Seeing the first pictures of Valve’s partners’ steam machines is an exciting reminder of their upcoming launch – and massive potential.
Up until this week at CES 2014 we’ve only seen a few shots of the PC gaming boxes and Valve has given a few hundred away to lucky interested consumers, but to actually see 14 different machines lined up, prepped for release, has got me thinking about the impact they could have on the traditional video games market when they hit the mainstream this year.
Scan’s NC10 steam machine is the only one built in Britain and starts from £699 – a price tag that could really tempt some of the console gamers with a bit more disposable income but no next-gen console as of yet.
Compared to a £349 PS4 and £429 Xbox One, the lower end steam machines offer decent value for what is essentially a proper PC that is also more than capable of running the latest games.
A friend of mine argues that you’d be better off building your own PC for less, rather than forking out more for a higher-priced steam machine. But he’s missing the point.
I’d argue your average console gamer doesn’t want to put that much effort into buying a new system. They want a gaming powerhouse that will play the best games straight out of the box. They don’t want to research power supplies or spend hours wiring up parts.
The steam machines offer a gamer-friendly PC that is ready to go.
Plus, many of them look like consoles. They look cool. They fit under your TV. They sound cool, too. The name ‘steam machine’ sounds like it means business. This immediately makes it much more marketable than your usual PC (usually named with a string of letters and numbers like CYT-100xi). The steam machines even have their own controller. These are all aspects that set them apart from standard tower PCs. And they are all things which I believe will attract the console gamer crowd.
PC gaming today has a hell of a lot going for it. There’s no annual Xbox Live fee, cheaper peripherals (grab a £10 keyboard and mouse you’re ready to go) and access to several huge digital distribution platforms offering tons of games at more attractive prices than consoles (Steam, anyone?).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of games consoles – they are a hugely profitable market and have a loyal fanbase, but I feel there’s room for another player to enter the fray and shake things up. And make no mistake – with the right marketing, the steam machines can take a bite out of the console market.
Come the end of 2014, it’ll be interesting to see whether it’s a massive crunch or a tiny nibble.