That’s not a Steam console; it’s a Steam PC

Slowly but surely, Valve’s plans for Steam in the living room are coming into focus. On Monday, we learned about SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system that will stream games from local PCs. On Wednesday, Valve revealed that a range of SteamOS-powered machines will be available from different hardware vendors. Another announcement is scheduled for Friday morning. Details about a new kind of input device are expected.

I’m curious about what sort of controller Valve may have devised. Company chief Gabe Newell has expressed an interest in wearable devices before. Valve has also worked with the folks at Sixense, whose motion control tech can be found in the PlayStation Move and Razer Hydra. Steam machines will work with standard gamepads, though, so I’ve made up my mind already. There’s definitely a Steam box in my future.

To be fair, that’s not going to be much of a stretch. I already have a gaming PC hooked up to my TV. Throwing SteamOS on a rig should be easy, especially since the gaming-optimized OS will be free of charge. The SteamOS source code will be available, too. Open-source software gives me the same warm, fuzzy feeling I get when shopping at a farmer’s market or eating quinoa.

SteamOS is also free to license. If the DIY approach isn’t for you, there will be pre-built systems from multiple vendors, at multiple price points, and with varying levels of performance. Some of these machines will likely be inexpensive offerings designed mostly for indie games and less demanding titles. These systems will still be capable of streaming the latest blockbusters from a more powerful PC, though.

I can even envision more basic boxes designed primarily with streaming in mind. Nvidia’s Project Shield handheld can stream PC games using an ARM-based Tegra4 SoC, and Nvidia has been collaborating with Valve on SteamOS. If the streaming tech is good enough, you could get by with a powerful desktop rig and a SteamOS-based extender for that system. Such a setup would be a lot more economical than maintaining a separate gaming PC for the living room.

At the other end of the spectrum, I expect high-end Steam machines will rival the best gaming PCs available right now. In fact, they may even surpass the fastest Windows boxes. Valve claims to have achieved "significant performance increases in graphics processing" on Linux, and it’s working on optimizing audio and input latency. At least for native titles, SteamOS may offer a better experience than running the same games on Windows.

Just to be clear, Valve hasn’t abandoned Windows. "Everything that we’ve been doing on Steam for the last 10 years will continue to move forward," the company says, and it will bring SteamOS’s game streaming, media services, sharing options, and family profiles to the standard Steam client. You’ll be able to install Windows on Steam machines, too—though presumably not on ARM-based variants, if such specimens do exist.

Some might view the range of Steam box possibilities as a fragmented nightmare. In some ways, it’s the antithesis to the one-size-fits-all attitude that permeates the console industry. But I’m thrilled that we didn’t get a single Steam console. We got something much better instead: a purpose-built platform to make PC gaming at home in the living room.

We shouldn’t have expected anything less from Valve, which has long exploited the best things about the PC platform to the benefit of gamers. It harnessed the power of the Internet early, creating a digital distribution platform that fundamentally changed how most of us buy games. Steam got off to a rough start, and there are some who will always sneer at the fact that it incorporates DRM, but the service has become incredibly refined over the past decade. Nothing on the PC really compares right now, and Valve already has a Big Picture interface primed for big-screen TVs.

Another PC perk—and something you don’t get with consoles—is a robust platform for content creation. Mods have long been a hallmark of PC gaming, and Valve has a history of supporting them. Heck, it even hired the folks behind Counter-Strike and Team Fortress, two of the most pivotal mods from back in the day. More recently, Valve created the Steam Workshop, an online marketplace for user-generated content. Creators get a cut of the proceeds, and Valve has already paid out over $10 million to people who have sold items through the Workshop.

If Valve can create an economy around Team Fortress 2 hats, just imagine what it could do with a content conduit for your television. Valve is already working with "many of the media services you know and love" to bring music, movies, and TV shows to Steam. It also has the systems and infrastructure in place to curate and distribute other forms of media itself. Hmmm.

Valve’s engagement with the community isn’t limited to fostering content development, of course. Steam has become a hub for gaming discussion, and it has a whole social networking aspect that Valve mercifully doesn’t beat you over the head with. Then there’s the Greenlight program, which gamers have a say in which titles appear on Steam’s virtual shelves.

Now, Valve is bringing the community into the development process of SteamOS. 300 people will be lucky enough to receive the initial Steam box prototype. They’ll be encouraged to share their experiences with the community in any way they see fit, and Valve has set up a discussion group to solicit feedback from the public at large. I get the feeling Valve is genuinely interested in what we have to say on the subject. That gives me another warm, fuzzy feeling.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Valve’s planned expansion of the so-called Steam Universe isn’t all about giving PC gamers a perfect system to hook up to their televisions. It’s also about making Steam the default distribution service for gaming on another set of screens—and for a potentially much larger audience. And I’m okay with that. Valve has earned the praise heaped upon it by gamers, and there’s no one else to take PCs into the living room. You don’t expect Microsoft to throw its weight behind anything that might compete with the Xbox, do you? Microsoft has been a poor custodian of PC gaming in general, and I trust the folks at Valve more than I do the minds in Redmond.

Well, I don’t trust anyone at Valve who says anything about release dates. Or Half-Life 3. But I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that SteamOS isn’t part of an evil plan for world domination.

Important questions still remain about SteamOS and the machines designed for it:

  • Will competing distribution services like Origin be allowed to run on SteamOS? The open nature of the operating system suggests they will, but we don’t know for sure.
  • What will the hardware support be like for DIY rigs? Pre-built Steam machines shouldn’t have issues, but it could be a pain to get SteamOS working properly on different hardware. It would be nice if there were some sort of certification program for SteamOS-approved components.
  • How easy will it be to dual-boot SteamOS and Windows on the same machine? Steam has a limited selection of native Linux games, and even with blockbusters promised next year, it’s unrealistic to expect the native library to be sufficient for most folks. Which brings me to the big question…
  • Just how good is the game streaming? This will likely be a make-or-break feature for a lot of folks who already own gaming desktops, and we don’t know if there are any associated latency or image quality penalties attached to the scheme. At least we can take some comfort in Valve’s assertion that "all your Windows and Mac games" will work with streaming.

