Back in 2012, Valve announced their own brand of an operating system, named SteamOS. One could tell that Valve was planning something big for them to develop their own operating system. They already have the Steam client, which isthe most popular PC gaming digital distributor in the world. With over 125 million accounts used, It’s pretty obvious that,Valve would want more than just providing for gamers in the software space. The massive success of the Steam client led to Valve wanting to enter the hardware market. Them entering led to the development of the SteamOS and Steam Box or Steam Machine.
With this, Valve enters both the console and PC competition. Competition like this is a good thing. It pushes companies to further improve and innovate to grab consumers. Choosing Linux as a base for their operating system also meant competing with Windows as well. For PC gamers users is a much needed service. Back in 2012, this was when Windows 8 was the latest OS for Microsoft. Microsoft has a very clear dominance in the PC market with its OS being the most popular OS , as well as their Office applications having the same type of dominance, even if said applications are running on a Mac or a Linux based PC.
Because of Microsoft’s dominance, this meant that they have at times released some subpar operating systems, such as Windows 8. As Windows 8 came out, it was really bad, especially after the very well received Windows 7. Gabe Newell himself said that Windows 8 is “a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space.”
Because of this “Vista 2.0” injustice, it is the main reason Newell said he created the SteamOS. SteamOS needs something to run on, and thus the Steam Box comes in play. In late 2012, Valve announced that they were developing a video game console, with a prototype shown at Consumer Electronics Show in 2013 by Xi3 Corporation. On September 2013, the Steam Box was officially revealed by Valve with development kits and testing was conducted in in 2014. Due to feedback, the release was pushed from mid 2014 to November of 2015.
November finally came around with the official releases of the Steam Box. Accompanied with other hardware such as the Steam Link, and the Steam Controller, surely this was going to make a huge wave in the market. Maybe even form a bridge to between the PC and console market, but following its release it failed to make a mark. Why is that?
It is Not Used to Clean Floors Either?
So now its 2017, and the Steam Box evaporated in the atmosphere like, well, steam. Valve didnt disclose exact numbers but Steam Boxes sold less than 500,000. But how did it come to be like this? Backed by a huge company, and didn’t come with the negatives that newly console releases typically have. The main Steam Box is manufactured by the ever popular Alienware. Advertised as the best of both worlds; the freedom of a PC and the ease of a console. So how come people just didn’t care?
When the SteamOs came out in 2015, Windows 10 was already out for a few months. Feedback were well received due to removing many Windows 7 issues. Valve’s own OS comes with two major flaw. SteamOS as of right now is not compatible with every game that is on Steam. There are many games that run exclusively on Windows and there still will be many that can only run on Windows, due to some of the games on Steam client being old and it will always be like that. Many games ran signifigantly worse than on Windows 10 How can a company advertise something like that, but then can’t even play its entire library. One could alleviate some of these issues by simply downloading Windows 7 or 10, but why do that, why have a Steam Box in the first place?
When you look at how many Steam Boxes there are, there are the ones that Alienware makes, the ones that CyberPowerPC make, and they all contain different specifications. In truth it is a PC, so it makes sense that there are multiple specs, but since its also trying to be a console, it can confuse people. With these specs, they also vary in pricing. They can be as low as $300 or as high as $1500, and thats just for the Alienware variant. Other variants can be as pricey as $6000. Because of all of these different choices, with wildly different hardware specs, its very hard for people getting into the industry to choose.
Steam Boxes are advertised as the ease of a console, but only share their portability. It doesn’t contain the exclusive library that our fellow consoles have such as Nintendo’s Mario or Sony’s Uncharted. As stated above, the varying prices hurt it too. When one goes out to a store for a PS4, they know they will either spend $300 or $400 on the console on average, and that it will play every game that come out on it. With the Steam Box, there are some games you can’t play due to incompatibility with the OS or simply the hardware isn’t strong enough to run it.
Steam Boxes have “the freedom of a PC,” but restricts your freedom before you even buy it. Due to the construction of certain Steam Boxes, it make it hard to swap out parts if things go wrong or you simply want more power. A few parts are custom made, so they only can be purchase directly from a manufacturer. In some cases, this makes some parts more expensive then they typically are. With most gaming PCs, a person puts it together with their own hands. The Steam Box is missing that crucial component of creating your own tailor made product.
Didn’t Microsoft Already Make One?
Valve at first had plans to further push the Steam Box in 2017, but those plans never came to be. Valve may just write this one off their books and simply just focus on software again. When one really looks at it, the reason why the Steam Box couldn’t take off is that it never offered anything that the other two platforms didn’t already have. It couldn’t offer the relaxation or the expansive exclusives of console, nor could it offer the versatility or raw power of a computer. It tried to be a mix, and only came out as a mistake. But where Valve failed in the venture, Microsoft actually succeeded.
Since 2016, Microsoft intertwined their Windows 10 platform and their Xbox One platform together. With E3 2015 they shifted marketing the Xbox One as more of a mini PC. Windows 10 and Xbox has major cross-play compatibility, play anywhere, as well as cross-buy. One could play Gears of War 4 on their PC, end progress, go to a PC and have access to all of that saved data as well. Even some games such as Rocket League and Resident Evil 7 also have the cross-play and cross-buy options, respectively.
Microsoft ironically ended up making the Steam Box that Valve sought out after. If Valve does try to do something like this again, they should take notes from Microsoft. Maybe Valve might make a cross-play deal with Sony. It’s not a crazy idea as they did make deals with Sony in the past. If the bridge between PC and consoles truly merge, it would open up all kinds of possibilities. Hopefully this isn’t the last we hear of Valve’s ventures into the world of hardware.