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[Opinion] The Steam Machine platform could be a big flop and here's why

qubit

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#1
This is an interesting opinion piece and the root of this assertion seems to be the flexibility and shear number of options available in the Steam Machine platform, which is likely to put off less computer savvy gamers who just want to plug the thing in and go. This is the ace that consoles have up their sleeves.

Me? I see where he's coming from, but I'm not so sure it's such a mistake. It could finally help to spark the wholesale migration away from Windows onto Linux on the desktop, perhaps. This isn't so far fetched when you consider that Microsoft are nowhere on mobile devices, are replacing their CEO and are busy reinventing themselves to try and stay relevant.

Gabe Newell of Valve said that "the first generation Steam Machines offers something for every gamer, which is a critical part of extending Steam into the living room. With over 3,000 games and more than 65 million gamers on Steam, it's important to offer gamers a variety of Steam Machines that allow them to select what makes the most sense for them." Personally, I disagree, and I'd like to tell you why I believe that this is a recipe for disaster. It's not that I disagree with the entire concept, because I actually like the idea; I just don't believe that it will work as well as it could without some changes.

One of the primary reasons why a lot of gamers will pick a console over a gaming PC is simplicity. I don't like generalizing, and while the below won't apply to everyone, it will to a large group of people. The attraction of a console is the simplicity of buying one, hooking it up to your TV, inserting the game disc, and you're pretty much set – that's it. None of those steps are difficult to make. Valve's recipe, on the other hand, is intended for openness, allowing gamers and retailers to choose what hardware platform to buy and sell. My question is why?
Read the rest at Tom's Hardware
 
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#2
If there's one thing steam is also good at, is communication.
Also, I think they are relying on the structure of linux to be able to make things like swapping hardware to be made easy.
So a guide on hardware replacement accompanied by a GUI with an underlying system to uninstall drivers on shutdown and installation on boot (in short, package handling), without user's intervention would be a solution. (I know there are package installers, but you still need to know and pick what you want)
I know that most windows users (non-enthusiasts, obviously) never install drivers, they just go with the ones that are auto-installed by the OS. The case here would be the same except the driver support would be the correct one.
If some non-tech savy console users were already replacing their PS3's HDD, what's keeping them from evolving to GPU and/or RAM upgrades?
It's all lego-like anyway. The most concerning problem in steam boxes I see is cable management.
 

qubit

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#3
@_JP_ Since yesterday, there's a utility called Driver Fusion Premium on Steam which manages all your Windows drivers, updating them automatically etc. You can see how a version of this could be integrated into the Linux version of Steam to make for a hassle free (hopefully) experience, with the user not needing to know anything about the internal workings of their Steam Machine. This would give them the hassle-free benefit of a console along with the power of a PC, the best of both worlds.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/234820/?snr=1_7_15__13
 
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#4
So most of the work is already being done. Not valve-made/integrated and 35€, which means a lot of people won't purchase it. (not questioning the efficiency of it)
There's still the teaching the users on how they can proceed to replace the actual hardware. (see EDIT)
I also forgot to mention, this will become increasingly easier with better (proprietary, unless they change their ways) driver support from the manufacturers.

EDIT: I initially thought steam boxes would be thought-out with removable panels to provide easy access to the RAM slots and GPU. Not a take-the-whole-side-panel-and-several-other-things-off to reach the HW like the usual ITX chassis. But that's what happened anyway.
 
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#5
EDIT: I initially thought steam boxes would be thought-out with removable panels to provide easy access to the RAM slots and GPU. Not a take-the-whole-side-panel-and-several-other-things-off to reach the HW like the usual ITX chassis. But that's what happened anyway.
Yeah exactly. The steam boxes are finally no different than typical pre-built systems. They are just small in size and dont use windows and are very expensive.
 
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#6
They should have used something like that Christine concept PC...
 
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#7
For me, Steam machine running SteamOS is most attractive as a thin low-power passively cooled intel Bay Trail system, good enough for streaming games from desktop PC, browsing web and media consumption on big screen.
 
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#8
If it works fine on wildly configurable PCs, it's going to work great on a smaller subset of mini machines.
 
