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Third-party Steam Machine manufacturers express concern
Third-party Steam Machine manufacturers express concern
May 19, 2014 | By Mike Rose

May 19, 2014 | By Mike Rose
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    15 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



"It's going to be very challenging. This will absolutely be the least profitable system we ever sell."
- Frank Azor, general manager of the Alienware game division, talks about how tricky the Steam Machine space is going to be.

Valve unveiled the Steam Machines initiative last year, with the idea that third-party manufacturers can choose to build and sell their own Steam Machines -- essentially living room PCs that come with the Steam OS installed, and support for the Steam controller.

While we've heard Valve talk about the potential of Steam Machines before, we've not heard so much from the various companies currently considering or putting together these machines.

Talking to the Wall Street Journal this week, Alienware's Azor said that his company does not expect to make a great deal of money from building its own Steam Machine, but that the decision to go ahead with one was based on Valve's prior success in the PC game space.

Kelt Reeves, president of Falcon Northwest Computer Systems Inc., agreed with this sentiment, adding, "If anyone can do this, Valve can do it."

But other producers of Steam Machines are a little more wary. Tuan Nguyen, director at iBuyPower, is worried that fragmentation in the Steam Machine space will be a big issue.

"It's like the Android phone marketplace," he noted. "You have phones all over the place with wild specs and pricing." This will lead to confusion among consumers, he added, and he's concerned that if Valve were to release its own Steam Machine (Valve has confirmed no such plans), third-parties would be left out in the cold.


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Comments


Jennis Kartens
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Isn't the issue rather, that the demand is comparable low and *if* people buying they probably go with Valve first? The target group here are people who already own PCs capable of playing their games. I currently do not consider a Steam Machine, rather go with a classic console plus living room friendly PC setup.

The Android phone comparison really doesn't work, since the market is dominated by 3rd party phones and not Googles own Nexus.

David Erosa
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Also, it's not like the PC market is not fragmented too...

A W
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Other that Valve's anger towards the way windows 8 operates, why does there need to be a Steam only standalone device?

Dane MacMahon
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There doesn't, and I don't see SteamOS gaining much ground beyond a small niche unless Microsoft does the unthinkable and actually locks down Windows, which I doubt they will ever do.

It's a neat idea, but anyone that into PC gaming knows you can hook any old PC up to a TV, and they know 95% of PC games only work on Windows.

Greg Pryjmachuk
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This is sound thinking.

Steam machines only serve as the first foothold towards an insurance plan for valve, should Microsoft do something unimaginable. Valve have to realize they are still majority operating in Microsoft's garden.

Michael Marks
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One big reason is Asia.

Windows 7/8 adoption is nonexistent in China. The vast majority of DOTA players in China are running Windows XP with DX10/DX11 hardware. There is an argument that only a free OS (which XP has become in China) can succeed in China. There is clearly a large financially-viable gaming market in China.

DOTA 3 can't require Win7/Win8 and obtain any adoption in China.

Valve made all their talks from Steam DevDays in January available on YouTube. The information I'm quoting came from one of their talks

James Yee
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You bring up an often overlooked and key market there Michael. Hell even if you made a "DOTA ONLY" Steam Machine for China I bet it'd be profitable. (No idea WHY people love DOTA but they do)

Dave Hoskins
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I couldn't quite believe it when they said there'll be more than one Steam machine. It's a crazy idea.
Fragmentation will break Stream's camaraderie, and the definition of a Valve 'Steam box' will be lost.
Possibly a missed opportunity, or perhaps Valve thought they just couldn't compete with MS and Sony.

Tyler King
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Fragmentation sucks yes, but its the nature of the business they are in. Its not like they have this huge catalog of games that are theirs exclusively. All of their games come from pre existing operating systems and platforms so they have no choice but continue on that path. They are just trying to make their distribution platform more accessible and not be bound by the decisions made for those existing operating systems.

Kevin Fishburne
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Love it when the suits talk about "fragmentation". It's called "choice", and unless you're a moron it's a little difficult to be confused. There are things called "specifications", "return policy", "demonstration unit" and YouTube. Android is the dominant smartphone OS. That darned fragmentation is just killing it! Automobiles too...way too fragmented...you never know what you're getting until it's too late. I personally own a horse, genetically verified as purebred, as to avoid any confusion. And lots of Apple products, but only the newest models. Keeps me from shooting myself in the foot and ruining my user experience by changing those confusing things called "settings". Damn you, Valve.

Dave Hoskins
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It would have been nice to know the limits of a fast Steam Machine. This fragmentation just means developers have to target the slowest box for the highest returns. It's fun to get the most out of any computer, but the diversity of clock speeds just breaks those limits into unknowns, including the usual graphics driver hell and memory limitations.
Multiple boxes also just confuses people, they know what a PS4 is, and their new purchase will be exactly the same as their friend's PS4.

Mike Griffin
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They've put some effort into making it dual-boot friendly, and I would expect many enthusiast buyers of a Steam Machine will load up both Steam OS and Windows, to cover their bases. Does it defeat the purpose? Nah. If you're looking for a compact, stylish and powerful-enough living room PC, the Steam Machine models get you there. We'll have to see how the game support pans out, and if Valve tries to sweeten the appeal with a limited time Steam OS exclusive of a major franchise.

Dane MacMahon
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I doubt they would ever do that, and I am pretty sure they said they never would.

Kevin Fishburne
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The vendors/VARs could make a dual-booting Steam machine a fragment...err...option for customers who wanted it, although I don't know how useful that would be. You'd have to sit in front of your television with a mouse and keyboard to get any work done. What would be cool is if there was a dual display option where working on the desktop display wouldn't interfere with the Steam client running on the television. One person could play games on the TV while the other got work done on a monitor.

Mike Griffin
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Recent beta updates for SteamOS included a Windows installer, but the nice addition was an Expert install option that allows dual booting on custom/resized partitions (so you can install SteamOS and keep your existing OS and files). Thus letting you dual boot Windows. You set it up to prompt you which OS you'd like to use on every boot/reboot.

The process is still pretty inelegant and lengthy to do, but it's there in Valve's beta. Who knows if they'll tighten it up and put any focus on it as a 'feature' going forward.


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