Something tells me the next reveal won’t provide answers to all those questions. But I’ll be hitting F5 at 10AM Pacific Time tomorrow to find out, and I’ll be downloading SteamOS as soon as it’s available to try things out for myself. Hopefully, my optimism and enthusiasm haven’t been misplaced.

Comments closed
    • CatheyBarrett23
    • 6 years ago
    • tdsevern
    • 6 years ago

    If I can turn this thing into a DVR and use a regular mouse and keyboard, I might be spending a lot more time in front of my TV.

      • albundy
      • 6 years ago

      you can do that now. it’s called an hdmi cable. mine runs 50ft from my tv to my pc.

    • esterhasz
    • 6 years ago

    It’s a bit off topic but here is a link that some people may like:

    [url<]http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2013/02/varoufakis_on_v.html[/url<] It's an economics podcast with Yanis Varoufakis as invitee - he was the economist in residence at Valve and talks in some detail about the very unique management style (no managerial hierarchy) there. Gives quite an interesting background to the current story.

    • Laykun
    • 6 years ago

    I would like to see valve make large contributions to the WINE project on linux so they can get their massive back catalogue of games working acceptably on linux. Of course this would only be for games before a certain date, so that game developers don’t take the easy route and default to having their windows build of games just run under WINE on linux.

    I really feel WINE would forgoe the whole need for the streaming from a PC part to alleviate the lack of legacy games on SteamOS and Steam on Linux in general. They could even make this part of their application API for developers when they deploy their legacy game on Steam (the container that does the steam integration around the original game exe).

    Because as much as I love new games there are always some older games I can’t help but go back and play every now and then.

      • bwcbiz
      • 6 years ago

      For the really old stuff, there’s always DOSBox. That already has a Linux version (or three). I’d have mixed emotions about Valve buying GOG, though. GOG has done right by gamers even more-so than Valve.

    • End User
    • 6 years ago

    I’m tickled pink by this news. Well done Valve!

    • NovusBogus
    • 6 years ago

    I’m cautiously optimistic about SteamOS. I would really like to see Valve come at this as a booster of Linux gaming in general (support Wine, force AMD/nVidia to take drivers seriously, let their stuff run in other distros, etc.) as that will make me less worried that SteamOS is simply trading one corporate monolith for another. Remember kids, when Microsoft and EA started out they were seen as the good guys in their respective fields but once everyone was hooked on their stuff they did management culture because they can.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 6 years ago

    Quadruple boot please! SteamOS, Android, ChromeOS, and Windows would make for a geek’s wet dream.

    • omphaloskepsis
    • 6 years ago

    I’m excited about where Valve is going, but I’m not quite as hopeful with my expectations.

    First, I’m skeptical about streaming games. Especially modded games. My Skyrim setup (300+ mods) is around 50GB, and can start stuttering from textures as it is. No way can something like that work for streaming, unless they provide a huge local cache, and they’re very smart about how they implement it.

    Or it may be that the streaming options will support lowest-common-denominator gameplay, and not even consider the ramifications about running high-end setups.

    Also, my (limited) experience with the Steam Workshop is that it’s junk. It’s fine for “your grandma’s modding needs” and for a first step into mods, but that’s it. After that, you just ignore it.

    With Skyrim as an example again, to have a decent modded setup, you need a number of tools (Wrye Bash, TES5Edit, BOSS). BOSS is essential for anything but the most primitive setups, but it’s beyond the scope of Steam. Also, the lackluster Steam Workshop mod manager can result in broken games from updates and patches.

    It’s like Valve didn’t even investigate the mod scene. Or they decided they didn’t want to support anything past the most simple mods.

      • fr500
      • 6 years ago

      Streaming is done by encoding a video of the framebuffer and transmiting it over the network. You don’t need a cache. If the game performs well it will stream well.
      Games will be likely streamed as-they-are, maybe steam will advice a lower resolution but that’s about it.

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 6 years ago

    [quote<] Open-source software gives me the same warm, fuzzy feeling I get when shopping at a farmer's market or eating quinoa.[/quote<] Geoff is basically 1 ironic mustache away from being a Portlandia skit. 🙂

    • superjawes
    • 6 years ago

    …okay, the controller has impressed me…

      • HisDivineOrder
      • 6 years ago

      I think the lack of a good crosspad is going to seriously hurt the potential of that controller with fighters and retro platformers. I also happen to think it needs two analog sticks below the touchpads.

      If they did that and added some manual switch that turned a “360 Controller Compatibility mode” that tricked the PC into thinking it was a 360 controller when enabled, then this could become the best controller ever. There’s a lot of open space where this might be done.

      As it is, I think it’s incredibly specialized and is going to truly infuriate people trying to play MK9 or DMC or Super Meat Boy.

    • allreadydead
    • 6 years ago

    This is some really exciting news for non-console gaming. Actually, it’s like taking PC to the console territory and it’s good. Console games has their ways and many people like the way they are. However, the characteristics of a console game doesn’t really fit “PC game” definition. As there is high piracy rate on PC games, producers goes for consoles and their type of games to maximize profit. with SteamOS we might have games like shadowrun (I know shadowrun “returned”) and wasteland more often.

    IF, NVIDIA jumps in with GRID and they find a way to stream it to a BayTrail box sitting next to the TV without latency issues, that would rock. Add Oculus RIFT+Razer hydra to the equation and this can be a winner.

      • Goofus Maximus
      • 6 years ago

      It’s also exiting news to the Linux community.

      With the advent of a major player like Valve’s Steam service, there will be incentives for new hardware driver development from OEMs. Is it a co-inky-dink that Nvidia is starting to open their hardware to the Linux development community? I opinionate that it is not.

      I imagine that in the near future, hardware driver support and performance [edit]in Linux, that is[/edit] will improve by leaps and bounds.

      • Sabresiberian
      • 6 years ago

      Name one thing that can be done on a console that can’t be done on a PC. Name one thing a Steam Machine will improve over what a PC can do today.