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#9
For me, Steam machine running SteamOS is most attractive as a thin low-power passively cooled intel Bay Trail system, good enough for streaming games from desktop PC, browsing web and media consumption on big screen.
true that.

for me well i prefer pay less to assemble my own rig than choose a custom "valv'ed" computer under Linux, i don't like paying premium over a hardware that i could get for way less if i did the job myself.
but it can have a good customer base with the console addict who want to play PC title with a better quality than the current gen console (if they pay ultra premium and get the best of the Steam Machine line, or even the middle class one)
 

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#10
To solve the hardware problem, Valve just needs to rate the hardware potential of Steam Machines sold by various vendors (Microsoft attempted to do something similar with WinSAT + Game Explorer). I don't think they announced such a program yet but I suspect it will come eventually.
 

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#11
I agree with the editorial. If the steambox was going to be a competitor to consoles, Valve needed to make the hardware standard. Basically, they should sell the cheapest version and that is it.

But the real reason I think the SteamBox(and SteamOS) will be a failure is because it is Linux based. Yeah, steam has over 3,000 games, but how many of them run on Linux? 316. Yep, thats it. And most of those are obscure Indie titles.
 

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#12
But the real reason I think the SteamBox(and SteamOS) will be a failure is because it is Linux based. Yeah, steam has over 3,000 games, but how many of them run on Linux? 316. Yep, thats it. And most of those are obscure Indie titles.
Even Mac has more than that.
 

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#13
Even Mac has more than that.
Yep, mac has more than twice as many games, 673.

And the Mac at least has some big name games. Borderlands 2, Batman Arkham City(Origins Soon), Bioshock Infinite, COD4, just to name a few. All available on Mac, but not Linux.

In fact the only real big name games available for Linux are older Valve titles. And even that area is lacking. For example, the original Portal is available for Linux, but not Portal 2. That's rather lame, IMO.
 
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#14
it's not like steamboxes & steamOS are live right now as if the holiday season is next month, just a few years ago the steam mac games count was zero...

dont forget, some steam boxes come preinstalled with windows on another partition, so all the games are there
 
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#15
There are a few questions that can easily be answered, assuming Valve actually qualifies steam box performance.

1) How do consumers know what they are purchasing, and how it will perform?
Sad to say here, but Windows performance numbers style ratings. Do not have a sliding score, assign performance a value, and create a huge scale so that the machine available in six years still fits on the scale. Numbers in each category are what will drive performance, and consumers only need to have a number to know how well a game will run on their system.

2) What about the games?
The current amount of Linux games is less than encouraging. At the same time, spend some time making WINE worthwhile. If Valve focused on developing emulation that could bring just 20% of games from Windows into Linux they'd have a larger game library than the One, PS4, and WiiU combined. Newer games are already lining up for Linux, as the PS4 porting to Linux wouldn't really be a huge leap. None of this even scratches the fact that the current consoles are not backwards compatible. The Steambox could actually have a library when it comes out.

3) What about drivers?
Anyone who uses Linux knows that driver updating is easier than in Windows. Kernel revisions are the only thing that would require a full reboot, and they aren't exactly happening every day. Make the updates automatic, make the process transparent to the user, and you've got something 100% better than the mandated firmware updates consoles experience.



Now, the author of this opinion piece falls into question. Read up on his credentials here: http://electronicdesign.com/author/niels-broekhuijsen. So we've got a student of technology, writing a piece about the business decisions by Valve. Fishy, but not unreasonable. The focus on his linguistic background is...odd...but the more odd thing is that he is still a student of electronic design.

Why would I point this out? The author tries to cite a minimum and maximum specification for the steambox. He bases this off of the assumption that the specifications will somehow remain the same. I'm not sure about the depth of his knowledge, when such a crazy statement is made. You can't find some processors 24 months after launch, let alone the approximately 60 months the current console cycle has lasted.

