Valve has recently made three announced that will shake up PC gaming, for what the company assumes is the better. I disagree.
SteamOS sounds great at first: your whole Steam collection in console form that can easily be usable while on the couch in the living room, why not!?
Well, unfortunately, that’s hardly the case. SteamOS is based on Linux, therefore, only Linux compatible games in Steam will be able to run on the box itself. Games that require Windows or Mac will need to be streamed from a dedicated PC. So, a majority of games will need to be streamed, meaning you will still have to pay to keep upgrading that PC to run the latest Windows (or Mac) games as well as pay for a Steam Machine. The audience of someone that would even want to install SteamOS onto a machine is most likely to be much smaller than the typical PC gamer. Combine that with the limited Linux gamer audience, and you can see that Valve is really limiting themselves here. Even with the supposed AAA games they have coming to Linux in the next calendar year, I can’t see Linux tipping the scale over Windows here.
This leads into the second announcement Valve made, Steam Machines. These are going to be wide-ranging in terms of hardware and made by various third-party developers. Similar to how ASUS and LG make Google’s devices. These machines should help SteamOS appeal to the console audience. While these machines will most likely cost less than say the PS4 or Xbox One, they will not have near the amount of game available. This harkens back to the only Linux games situation. People who want to play Fallout 3, for instance, will need a Windows gaming PC that is capable of both running the game and streaming it to another device. All “Games for Windows” games will still require a streaming Windows computer, and you can forget about any games from EA, as their newer ones aren’t available on Steam, so way goodbye to sports gamers.
Lastly, the Steam Controller. This thing just looks weird. Who knows how it will fare once the general audience gets their hands on it, but from the comments I’ve read, it will work for the gamer who literally just wants to have fun. Competitive FPS, RTS and MOBA players will most likely find it too slow and clunky, with the joysticks being replaced by full touchpads in the shape of a circle.
Thankfully, SteamOS will allow any sort of USB controller to be used, so those wired Xbox 360 controllers will still be good, as will mouse and keyboard, of course.
Overall, though, SteamOS is looking at an up-mountain battle, and doesn’t even have the draw to attract a large audience. There won’t be enough native games and the controller looks too weird and different to really turn the heads of many console gamers. So, we’re left with a Linux PC with a proprietary operating system that has limited games, but unlimited control options. Most people won’t want to buy a console that comes with a controller they won’t use, so some will build their own boxes and install the operating system onto their own device. This will steal revenue from the hardware side of things.
The rest of the people who even look at SteamOS will just tune out when they find they can’t play FIFA and Madden. Sure, there’s Skyrim and Call of Duty, but the Xbox 360 and PS3 can still play those games, and so much more.
In general, this will be just another blip on the radar like OUYA was. A lot of hype leading up to the launch, with the product falling flat on its face right out of the gates, failing to make a true impact on the gaming scene.