      The past games that weren’t released on PCs had nothing to do with the format; there is nothing about a PC that prevents those games from being played on it. Those games were released as a part of an exclusivity package, or the developer/publisher was under the badly mistaken impression that PC gaming wasn’t worth spending money on. The Steam Machine will do nothing to change those things – the only thing it can do is add yet another format that developers have to consider when they make their games.

      The fact is, game makers are already figuring out that yes, the PC should be developed for, along with the consoles. PC sales of Borderlands 2 exceeded Playstation sales, for example. The Steam Machine brings no new technology, no way of improving game quality, no way of playing a PC game that is actually better for any reason. It won’t make an anti-PC developer (can you say Bungie?) suddenly make their games for a PC-like device (unless Valve forks over gobs of cash).

      • mcnasty72@gmail.com
      • 6 years ago

      It brings the PC into console land without another “walled garden”, while staying turn to the DIY nature of PC’S. Add the install base of every Steam user and MS & Sony could be in for some MAJOR headaches.

    • Klimax
    • 6 years ago

    My take as I posted it on Ars:
    Doesn’t look good for quite few reasons.

    1) Valve doesn’t produce well written software. Steam is full of bugs, inconsistencies and bad engineering. (like running some long running tasks on UI thread…) Older source games (like HL2) are great example what one must look after. They were never patched to be DEP compatible. Sometimes it missuses API in such way, that it has subtle bugs. (Portal 1 runs only in DirectX 8 mode on Intel HD 3000)
    I’d stay away from SteamOS for at least few years. Or didn’t Steam teach us anything. (Including it’s periodical collapse when they have massive sale?) Also Steam still uses and requires some non-HTTP port, which won’t work at university network. (Port not whitelisted)
    For reference, Origin works correctly and well. (BTW: You can opt out of SW or HW survey in options)

    2) They have to provide backwards compatibility so games will work in future. It is hard, ongoing, requiring quite good engineers. Just fixing games after updating to new Windows is hard and that’s with huge infrastructure for backwards compatibility.
    Or they’ll be back porting fixes and in process creating their own XP. And maintaining security is also hard and ongoing. (and when source distro cease support for version used in SteamOS it will be up to Valve) And mistakes won’t be generally forgiving…
    And they cannot rely on vendors patching their games. (Microsoft in 90s wasn’t able, Valve is not even close to have pull) And that would assume the creator still exists or has code or is even able to do patching. (At the same time game creators shown remarkable ability to write crazy and often damaged code, which is very fragile and even slight change can often send it crashing.)
    See again DEP.

    3)And when games break they’ll have problem. (And they will) It will damage credibility with average user and they won’t be as easy to spend money again. (Likely turning them back to original three consoles)

    In short, they are creating constant money drain, which might prove too much. just so Newell can try to recreate virtual monopoly and lock-in on platform without major game distribution platform.

    ===

    For now no need to change writing… (Guess, I can expect down votes for repost. Don’t care. :D)
    Maybe one last thing: They are even further splitting their forces, so quality won’t improve.

      • Deanjo
      • 6 years ago

      I thought you were serious until I read this:

      [quote<]For reference, Origin works correctly and well. (BTW: You can opt out of SW or HW survey in options)[/quote<] Then I realized that the entire post was tongue in cheek.

        • Klimax
        • 6 years ago

        Unfortunately, no. Origin is in many ways better then Steam. (I wish it wasn’t so, but no.)
        Steam requires non-http port*, has badly written UI code such that it often freezes, badly reimplements some of Windows controls including menu and its browser is slower then IE. (Best seen at massive sales) And unlike Origin, Steam servers fail more often under high load…

        So, no. My post was completely serious.

        *University whitelists ports, Steam not on list. (SVN is) Origin worked…

        ETA: I guess many people want to believe that it will be all sunshine and no problems. Ignoring reality will work only for so long and the longer it goes on will make wake up harder. Just hope that Newell doesn’t do same, otherwise Valve fails too hard to recover.

          • MFergus
          • 6 years ago

          When have Origin servers ever been under high load? They weren’t even able to handle the modest SimCity release.

            • Klimax
            • 6 years ago

            Actually, I don’t think Origin store itself went down, only servers handling SimCity. (And for that matter, preorders where million and something)

            I’d point out more that Origin didn’t have yet any significant sale period. (To get most of people at once)

          • f0d
          • 6 years ago

          when EA had their humble bundle i couldnt register my games on origin for a few days
          even the EA games from the EA humble bundle that i was able to register on steam worked instantly yet the origin only games i couldnt for days

          steam servers havnt failed under high load for me in years – i am always able to register my humble bundles and download my games and purchase their sales without issue

          almost all games i have had that needed the origin/ea download service have been horrible including battlefield 3 which wouldnt even download for me when it came out and we all know about the simcity debacle – even way back with BF2142 northern strike expansion i had issues downloading it on the day of its release

          never had steam freeze, browser is a little slow but nothing too bad for me (i can load most stuff within seconds)

          honestly i have had way more issues with origin and ea downloader and ea link and ea download manager than i have ever had with steam

            • Klimax
            • 6 years ago

            Funny, with humble bundle. No problem here.

            Last Steam fail was I think start of summer sale. It is reliably every time there is significant sale.

            I encounter Steam freezing every other launch. (steam-freeze, talk about choice of words :D)
            (Also it likes occasionally fail to start order…)
            Just search old forums (Help and Tips + General discussion) 503 and like will show you what I am talking about and not just community part. (Never was interested in)
            Example: [url<]http://forums.steampowered.com/forums/showthread.php?t=3175888&highlight=503[/url<] Well, I guess it is like with drivers for GPUs or mobile OSes... BTW: Just noticed that their website breaks in IE9, because it forces compatibility mode to IE9, breaking many things. Another fail. (They can't get even trivial thing correct?) Note: Location is Czech Republic, Steam is set to Czech Republic, same for Origin. (Might have some effect)

            • f0d
            • 6 years ago

            never had that (or any) issue with steam (in the last 5+ years) – every sale i have had zero issues and i buy loads of games in the sales
            the link you provided only had 2 people that had the 503 issue
            never had a freeze