For a little history lesson, the Xbox 360 you buy today bears strikingly little resemblance to the one you'd have bought 4 years ago. The power supply is actually smaller, the motherboard has been revised substantially, and the processor design actually had to be slowed in order to make performance consistent with older models. This is all in a system that has been mass produced for five years, in a tightly controlled environment. Imagine what would happen if this happened with PCs. The best you could have today was a Core2Quad, which had only decreased by about 25% in cost over the 5 year production cycle. If you bought your PC today, and somebody bought one tomorrow with a 3770 you'd feel rather cheated, no?

Valve isn't trying to make the steambox a console. They're trying to keep the flexibility of a PC, while lowering the technical skills entry bar for the average user. This author wants every console to cost x, and if you can't afford x too bad. The cited example of the Gigabyte Brix using integrated graphics is moronic. You don't need a $500 GPU to play every single game, and those people that are hardcore gamers will educate themselves on what to buy.

I only fear the stupid and cheap consumer. Somebody will inevitably go out there, buy a $300 steambox, and complain that the $60 game they just bought barely runs on it at 1080p. The point of number 1 above is to address that. My only real apprehension there is that people will ignore it like the MPAA ratings and ESRB ratings. I guess the point of this article is that the author views most consumers as morons, who will not educate themselves. I think once it becomes clear that the $500 Xbox $400 PS4 can have the same functionality as a $400 steambox, while the steambox has significantly more and cheaper games (316 really beats the less than 30 each for PS4 and One), that people will see what the steambox brings to the table.
 

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#16
The current amount of Linux games is less than encouraging. At the same time, spend some time making WINE worthwhile. If Valve focused on developing emulation that could bring just 20% of games from Windows into Linux they'd have a larger game library than the One, PS4, and WiiU combined. Newer games are already lining up for Linux, as the PS4 porting to Linux wouldn't really be a huge leap. None of this even scratches the fact that the current consoles are not backwards compatible. The Steambox could actually have a library when it comes out.
The problem is big name titles. Linux just isn't getting any of them. Sure, you can use WINE to play some of the simpler games, but not the blockbuster 3D titles console gamers expect. That really puts a big hamper on the system from the standpoint of a console gamer.

Anyone who uses Linux knows that driver updating is easier than in Windows. Kernel revisions are the only thing that would require a full reboot, and they aren't exactly happening every day. Make the updates automatic, make the process transparent to the user, and you've got something 100% better than the mandated firmware updates consoles experience.
The good thing about SteamOS is that the drivers will be Valve approved and standardized. They'll test the drivers and handle the updating process. That is why SteamOS only supports nVidia video cards.
 
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#17
There has been a slow move away from microsoft based pc gaming for some time now. we will soon see the death of direct x and with it will come a more open api for game developers. you just wait until consumers only choice is not microsoft for PC gaming. all hail open source !
 
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#18
The good thing about SteamOS is that the drivers will be Valve approved and standardized. They'll test the drivers and handle the updating process. That is why SteamOS only supports nVidia video cards.
That is why SteamOS only supports nVidia cards currently*.
 

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#19
There has been a slow move away from microsoft based pc gaming for some time now. we will soon see the death of direct x and with it will come a more open api for game developers. you just wait until consumers only choice is not microsoft for PC gaming. all hail open source !
Soon see the death of DX? I doubt it. Eventually, maybe. But there have been alternatives for decades and yet the big name games still use DX.
 

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#20
Soon see the death of DX? I doubt it. Eventually, maybe. But there have been alternatives for decades and yet the big name games still use DX.
the only reason devs are still using DX is due to inertia and i think that is winding down expotentially.
 
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#21
wine not work on steam os?

i think he is talking some shit me. seems to think console gamers are mentally insufficient and need to have their hands held all the time.

idea is great, get games only on pc, push the steam box as the best pc gaming "platform" and people can spend how much they want on the box for under their tv. only got £300? great get a cheap one, want yours to make you feel better about your
 

FordGT90Concept

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#22
the only reason devs are still using DX is due to inertia and i think that is winding down expotentially.
Virtually all AAA titles that have a multiplatform release (meaning OpenGL for Linux/Mac) still use DirectX on Windows. DirectX gets better results with less effort and as long as Microsoft keeps it that way, DirectX is going to remain the go-to API for Windows.
 

