Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Valve’s Steambox: The Console Killer?

       Gabe Newell the co-founder and managing director of video game development at Valve Corporation has announced plans for a new pc-like device called the “Steambox”. This device looks like a console; however acts exactly like a PC in a sense that there are USB ports meant for a mouse and keyboard, as well as various video output ports as well that can either be connected to a monitor or T.V. What makes the concept of the Steambox stand out is the fact that it is meant to be a bridge between PC and Console gamers. This is done by the fact that the Steambox is gaming-ready, meaning that each device is preloaded with Windows 8 and hardware that is capable of running games such as Crysis at medium definition.

            There are however, several variations of the Steambox; in fact Gabe Newell has ordered a handful of companies to produce their own take of the Steambox, each with different technical specs as well as software. Gabe Newell has already announced that Valve’s own version of the Steambox will be running on Linux to encourage open sourced gaming allowing for developers to be limited by the parameters of fixed platform gaming. With all of this being said, there are a few things that need to be evaluated in order to truly tell if Valve’s concept of the Steambox can take down consoles or even compete with them in the near future.

          The first thing we have to think about is what can the Steambox offer console gamers that both consoles and PC’s cant? In comparison to PC’s providing they are gaming desktops is that the Steambox has the potential to provide the same or even more powerful computing power in a far more portable manner. Meanwhile, comparing the Steambox to a console like the Xbox 360 is much harder considering the fact that the concept of the Steambox is almost identical to that of a console; however Gabe Newell has explicitly stated that the Steambox is by no means a console.  That being said the advantage that the Steambox has over the Console is that it is an all in one device from gaming, web browsing, and even word processing. Furthermore since the operating system of the Steambox can vary between Windows 8 and Linux gamers are exposed to a wider variety of games, coming from major game developers to indie developers. 

            One big factor that separates many Console gamers from PC gamers is the pricing and maintenance of their devices. From a PC gamer point of view, they often find themselves having to make upgrades every year or two in order for their computers to run the most recently released games, meaning that PC games would have to shell out a few hundred dollars once in a while just to be able to stay current with today’s vastly growing video game industry. Meanwhile console gamers only have to pay for their console and their games which do not require installations and have an operating system dedicated to gaming, as well as immunity to viruses.  This is where the Steambox is supposed to come in and provide a middle ground for both PC and Console gamers. In terms of price several sources say that the Steambox variations will range from $500 to $1000. These prices are almost thirty percent more than both the PS3 and Xbox 360, though is significantly cheaper than buying a high-spec PC desktop or Laptop.

          Overall the Steambox shows promise to emerge into the video game market as a device that can potentially replace gaming PC’s, however Consoles seem to have a cult following in that many players can play on one console, and more importantly exclusive game titles, as well as a solid online gaming interface. The Steambox can and will become a true gaming innovation for years to come with the potential of abolishing PC gaming as a whole, however console gaming will still remain a major gaming contender for years to come.

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