            TR mentioned the EA humble bundle origin issue here [url<]https://techreport.com/news/25231/ea-blockbusters-populate-latest-humble-bundle[/url<] "the resulting barrage of Origin activations bogged down EA's servers. "Code Redemption is temporarily unavailable," Origin says as I write this. Fear not, though, because EA has "top agents working on it." Even if you can't redeem the Origin exclusives right away, there's no questioning the incredible value offered by the latest Humble Bundle. I don't think I'll be able to resist this one." and here on origins twatter [url<]https://twitter.com/OriginInsider/status/367737255357448192[/url<] i wasnt able to redeem my codes till late the next day (a day and a half) even now people are having BF4 beta issues looking at their twatter

            • Klimax
            • 6 years ago

            Just bought another few titles, took a minute to just get to summary for confirmation from basket.
            Freeze is usually about ten seconds or so. (Appears fully loaded, but won’t react)

            I just provided an example link and noted suggested search terms. It is recurring and quite significant. (Each year at least once they get overloaded.) Just do search on their old forums…
            And since I always try to extract as much value out of sales (otherwise Steam is more expensive then e-shops with physical boxes) I tend to hit as soon as event starts, so I tend to hit it often.

            I don’t dispute what others hit, I just noted I didn’t hit it. Don’t remember how fast did I checked it out, it might be that originally I missed it. (So no better then Steam from my POV, fails under load. Not first nor last service to go down under load. Pity Impulse under Gamestop is useless – way too many NA only titles even those where it doesn’t make sense)

            Should note that I use Steam since 2009 (before it was ignored after it prevented me back then from playing HL2 at release) got 300+ games and same or similar issues are still there. (Although freeze is bit recent, so it might be tied a bit to browser changes) BTW: I started to tolerate services like Steam after I made good use of Stardock’s Impulse. (Steam reintroduced definitely by Supreme Commander 2)

            • Sabresiberian
            • 6 years ago

            Steam drops me off its servers all the time. Fortunately I play solo, so it doesn’t effect me, I just get this little “lost connection with server” notice. A while back I asked (on the Borderlands 2 forums) whether or not this effected people who played co-op, and the answer was yes, indeed it does.

            Those that play Borderlands 2 co-op through Steam say a lag time of 500 milliseconds, or worse, is common.

            I’ve only bought a couple of games from Steam, but have had problems getting them to the point I could play them. Mostly the service accepts a code fine, but not always.

            I’ve had 2 occasions to try to get assistance from Steam support, and it has taken them days to respond the first time (actually more like a week for the first contact on the first occasion). Both times they sent me a formula response that had nothing to do with the issue.

            I’ve had issues all along with Steam not syncing properly. Supposedly, Steam gives me a backup of my save files, and I should be able to play on any PC I want, pick up on one where I left off on another. That is rarely the case – I have to actually copy over the save file from one computer to the other. The recommendation from most veteran Steam users is that you make your own backup of your own games, don’t rely on Steam’s backup. So, there is no point in using Steam, for me. There is a point for Gearbox and 2K, it gives them a system to check DRM, it gives them a way of keeping track of game statistics for PC users, but it does nothing for me. Basically, I am forced to use something I would rather not use that does nothing but cause me problems.

      • Concupiscence
      • 6 years ago

      Er, the fix for Portal 1 on HD 3000 should be easy… Bring down the console, type set mat_dxlevel 98 and be done. If 98 doesn’t work, try 95; if THAT doesn’t work, try 90. That will cycle through DirectX 10, 9.0c, and 9.0 respectively. And if this is something you’ve known about, why not file a bug report?

      The rest of this is nigh-incomprehensible gobbledygook.

        • Klimax
        • 6 years ago

        Thought, there should be command for that. (It’s recent, because I rarely play on notebook)

        As for “The rest of this is nigh-incomprehensible gobbledygook.” You didn’t try or have insufficient knowledge. (Didn’t get this response on Ars, but did get reply/votes.)
        It might be harder, because I am not native English speaker, but I don’t see any errors. If there are, point them out. (If it is structure itself, can’t help it. Read too much of Belisarius series…)

      • odizzido
      • 6 years ago

      You may have gotten a lot of downvotes, but I somewhat agree with you. I disagree in that I think that the source engine is quite good and have never had any trouble with it over the years, and don’t know anyone personally that has.

      I do think that valve has trouble with the little things. Like making menus that work properly, buttons that perform actions, and other things that seem simple but valve fails on again and again.

      SteamOS is a big project. I expect the core of it to work very well and the OS to be stable, but I also expect the simple things to be barely functional.

      And I also agree with the origin comment. Compared to steam on release, origin is a masterpiece of software design. In their current forms, I find them to be about the same for stability/usability.

        • f0d
        • 6 years ago

        “Compared to steam on release, origin is a masterpiece of software design”

        the problem is that origin has been around for years under different names – they are all the same program but just renamed

        its like EA just renames the service because so many people have problems with it and maybe renaming it will make people forget its the same thing

        either way i only ever had issues with steam in the early days yet i still have problems with EA downloader… err i mean EA download manager…err i mean EA link….. err i mean origin

          • Klimax
          • 6 years ago

          I don’t think it is same. (But if some body can post evidence for it, I won’t dispute it much)
          Note: Origin is Qt-based. Have never run EA previous attempts. (IIRC ignored them, because I found them superfluous) Directory listing of exe/dlls would most likely suffice. (Or which game had it, so I could check it out myself)

        • Klimax
        • 6 years ago

        As for compatibility, do you have DEP always or only for system services? (I have forced it on to reduce attack surface)

        BTW: Votes are fun. But feedback/discussion is always better.

        OS most likely will be stable, but I have doubts how stable will be platform with regards to games. (They need to ensure that library of compatible games doesn’t shrink with passing time because old games break)

        BTW: I think main difference between EA and Valve is in amount of layers and management overhead with associated costs to technical decisions. (Sometimes you get decision made by appropriate person, while the other it is done by average manager and rest of time overruled by higher management) Con would be too much flexibility, which can stall projects quite well as well. (Balance needed) Or may delay fixing some issues, because they are not popular with programmers and thus would require assignment by higher up.

        Management is sometimes even harder then it seems, because it is as much about people as it is about coordination and oversight. Balancing between no oversight and micromanagement, both able to destroy projects and create failures.

