Could Valve’s Steam Box stagnate PC gaming?
A living room system that could run PC games? That sounds…familiar.
The Verge today carried a report that Valve is actively building a ‘Steam Box’ that is designed to play PC games, but unlike a normal PC, it somehow will be more ‘living room’ friendly.
This will be possible with Valve’s ‘Big Picture’ mode it demonstrated last year, a UI overhaul that would streamline accessing games and movies on the TV. According to the report, this Steam Box will not only compete with the Xboxs and PlayStations, but also Apple TV.
Now, this is basically a PC with a slapped-on UI. Apparently, Alienware X51 was designed with the software in mind and will be upgradeable when it will release to the public (which could be the next decade since, you know, it’s Valve).
Besides that, Valve actually hand-built a PC to demonstrate the software at CES. It ran on an Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and an NVIDIA graphics card. This, apparently, would define the ‘baseline’ for hardware required to run the software, giving developers a clear cut, specific hardware to design its games for.
You know, like a console. With it’s own “lifecycle”.
The best thing about PC gaming is its range of possibilities in terms of performance. A user strapped for cash could purchase a very reasonable low to medium end PC, and still play games at lesser than High settings. A user with deep pockets could build a supercomputer for himself and never worry about going below the eye-candy of 60fps.
But this could all go for a toss if Steam Box becomes the standard. Like consoles, developers would have to/could limit their games to a specific set of hardware in order to ensure that it will run on it. This is great for them – lower Q&A, better support, few troubleshooting problems. But this will severely limit PC technology, as a whole.
Will we be able to purchase a higher-end PC and still avail the bells and whistles of the game’s graphics if its faster than the Steam Box? Will developers support that scale, something they have failed to do so with the current-gen consoles?
Steam Box is expected to show up at GDC this week. We are really hoping Valve has something unique and open-ended than what it currently looks like. We do not need a console-PC. Not yet.