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The Dream Console: The Steam Box
That up there is not the Steam Box. The Steam Box is not real. Not yet.
To throw a quote out there from Doug Lombardi, Valve Marketing Director, “all of that is stuff that we’re working on, but it’s a long way from Valve shipping any sort of hardware.”
Of course Valve is looking at hardware in terms of future projects. Why wouldn’t they? They own the PC Digital Distribution market. They have millions of players playing every single day. Valve and Steam are two names that carry the most weight in terms of trust in the video game world. It would be extremely difficult to think that a Steam Box wouldn’t even sell. If Valve went about this right, and did it themselves, the Steam Box would be an instant hit and not only revitalize PC gaming but bring it into new heights.
There was a secondary rumor back when the Steam Box was a huge subject. That other rumor was that Valve was going to use the Alienware X51 as the “box” for the Steam Box. Immediately a lot of people wrote the nonexistent console off. This would mean that we would get sub-par specs for a greater cost. Also, it probably wouldn’t run a custom interface, just a regular Windows theme. Luckily it was soon after this rumor hit that the whole thing was proven false but we really need to think about what would happen if Valve came out with a Steam Box.
Simply put, the Steam Box that I (dreamily) describe below, would decimate a Xbox 720 or a PlayStation 4. It would toss the Wii U out and wash its hands. Before I hit the specs, let me tell you why I think this way.
- Connectivity: You could use a 360 controller, PS3 controller, Wiimote, tablet, mouse, keyboard, Razer’s motion controller, and I could keep going on. It’s your choice.
- Online community: Steam has the features to trump the PSN as it is right now. It’s not a flashy service but it has the features. You can chat with anyone during gameplay, you can capture video, you can take screen shots, gift games, use voice chat, and so on. It’s more on par with Xbox Live than anything but the best part is that it is free.
- Wider choice of games: The Steam Box would launch with thousands of games. For console gamers who never played on a PC, they would now have access to so much that it would perhaps be intimidating to some.
- Sales: The enormous sales help keep people on Steam and bring new players to it. If you could buy Arkham City for $24.99 at a retail store for the Xbox 360 and the Steam Box/PC for $10.99 on sale, what are you going to? If the sales keep up and the titles that are discounted as highlights like that, the Steam Box will flourish.
- Best performance: The specs of a beast gaming PC makes games look way more fantastic than a home console ever could. That level of detail will finally come to the TV’s (sans you using your TV for your PC monitor already).
To do this correctly, Valve would need to do a few things. First off, don’t like another company do this for you. Having nVidia or ATi give you video cards for the Steam Box is fine but we don’t want an Alienware-made Steam Box. No way in hell! It needs to be Valve. Secondly, the UI needs to be always Steam. Don’t boot up to a post screen with a bunch of numbers most people don’t understand or the Windows/Linux logos. Just hit the button and wait 5-30 seconds for start-up and boom, your in Steam. That way it is just fast and simple. You don’t need to double click the Steam icon on a desktop. This is the Steam Box. Sure, it is a gaming PC but console gamers that buy this thing will be looking for a unique experience.
I mentioned Linux just now. Valve is pushing Linux support like its their job all of a sudden. It’s cool! Finally bring some great gaming exposure to Linux. Ubuntu barely ever has the kind of issues that Windows does. It runs faster and if you’re an advanced user, you could access whatever you want and make changes. If Linux is the platform for the Steam Box and an emulation (like Wine) is made to make all of Steam’s catalog work on it, that would be huge. You wouldn’t see the Linux but you would see the difference.
Valve also would need to spruce up the UI. This would be on a TV and the size of that can vary. The UI needs to be intuitive, easy, simple, and able to used by controllers, motion, or tablets connected by Bluetooth. Add a better internet browser with all the nice stuff like Flash, HTML5, Silverlight, etc. Get some apps in there like Netflix, Hulu, Last.FM, etc. Have Steam Chat allow us to connect our Facebook chat, AIM, whatever you use. Get an e-mail program that allows Exchange, IMAP, and POP accounts. Add Media playback and able to attach an external hard drive (NTFS or FAT32 formats…grr PS3) to play any type of media using DivX player or Winamp custom built for the Steam Box. Oh, and lastly, make a push to Blizzard and all of the other PC developers that have high profile games and/or MMO’s and try and get them on Steam. If you have something like the Steam Box out and it has traction, I can’t see why these companies would continue to not have their products on Steam. It would just be dumb and bad for gamers. If Steam would include all of this, the experience would nearly complete for most gamers looking for stuff to do on a PC. To be honest, aside from WordPress (which I can use on the browser if they did that right), Paint/Photoshop, Microsoft Office, and Six Updater for DayZ, that’s basically all I do on my PC anyways.
Oh, and before I forget that I mentioned it: screen resolution. When you set the size of your TV screen and capable HD resolution, every game launches in that resolution or the next closest widescreen option. That way you never have to mess with that.
Still something like that can be pretentious and make gamers think that soon enough the Steam Box will make every option auto and developers will get rid of options in games. This would be a bad, bad thing. Devs would need to remember that not all Steam users are Steam Box players. Have a protocol that if the game is being run on the Steam Box, configure it to that specifications but if it is not, let the player decide.
Now, onto the biggest and final part: the specs. What should the Steam Box have inside it? In my opinion, it shouldn’t be any higher than $499. It should also have two versions: a 1TB hard drive or a 320gb Solid State drive. That’s a big loss in space but the Solid State is worth every penny. If you’re okay with uninstalling and reinstalling games over and over again, that would be a savory choice. The SSD version should cost about $649. Those two prices for a “gaming PC” are very digestible. The stereotype of building a gaming PC and it costing an arm and a leg would be out of the window. You need to make the Steam Box something wanted, not just something ‘cool’.
- CPU: Intel Core i7, 2.93GHz
- GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 1GB
- Memory: 8 GB DDR3
- Hard Drive: 1.0 TB / 320 GB SSD
- OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
- Ports: 1 HDMI, 2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0
- Card Slot: 7-in-1 (MS, MS Pro, SD, SDHC, MMC, MMC plus, xD)
- No Optical Drive
- Network: Wireless 802.11 a/b/g/n, and wired
What do you all think? Is this something you would like to see Valve do? Are the specs not right for you? Did I forget something that the Steam Box version of Steam should include? Would you rather have a desktop and full PC that just comes with Steam pre-installed rather than a unique experience? Tell us what you’d like to see in your dream Steam Box.