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Steam Hardware Plans?

A post on The Verge follows up on recent comments by Valve's Gabe Newell about the possibility of Steam hardware by saying this is exactly what Valve is working on, and a reveal may come as early as next week at San Francisco's Game Developer's Conference (thanks Kotaku).

The article cites unnamed "sources" who say Valve is working with various hardware vendors on a "Steam Box," which sounds more exotic than "Windows PC," which is what this seems like, as word is: "Apparently meetings were held during CES to demo a hand-built version of the device to potential partners. We're told that the basic specs of the Steam Box include a Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GPU. The devices will be able to run any standard PC titles, and will also allow for rival gaming services (like EA's Origin) to be loaded up." They note a couple of possibilities that may make this more distinctive than a hardware specification, speculating it may include a proprietary controller, a biometric feedback device, and could take better advantage of Steam's "big picture mode."

This all still speculation at this point, as Valve has not responded to their request for comment.

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139 Replies. 7 pages. Viewing page 2.
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119. Re: Steam Hardware Plans? Mar 4, 2012, 22:31 Dades
 
The best part is that it's a souped up console you can upgrade. I probably will never purchase one because I like building my own but its a great thing for non-enthusiasts.  
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118. Re: Steam Hardware Plans? Mar 4, 2012, 21:44 ^Drag0n^
 
Fibrocyte wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 11:45:
CJ_Parker wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 01:18:
Are you crazy? Where did that make any sense? Are people going to start playing PC games on the couch with keyboard and mouse? Yeah? Really?

I do it right now.

I do as well. Shuttle PC with a decent ATI card cost me under $450 to put together. Plays Skyrim on Ultra at 1080p quite handily. Lapdesks are a godsend.

I also use the FragFX Mouse/Nunchuck on my 360, as the thumbsticks just suck for FPS.

^D^
 
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117. Re: Steam Hardware Plans? Mar 4, 2012, 21:43 Bhruic
 
Even if Valve hides all the OS stuff, you still have the in-game stuff to deal with. How many console gamers know what V-Sync is? Or mouse smoothing? Or DX11? Or triple buffering? Or anisotropic filtering? Or antialiasing? The average console gamer doesn't know or care about any of these things. They just want to sit on their couch and play games. Sure, players can skip all the video and control configuration and just jump into the game, but that typically results in an inferior experience because default settings are usually crap. And if someone doesn't care about having an inferior experience, they'll just stick with consoles.

If you've got dedicated hardware then you can ship a config file specifically designed for that hardware, and eliminate the need for the end user to fiddle with settings.
 
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116. Re: Steam Hardware Plans? Mar 4, 2012, 21:27 Dades
 
Jerykk wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 20:05:
Lots of people own and use PC's with ZERO knowledge and understanding of hardware, and valve can make a lot of stuff happen automatically under the hood.

But how many of those people are PC gamers? You don't really need a lot of tech knowledge in order to check your e-mail or browse the web. Being a PC gamer, on the other hand, requires significantly more tech savvy.

Even if Valve hides all the OS stuff, you still have the in-game stuff to deal with. How many console gamers know what V-Sync is? Or mouse smoothing? Or DX11? Or triple buffering? Or anisotropic filtering? Or antialiasing? The average console gamer doesn't know or care about any of these things. They just want to sit on their couch and play games. Sure, players can skip all the video and control configuration and just jump into the game, but that typically results in an inferior experience because default settings are usually crap. And if someone doesn't care about having an inferior experience, they'll just stick with consoles.

Most of that stuff can be preconfigured when hardware specs are known.
 
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115. Re: Steam Hardware Plans? Mar 4, 2012, 20:32 Dev
 
Jerykk wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 20:05:
Lots of people own and use PC's with ZERO knowledge and understanding of hardware, and valve can make a lot of stuff happen automatically under the hood.

But how many of those people are PC gamers? You don't really need a lot of tech knowledge in order to check your e-mail or browse the web. Being a PC gamer, on the other hand, requires significantly more tech savvy.