      • Klimax
      • 6 years ago

      We’ll see about five years in…

    • darc
    • 6 years ago

    I’d love to see a PS3/ PS4/ XBox360/ XBoxOne app that can stream Steam games from a local PC, while they’re at it. I’ve already got one or two consoles hanging off all of my TVs; I don’t want to add yet another PC to the mix as a mere accessory to the PC in the office.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 6 years ago

      I think that’d be cool but no way it’d fly with MS or Sony – they don’t make money on a console until they get lots of licensed software sales. They sell the razor for less than cost hoping to make it up on the blades.

        • superjawes
        • 6 years ago

        I still think that Steam Machines are the answer to XBOnes and PS4s tresspassing in PC territory. Streaming to a Steam Machine is basically saying: “anything you can do, I can do better!”

        The leftover question is whether or not they can compete at a cost level (not value). PCs are more powerful and can do more, but an Econobox running Windows will set you back about $670, almost $300 more than a PS4. However, if Steam Machines can cut out the Windows tax, get the hardware optimized to perform better than a PS4, and still compete at a cost level…the console market will change dramatically for sure.

          • Sabresiberian
          • 6 years ago

          Why do we need another kind of machine, besides a PC, to “compete with consoles”? That makes absolutely no sense at all. The PC can already do anything a console can do better.

            • superjawes
            • 6 years ago

            At what cost, though? Consoles play games and have been growing their apps for almost a decade now, adding features that were once exclusive to the PC platform. Yes, the PC might be “better,” but a good one typically costs a lot more than a console, especially with the Windows tax.

            Finding a way to lower the cost of entry offers console gamers a new alternative, moving us away from a console-centric environment.

        • darc
        • 6 years ago

        I see your point, derFunkenstein. Ah well, a boy can dream. Probably the only way it could come to pass is if the PS/XBox Steam app were programmed to hide/disable Steam content that was released as multi-platform, so Sony/ MS would still be guaranteed native sales of games where applicable.

      • mcnasty72@gmail.com
      • 6 years ago

      It will never happen.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 6 years ago

    The announcements going through this week have been annoying at best. They haven’t launch in a professional manner like previous valve over the internet announcements with awesome promo videos and stuff. Heck so far one of the announcements seemed more targeted at creating business partnerships than at customers. This is sorta annoying. Its not the news, its a combination of the lack of it (soft facts if anything at all) and the fashion they are delivering it in.

    • WaltC
    • 6 years ago

    It was sort of obvious from the “how many games will there be for SteamOS?” question and Valve’s answer of “several hundred right now” and “the rest” (around ~3,000 games) available via “in-home streaming”, that SteamOS is Ubuntu 12.03+ with some kind of Valve-themed front end.

    I’m quite fine in my gaming hardware life, but thanks, anyway, Gabe, and I have no problems with Windows at the moment. Here’s what I want and expect from Valve: Half-Life 3. I can’t make it plainer than that. Gabe. Chop-chop.

      • Chrispy_
      • 6 years ago

      Although Valve has done an awful lot of cool stuff for PC gaming since the early days, Valve has abandoned the customers that put it where it is.

      Founded in 1996, Half-Life was Valve’s debut title and it put them on the map. For [i<][b<]eleven years[/b<][/i<], EVERYTHING valve released was either part of the Half-Life franchise, or a mod for Half-Life. It was only Portal (2007) that really broke that mould - and even then, it was still Half-Life [i<]themed[/i<]. Here we are six years after the unfinished, cliffhanger ending to HL2:E2 and all I have to say to Gabe is: "Come on fat man, [b<]FINISH IT![/b<]"

        • indeego
        • 6 years ago

        Calling people by their weight typically doesn’t give you a response you might be looking for.

        Microsoft also doesn’t make DOS anymore, gonna complain about that? Projects move on. I frikkin’ love Half-Life, but the game kinda took a quality nose-dive after HL2. The episodes weren’t quite on the same level as the entire game.

        And you act like HL2 had this world-encompassing story where the outcome is critical to completing your life. The story is really silly, when you think about it, and the characters not all that endearing. Well, except DOG?

        I like what Valve is doing on the Steam-side. I prefer Steam to all consoles. I like to have control over my hardware. I like gaming from the same machine as I work, and vice versa. It’s clever as hell. I have many games due to Steam, and I never have to worry about media management. That saves me time and ultimately is worthwhile whatever projects they use to keep Steam relevent.

        Steam > HL

        There, I said it.

          • Chrispy_
          • 6 years ago

          [quote<]Calling people by their weight typically doesn't give you a response you might be looking for.[/quote<] It's an insult, i.e. I wish to [i<]insult[/i<] Gabe. Since he is more financially successful and probably also smarter than me, I will resort to deprecating him by referring to his poor physical fitness. I'll agree that Steam > HL but the two things are [b<]not[/b<] mutually exclusive! Steam would still exist even if HL3 (or Episode 3) were rubbish.

        • WaltC
        • 6 years ago

        Yes, Valve has this gigantic, mega money-making Super franchise called “Half Life,” but thinks to keep it buried in purgatory in order to concentrate on yet-another-Linux-distribution and some PCs that have the words Valve/SteamOS plastered all over them–with decals, maybe? And honestly…it’s not just Valve…but this whole “living room” PR paradigm seems contrived to the point of being ridiculous. I’ve got a computer room, and I’ve got a living room, and I watch movies in the LR and play games and work in my computer room when I’m home, and that’s the way I like it, and have liked it for more than 20 years…;) (My wife also has yet another little room where she does her computing when the mood strikes.) I very much doubt I’m alone in this regard. Of course, there’s nothing at all “wrong” with people who want to co-mingle everything they do in one room–the living room–but this arrangement surely doesn’t describe everyone’s tastes and preferences. After work when I’m gaming away, the wife immerses herself watching movies or TV in the LR–sometimes with her friends, and I have my friends in my room, etc. She does her thing and I do mine. [i<]Except[/i<] when everyone congregates in the living room to watch movies and talk, socialize, and drink or whatever. Doing it all in the LR all the time would get very old in a hurry. [The wife and I would have murdered each other long ago...;)] The advertising schemes these companies come up with are sometimes very strange in the the things they think their customers enjoy.

