and I have it on 2 machines) and Windows 7 --- while almost perfect --- at the hands of an inexperienced user the default settings aren't the best.

Typical users ARE NOT looking to tweak, break-in a system, uninstall crapware.

This is where the Steam Machines can excel --- bringing PC quality gaming to the masses without Windows update installing countless GB of mostly unwanted stuff at 3 AM. And Mac computers, while great, are not mainstream economical (I have 2 Macs and I love them. But they are pricey).

Consoles are a trade-off --- they offer gaming with training wheels (no mouse, can't offer bleeding edge graphics, overly sandboxed and limited from a developer perspective at times I would guess) --- SteamOS can offer PC quality gaming without the drawbacks of Windows maintenance/OEM crapwares.

Re:Let's be honest (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45929299)

Windows is starting to be its own worst enemy

bzzzzzt. wrong.

windows vista and later (including 8) have a lower malware and virus infection rate than windows xp ever had... much, much lower.

windows 8 may be terrible desktop operating system, but not for this reason.

steam machines are simply an attempt to keep valve, and especially their steam platform, relevant in the face of casual gaming (tablets, phones, web) and consoles, which fuel massive sales numbers with each new generation... which is essentially what 'safeguarding pc' gaming platform means... if pc gaming goes to shit, so does valve and steam.

Re:Let's be honest (1)

Lendrick (314723) | about 8 months ago | (#45929545)

Realistically, if an OS isn't used by many people, there's little reason to write malware for it.

(That being said, if Steam OS makes desktop linux big, then there will be more malware for desktop linux.)

Re:Let's be honest (1, Flamebait)

0123456 (636235) | about 8 months ago | (#45929705)

Window 8 is malware.

Re:Let's be honest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45929761)

As is Ubuntu Unity. I wouldn't touch either with a 10ft pole.

Re:Let's be honest (1)

TheloniousToady (3343045) | about 8 months ago | (#45930051)

Realistically, if an OS isn't used by many people, there's little reason to write malware for it.

And if an OS isn't used by many people because it's so hard to administer that only techies can use it, there's zero reason to write malware for it. Who wants to write malware for techies when you can shoot fish in a general-population barrel?

(That being said, if Steam OS makes desktop linux big, then there will be more malware for desktop linux.)

If I may paraphrase Norma Desmond [imdb.com] :

Linux is big. It's the users that got small.

I was mistaken (2, Informative)

sgt scrub (869860) | about 8 months ago | (#45929379)

I have always believed that Linux deserves to be a gaming platform. I use my machine for games. They are fun, exciting, and most are open source. I've never had to go online to sign up for an account to play any of them. I don't need to maintain an online presence so as to provide someone with information about my behavior. Games I play are available without having to buy a box specifically designed to satisfy the DRM needs of the games I am playing. If games on Linux comes at the loss of those benefits, or the Linux desktop is replaced by some java user interface that pushes the user towards signing up for things, I'm not seeing the benefit.

Close Steam, open GNOME, install game (2)

tepples (727027) | about 8 months ago | (#45929479)

Games I play are available without having to buy a box specifically designed to satisfy the DRM needs of the games I am playing. If games on Linux comes at the loss of those benefits, or the Linux desktop is replaced by some java user interface that pushes the user towards signing up for things, I'm not seeing the benefit.

This article [slashdot.org] states that SteamOS users can close the Steam client and bring up a GNOME desktop. At that point, the user can install any game made for Debian.

Re:Close Steam, open GNOME, install game (1)

Seumas (6865) | about 8 months ago | (#45929605)

Games I play are available without having to buy a box specifically designed to satisfy the DRM needs of the games I am playing. If games on Linux comes at the loss of those benefits, or the Linux desktop is replaced by some java user interface that pushes the user towards signing up for things, I'm not seeing the benefit.

This article [slashdot.org] states that SteamOS users can close the Steam client and bring up a GNOME desktop. At that point, the user can install any game made for Debian.

So . . . basically, Tux and FreeCiv. :P

Re:Close Steam, open GNOME, install game (1)

tepples (727027) | about 8 months ago | (#45929683)

Or anything that works in Wine. Or some of the old Loki games. Or use a Retrode or INL-Retro cart reader to copy your NES, SNES, and Genesis cartridges to your Steam Machine and install an emulator.

PCs Don't Have Decades for Games (1)

stoicio (710327) | about 8 months ago | (#45929463)

Isn't the desktop PC market actually declining?
The reality is that most people never needed a desktop PC and can get by without one just fine.

Home PCs are now only for old people who are used to that sort of thing.

The desktop workstation wil become a specialty item used for science,
and engineering. The rest of the population will be using thin clients on
remote apps, or smaller, more ergonomically suitable, portable devices.

It's difficult to believe that desktoip PC gaming actually has 'decades' to survive.
I'm questiong the business plan here....

