Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
April 19, 2014
arrowPress Releases
April 19, 2014
PR Newswire
View All





If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM TechWeb sites:


Valve gives up-close look at third-party Steam Machines
Valve gives up-close look at third-party Steam Machines
January 6, 2014 | By Kris Graft

January 6, 2014 | By Kris Graft
Comments
    26 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



Valve's Gabe Newell was on-hand at CES in Las Vegas to introduce a wide line of third-party Steam Machines, the company's big Linux-based play for the living room game experience.

Partners were leaked earlier this week, but Valve confirmed the following companies:

Alienware, Alternate, Cyberpower PC, Digital Storm, Falcon Northwest, Gigabyte, iBuyPower, Material.net, Next, Origin, Scan Computers, Webhallen.com, Zotac, and Maingear.

This initial large slate of partners is just the beginning -- Valve's plan is to get as many manufacturers making Steam Machines as possible, in order to get Valve's distribution service into peoples' living rooms.

For game developers, this means the PC market has a chance to gain even more relevance, even as new consoles Xbox One and PlayStation 4 exhibit strong initial hardware sales.

When one journalist asked if Valve's Steam Machines would be able to catch up with Xbox One's 3 million units sold so far, Newell quipped, "Well it'd be hard for them to catch up because we're at 65 million," referring to the amount of registered Steam users.

Right now, there are only 300 of Valve's Steam Machine hardware beta units out in the wild. Asked how the reception has been so far, Newell replied, "Users have been super happy, but we want them to tell us what's wrong, so we're poking them harder," he said. "Right now they're all saying this is the best thing since the beginning of... time... or something."

Valve's latest Steam Machines press release mentions that the upcoming devices will start at $499, ranging as high as $6000 for Falcon Northwest's highest-end "Tiki."

The first Steam Machines from third-parties are slated to arrive in 2014.

As you might expect, manufacturers at the CES event that we spoke with all said working with Valve has been a good experience, and the Steam provider has been very helpful in the third-party hardware prototyping process.

Alienware business development manager Marc Diana said his company has been working with Valve for over a year on its Steam Machine. "The relationship has been fantastic -- we just pick up the phone, and they're very supportive."

For a comprehensive look at these machines, check out Valve's official Steam Machine brochure here [PDF].

Below is a Vine of the initial line of third-party Steam Machines, along with some pics we snagged at the busy event.
















(Lastly, Valve's own prototype Steam Machine, which was hiding behind one of the many TVs at the event.)




Related Jobs

Treyarch / Activision
Treyarch / Activision — Santa Monica, California, United States
[04.19.14]

Associate Art Director - Treyarch
Treyarch / Activision
Treyarch / Activision — Santa Monica, California, United States
[04.19.14]

Associate Animator (temporary) - Treyarch
Activision Publishing
Activision Publishing — Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
[04.19.14]

Principal Graphics Programmer
Activision Publishing
Activision Publishing — Santa Monica, California, United States
[04.19.14]

Executive Producer-Skylanders










Comments


SD Marlow
profile image
63 million Steam users, but how many will buy a 2nd (or 3rd) system, or already have something more powerful that it makes no sense to "downgrade?" By the end of the year (2014) I'd expect to see decently priced LCD's that include a skinned version of Android and a wireless controller along with keypad remote. Extending the PC into living room space is where the game will be won, not dedicated gaming Linux systems.

Michael Joseph
profile image
A Steambox might be the next PC for a lot of folks. It won't stay a dedicated gaming system for everyone.

Daneel Filimonov
profile image
I'm assuming Valve is in for the long term investment. Obviously 63 million Steam users won't all buy a Steam machine when they become available (that's literally impossible). Word of mouth, time, and diverse machines and prices will prevail.

GDI Doujins
profile image
It seriously needs Open Office, Autodesk Maya, and Unity pre-installed. If I'm gonna spend more than 1,000 bucks on a box it better well help me MAKE games, not just play them.

I am so sorry but seeing all these prices convince me to stay a console (now mostly handheld) gamer, with aspirations to just release for Android and iOS.

Valve is just catering to a niche here. Sure there are so many steam subscribers but most games on Steam are bought on sale and aren't played at all.

Simon Ludgate
profile image
I'm still kind of scratching my head at the prices of these things.

PS4: $400
XBone: $500
My year-old gaming PC: $850
Average Steam Box price: $1233
(mean of 9 systems listed here: http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2014/01/gallery-the-13-steam-machin
es-and-all-of-their-glorious-variety)

So, remind me, what's the market demographic for these things?

Leszek Szczepanski
profile image
I'm not sure about all the vendors, but I did look up Alternate. Their Steam Machine is priced accordingly to their gaming PCs. So if you're buying a new rig it makes sense to get a Steam Machine. At the very least you're not paying the "micro$oft tax".

