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Why the biggest problem with Steam Machines are the Steam Machines themselves

Brad Chacos | June 2, 2014
The mere concept of Valve's Steam Machines are enough to excite me in ways that few technology teases can, setting my jaded heart aflutter. When most technological progress these days essentially means faster speeds and feeds or a few fractions of an inch shaved off a laptop silhouette, Steam Machines stand out as being ambitious in ways that would've made Gordon Moore proud. Valve's diminutive gaming PCs have vision.

Valve can tread water by porting its own games to Linux and offering the cross-platform Steam in-home game streaming as a stopgap measure, but it's hard to imagine the SteamOS ecosystem thriving unless Valve exerts some control over the hardware experience to deliver a more streamlined message to consumers about why they should buy Steam Machines. "Because Gabe hates Windows" isn't enough to convince Average Joe to drop $500-plus on a glorified toy.

Bow before GabeN

But it is enough to convince a small army of PC makers to give Steam Machines a fighting shot. "If anyone can do this, Valve can do it," Falcon Northwest president Kelt Reeves told WSJ.

And my heart tells me he's right. If anyone can spit in Windows' eye and drag PC gaming into a wide-open new era — one set in the living room, no less — it's Gabe and Valve, who brought Half Life and Portal and the Source engine and Steam itself into the world.

But faith alone can't breathe life into the Steam Machine dream. Valve has to execute in promotion as well as product to avoid letting the goodwill of PC makers go to waste. Success demands the complete package, and hopefully this delay can help Valve hone its marketing and its Steam Controller alike. 

"SteamOS had one of the worst-communicated launches I've seen a while, and I see a lot," says Patrick Moorhead, founder at Moor Insights & Strategy, and before that, a long-time PC industry executive. "There was uncertainty on just about everything from hardware supported to controllers to platforms. Then they let AMD and Nvidia float on what was supported and what wasn't, which caused even more uncertainty. In the end, it's better to delay a launch than launch a bad product and service, so I'm glad Valve did delay. The titles, experience, and hardware just [aren't] there."

They can be, but only if Valve wills it. The message matters when you're sparking a revolution. Get your shit together, Valve. Please?


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