          • HisDivineOrder
          • 6 years ago

          So you talk about what you like. Now talk about all the other people who are out there buying consoles. Or blu-ray players for the living room. Or anything media related in the living room.

          SteamBox is envisioned to be a gaming console replacement, a media player replacement, a whatever you want replacement. So instead of buying that Xbox One, you buy a Steambox that is always backwards compatible with itself.

          See? You’re not the target audience. That doesn’t make the idea a bad one. It makes it a way to branch out and reach more customers.

          “Oh, but I’m WaltC and I don’t care. I wants mah Half-Life!”

          Yeah, but dude. If Valve is selling more games via Steam, they’re doing better. Which means they can hire more people. Perhaps even have more desks to congregate to finally decide to work on a game with a 3 in the title. For Valve is more than just Half-Life. They could make Team Fortress 3, Left4Dead 3, Portal 3, or even DOTA3.

          So even you, conservative PC gamer who has no time for silly living room gaming nonsense, might get something out of Valve’s reaching more gamers and becoming even bigger.

          As big as PC gaming is, it could be bigger if it converted even a small percentage of those console gamers to Steam gamers.

            • WaltC
            • 6 years ago

            Huh?…;)

            Yea, I talk about what I like…because I can’t very well talk about what *you* or anybody else likes, can I? [i<]Primarily, that's because I'm not you or anybody else.[/i<] And just as a reminder, neither are you...;) IE, if you can't talk about what *you* like, you may as well say nothing at all. Disagreement with my opinions doesn't bother me. Folks who think they "know" what "everyone else" likes do sort of rub me the wrong way, though.

    • jdaven
    • 6 years ago

    I assume today’s announcement will go something like this:

    Today we are not releasing just one game pad but a variety of gamepads from different manufacturers. A valve built beta gamepad will be sent to 300…

    • superjawes
    • 6 years ago

    [quote<]Will competing distribution services like Origin be allowed to run on SteamOS? The open nature of the operating system suggests they will, but we don't know for sure.[/quote<] I don't see why not. GFWL might run into trouble since...you know...Windows. But Origin is out there to sell games to gamers, and SteamOS is out there to sell games to gamers. Besides the costs of porting games from Windows to SteamOS, I don't see any reason why other distribution services would be blocked. [quote<]What will the hardware support be like for DIY rigs? Pre-built Steam machines shouldn't have issues, but it could be a pain to get SteamOS working properly on different hardware. It would be nice if there were some sort of certification program for SteamOS-approved components.[/quote<] I would guess better support from Nvidia and AMD than you might see for Linux in general. Both of those companies make a lot of money focusing on gamers, and if gamers start moving to SteamOS, it is in their best interest of moving with them. [quote<]How easy will it be to dual-boot SteamOS and Windows on the same machine? Steam has a limited selection of native Linux games, and even with blockbusters promised next year, it's unrealistic to expect the native library to be sufficient for most folks. Which brings me to the big question...[/quote<] Probably no more difficult than another SteamOS... [quote<]Just how good is the game streaming? This will likely be a make-or-break feature for a lot of folks who already own gaming desktops, and we don't know if there are any associated latency or image quality penalties attached to the scheme. At least we can take some comfort in Valve's assertion that "all your Windows and Mac games" will work with streaming.[/quote<] We'll see. I'd really like to try this out myself. But bigger picture, I think you are correct that this is a big deal. It sounds like there's already some migration, or parallel development, between SteamOS and Windows, but getting from a Windows environment to the gaming-focuses Steam environment is going to take time, and a good streaming application will allow gamers to continue on playing everything while the SteamOS environment expands. Also, they'd get major bonus points if the streaming is general enough to work with non-Steam titles...

      • Deanjo
      • 6 years ago

      Honestly I was a bit shocked by the first three questions in the article. They seemed more like FUD and I expect a more educated write up from TR.

        • superjawes
        • 6 years ago

        Well the thing is that both announcement so far have been very vague. I think my favorite summary of the Steam Machine announcement was:

        [quote<]What is it? "A PC!" Can you tell us anything else? "NOPE!"[/quote<] And Valve seems to be taking the Apple approach of telling us that this is the best thing ever and expecting us to just follow along...not that we aren't, but I do think it's smart to be skeptical until people start getting their hands on this stuff.

          • Deanjo
          • 6 years ago

          Items like being able to run another OS have been known about for months. Gabe made that clear a long time ago.

    • JustAnEngineer
    • 6 years ago

    What about DVR functionality with my CableCard tuner card?

    What about Blu-ray playback?

    These are things that my living room PC has to do besides gaming.

    • puppetworx
    • 6 years ago

    Interesting that Nvidia have been helping, I’d missed that piece of info previously. It makes perfect sense though Nvidia is really fighting to do two things right now: to get into the living room space fighting consoles and to sell more Tegra chips – Tegra 4 may be perfect for that lightweight streaming only Steambox, it seems to work on that weird Shield device at least.

      • Deanjo
      • 6 years ago

      Nvidia and intel have been working side by side with Valve pretty much since the beginning.

    • Bensam123
    • 6 years ago

    [quote<]Valve claims to have achieved "significant performance increases in graphics processing" on Linux, and it's working on optimizing audio and input latency. At least for native titles, SteamOS may offer a better experience than running the same games on Windows.[/quote<] And these comparisons were done with Valves new source engine code for OGL on nix and they compare it to their decade old code for DX9 on Windows? Call me a spoil sport, but none of this seems exciting. Everything they can do with SteamOS they can do in Windows if they take the time to actually improve their client and make it more then a front end for selling crap. They have a lot they could do to improve usability, there is a lot they could do to make it more like a console experience if the user so desires, there is a lot they can do to bridge the gap between PCs and consoles as far as hardware requirements and being able to tell if your computer is capable... I get the idea of trying to make their name bigger, but this isn't productive for the PC gaming industry or gaming as a whole. There is no reason to try and switch everyone over to Nix. They just seem to enamored with the ability to tell everyone else what to do that they aren't even going out of their way to make things better for their current clients. Even IF they can somehow manage to make Wine amazing to run all the other games in existence or get past that compatibility hurdle, you're still stuck with the idea of putting a OS on a system that could otherwise run everything else normally... All the apps, programs, old games/new games you want. If Valve is hoping to make a better experience for users on the PC they should start by showing it on Steam. That means massive improvements in usability, integration with the OS, and flexibility (such as telling what users what settings they can run it at, if they can run it, upgrades). Basically easing the whole PC experience. What GFWL should've done and MS should've done if they, too, didn't go the route of the console.

