Back in late September, Valve made the announcement that they were trying to bring PC gaming into the living room. They would meet that goal by creating PC-hybrid consoles called “Steam Machines” that you could plug into your living room tv and be able to play the games on your Steam library from your couch. This would include a specialized controller that is capable of replacing your keyboard and mouse for most games as well as a custom Linux-based OS perfectly optimized for PC gaming.
This week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Valve announced more details about Steam Machines. There will be 14 different machines to choose from altogether, all of which are from different third-party manufacturers. Valve itself is not manufacturing its own Steam Machine. The different brands involved include Alienware, Digital Storm, Gigabyte, iBuyPower, CyberPowerPC and others. A lot of the different manufacturers are making custom machines, much like you would customize a computer you were buying from Dell. Prices range from $499 to $6,000.
So here’s why I don’t understand Steam Machines. The average price of a Steam Machine is just under a thousand dollars. Basically, all they can be used for PC gaming and they will be more than likely hooked up to your living room TV at all times. The cheapest Steam Machine is the same price as a PlayStation 4, so why not just buy a PlayStation 4 instead? Or why not build your own computer instead, which you can do anything with?
A year ago I built a really awesome gaming PC for just over $600. I have dual monitors and I can pretty much do whatever task I want on it. Not only do I play games, but I also mess around with Photoshop and various other graphic design related programs as well. I can’t imagine spending more than $600 on a lesser PC that I can only play games on, or can only use Linux-based apps on. It’s like the target customer of Steam Machines are people who want to spend the amount it costs for a pre-built gaming PC for a console that can only play games.
Maybe I’m the only one critical of the whole Steam Machine concept because I actually used to have a gaming PC hooked up to my living room TV. I tried to play StarCraft 2 with some friends one night and my APM was five and now I have a permanent squint. Not all games are meant to be played from the couch, and I would venture to say that most PC gamers play at least one game where you need your face all up in the monitor to play well.
If you still want a Steam Machine, then make sure you do your research. Compare prices and specs with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 before you buy. Maybe you should even consider building your own custom PC. It is a bit daunting at first, but there are plenty of free resources online and plenty of YouTube tutorials to check out. Plus, it’s a lot cheaper in the long run. Personally, I will just stick to building my own rigs.