Once upon a time, PC gaming was played at your desk and console gaming was played in the living room and that was that. Now that’s all going to change, as Valve prepares to bring Steam to your TV thanks to the SteamOS and their Steam Machines.
If you’re haven’t heard of Steam before, you’re not alone. It wasn’t until a friend introduced me to it a couple years ago that I first became aware of it. Think of it as iTunes for video games, with a buddy list and chat for joining your friend’s games. You can purchase and play games, connect with players all over the world, all through their software.
At CES 2013, Valve promoted the “Steam Box”, a console that would allow users to access Steam and their games without having to be tied to a PC. Their goal was a more user friendly version, something you connect to your tv and use in your living room. At the time, Valve had teamed with Xi3 and other smaller custom PC makers for the “Steam Box” and other similar versions, but it just never caught on.
BUT, there is hope for SteamOS-based consoles, or as Steam loving refers to them, Steam Machines.
Dell has partnered with Valve under it’s Alienware brand for one of the first widely available Steam Machines. Dell calls this unit the Alienware Steam Machine, and it shares the similar basic look and feel as other Steam Box hardware we’ve seen to date. Exact specs and price details have yet to be announced, but it’s expected to sell in a price range similar to current living-room game consoles and will have wireless controller capability. Dell hasn’t announced a release date, but it is expected to be sometime this year.
In addition to Dell, some of Valve’s other partners in this pursuit include some PC gaming big names like Falcon Northwest, Gigabyte and Zotac, along with some not-so well-known names like iBuyPower, CyberPowerPC, Origin PC, Materiel.net, Webhallen, Alternate, Next and Scan Computers. There are officially 14 different types of Steam Machines coming to market later this year, including Valve’s very own design. The shear number of devices that will be available is what Valve hopes will be the key to the success of the SteamOS and the Steam Machines. That and the fact that the SteamOS is an open-source, free-to-use Linux-based operating system. Which means that anyone can potentially build their own Steam Machine, put it anywhere in their house, and use it as they see fit – from a fully decked out gaming rig to a simple cube that remains connected to the tv, the possibilities are endless.
Long gone is the day of proprietary software and hyper-inflated prices as the only option for home gaming consoles. Many of the games currently available on traditional gaming consoles are also available in PC versions, thus available on Steam. Also, as it is open-source, it can not only be tweaked and configured to meet the needs of even the most hardcore of Linux veterans and PC gaming aficionados, but it is also a full operating system more in line with what you would expect to get on a computer, not the kind being boasted by Sony and Microsoft in the PlayStation and Xbox platforms.