The first thing you should know is that I’m a PC gamer at heart; always was, and always will be. Don’t get me wrong though; I have the utmost respect for the consoles, because one of the huge advantages they have over the PC, is the accessibility they offer. For them, it’s just plug-and-play, simple as that. No OS installs, no driver updates, patches to take care of, sudden errors, system requirements, and so on. Even so, the main reason I was always more interested in the PC (thus, remaining on that front), is none other than Valve’s digital distribution software, ‘Steam’.
I am aware that most gamers don’t want their whole libraries of games to be digital-only. I thought the same way… until I discovered just how easy and accessible Valve’s digital store is. For me, ‘Steam’ is like a console in a PC. It offers you the video games available for the respective platform, but in a very clean, and easy to use environment that you can only find in a console. ‘Steam’ takes care of everything.
With a few clicks, the games are being installed, automatically updated, and ready to play. All the available downloadable contents, news, reviews from the major gaming sites, a summary of the game, and info on the newest patches, are nicely featured on the respective game’s page. If you’re stuck in a certain part of a game, you can easily get help from the other users by going to the integrated forums. You can instantly take screenshots, and then add them to your library for others to gaze upon. You can browse the web while in-game. You can also chat with others in-game, no matter what video game you’re playing. Most games also feature cloud saving, so you won’t have to bother with finding and getting your save-game files on another hard drive, if something goes wrong with the PC, or if you simply want to reinstall the OS.
Did I also mention the user generated content? Just go to ‘Skyrim’s page and see how many hours upon hours of content the players have created -free of charge- for others to enjoy. Do you think you have created a video game that will certainly appeal to the gamers, but don’t have a way of publishing it? No problem! Steam Greenlight will let others know of your project, and if they like what they see, then your game will be up there for sale among the others. And let’s not forget about the ‘Steam’ sales! Whether they are during the summer, autumn, winter, during the middle of the week, or weekend, you can easily “score” many games for half the price they’re worth; sometimes even for 75% less.
There are even more features ‘Steam’ has, but as a whole, this service is one of the best the industry of gaming has to offer.
So what if all of these things would be included in a small box that simply connects to your TV? The main menu will consist of the already released ‘Big Picture Mode’, and you can use the ‘Steam’ account you already have. Sure, some might say that they already “own” a “Steam Box”, and that it’s called a PC. Yes, they are indeed right, but for some people it might be easier to just buy a “Steam Box”, just as they would buy a console, and hook it up to their TV, with no mandatory OS install, drivers and so on; just plug-and-play. It would be a console that plays PC games, but make no mistake! Even though it won’t be as open as a regular PC, it also won’t be as restricted as the usual consoles are.
Even though Valve’s future console will feature Linux as its primary OS, Gabe Newell himself stated that gamers will be able to install other operating systems on it, like Microsoft’s ‘Windows’. This makes sense, because if ‘Steam Box’ would only play Linux games, then it would be a huge disadvantage for the gamers, since very few games support Linux. Furthermore, the console will also be upgradeable, so “Steam Box” players will be able to play the latest games on the highest graphical settings, but again, make no mistake! Since the keyword to this future machine of Valve is “accessibility”, the upgrade process would be very easy, and straightforward. A simple example of this process has already been demonstrated by David Politis while he was presenting the ‘Xi3′, a console-like PC, sponsored by Valve (NOTE: the ‘Xi3′ is not the “Steam Box”):
So! Is it possible? Will this gaming machine from Valve capture the essence of a console, while playing regular PC games on the highest graphical settings like on a normal PC? All details point in that direction, so we can only hope for the best.
What do you think? Does the “Steam Box” represent the best of both worlds? A union between consoles and PC? Let us know in the comments below!
Vlad Pintea is an editor of news and features here at Analog Addiction, and sometimes he even reviews games. You can contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, on Skype, My IGN, Steam (all at the same name: vlad94pintea) or Facebook (Vlad Pintea). Have a good day and remember! Stay calm and keep on gaming!