Even if Valve hides all the OS stuff, you still have the in-game stuff to deal with. How many console gamers know what V-Sync is? Or mouse smoothing? Or DX11? Or triple buffering? Or anisotropic filtering? Or antialiasing? The average console gamer doesn't know or care about any of these things. They just want to sit on their couch and play games. Sure, players can skip all the video and control configuration and just jump into the game, but that typically results in an inferior experience because default settings are usually crap. And if someone doesn't care about having an inferior experience, they'll just stick with consoles.
With a steam box, valve presumably would preconfigure many of the games that come preloaded on the box. Also, they could setup something to either pre-configure a game when it comes out, or a steam overlay that would pop up on the config part and suggest appropriate settings (I think I mentioned that kinda thing already in this thread). After all, valve already has a steam hardware survey system setup to find out what hardware is in a system. I could see companies willing to interface configuration with steamworks in new games if it would get them more sales, and valve does most of the work.
 
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114. Re: Steam Hardware Plans? Mar 4, 2012, 20:24 ^Drag0n^
 
Dev wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 19:49:
CJ_Parker wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 18:57:
Dev wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 18:34:
Huh, would you look at that. We are only up to $495 for all the core components. And those are the prices I as an end buyer can achieve, presumably valve could get them for less in quantity.

Interesting. So we don't need a case and a power supply? Oops.
Interesting. I said "core components" in that bit you quoted. Oops.

Those parts are something I spent just a few minutes researching the prices to demonstrate that a powerful gaming computer can be built for far less than most people assume. Its definitely not the perfect machine with a perfect mix of cost/performance/reliability/quietness.

As for the xbox RROD, their poor power supply was only one small part of the problems that caused the early RRODs. They also had things like bad solder jobs (the non leaded solder bugs were still being worked out as I recall). Incidentally, this is why some people could overheat the xbox (wrapping a towel around it) and get some RROD boxes working again. I think they had as high as a 66% failure rate on the first run of xboxes.
Amusingly enough, MS has power supply problems that led to mass replacement on BOTH the xbox 1 and xbox 360.
Jerykk wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 19:05:
A small PC is still a PC and as such, requires an OS, drivers and occasional maintenance. It also requires knowledge and understanding of hardware.
My guess is steam would make some sorta rethemed overlay to whatever OS they used. Kinda like those HTPC things that make everything simpler and cover up things that aren't needed to play media.
Steam already has a driver checker that can do updates, they can use expand that. Updates can generally be configured to be done silently and automatically. Other maintenance type things can be configured to be automatic too such as a background defrag. Lots of people own and use PC's with ZERO knowledge and understanding of hardware, and valve can make a lot of stuff happen automatically under the hood.

Dev is correct.

Not that I consider them an authority or anything, but Maximum PC built a competant gaming rig for under $500 2-3 issues back.

Also, a system builder NEVER pays retail; discounts are darn near to cost in many cases for components, given the competitiveness of the market.

^D^
 
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113. Re: Steam Hardware Plans? Mar 4, 2012, 20:05 Jerykk
 
Lots of people own and use PC's with ZERO knowledge and understanding of hardware, and valve can make a lot of stuff happen automatically under the hood.

But how many of those people are PC gamers? You don't really need a lot of tech knowledge in order to check your e-mail or browse the web. Being a PC gamer, on the other hand, requires significantly more tech savvy.

Even if Valve hides all the OS stuff, you still have the in-game stuff to deal with. How many console gamers know what V-Sync is? Or mouse smoothing? Or DX11? Or triple buffering? Or anisotropic filtering? Or antialiasing? The average console gamer doesn't know or care about any of these things. They just want to sit on their couch and play games. Sure, players can skip all the video and control configuration and just jump into the game, but that typically results in an inferior experience because default settings are usually crap. And if someone doesn't care about having an inferior experience, they'll just stick with consoles.
 
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112. Re: Steam Hardware Plans? Mar 4, 2012, 19:49 Dev
 
CJ_Parker wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 18:57:
Dev wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 18:34:
Huh, would you look at that. We are only up to $495 for all the core components. And those are the prices I as an end buyer can achieve, presumably valve could get them for less in quantity.

Interesting. So we don't need a case and a power supply? Oops.
Interesting. I said "core components" in that bit you quoted. Oops.

Those parts are something I spent just a few minutes researching the prices to demonstrate that a powerful gaming computer can be built for far less than most people assume. Its definitely not the perfect machine with a perfect mix of cost/performance/reliability/quietness.

