Valve have taken the next step towards living room domination this week with the announcement of specs and pricing details for their new Steam machines. The new hardware is designed to run the Linux-based SteamOS operating system, and will initially be manufactured by fourteen different hardware specialists. Each machine will also ship the Steam controller. In February last year, Gabe Newell announced that the new machines would come in three flavours: good, better, and best. Today I will be looking at each type of machine and their pricing.
These low-end machines will do little of the actual processing work. They are designed to stream content from a more powerful PC in another room to the living room television. This is also their solution for any games that are not yet supported on a Linux-based operation system. If it is not supported, it is going to have to be streamed. Last year, the cost was estimated at around $100 for these models. Out of the range announced, the cheapest unit will set the consumer back $499. At this price, one can expect a machine to have a quad-core processor, eight gigabytes of RAM, and half a terabyte of storage.
At this price, the Steam machines also have to compete with the PS4 and Xbone. This will be a tough sell with both Sony and Microsoft already occupying living room space. Valve will need to do some good marketing to convince people to purchase their hardware. While there are 65 million Steam accounts, not all of those will be owned by people who are tech-savvy enough to setup two computers so that content can be streamed from one to another. Those that could may be able to build a custom machine for less than the price asked for the mass-produced models, then install the free OS on to them. One of the unknown variable is how much a controller is going to cost.
This tier of hardware should have had a similar price range to the current generation of consoles, and therefore similar performance. In actuality, this tier will likely start at around $1090. For that sort of cash, the hardware will be upgradable on some machines, unlike the previous tier which are all self-contained devices. The parts will be similar to the ‘good’ machines, differentiating slightly on storage and graphics depending on the model. This tier also looks like a console, rather than the overly large routers that the last tier seemed to be based on.
Again, it will be hard to convince people to buy these over a custom machine running the same operating system. At these prices, even a couple of controllers could be purchased with a custom build as well. Better yet, I would save money and just buy a PlayStation 4.
Okay, this is what PC owners dream of when they shop for parts for a new build. This is also the type of machine that Valve will send out to 300 lucky recipients later this year. At this level, prices will start at around $1499 and will skyrocket from there. Many of the specs are vague descriptions, but the minimum one could expect for this price are: a terabyte of solid state storage, sixteen gigabytes of RAM, an Intel i7 processor, and a GTX 780 graphics card. The exact components vary by manufacturer, but these will rival the best home computers.
These prices are in line with what Valve estimated they would be last year. Their prototype box itself is worth about $1850. The question is though, why would anyone need this sort of power for a living room machine? I know many families have their console in a family space, but children also have theirs setup in their own rooms. On the plus side, these machine would be able to play anything on max settings and would not need upgrading for a long time.
So those are Valves plans for a home invasion. It is also worth noting that Newell himself does not consider his machine as a competitor to the current consoles. Instead, he is more worried about whatever plans Apple could decide to make for gaming in the living room. In any event, they would both have a tough time breaking into a market that is already dominated by three well-established names.
Would you consider buying a Steam machine? Do you think the higher tiers can compete with the existing consoles? Let me know in the comments!