My dad; he’s nearly 50, a car salesman, a loving provider, and a soft-spoken, sometimes surly non-gamer who could most probably beat up your dad. By non-gamer, I do not mean that he doesn’t play video games; he does, and he does frequently. What I mean by non-gamer is that he doesn’t give a shit about the shit regular gamers give a shit about.
High on the list of things my dad doesn’t give a shit about are Microsoft’s financial stability, Sony’s financial stability, Nintendo’s financial stability, and Valve’s financial stability. Immediately above those things my dad doesn’t give a shit about comfortably rests the opinion of, well, pretty much anybody. The long and short of it is this; my dad is super objective and thinks brand loyalty is “fucking stupid.” He’s also my litmus test for how the general populace will respond to things in the video game world. He totally called that Skylanders success thing, guys. He totally called it.
Anyway, in a recent interview with my dad*, wherein I conveyed the known details of Steam OS and Steam Machines, he stated simply that it, ”Sounds good, man.”
And it does sound good, man. It sounds very good.
“But, can I play Call of Duty on it?”
Yes Dad, probably. And it’ll look even better than the Call of Duty you’re playing now.
What Steam hardware means for gamers and non-gamers alike is hard to determine, but one can make some pretty educated guesses.
For one, Steam Machines will navigate around the pratfalls of modern PC gaming: primarily, issues with compatibility and specifications. I’m speculating a tad, but I imagine a big reason that PC gaming isn’t more popular has to do with the daunting nature of entering into it. For one, cost on pre-built machines can be astronomically high, particularly when you piece out all the components that go into the case; they’re simply far more than the sum of their parts cost wise. The notion of building your own PC is equally terrifying, assuming you don’t know much about computers. Someone who isn’t technologically inclined may not know that they even can build their own PC, much less know how easy it is.
And let’s be honest, proud PC builders. It is very easy, amounting to not much more than electronic LEGO bricks. It’s the closely guarded secret of PC repair shops everywhere.
Steam Machines will have a variety of options for pricing from a variety of different Steam partners, and will be already set to game, right out of the box. Because you’ll be able to choose the box that suits your needs, and because the Steam partners that are licensed to make these boxes will presumably be in competition, Steam Machines are looking to be exceedingly cost effective. And with the newly announced Steam OS, gamers will be able to get more out of the components that go into the machine.
Also noteworthy will be the intrinsic ability to play an overwhelming library of graphically impressive PC games with a gamepad from the comfort of your favorite chair. Sure, keyboard and mouse may be the preferred method for some (and will still be an option on Steam Machines), but there is certainly a large portion of gamers who just can’t
Tag on Steams recent partnerships with streaming distributors that customers “know and love,” and the Steam Box is looking like it is making a decent sized leap towards fortifying the all-in-one living-room hub position that Sony and Microsoft are so aggressively vying for.
Simply put, the next generation will not be all about gaming, and the parts of it that will won’t necessarily be strictly for hardcore gamers. What Valve seems to have realized is that it can effectively bring hardcore gaming to a more casual audience. All it needs to do is break down some of the barriers that a casual crowd may find intimidating. And surely, that’s a good thing for everyone. At the very least, it’s a next-gen option worth considering, if you can just push aside pre-established console loyalties for a moment.
My Dad thinks so, anyway.
*These interviews are rare, and have to be schedule through his PR agent, affectionately referred to as, “My Mom.”