Reasons why the Steam Boxes won’t Succeed

Steam Boxes have been talked about for at least a year or so. I have my own Steam Box. At first, people thought it was going to be an official console of a computer from Valve itself. Now it has been licensed out so actual PC manufacturers can make their own Steam Box, slap a Steam logo on it and have it boot up to the new Steam Operating System. Valve makes money even on a free operating system, PC manufacturers make money. Its a win win.


Two years ago, Gabe Newell insulted Windows 8, called it a catastrophe and said it will make people rage quit computing. Later that year, the Steam OS made its debut. Whether or not he was insulting Windows 8 to lay the groundwork for Steam OS will be a mystery.

The first failure of a Steam Box is that its not Windows. People have their own preference when it comes to operating systems and computers. Some love Windows XP, others love Linux and some prefer Mac OS. However, there are more games for Windows and Microsoft DOS than any other platform. Steam has gone a long way to make games compatible with the three top platforms. That’s not only admirable to accommodate so many extra users, but that’s profitable. More platforms, more money.


Steam Boxes use the free Steam OS. Its free, so it should make the PC cheaper. Should, but doesn’t. Not just that, but Steam OS is Linux based and until it reaches the compatibility of Windows based games, its just a lesser platform for games than Windows. Oh but to compensate for this, Steam introduced home streaming. You can play a game on your PC while playing on your laptop as long as you have the connection for it. So you can still play the games that require Windows or even Mac.


The only problem is that to play the games that require Windows, you still need a computer with Windows. The biggest glaring issue is that you will need a second computer to play the games. Well you already have a computer. In the first world, most everyone has a computer. People that play PC games have a computer. That’s what makes them PC games. Why would we need a second one? Oh its to hook up to our big screen TVs, I get it now.


As I said at the start, I have a Steam Box. No its not an official Steam Box. Its a Hewlett Packard small form factor that weighs maybe 10 lbs. I have Windows 7 on it and Steam starts up when it starts up. It does nothing else but plays games. It plays all 1,100 of my Steam games. Its hardly a beast of a gaming PC, yet it still manages to play PS4 and X-Box One games ported to the PC just fine. Its odd that a $350 PC with last year’s specs still runs games being put out today.


Everyone having a PC is the fundamental reason the Steam Box will fail. Let alone the price, but now let’s look at another reason. The fancy new Steam controller. We already have X-Box 360 controllers. Windows supports it immediately. Games support it immediately, because most games are ported to X-Box as it is. Some people even use Playstation and Logitech controllers.


Valve felt that the 360 controllers didn’t have mouse support. So Valve came up with its own experimental controller. The controller itself has had many iterations. Touch pads instead of thumb sticks that have speakers in them. It sure is an interesting idea, even if new technology is usually expensive technology. I think that Valve felt it needed to break away from Microsoft and be independent. Maybe its an axe to grind or maybe Valve wants your money instead of letting Microsoft getting it. It is true that natively the 360 controllers do not have mouse support. My old Nostromo controller had mouse support.It was pretty nice.

There is a third party software called Joy2Key that enables mouse support with a few tweaks. Not just that, but with the touch of a button you can set the controller to be used as a mouse or a default controller. I use the right thumbstick to move the mouse cursor, right to scroll a window up and down. Left bumper for a left mouse click, right bumper for a right click. Pushing the left thumbstick is to close a window and left trigger is to go back. Its all so easy that no one needs a Steam controller, just a 360 and Joy2Key.

It also falls into the problem where everyone that wants a controller has a controller. Well I guess down the road when 360 controllers aren’t supported, then Valve’s controller can take a foothold in the market and proceed right? Well if so many games are on Windows and X-Box consoles, why would any game developer not allow a 360 controller for a game that needs a controller?


The boxes right now are expensive since its a fresh idea and its new line of gaming computers. Some of them are more expensive than the current generation of consoles. Not just that, but people might have to decide between a Steam Box and a new console. Steam is known for its dirt cheap sales, but are people that want cheap sales the ones that will buy expensive boxes to run cheap games?

With so many developers and so many Steam Box models, then it will become an issue of competition. There is plenty of competition, which is great, because it drives down the price. If the price is driven down, how can the company’s afford to sustain the Steam Boxes unless Steam gives them a cut of game sales? Steam makes somewhere around 30% on each game sold depending with their deal. That’s good enough to share to let in the manufacturers on a cut, but why would Steam want them to have a cut? They’d be competing against themselves.


Steam OS itself is flawed. It is a take on Big Picture Mode. Overall, its a nice system, but several monitors and television screens have compatibility issues with it. I can’t trade using Big Picture Mode and its just easier to have my 360 controller as a mouse and use the Steam grid to find games in columns of 3 scrolling down. Big Picture Mode makes me scroll through games one by one and again, I have 1,100+ games on Steam. Its just a pain, even if they keep the most recent games first.


The final reason I have is lack of Steam support. Since Steam isn’t the manufacturer, there’s no reason for them to support a Steam Box. So I guess that solves it. Just call the manufacturer or the store and they’ll do something about it. Steam never does anything. Steam has no number to call and its usually a week or two weeks to get any support with even the most major of issues. I’ve had to deal with Steam support quite a few times for various reasons. They’re understaffed and inefficient. Even after they’ve replied to you once, their next reply may or may not take 2 weeks to make something happen. They don’t police hackers or phishers when I report them each and every time they attempt something.


There is one way they can make it work. Exclusive games, but Steam would just be losing money from the players that don’t want to buy in. Buying a $600 – $1,500 Steam Box and Half-Life 3 (confirmed) would probably be dwarfed by the millions that would simply buy the game for $50+ whenever it does come out. People would just end up hating Steam if they made exclusive games.


With all of these reasons, I wonder why Steam continues to push forward. To prove a point to Microsoft that it can be a platform? Is it because computer manufacturers can’t sell computers as fast as they used to? Are they trying to sell to people that don’t have a computer who are new to PC gaming? I’d suggest a console, since you know all PS4 games will work with a PS4. Not all PC games on Steam will work with your specific Steam Box. Why does Valve do it? Because they can!

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