March 3, 2012

Rumor: Valve to Reveal "Steam Box"

Hello All,

There is a rumor making its way around the internet that Valve will be creating its own take on the home console, titled the "Steam Box". Essentially, the Steam Box would not be hardware developed by Valve but instead software that resembles Android's place in the mobileOS world. Valve would license the Steam Box software to companies interested in pushing their own version. In order to establish some sort of equilibrium, each Steam Box would have to have a bare minimum of 8GB of RAM, run on a Core i7 CPU, and on NVIDIA GPUs. Valve is rumored to announce the Steam Box at either GDC or E3.
Steam for your Couch

First Impressions and the Cost
I don't know what I truly think about this as there are no concrete details from Valve on what their plans are or if the Steam Box even exists.

As for right now, I just don't see the point. Home consoles work because they are developed by Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft; each with their own console. Would software that can be licensed to any hardware company be a smart idea? Your current home consoles are almost always sold for at a loss and they are already in the $200-$300 range. If hardware companies are selling the Steam Box as an item and are not profitting from games sold or license fees, wouldn't the cost of the Steam Box be driven up drastically. Any higher than the $300 mark and you are already rivaling low-end PCs.

Upgrades, Upgrades, and Upgrades
PCs can be hooked up to a TV as an external display. PCs can use controllers, fightpads, headsets, mice+keyboards. PCs have striving communities, unrivaled matchmaking, and prices that make buy 2 gets 1s look ridiculous. Yet why are consoles so popular that they have had some people screaming that "PC is dying!" for years?

It is because a home console provides a consistant experience that needs no further money or time to play every game released on it. You also know that every game released throughout the consoles lifespan will run its best on that console; not low detail, medium, or max. I know that a high-end PC will last years before needing an upgrade but as newer games are released you will slowly begin slipping from running games on full max to sub max to high until just medium again. PC games are constantly bettering themselves so how long would a system that is locked into its specs last before needing an upgrade? At that point what is the difference from having a PC hooked up to your TV and a Steam Box? Both play the same games and both require upgrades to continue to play the games on the max settings for that device.

Maybe a Steam Box is a Good Thing
If you put a PC in a console shell its still a PC. Consoles are universal items that are built to last throughout the generation for better or worse. There are never any upgrades to consoles and thats why they are popular, you simply get it and forget it. A Steam Box I purchase on release would play the games released before that and in the near future fantastically, but as time passes I would eventually need to start swapping out parts to continue to run the newer games. That right there breaks the mold on what a home console truly is and transforms into a sub-pc. Why put the money into upgrading a PC that can only be used for gaming instead of upgrading a true PC that you could then go hook up to your TV and mimic the Steam Box.

So far, a lot of negativity, but a Steam Box system may just be a good idea.

Instead of thinking of the Steam Box as its own console, think of it as a benchmark. Every computer gets rated on the Steam Box scale and lets you know what games you will be able to play and on what settings. Instead of bouncing from website to website checking GPU, CPU, and RAM specifications simply check your computers current Steam Box ranking. Figuring out if you can run Battlefield 3 on max would be a whole lot easier.

Having a Steam Box benchmark would also be great for game developers. Just as consoles set standards for developers, a set benchmark for PC would be great. Instead of vague "in this general area" of computer capabilities for developers to aim at they would have a set GPU, CPU, and RAM standard. Games would become optimized for those specific benchmarks, which may boost longevity of your PC lifespan before upgrades and increase performance.

As for now, this is just a rumor, but if Valve were to take this road I have a lot of faith in them that they would do it right.


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