Re:PCs Don't Have Decades for Games (3, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | about 8 months ago | (#45929639)

Nope. Hardware sales are projected to decline very slightly over a couple of years and then start to return. For a market that is constantly under the claim of "dying", they sure are selling an awful lot of $1,000 video cards and $300 CPUs and $300 chassis' and making whole businesses out of catering to even more niche markets like water cooling nuts.

Steam has 65,000,000 users. That is more than XBOX (but less than Playstation). That's not PC gamers. That's just *Steam* gamers.

Consoles are $300-$500. The lowest end gaming PC that you can get by with starts at that price. Further, games have largely been targeted at consoles and ported to PCs in such a way that they just don't really demand much of the PC hardware.

In other words, PC gaming is as big as it has ever been. Even if mobile and console platforms grow massively, that doesn't detract from PC gaming. You can do more than one platform. It's just that software necessitates the increase in hardware capacity and software just hasn't been making those demands for a long time, leaving PC gamers to make longer use of their PC hardware. That reflects in hardware sales. A reduction in hardware sales means just that - a reduction in hardware sales; not a reduction in people playing on their existing hardware.

Additionally, we've been told for years now that *console* gaming is dying and will soon be dead. And so will all handhelds that aren't a tablet or mobile phone. Of course, that is bullshit. Steam's user numbers, the popularity of PC-only games, and the 8,000,000 PS4 and XB1 consoles sold in the last two months is evidence that it is bullshit.

I am skeptical about the future of PC gaming, but not because of some perceived lack of interested gamers. The only thing that can harm PC gaming is if developers and publishers continue to treat PC gaming like a redheaded stepchild. If they continue to put out PC ports in a half-assed and often-broken fashion and months or years after the console versions of the same game. And if they continue to not exploit the power of the PC, but just port over console versions of games that look and play progressively worse over time as the console platform ages.

If PC gaming dies, it won't be for lack of interest. It'll be because it was sabotaged and undermined by the developers and publishers.

Re:PCs Don't Have Decades for Games (1)

stoicio (710327) | about 8 months ago | (#45929847)

Interesting.

But aren't they selling an aweful lot of video cards pretty much for bitcoin mining and not gaming?
Bitcoin is about to go flop because the designer of it percieved that the computing world
would stay static, which it logically couldn't. The perception that desktop computers will
always be PC boxes, required by the world, is pretty much the same kind of situational bias.

I am guessing the 65 million number for Steam are a count of people who have logged on to try it
out of curiosity. The daily user numbers indicate actual customers and that count is orders of magnitude smaller.

I am skeptical that the desktop PC market is sustainable for more than 5 more years. Most of the common things
people have historically done with PCs can now be carried around in ones pocket with the cellphone. That leaves
the home gaming, desktop PC, to become a single use device in most households.
Why would anyone bother with that kind of cash outlay for something that sits idle 90% of the time? Nostalgia?

I'm guessing that the consoles will become less expensive as competing Indian and Chinese technologies arrive
on the market. I can't actually believe that Japan and USA will have any corner on the electronics design market
in a short period of time. The US is not training enough new people, has a miniscule proportion of the global population
to draw ideas from and has lost the ability to do anything other than rewrap old tech (ie: the xbox is really just a crippled PC),
and Japan has social demographic issues that will create a shrinking pool of technically skilled people capable of making new
product (hence the new 'Walkman'). An indication of this is that Sony would rather serve games to a gaming thin client.
The Playstation4 is probably the last of that series of devices from Sony.

We also need to remember that handheld devices will keep improving. Nvidia know this, that is why they are now targeting
graphics device designs, specifically to support that platform.

All things told, as nostalgic as I am for the 1970's and 1980's computer era, the desktop PC is so over it's not even funny.
No amount of wishing will make the PC come back because the public now know what the PC will (and will not) do
and are moving on to more generally useful tools.

Re:PCs Don't Have Decades for Games (1)

bloodhawk (813939) | about 8 months ago | (#45930283)

Video cards aren't cost effective for bitcoin mining anymore.

Re:PCs Don't Have Decades for Games (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45929689)

The 5 million PC gamers currently online on Steam disagree.

That's Just Advertising, it's more like 1 million (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45929867)

Where are the independent stats for that?

"poor software support" (2)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 8 months ago | (#45929489)

I wonder if when the first Nintendo Wii was released people accused it of having "poor software support". They only had a small fraction of the number of games that are available already for SteamOS.

Funny what a little money spent on marketing can do. Even "independent" voices in the media will treat you differently if they see you throwing money around.

The Wii got a nice tongue bath from the media whereas Steam boxes get a lot of "where are the games?"

It's a good thing that we don't put the popular media in charge of anything. First, because they're barely even able to perform the one task they are charged with, but also because they are so easy to con.

