Opinion - is this the start of a gaming revolution?
No - Tom Wiggins, deputy editor, Stuff magazine
When Valve’s Steam Machines were first announced I was every bit as excited as the next recovering Counter-Strike addict. It might not have been Half-Life 3 but a Steam Machine could be the vessel in which the world’s most long-awaited game would be delivered – and straight to my telly. So why am I just looking at a load of Linux-based gaming PCs? Is this really the brave new future, or just the same thing repackaged?
To compete with the consoles you need one thing: simplicity. If I want to play Titanfall, all the decisions are made for me: I buy an Xbox and a copy of the game, and the world is my oyster. An oyster that I’ll gleefully lay waste to inside a massive robot. To play Dota 2 I need one of 13 Steam Machines, or the PC I’ve already got. Or I can build one myself and maybe install SteamOS on it. Isn’t this pretty much how it worked before?
Steam OS might be appealing to PC gamers, but you’re preaching to the converted. Where the whole thing does show potential is in the controller. All of gaming’s biggest recent advances have come from how you control them, from the Wii Remote to Xbox’s ever-improving Kinect, and Valve’s amalgamation of gamepad and touchpad has the potential to shake things up, making much better use of its touchy-feely zones than the PS4 currently does.
But without a sufficient number of hands on the controllers the whole thing could end up next to the Dreamcast or Gamecube: fondly remembered but ultimately a bit of a failure.
YES - Will Dunn, associate editor, Stuff.tv
For a few years, it seemed there was no option but to buy Apple if you wanted a proper smartphone. Yes, this meant you could only buy Apple-sanctioned apps, and yes, it meant having a smartphone was rather pricey, but what choice did you have? Then Google came along, with a new way of doing business. It didn’t make the phones itself, it just made an open operating system that it gave away for free, along with plenty of support and some superb software. Android phones now outsell iPhones by almost seven to one.
While the Xbox One and PS4 are both hugely exciting machines, they are, like the iPhone, closed shops. No-one gets to make a different kind of Xbox but Microsoft, but anyone can build a Steam Machine. Sony may trumpet about its love of indie developers, but you can’t just make a mod and start distributing it to other PS4 owners. Steam is very much the Android in this game – an open operating system, hardware anyone can make, and a store that lets developers self-publish more cheaply. And while Android took a few years to take off, once people realised it was easy and simple and non-nerdy (and cheap), it took off like a nervous frog on a caffeinated firework.
With its clever new controller, its wide selection of consoles and its already class-leading platform for selling and playing games, Steam is well placed to do the same. It won’t wipe out the established consoles – iPhones are still fairly popular, last time I looked – but it will provide a very tempting alternative.