As for the xbox RROD, their poor power supply was only one small part of the problems that caused the early RRODs. They also had things like bad solder jobs (the non leaded solder bugs were still being worked out as I recall). Incidentally, this is why some people could overheat the xbox (wrapping a towel around it) and get some RROD boxes working again. I think they had as high as a 66% failure rate on the first run of xboxes.
Amusingly enough, MS has power supply problems that led to mass replacement on BOTH the xbox 1 and xbox 360.
Jerykk wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 19:05:
A small PC is still a PC and as such, requires an OS, drivers and occasional maintenance. It also requires knowledge and understanding of hardware.
My guess is steam would make some sorta rethemed overlay to whatever OS they used. Kinda like those HTPC things that make everything simpler and cover up things that aren't needed to play media.
Steam already has a driver checker that can do updates, they can use expand that. Updates can generally be configured to be done silently and automatically. Other maintenance type things can be configured to be automatic too such as a background defrag. Lots of people own and use PC's with ZERO knowledge and understanding of hardware, and valve can make a lot of stuff happen automatically under the hood.
 
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111. Re: Steam Hardware Plans? Mar 4, 2012, 19:05 Jerykk
 
Many on this board are convinced that console users want the luxury of having a mouse and keyboard you pick specifically, that they want to be able to tweak performance of both their games and their hardware, and that they want all that a PC offers.
Many on this board are wrong. These things that matter to us aren't interesting to most gamers, which is why they're on consoles and not PCs.

This. There are two things that console gamers care about above all else:

1) Accessibility and convenience.
2) The ability to sit on your couch and play games on a big TV.

Valve's theoretical Steam Box could resolve #2 but #1 would still be an issue. A small PC is still a PC and as such, requires an OS, drivers and occasional maintenance. It also requires knowledge and understanding of hardware. Ask the average console gamer what the difference between a Radeon 9800 Pro and a Geforce GTX 590 is and he'll have no idea. He'll probably think that the 9800 Pro is better because it has a higher number in its title. Ask him whether his videocard is DX11-compatible and you'll get a blank stare. Show him the video and control options for any PC game and he'll probably have a nervous breakdown.

PC gaming will always require more effort than console gaming and console gamers don't want to put any effort into their gaming experience.
 
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110. Re: Steam Hardware Plans? Mar 4, 2012, 18:57 CJ_Parker
 
Dev wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 18:34:
eunichron wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 17:58:
With those proposed specs I doubt they could build a capable rig for less than $400, and highly doubt they could sell it for less than $500. The next generation of consoles is going to catch up in terms of graphics (at least DX11.1 standard) anyway. The rumor claims that it is going to use mobile graphics, I think the biggest move Valve could make is use an MXM based GPU (if I recall there is an MXM GTX 580m board), allowing users to buy cheap upgrades through Steam so that their system can stay current to PC specs.
The consoles are cheaper because they are crappier.

The margins are far less than $100 on most computers in that price range and if valve was smart, they would sell it at cost (they'd more than make up the difference selling steam games through it). IMHO It would be silly to build a mobile based one, the parts are more expensive and less capable (similar mobile model names are usually a mere 50% of the speed of desktop). They'd be better off just building a smaller desktop form factor.

As for cost, its less than one might think.

$200 for i7 CPU (yes, they can be found for this price)
$50 for a name brand micro ATX 1155 mobo (only need one x16 slot, and its small physically)
$35 for 8 gb ram
$80 for 2tb hdd (prices are finally getting down near what they used to be for hdds)
$130 for a radeon 6870, which is MORE than fast enough to game at 1080p

Huh, would you look at that. We are only up to $495 for all the core components. And those are the prices I as an end buyer can achieve, presumably valve could get them for less in quantity.

Interesting. So we don't need a case and a power supply? Oops.
And good luck finding decent low cost parts that will allow to supply this kind of setup with the necessary reliable power and cooling. We're easily at $600+ now for anything that isn't going to guarantee Xbox levels of RROD failure rates.
Besides no one in their right mind is going to plop down a rig with an ATI 6870 into their living room. That thing is a screamer unless you go with one of the substantially more expensive models with alternative high end cooling.

 
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109. Re: Steam Hardware Plans? Mar 4, 2012, 18:37 Beamer
 
Fibrocyte wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 18:21:
Beamer wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 14:03:
Fibrocyte wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 11:45:
CJ_Parker wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 01:18:
Are you crazy? Where did that make any sense? Are people going to start playing PC games on the couch with keyboard and mouse? Yeah? Really?

I do it right now, you oaf.

If done right, the SteamBox will sell well and increase Valve's profits substantially. I'd be surprised if they didn't do this right.