Bernardo Del Castillo
profile image
Except they still do, since most of the high end ones are offering a dual boot alternative (because they already manufacture this pcs, and adding a Free operating system and a Controller) so why wouldn't you do it?

The thing is, given the alternative to play "a large subset" of linux compatible games, vs. playing ALL the games in the exact same platform, why would you willingly chose to go ONLY SteamOS? And how is that a different situation from what happens today?

On the other side.. why would developers willingly chose to have a potentially SMALLER audience by directing products only for steambox? and again what benefit comes from supporting that if the demographic will still use the alternative...
its an odd thing.

Eric Geer
profile image
I was thinking the same thing. My initial thought of the news that there would be various vendors of Steamboxes, was that there would be a better value due to competition, but it looks like its the PC market demographic. A gaming PC without the need for the knowledge of putting together a PC.

Might just cannibalize the PC market. Maybe over time the prices will come down. With the low end machine being $499, it is still in high range for the console market---it's the same price that XboxOne and it has been shunned because of the price.

Michael Eilers
profile image
I am puzzled by the high-end prices but not at all by the low-end ones. Have you priced what it would cost to just buy the case for such a compact PC? Some are $300 empty! A lot of R&D went into developing a PC with a footprint this small, and the developers ARE going to try and recoup their costs - after all, they are not going to get a percentage of game sales to make up their expenses, or sell these systems as "loss leaders."

Matt Ponton
profile image
I sooo misread the title:
Valve gives up
-close look at third
-party Steam Machines

Jonathan Murphy
profile image
Are they aware of Intel's 4tb SSD, Crucial's DDR4 ram, Maxwell GPUs, stacked GDDR5, 4k resolution monitors? They all arrive this year, 2014! Even more leaps are expected well into 2016. Valve better plan this wisely.

Michael Eilers
profile image
Valve is not making the hardware, it is up to these manufacturers to keep up with the times; that is the entire point. However, no one needs anything you just listed here. I have a PC built in Summer 2013 to mid-range specs, and I run every game I own (which includes many of the very latest) at 80+ FPS at Ultra settings, 1080p. I'm willing to bet the number of people out there with 4K monitors could all sit in the same movie theater right now.

Doug Poston
profile image
You can play (almost) every game out now, at it's highest setting with very little hardware. But that has a lot to do with them trying to stay cross-platform with the last generation of consoles (360/PS3).

I'm hoping we'll see a new wave of high-end PC games that will leave console in the dust. :)

Jonathan Murphy
profile image
It will and it won't, Doug Poston. Spoilers... I promise a big surprise is coming for next gen graphics. Wish I could say when.

Leszek Szczepanski
profile image
The Steam Machines are priced like comparable PCs. I was hoping that they would be a bit cheaper.

What worries me more is that their prices are comparable right now, but they are to be released "somewhere in 2014", which means that the prices of similar powered PCs might go down.

Maria Jayne
profile image
The fact that none of them are remotely competitive with the new consoles seems like a deliberate attempt to avoid getting a large audience off the bat.

As a desktop PC owner, my two primary concerns are these are worth another replacement desktop which I feel I can already do everything with....and until somebody makes my entire Direct X required Steam games library run on Linux, I'm spending money to access less games I already own.

Baby steps obviously, but It seems this is for the long haul and is far more about proof of concept than conquering the masses at launch.

Nooh Ha
profile image
LOL. I'm not sure I would see the unveiling of 13 new hardware devices. most with price tags and specs, at a single trade event as "Baby steps" and "proof of concept". I agree with the rest of what you say though!

SD Marlow
profile image
I think Microsoft would go out of business (or really, sue the pants off) if someone came out with a 64-bit DOS shell for Linux. The biggest impact they could have is just having a media/gaming edition of Windows for $59.99 (but it would kill sales of all other versions, lol).

Matt Ployhar
profile image
Actually.. some of the Steam Machines will likely have specs that are far better than the new Consoles. However; that will obviously come with a higher price tag.

Bob Johnson
profile image
Yeah I agree it is baby steps. The 13 new hardware devices really aren't new. They are just pcs. ITX form factor pcs. PCs were already going this direction. And these designs can be, and I'm sure will be, outfitted with Windows too and marketed as home pcs as well.

And yes there is no getting around that these machines won't play most of today's big pc games.

Wake me up when STeamOS plays all of today's pc games. I know most of us BYOPC people would love to shave $100 from our builds. Eliminate activation processes. Cut out the OS bloat. etc. AT least if SteamOS was also a desktop OS.

