SteamOS is still Steam
Crucially, SteamOS won’t change any of the great things about Steam. The cheap (frequently hugely discounted) games, for instance. If you’re a console gamer, take a look at the Steam store and marvel at how affordable everything seems in comparison to console games – so affordable, in fact, that despite being a wholly digital distribution channel, Steam is never accused of corporate-friendly profiteering as Microsoft was when it announced its original, since-changed plans for how games would work on the Xbox One.
People are happy to buy games on Steam despite knowing that they can’t sell them on eBay afterwards. Why? Because they don’t feel like they’re being shafted by greedy corporations. Valve is so loveable that it’s even going to let you “lend” Steam games to up to ten friends for free through its Family Sharing feature. Would Microsoft have done the same with Xbox One games? We’ll never know for sure but we’d bet big that the answer is no.
The price needs to be right
In order to truly compete with existing living room games titans Sony and Microsoft, the Steam Box really needs to come in at an equal or lower price than the Xbox One and PS4. As well known as Valve is in gaming circles, the incumbents have an advantage in mainstream brand awareness and marketing clout. If SteamOS hardware that offers an equivalent experience to the Xbox One or PS4 starts at £500 or £600, it’s hard to see the casual gamer on the street picking one up, cheaper games or no.
A killer app?
Every new console platform features at least one killer exclusive to convince gamers that it’s worth buying over its rivals. The Xbox One has Titanfall, the PS4 Killzone: Shadow Fall. SteamOS will need one too – and it could be Half-Life 3. Yes, really.
Half-Life 3 is probably the most eagerly-awaited game of all time; there hasn’t been a new Half-Life game since 2007’s Episode 2, and the story of Gordon Freeman remains half-told (no pun intended). Valve hasn’t even confirmed that a new Half-Life title is in development, and there’s speculation that this caginess could be due to this bombshell: Half-Life 3 will be the SteamOS flagship title and the game that convinces wavering gamers to invest in a PC running the OS.
Valve has two more announcements to make this week. We’re hoping – nay, praying – that the first is a SteamOS-powered Valve-branded PC – and that the second is Half-Life 3. Keep your fingers, toes and crowbars crossed, folks.