newtekie1

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#23
wine not work on steam os?

i think he is talking some shit me. seems to think console gamers are mentally insufficient and need to have their hands held all the time.

idea is great, get games only on pc, push the steam box as the best pc gaming "platform" and people can spend how much they want on the box for under their tv. only got £300? great get a cheap one, want yours to make you feel better about your
It isn't that console gamers are dumb, it is that they want convenience. They want to pop in the disc\install the game and play it. They don't want to mess around with getting things running in WINE, they don't want to mess around with drivers, heck most don't even want to have to adjust graphical settings. It isn't that they can't, it is that they don't want to.
 
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#24
wine not work on steam os?

i think he is talking some shit me. seems to think console gamers are mentally insufficient and need to have their hands held all the time.

idea is great, get games only on pc, push the steam box as the best pc gaming "platform" and people can spend how much they want on the box for under their tv. only got £300? great get a cheap one, want yours to make you feel better about your
Wine has a very limited amount of games that actually work.
 
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#25
Virtually all AAA titles that have a multiplatform release (meaning OpenGL for Linux/Mac) still use DirectX on Windows. DirectX gets better results with less effort and as long as Microsoft keeps it that way, DirectX is going to remain the go-to API for Windows.
I agree that they use Directx, because less effort means less cost. As I'm looking at it though, you've only got three options for development with the current console cycle.
1) Directx for Windows and Xbox systems
2) OpenGL for Linux, Mac, and the PS4
3) Moon language for the WiiU

I don't really care about Windows and the One for this argument, as they have a singular source. The programming for the WiiU isn't particularly interesting, because it's just a Nintendo content delivery system. If MS didn't exist then it'd be OpenGL all the way. When half of the possible targets run the same thing, and another can run it without problems, the investment in OpenGL will make financial sense.

Do I believe Directx will die, no. Directx is a great patch for the people who already use it. My understanding though, is that with new consoles comes the drive to make use of new programming tools. If MS and Sony share 50% of the console market (sorry Nintendo, but the lack of software makes it hard to put faith in you), that means 50% of consoles run OpenGL. 100% of the computers in the world (assuming they can actually run any games) run OpenGL. It's a no-brainer to invest the resources to make OpenGL run your game well, then port it out to multiple platforms with minor modifications. Directx will only have Xboxes and Windows OSes. That isn't an insignificant market, but as MS manages to make more critical PR missteps, Linux is looking much friendlier.

Now, enter the steambox. It's got a free OS, so the hardware is your only cost. The OS is based upon Linux, which rides in the same ship as all the OpenGL platforms. It has a games library on launch, even if it isn't packed with $60 AAA titles. I see this as an evolution of what Sony brought to the table, a compelling reason that Directx doesn't have to be the be-all end-all solution to PC gaming. Call me optimistic, but not having to spend $140 on an OS in my gaming rig is something I'm happy about. That money can go toward a much more powerful GPU to run in my gaming center.




wine not work on steam os?

i think he is talking some shit me. seems to think console gamers are mentally insufficient and need to have their hands held all the time...
I like WINE. At the same time, it needs a lot of work to make it viable. This was reflected earlier when I said Valve had work to do, and that maybe 20% of games could work with it.

Additionally, I believe that the console gamers are stupid. Take this not as an offense, but as a reality. I want to be stupid sometimes. No altering settings, no changing .dll files, and no altering config files. All of these things require a brain, and sometimes I want to shut mine off. At these moments, I am a console gamer.

A console is meant to be that stupid, stupid, functional box. You pop a disk in, shut your brain off, and relax. I want that. PC gaming often requires effort, setup, and a dozen petty little issues that inevitably require me to think. That sounds inherently not fun to me.

So yes, console gamers are stupid. Yes PC gamers generally require more intelligence. If you're to be honest with yourself, you wouldn't call yourself a PC gamer or a console gamer. You, and I, would call ourselves gamers. I'm stupid, I'm smart, and I just want to have fun. Anyone who believes they are better than one another because of their platform choice needs to extricate their head from their anus.
 
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