You're one in a billion. There's a reason why so many companies have desperately tried to make some kind of mouse/keyboard combo for couches - what we have now does not work. The keyboard can be ok, but the mouse? I used to do some work on the couch, and it fucks your wrist up very, very quickly. You can buy a couch desk to rectify that, but who wants to bother?

Many on this board are convinced that console users want the luxury of having a mouse and keyboard you pick specifically, that they want to be able to tweak performance of both their games and their hardware, and that they want all that a PC offers.
Many on this board are wrong. These things that matter to us aren't interesting to most gamers, which is why they're on consoles and not PCs.

I have a Logitech Anywhere mouse that works flawlessly on my couch. It works on the cushion that I'm sitting on or up on the arm rest. No mouse pad is used or required, either. No wrist issues here, though I understand where you're coming from.

On the cushion next to you is murder on the wrist. You're using a mouse down by your waist, with your wrist most likely turned up at a near-90 degree angle. That's very, very bad.
On an armrest is better since the angle will be less harsh but, depending on the armrest, there's still a hell of an angle.

Plus managing to do any kind of FPS in those conditions is near-impossible.


 
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108. Re: Steam Hardware Plans? Mar 4, 2012, 18:34 Dev
 
eunichron wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 17:58:
With those proposed specs I doubt they could build a capable rig for less than $400, and highly doubt they could sell it for less than $500. The next generation of consoles is going to catch up in terms of graphics (at least DX11.1 standard) anyway. The rumor claims that it is going to use mobile graphics, I think the biggest move Valve could make is use an MXM based GPU (if I recall there is an MXM GTX 580m board), allowing users to buy cheap upgrades through Steam so that their system can stay current to PC specs.
The consoles are cheaper because they are crappier.

The margins are far less than $100 on most computers in that price range and if valve was smart, they would sell it at cost (they'd more than make up the difference selling steam games through it). IMHO It would be silly to build a mobile based one, the parts are more expensive and less capable (similar mobile model names are usually a mere 50% of the speed of desktop). They'd be better off just building a smaller desktop form factor.

As for cost, its less than one might think.

$200 for i7 CPU (yes, they can be found for this price)
$50 for a name brand micro ATX 1155 mobo (only need one x16 slot, and its small physically)
$35 for 8 gb ram
$80 for 2tb hdd (prices are finally getting down near what they used to be for hdds)
$130 for a radeon 6870, which is MORE than fast enough to game at 1080p

Huh, would you look at that. We are only up to $495 for all the core components. And those are the prices I as an end buyer can achieve, presumably valve could get them for less in quantity.

This comment was edited on Mar 4, 2012, 18:43.
 
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107. Re: Steam Hardware Plans? Mar 4, 2012, 18:21 Fibrocyte
 
Beamer wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 14:03:
Fibrocyte wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 11:45:
CJ_Parker wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 01:18:
Are you crazy? Where did that make any sense? Are people going to start playing PC games on the couch with keyboard and mouse? Yeah? Really?

I do it right now, you oaf.

If done right, the SteamBox will sell well and increase Valve's profits substantially. I'd be surprised if they didn't do this right.

You're one in a billion. There's a reason why so many companies have desperately tried to make some kind of mouse/keyboard combo for couches - what we have now does not work. The keyboard can be ok, but the mouse? I used to do some work on the couch, and it fucks your wrist up very, very quickly. You can buy a couch desk to rectify that, but who wants to bother?

Many on this board are convinced that console users want the luxury of having a mouse and keyboard you pick specifically, that they want to be able to tweak performance of both their games and their hardware, and that they want all that a PC offers.
Many on this board are wrong. These things that matter to us aren't interesting to most gamers, which is why they're on consoles and not PCs.

I have a Logitech Anywhere mouse that works flawlessly on my couch. It works on the cushion that I'm sitting on or up on the arm rest. No mouse pad is used or required, either. No wrist issues here, though I understand where you're coming from.
 
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106. Re: Steam Hardware Plans? Mar 4, 2012, 18:14 CJ_Parker
 
Prez wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 15:54:
...but it is so hard to understand that people who like a company's products or services generally want said company to make lots of money so that they can continue to make the stuff they like for the foreseeable future?

