Remember Steam Machines? Valve’s attempt at infiltrating the console market should have been a thorn in the side of the console market. Steam Machines should have stolen a significant portion of the market, giving gamers access to Steam games with superior PC hardware with a simple, console-like interface.
But, it didn’t work out that way.
Steam Machines were launched on November 10, 2015, and by April 2018, Valve had removed the front page links from their website. You can still find them available from a few retailers, sporting ageing 1060 graphics cards, but don’t let that fool you – the experiment has failed. To date, fewer than 500,00 have been sold.
That’s a shame.
PC gamers looking to play their video games on a couch already have several options. They can use the Steam Link, stream to a capable device or just purchase a micro-PC. Being unable to play games in front of a TV isn’t a barrier that people need to consider when deciding whether to get into PC gaming.
The two biggest barriers to entry for those looking to get into PC gaming are:
- The cost
- The intimidating thought of nothing working and having to get the darn games working
Steam Machines didn’t solve these issues, they amplified them. Steam Machines were significantly more expensive not just compared to their console counterparts but also compared to buying pre-built gaming PCs. On top of that, the SteamOS that they launched with only increased the likelihood of games having issues.
Steam Machines failed, and that’s fine. I just wish that there was a console-like option for those who are intrigued by PC gaming, but who don’t feel comfortable with some of the perceived challenges.
Console gamers are almost-guaranteed to have no issues running their games out of the box. There may be a patch or two (as you get with PC games), but I can’t remember the last time that I saw a console gamer Googling how to get a game to load. The thought of having that kind of problem is enough to scare many away from PC gaming.
I long for a Steam Machine 2. A Steam Machine that has more of a foundation in Windows, thus avoiding many of the SteamOS-based issues, but that loads directly into Steam Big Screen. A Steam Machine that has a decent graphics card that can run games at least at console quality. A Steam Machine that costs as much as a console, or at the maximum, £100 more.
This is all wishful thinking and it will never happen, but I can’t help but wonder what might have been if Valve had got it right with their foray into the console market. With PC gaming possibly moving toward cloud-based streaming, the likelihood of having a decent PC console looks increasingly unlikely, and possibly unneccessary.