As many of you will know, especially if you listen to the Out of the Xfire podcast, I am firmly against the idea of “Upgradable Consoles”. The rumours surrounding Sony and the PS4.5/PS4K/PS4 Neo are a worrying sign for me as a console gamer. I’m sure you are all familiar with the arguments by now (Check out Episode 17 where myself and the rest of the OOTXF crew go in depth on it) so I’ll skip that and move on.
Having “Upgradable Consoles” destroys the philosophy that holds the console market together and makes it the same as PC gaming: Only the games are more expensive and the ecosystems are closed off from one another. In essence it is PC gaming but not as good. This opens the door for an alternative to take root and that is where Valve could come in.
Before the PS4 and Xbox One were released Valve announced that they would make “Steam Machines” which are basically premade gaming PC’s with Steam, Valve’s PC Gaming Marketplace/Community, built into it. Basically we are talking about PC Consoles, a premade package that costs ‘X’ amount depending on which manufacturer and spec you want and then you can play pretty much any game.
Virtual Reality is something to consider in all this as well, since it is “THE FUTURE”, Steam Machines can have tiers that are spec’d for the HTC Vive VR which is a handy selling point moving forward. Especially if that market starts to take off and prices begin to fall.
Steam Machines offer up the possibility of making PC gaming accessible in the way that consoles traditionally have been in the past. Buying a box that plays a load of games and will last a certain number of years without the need to spend lots of money on upgrades to keep up performance wise. That is the philosophy that the success of Console gaming has been built on.
So far Steam Machines haven’t made much of a splash but as Sony and Microsoft move away from the traditional strength of their products, they open up the door for someone else to take their place. Valve are best placed to take advantage of this opportunity if/when it arises. If they can sort out their machines into sensible and easy to understand tiers and price them well, suddenly the tables will have turned.