Bernardo Del Castillo
profile image
Yeah I'm still a bit confused about the target they are aiming for here. First, there seem to be too many of them (makes sense, after all all they need to do is sell a pc that they already manufacture and slap on a cheaper OS and call it a Steambox), so they are fracturing an already heavily fractured market, making it impossible to establish any sort of optimized uniform user experience. This doesn't seem to be any less of a hassle than it was before (which has always been the downside of PC gaming).

Also it seems that you'd be better off just building yourself a Steam machine than buying one. I suppose they look like they got pimped by Xzibit so people will buy, because, money burns holes in my pants and whatnot. But I fail to see any revolutionary aspect of this.
They actually may become an important section of the industry though, we will see in some years.

Michael Joseph
profile image
Valve has generated an incredible amount of good will within and without the industry. And image is extremely important... not just for current sales but for future execution of business strategy. Just ask EA. And Microsoft's image has fallen considerably since the late 90s when antitrust investigations began to take their toll and Linux use began to surge.

What Valve is attempting to do is more than just creating a console. In many ways they are taking on Windows.

Just as Valve used Half Life and the Orange Box to kickstart Steam. They are using Steam and the Steambox to kickstart a takeover of PC gaming. And for many Windows users, games are the only thing keeping them from deleting their windows partition.

And the various linux gamer city states after decades of squabbling finally stand poised & ready to unite under the leadership of King Newell.

Bernardo Del Castillo
profile image
Yeah I don't know.. I use steam because of sales. But I feel valve is pretty bad with their digital rights. If there was anything better, I'd take it in a heartbeat... If GoG or Desura had a bigger library *wink*, I'd say goodbye to Mr. Boomkin Newell.

At some point Steam hijacked the mainstream from being some bloated spyware to becoming the pc gaming platform of choice...mainly by selling stuff cheap, but for me it is still halfway between those points.
And yes, they are definitely aiming to take on microsoft, but as much contempt as I have for windows and MS in general , I honestly don't see Valve's value proposal beyond the neon lights.

It's true however, that in the eyes of a lot of consumers valve can do no evil.. and that sure comes in handy when shoving colorful boxes down people's throats.

Matt Ployhar
profile image
I'm confused about the 'confusion'. Seriously?

The SteamMachine is more like a baseline spec/dev-target/design point - than an actual true Console that ships initially as one 'boring/yawn' form factor that you're stuck with for life.

The SteamMachine, at least some of them, will likely be upgradeable. Unlike that Xbox One or PS4.

Pricing?
Remember... the true Consoles are largely subsidized. Which translates to them being loss leaders in the hopes of building a meaningful market share. They are typically sold at cost, or even sometimes below cost, depending on what source you look at. Gabe/Valve won't have that luxury initially.

Who's bread are you buttering?
With a true Console - remember that Microsoft and Sony, & the Retailers, all take a pretty hefty cut of the margin before it ever trickles down to the Developer. Does Valve get a free pass here? No. However; bear in mind that PC gaming has *always* been more lucrative than Console games from a profitability perspective. ZERO royalty for starters. If they adopt the F2P model, or some variation thereof, then ZERO piracy. Which leads to my next point.

The debate over Gabes quip about ~65m user install base via Steam, vs. the Xbox's 3 million sold. It's apples to oranges. It's going to take Xbox One at least ~4 years to even sell through 60 million Xbox Ones - if historical trends are any indication for their future. Actually more like 6 years - but I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt. Given that Valve is opening up the SteamMachine to any OEM - believe me - they could theoretically move that volume easily in 1 year. They won't..... but they could. I predict that the Steam Machine will move roughly ~50-100% of an 8th Gen Console volume year over year. That's still a VERY healthy business... and FAR more lucrative for the Game Devs.

Laslty; who's it for? Both PC *and* Console Gamers. There are a lot of Console gamers who gravitate to the Console for a few very simple reasons. 1) It just works - as long as there's no RROD. 2) It's easy to use. 3) Cool Games - which is arguably the most important and will ultimately decide the Steam Machines long term fate.

Michael Wenk
profile image
I don't think the SM's market is really his current install base. Parts of it, sure. I imagine he'd be happy if the current customers that are spending 60+ on new releases bought it, but I would have to imagine his market is on those that aren't buying the high end stuff, as well as those console gamers who are either priced out of the high end PC market or are "afraid" of PC gaming in that it requires a bunch of know how. Especially at 500$ I can't see myself buying this. I don't really know many people that *need* it either. I do wonder if it will succeed, but Gabe has done incredibly before where people didn't think he would, so I wish the man all the luck in the world.

GDI Doujins
profile image
At this point, the Steam OS must have a lot of desktop apps similar to other linux distros. It isn't enough to compete with Windows Media Center -- it has to compete with Windows itself.

As I stated before, at those prices... I'm looking for a desktop... no, a workstation replacement altogether.


none
 
Comment: