I think what Steam is trying to do in the living room is forward-thinking, and dare I say, perhaps revolutionary. Long have hardcore PC gamers and users felt disconnected from the living room, as they squirrel away their time tethered to their gaming rigs playing Civ or Starcraft for endless hours, while simultaneously mocking and envying the inevitable domination of the console set lo' these many recent years.
The long-gone days of dominant PC gaming may be back on track for a few key reasons.
First is the ungodly time-frame for console generational upgrades. For any serious gamer, and when I say serious I am not referring to people who play Angry Birds or Candy Crush, playing games on seven year-old hardware is just plain embarrassing and lame. Over the last few years, the once near-dead PC gaming market has seen a resurgence, mostly kept alive by MMO's and strategy gamers who need a PC/mouse to play, and people who want to see better effects and graphics than a console system spec'd for 2007.
The second reason is Steam, and how it has given structure and form to the once disconnected PC market. I remember Steam when it first came out and it was reviled by PC gamers. It was seen, and appropriately so, as bloated vapor-ware intended to insert itself into the buying stream with little value for the end user. Now Steam is a PC gamers must-have, a great way to purchase and manage your games, connect with friends, download digital content, and re-install games once a hard drive becomes full.
But the real key here, and what will make this venture float or sink, is the controller. Can Steam make a controller that will bring long-time PC holdouts like Civilization, Warcraft and Starcraft to the living room? The lack of precision and lack of ability to re-purpose the keyboard/mouse combo to the couch is one reason why consoles flourished, and a main reason why certain types of games (action, FPS, sports) all tend to work better in a group setting while sitting back on a couch as opposed to solo gaming in the sitting-forward environment of the home office.
Time will tell here, but look to the controller my friend, it will show the path forward for the Steam Engine, and be the fore bearer of whether PC gaming can finally come to dominate the living room and compete with the console as a major driver of gamers time and money.
Look to the past, and look to the controller.
Look to the controller!
Steam Machine Unboxing
Steam Machine Teardown