As the title of this article suggests, we all saw this coming. With SteamOS announced at the start of the week, it was inevitable that one of the remaining two announcements would be their Steam Box console. As they will not be commercially available until 2014, all we can really do is look at what it promises and take first impressions based on that.
The first thing that strikes me is the contrast to other modern day consoles. The Xbox and Playstation variants all remain the same, apart from maybe hard drive space and wireless capabilities, capable of largely the same core functions. The Steam Box, however, will be offered in multiple different specs, allowing for users to pick and choose according to their exact needs. This is highly ambiguous and could translate to the same as the aforementioned two consoles, but I do not believe that this will be the case. Whilst I do not have any sort of conclusive answer, nor do I have a good idea on what to expect from this, one answer in the questions section of the announcement page leads me to believe otherwise. It is as follows:
“Can I hack this box? Run another OS? Change the hardware? Install my own software? Use it to build a robot? Sure.”
Whilst Microsoft and Sony would actively try to stop you from hacking their consoles and modifying them, Valve have straight up said that they do not mind what people do with their Steam Box. For me, this is not just good news, but great news as one of my main gripes on modern gaming is the lack of customisation. I will not expand on this, having done so at length in a previous article, but if the Steam Box is allowing us to do whatever we want, then we will not have such a hardware imposed barrier on what we can and cannot do. More freedom means more flexibility and a likely increase in wiggle room when it comes to content on the system itself. I am a strong advocate for custom content, as it means more maps, more game types, more skins and just more of everything depending on what type of game it is. What makes this better is that it reduces costs to developers as they will not have to flood us with content which may transpose onto cheaper costs for the games. Again, this is merely speculation on the system and only time will tell. That being said, 2014 is not that far off!
This will certainly make the next generation of the console wars a lot more interesting. With both Sony and Microsoft already locking horns, how will the Steam Box fair? Will it be able to knock the two giants off the top spot? Seeing as Microsoft had a very rough start with the Xbox One, I believe that the newcomer to the battle is in a strong position. However, we have to look at the Steam Box as more of a PC that will be attached to your television set that uses a controller as opposed to a traditional gaming console. This might scare people away from buying it as a lot of consumers just want simplicity. They want to be able to return home from work, switch on and have an hour of gaming to unwind without having to worry about potential errors and having to fix problems that may arise themselves. I have had many times where I have tweaked with Garry’s Mod, only to get constant lua error messages which I was able to fix after combining Google searches with a level of computer understanding somewhere between good and mediocre. With my Xbox 360, however, I have never had any such problems, though I also lack the custom content of my PC games. Will it replace the Xbox or Playstation? Possibly, depending on the consumer, price and games available. The likelihood is, however, that it will not cause the Playstation or Xbox to recede as a living room gaming system.
More information about the SteamOS and Steam Box can be found at: http://store.steampowered.com/livingroom/
Now we wait another twenty six hours to find out what Valve’s third announcement is. I am personally quite excited, despite knowing that it will not be Episode 3.