Re:"poor software support" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45929929)

The wii did incredibly well for Nintendo hardware sales, it actually did appallingly bad for software games sales, hence why many 3rd parties don't write games for wii or wii u now.

consoles are going to kill PCs this round (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45929595)

I think consoles are going to kill PCs this round, the PS4 in particular. 1) Last gen was getting near the 'good enough' point. 2) Fixed hardware, especially for 8 wimpy cores, the particular cache sizes, and heirachy, and sound processors will matter. 3) A large amount of RAM for a change (8 GB). The PS3 couldn't handle real mods for UT2007 for RAM reasons. This time it is different. 4) Devs didn't make games that went beyond console power last generation, and they won't this gen. 5) The PC's secret weapon, Moore's Law, is coming to an end.

Re:consoles are going to kill PCs this round (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 8 months ago | (#45929695)

8GB is hardly a large amount of RAM. That's pretty much the minimum for a decent gaming PC these days.

And, since the new generation of consoles are basically just low-end gaming PCs, they're hardly likely to 'kill PCs'.

Re:consoles are going to kill PCs this round (2)

Dunge (922521) | about 8 months ago | (#45929725)

Sorry but I bought a PS4 and I'm not impressed. My PC can render the same games in a much better way, it's my PC is 2 years old. How will the PS4 hold up for the coming years compared to PC? Like crap the PS3 did, crap.

Re:consoles are going to kill PCs this round (1)

Hamsterdan (815291) | about 8 months ago | (#45929889)

For most people, it won't matter. Graphics and resolution doesn't make a bad game better (ie: Duke4ever). Besides, a TV (where the Steambox is going to be hooked up) only has a resolution of 1920*1080. My old Core2Duo has absolutely no problems pushing pixels at that res on a Radeon 6770. I admit the CPU is being clocked at 3.8, but it's probably on par with a 3.0 i3.

I still game on my PS2, my NES, even my C64. If the game is fun, it will still be fun at 320*200. (besides, older games tend to take longer to finish, giving me more fun for my money)

More like killing Windows/DirectX (0)

Dunge (922521) | about 8 months ago | (#45929721)

And they won't succeed since it's still the better way to develop games.

The real next generation (3, Interesting)

shastamonk (2453530) | about 8 months ago | (#45929913)

Think about up the next generation of game developers - kids growing up right now. If they're gaming on a console and using a tablet or smart phone for their other computing need, they have no real exposure to programming, 3D modeling, audio software or any of the other things that go in to designing games. If Windows and MacOS are moving towards closed software ecosystems and a mobile interface type of simplified UI that hides everything but Twitter and a browser from the user as they both seem to be, Linux is going to have to play a larger part in gaming development in the future. The more devices and distributions tailored for different purposes and specific hardware while still allowing users to peel back the curtains to access everything available on the OS, the better off we'll all be. Kids are curious and will do what they've always done since the advent of personal computing; making cool stuff for fun and to impress people, and unless some change like this takes place, fewer and fewer people will ever be exposed to these tools.

I know my nephew got his parents to buy an iPad just so he could play Minecraft. While the mobile versions of Minecraft make it hard (impossible?) to use addons and mods, I'm sure more than a few kids have been pushed in to building a PC or getting a gaming laptop to really take advantage of what that game has to offer. It'll just take one killer app that allows people to be creative and do things on a Steambox(/Windows/MacOS/Linux) that can't be done on a closed platform to start moving these things.

And in the meantime, Valve will be taking things slow and steady like they always have and building partnerships with hardware and software developers to get SteamOS ready to take over when the inevitable decline of support from MS and Apple for desktop users pushes the hardcore audience over where the games will necessarily follow. Totally agree with the article's author, Valve isn't trying to win a war but positioning itself for a future that's seeming pretty likely if not certain. The Steam machines that are launching now are a low risk investment from everyone involved. Free advertising for Valve, and a simple rebranding of exisiting hardware for the manufacturers. The real test will be how seamlessly and well the streaming works to entice hardcore gamers into putting a HTPC or steam box in their living room, and so far we haven't seen anything there.

Are you sure? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45930123)

To you and me, it's a direct interface for Steam based on Linux that currently has poor software support. To Valve, though, it's a first step in levering development, publishing, gameplay and community away from their reliance on Windows and DirectX (and to a lesser extent Mac OS), systems that cannot be relied upon in the long term.

Are you sure? I thought Valve was trying to promote the noble cause of Software Freedom.

A simpler theory (1)

TheloniousToady (3343045) | about 8 months ago | (#45930257)

To Valve, though, it's a first step in levering development, publishing, gameplay and community away from their reliance on Windows and DirectX (and to a lesser extent Mac OS), systems that cannot be relied upon in the long term.

Silly me. I thought it was all about popularizing Steam by reducing the build cost for gamers who want to play Steam games on high-end PCs, by taking out the cost of Windows. It may also have something to do with Valve having more control over their platform and/or building an empire.

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