      • peartart
      • 6 years ago

      If Windows were free, maybe you would have a point.

      Also, did you just totally ignore the lines about the plans to bring the same features to Steam?

        • Bensam123
        • 6 years ago

        If Nix ran every game/program in existence maybe you’d also have a point about shelling out a small sum of money when you’re building a system.

        There are more features the program can use besides what they’re describing, perhaps the ones I described, that you totally ignored.

    • gamoniac
    • 6 years ago

    I know it is exciting and it satisfies the inner geeks in us, but at the end of the day, how is this different from gaming on Windows PC? I mean, Windows already has DirectX, CUDA, and other engines, and soon Mantle to work with, and developers already have three platforms – Windows, PS4, and XB1, to work towards. Adding another one will be costly to game developers, unless SteamOS builds up a huge market share quickly.

    If it helps advance gaming then it is all good, but Valve has been criticizing about how much Windows 8 sucks for gaming. Most than likely the real reasons behind SteamOS are 1) profit (duh) and 2) to make up for lost revenue absorbed by MS (XB1 Market and Windows 8 App Store fees). Perhaps MS has squeezed them a bit too tight, but I am not sure if I like the disturbance in the force…

      • DreadCthulhu
      • 6 years ago

      The streaming features are really Steam OS’s killer app to get it into people’s houses. Basically Valve is going to use Steam OS to try and “embrace, extend, and extinguish” Windows gaming PCs, by working with existing PCs, extending their capabilities around the house, get people used the Steam OS UI & get more games ported over Steam OS, and eventually get gamers to not bother with Windows for new games, just keeping their old box running to stream older games to their Steam OS boxes.

      As for whether or not this is a good thing for us gamers, while I am used to Windows, generally like how i works (well, at least Windows 7), and know its quirks, I don’t really trust Microsoft with PC gaming – MS’s PC gaming related “efforts” over the last 10 years seem to be aimed at frustrating PC gamers so much that they go buy a Xbox. See Games for Windows Live. Valve makes all their money from selling PC games, so they have a vested interest in not screwing things up.

      Steam OS also works as Valve’s Plan B, in case Microsoft decides to lock down regular Windows to only allow software from MS’s app store to be installed. Considering that MS has already done this with Windows Phone & RT, it is something Valve needs to worry about.

        • gamoniac
        • 6 years ago

        Yes, we are pretty much in agreement. People buying gaming console to game because it is convenient and simpler, and MS might squeeze Valve too tight with Xbox market and potential App Store lockdown. To be fair to MS, MS would never “lock down” Windows per se and shoot themselves in the foot. MS relies on third party software to thrive. They would simply provide gaming services via App Store — a direct competition of Steam. The more competition, the better for consumers. We vote for the better service with our wallet.

        As far as SteamOS, we already have Xbox, PS, and Wii, my point was whether there is room for one more. One can argue that SteamOS is not a console, but it is in many ways trying to achieve what Xbox and PS are already doing, namely gaming, streaming, playing music, etc. The bottomline is SteamOS trying to inject themselves into the gaming, for the lack of better word, console space. If the hardware is not locked down, then the platform/environment will become difficult to maintain, and we will be doing a big loop back to the current PC gaming scenario.

        All that said, I don’t think I will jump on a SteamOS box right away but I do wish them for the best and see how things turn out. After all, it is a super heated market space — Wii U and Nvidia Shield haven’t gotten much traction thus far.

        • mcnasty72@gmail.com
        • 6 years ago

        DreadCthulhu

        I’m with you, think about it. MS has the operating system that is easily on 70% of computers in the world. Its been that way for over 20 years now. And like you said instead of nurturing that user base, they basically abandoned it in attempt to create a new market and enter the console manufacturing business. How hard would it have been for MS develop top tier games for the OS that they controlled? Recall how Word ran cycles around Ami-Pro do to those “private API’s” in the OS that only MS had access to? Gaming could have been even better. Solid relationships with GPU hardware vendors no matter who the best GPU was created by, 3Dfx, ATI, AMD, or nVidia MS wouldn’t have cared. As long as they could optimize their software on the GPU . They could have been one of the top development studio’s for gaming, without losing money in the hardware market. You have wonder what they teach in those pricey executive MBA programs after watching MS drop brick after brick……

      • bwcbiz
      • 6 years ago

      From Valve’s standpoint, and my own, the big problem with Win 8 is that it tries to lock you into the Microsoft social network. Every time you turn around, it asks you to “Login to your Microsoft account”. I just want an OS from Microsoft, not a walled garden.

    • DreadCthulhu
    • 6 years ago

    Hopefully Steam OS will also have the traditional desktop style Steam program, and not just the Big Picture mode to launch games. While I have a modest HTPC, with a gamepad attached that I (well mostly my wife playing the Lego games and such) use for some gaming, I find using Steam with a gamepad in Big Picture mode to be rather clunky, and slower than just using the regular version with a wireless mouse.

    • WillBach
    • 6 years ago

    The story illustration on the front page had a kitty in it, but the illustration in the article did not 🙁

    Update: I do not speak for my employer. I can’t testify as to Microsoft’s stance on kitties or on Steam OS 😉

    PS

    AMD has “Mantle”, nvidia has CUDA (and could presumably make a low-level graphics API like “Mantle”, they may even have the naming rights to “glide”), and Intel’s graphics have GPL drivers and well-documented shaders. Could Valve update the Source Engine to use low-level graphics APIs on [i<]every[/i<] platform? All three major PC/Mac GPU vendors and the PS3/X-box One with three APIs as opposed to two (Open-GL and Direct-X).

