UPDATE: To clarify the paragraph about the number of games accessible on your Steam Machine, Valve clarified that Steam Machines will have the ability to send and receive in-home streaming signals. With a Steam enabled PC in the house, it can “technically” play every game on Steam, which is now over 5,000 games.
ORIGINAL STORY: The console space has always been a very competitive, popular arena for both consumers and manufacturers. There is a rich tradition and history all thanks to makers of the PlayStations, Xboxes and various Nintendo systems we’ve seen over the years. Come Nov. 10, though (or Oct. 16 for those who jump on the early pre-order) the living room space will never be the same.
On Nov. 10, Valve will be releasing its living room competitor, Steam Machines. The new console will go up against the already available PS4, Xbox One and Wii U. The PS4 and Xbox One have been on the market for nearly two years, while the Wii U has been out for nearly three. They all have been quite competitive amongst themselves, but Steam Machines will bring a new level of competition and innovation.
Through the end of March, the Nintendo Wii U had sold nearly 10 million units since its 2012 launch; that number has surely surpassed 10 million in the months since. The console struggled out of the gate to gain a firm head start on the PS4 and Xbox One and never really managed to hit its stride. Both systems have since eclipsed the Wii U’s sales numbers. The Wii U has seen some of the most critically acclaimed software in the industry come to the console, yet more must be done for Nintendo to remain a viable entrant in the console race. Games like Zelda Wii U, Star Fox Wii U and others have yet to release for the Wii U and should give the system a strong boost in sales, but how big of a boost remains to be seen.
By the end of this past March, the PS4 was confirmed to have sold more than 22.3 million units since it debuted back in November 2013. From consumer messaging to launching at a lower price point than the Xbox One, the PS4 has done everything right with the exception of release consistent, quality exclusive software. This coming Fall will have some notable releases from Sony such as Until Dawn in August and Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection in October. Outside of those, however, Sony lacks a major PS4 exclusive that’ll help sell more systems. That said, PS4 has established itself in the market as possessing the “IT” factor in the minds of consumers and that doesn’t seem like it’ll be changing anytime soon.
It’s far more difficult to measure the official amount of units sold by the Xbox One, since Microsoft doesn’t usually give out that information to the public after each month. Toward the end of 2014, we learned that the number was over 10 million (a number that has surely risen since then). Microsoft has a unique opportunity to get a leg up on the competition with their upcoming Fall lineup. We assume Halo 5: Guardians, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Forza Motorsport 6 are all exclusives coming to the Xbox One this fall, and with Sony’s thin lineup, Microsoft could really gain some ground in the console race.
No matter what is happening with these consoles though, Steam Machines are coming this November and they will usher in a new era of living room gaming. Why? Because Valve is delivering the powerful, innovative Steam platform into the console space. Steam — an online only game store and community — has a massive, established following, it lends outstanding customization options for those looking to purchase a Steam Machine, it provides plenty of manufacturers who are making a Steam Machine, possesses addictive Steam seasonal sales and humble bundles and has an ecosystem that has revolutionized the PC gaming space..
This past February, Valve confirmed they have reached 125 million active users on Steam. Even if there is some fluff in that number, it remains staggering nonetheless. Many folks out of that 125 million have been waiting for Steam Machines to arrive and you can bet a good number of them will be early adopters of Steam Machines this Nov. 10.
Much like model PCs currently embrace, Steam Machines will follow the same model of giving the customizing of a Steam Machine to the player. People will be able to choose from a myriad of different Steam Machine models, from different manufacturers. Discrepancies between each of the Steam Machines will most likely come in the form of something like differing DRAM from one device to another. Price will most likely differ based on the type of performance and the amount of storage space you want. The key element here that could attract consumers, both from console and PC, is the level of choice Steam Machines provides.
Variety is another element that needs to be considered here. With the PS4, Xbox One and Wii U, you have to buy a console from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, respectively. Steam Machines, however, give consumers access to 14 different manufacturers who are making these devices. This will help people remain with the companies they have trusted on PC for years, as well as introduce newer, hungrier firms who are willing to do what it takes to win over gamers. The best brands will truly thrive in this environment and that is what consumers ultimately deserve, the best products possible. Not just this, but prices will gradually become a point of competition between all living room device makers, resulting in the best possible price for consumers.
Next, let’s talk about all of the addicting, bankrupting Steam Sales we typically see through each year. Those sales provide people with an affordable way to experience games that typically are out of their price range. PS4, Xbox One and Wii U, to a certain extent, flat out can’t match a Steam Sale. Yes, there’s Games With Gold and PS Plus, but those services are going to look cheap once Steam’s Winter Sale kicks off this December. Not only that, but Humble Bundles on the Steam platform are wildly successful and lucrative for both gamers and the companies hosting them. It does remain to be seen how exactly these things will transfer to Steam Machines, but if they are copy and paste clones, then look out Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo; look out big time.
Finally, with a few exceptions, Steam has proven to be a platform that is truly for gamers. Community is probably the first word to come to mind when thinking about Steam, and with all of the passion that lies within that community, it’s going to be a revelation for living room players who adopt Steam Machines. The modding community is so strong and creative on Steam and that intangible will come to Steam Machines, another factor PS4, Xbox One and Wii U can’t counter.
The biggest hurdle that is standing in the way of Steam Machines right now is the library of games players will and will not have access to, compared to the library of games they can find on Windows right now. Valve states in their press release, “Steam Machines can serve as a stand-alone device for enjoying the Steam gaming experience in one box, with more than 1,000 titles available for native play.” During last September an update was given as to how many games are currently available on Steam and that total was over 3,700, a number that has most likely risen considerably since then. If Valve can come up with a frequent solution to continue adding new games to the library Steam Machines have access to, then they could win over some folks who would say no to the devices without that. We’ll see how this issue is handled over the course of the coming months.
Overall though, it’s going to be an exciting time to have yet another competitor in the living room space, aside from the usual players we’ve seen for years now. Valve has the chance to grab the industry by the throat and shake it to its foundation, but much like an unreleased game, Steam Machines must still launch and they must win over consumers. Steam Machines will launch this coming Nov. 10.