    • spuppy
    • 6 years ago

    One thing you have to consider is AMD Mantle, which changes things considerably. If Steambox can employ it, the problem of no native content will soon be nil. Especially if Mantle is a direct rip of either console’s API (Anand suspects it’s XB1, Eurogamer thinks it’s from the PS4). If this is the case, we’ll be seeing day 1 releases of AAA titles that are fully compatible with Steambox.

    Within a year or so, a $200-300 Steambox will outperform a $400-500 console. And from there, users will be able to upgrade them…

      • Deanjo
      • 6 years ago

      [quote<]If this is the case, we'll be seeing day 1 releases of AAA titles that are fully compatible with Steambox.[/quote<] There is more then just the graphics layer to worry about in porting a game to various platforms. Graphics are just one aspect and from what I have been reading around the net, AMD's definition of "open" is that it is "open" to all developers to use and it allows cross platform across Win/XB360/PS4. We all ready have a true cross platform API for graphics, it's called openGL. Granted it is not as low level as Mantle, but so far it is limited to AMD's GCN hardware. Mantle is not a "Holy Grail" that all of a sudden cures releases being put out across all systems.

        • spuppy
        • 6 years ago

        [quote<]Mantle is not a "Holy Grail" that all of a sudden cures releases being put out across all systems.[/quote<] Maybe not, but it could be very useful if a company was trying to essentially take over the console gaming market, by exclusively using AMD graphics hardware. You're right in that it won't be a direct copy, it still needs to be ported. But if the low level code is the mostly the same (or very close to it) as one of the consoles, I would expect to see day one ports all the time. Even Carmack tweeted that MS and Sony aren't going to be happy about this.

    • Deanjo
    • 6 years ago

    [quote<]Will competing distribution services like Origin be allowed to run on SteamOS? The open nature of the operating system suggests they will, but we don't know for sure.[/quote<] It's a freely hackable OS. There is no reason why Origin, if they decided to, be blocked from having a linux client installed. It may not appear in the Steam Big Screen mode but a traditional desktop laucher is not out of the question (or selectable to their own Big Screen mode using the login manager. [quote<]What will the hardware support be like for DIY rigs? Pre-built Steam machines shouldn't have issues, but it could be a pain to get SteamOS working properly on different hardware. It would be nice if there were some sort of certification program for SteamOS-approved components.[/quote<] As it is a linux based distro, expect at least the same level of support of hardware from SteamOS. Most of Valves improvements to the linux subsystems have been committed to the upstream projects. [quote<]How easy will it be to dual-boot SteamOS and Windows on the same machine? Steam has a limited selection of native Linux games, and even with blockbusters promised next year, it's unrealistic to expect the native library to be sufficient for most folks. Which brings me to the big question...[/quote<] Easy, the GRUB2 bootloader can handle both OS's fine. Linux distros have had this perfected for years.

      • Ryu Connor
      • 6 years ago

      Don’t even need GRUB. BCD can do it as well.

        • Deanjo
        • 6 years ago

        There is no reason for BCD, it just overly complicates the boot process.

          • Ryu Connor
          • 6 years ago

          I disagree.

            • Deanjo
            • 6 years ago

            Are you seriously saying that farting around with editing BCD is easier then auto detect with no hand editing required for most situations?

            • Ryu Connor
            • 6 years ago

            [url<]https://neosmart.net/wiki/easybcd/dual-boot/linux/[/url<] While it could be done from the command line (which does strike as very much the *Nix way). Free GUI tools like EasyBCD make it, well, easy. I have no larger interest in debating if GRUB, ELILO, BCD, or any other boot loader is superior.

            • Deanjo
            • 6 years ago

            Ya I know EasyBCD, it is still more work then letting GRUB set them up automatically with no intervention at all.

            • Ryu Connor
            • 6 years ago

            I disagree.

            • Laykun
            • 6 years ago

            Ok, so a fully automated process that requires absolutely no input from the user is MORE effort than a user guided process which requires an application download?

            You can’t exactly disagree with logic, you can deny it but that makes you look like a fool.

            • Ryu Connor
            • 6 years ago

            [url<]http://xkcd.com/386/[/url<] Yet, you felt compelled to reply. Who's the more foolish...the fool or the fool who follows him?

            • Laykun
            • 6 years ago

            Do I even need to answer that? I mean, aren’t you guilt of the exact same thing with your current reply?

          • WillBach
          • 6 years ago

          But I just learned how to use BCDEdit! 😮

          • MarioJP
          • 6 years ago

          I strongly disagree. Having a mutiboot setup on my external USB HDD. Grub loader is a mess. I have successfully replaced it with BCD and it handles it VERY WELL. BCDedit command tool is all you will ever need. Just enable Legacy boot mode if you don’t want the windows 8 boot screen and done. Grub just looks fugly perod >0!.

      • faramir
      • 6 years ago

      Nobody gives a flying intercourse about Origin on Windows, why would anybody care about it on SteamOS ? The less bloatware DRM, the better.

        • nanoflower
        • 6 years ago

        Nobody cares about Origin but they do care about the games that depend on Origin. The fact is that EA is unlikely to give up on Origin so it needs to be able to run on SteamOS in order for EA to port their games to SteamOS.

          • superjawes
          • 6 years ago

          1. EA has to reason [i<]not[/i<] to port their gaming-focused service to a gaming-focused OS. 2. Valve has to reason to prevent other gaming-focused services on their gaming-focused OS. I know this would seem odd, like pouring Coke into a Pepsi cup, but having a symbiotic relationship between SteamOS and Origin would be good for everyone...unless some moron at EA decides to continue the "me too!" strategy and release OriginOS...

          • bwcbiz
          • 6 years ago

          Yeah, folks do care about those games, but none of them have been ported to Linux, so no reason for an Origin client. Unless WINE reaches a level of maturity where it can emulate Win 7, the only hope for EA is that Valve grows the Linux gaming market enough so that they start to port their games to Linux.

          I also wonder if either the PS/4 or Xbox One have Linux components under the covers, I doubt that the do, bu that would accelerate PC gaming on Linux as well.

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