Yes, it is hard to understand in this context. Because anyone who seriously believes that Valve will "continue to make the stuff they like for the foreseeable future" if the SteamBox rumor turns out to be true is bound to have a very rude awakening. A SteamBox with a proprietary controller would mean a very drastic change of who and what Valve is.
You'll see what I mean when we get there. When Valve will start making and funding exclusive games to push their proprietary platform and controller. When Valve will effectively turn into Microsoft and take a dump on their former business (PC gaming or distribution respectively) to promote their new business (Xbox/SteamBox).
Just wait, see, and suffer. For us "core" PC gamers it will suck. A lot. Mark my words.

 
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105. Re: Steam Hardware Plans? Mar 4, 2012, 18:13 Krovven
 
Rumored, moddable gamepad (ie: drop in a trackball).

http://kotaku.com/5890372/is-this-valves-control-pad-design

 
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104. Re: Steam Hardware Plans? Mar 4, 2012, 17:58 eunichron
 
Dev wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 16:16:
Depends. They have a unique opportunity to win some players into PC gaming in the time before the next gen consoles come out. If valve considers why people choose consoles over PC's, and tries to address the reasons, they have a shot at getting some into PC. For instance, ease of use. Valve could make the steam interface easier to use for consolers. Many are interested in flashy things rather than substantial things, especially how good a game looks, and the PC looks far better than a console. Another would be cost, many consolers have the impression a gaming PC costs $1000+. It doesn't, one can get one for $500 or less. It still may not be as cheap as a PS3, but its not terribly far away from the $300 or so it sells at now (and as I recall, didn't the PS3 come out at more than $500?). If they make the PC smallish and able to get sound and video through HDMI, and target consolers, than many people could use their TV monitor instead od thinking they need to buy a new PC monitor. Plus it would reduce cost of the system. And valve needs to emphasize that games tend to be less expensive on PC and they have great sales.

There's other things valve could do too. Its not perfect, and I doubt it will convince a huge number of consolers, but I think it could easily convince some.

Indeed, as I see it, one of the primary advantages of a console vs. PC is the cost. The PS3 debuted at $499 and $599 for 20GB and 60GB models, which is half the reason it took so long catch up the 360 which launched at $299 and $399. In fact the only reason I bought a PS3 was because I bought a refurb off of Craigslist for $200 just to use as a blu-ray player (at the time dedicated players were much more expensive). I have bought two 360s, I traded my first one that I got at launch for an Elite with HDMI a couple years ago, but together both consoles were cheaper than what I've put into my PC, and what I plan to put into my PC this summer.

With those proposed specs I doubt they could build a capable rig for less than $400, and highly doubt they could sell it for less than $500. The next generation of consoles is going to catch up in terms of graphics (at least DX11.1 standard) anyway. The rumor claims that it is going to use mobile graphics, I think the biggest move Valve could make is use an MXM based GPU (if I recall there is an MXM GTX 580m board), allowing users to buy cheap upgrades through Steam so that their system can stay current to PC specs.
 
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103. Re: Steam Hardware Plans? Mar 4, 2012, 16:16 Dev
 
RollinThundr wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 02:14:
But calling them customer centric is a stretch imo. Justifying shit not getting finished by them because their employees aren't interested in it? Why should anyone justify that? Or think that it's ok?
[...]
They care about their fans, yet have erratic patching and half the time don't fix issues for years or at all. Yep that's real customer care right there! Yes indeedy! Headscratch
Nowhere did I call them customer centric. I said that they care about their customers. There's a wide gulf. I said "they care more about their employees" which explains nearly all the things you mentioned (in fact what I said should lead any reasonable person to think I was closer to saying they are more employee centric than customer centric). In fact, gabe says he's "obsessed" (his word not mine) with employee health. And nowhere did I say I was trying to justify it. I'm merely trying to EXPLAIN it. And I individually explained a couple of the other issues too in your little list.
eunichron wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 04:51:
Valve isn't going to win anyone over with this, console players are going to stick to their Playstation and Xbox, and PC gamers are going to stay with their current machines.
Depends. They have a unique opportunity to win some players into PC gaming in the time before the next gen consoles come out. If valve considers why people choose consoles over PC's, and tries to address the reasons, they have a shot at getting some into PC. For instance, ease of use. Valve could make the steam interface easier to use for consolers. Many are interested in flashy things rather than substantial things, especially how good a game looks, and the PC looks far better than a console. Another would be cost, many consolers have the impression a gaming PC costs $1000+. It doesn't, one can get one for $500 or less. It still may not be as cheap as a PS3, but its not terribly far away from the $300 or so it sells at now (and as I recall, didn't the PS3 come out at more than $500?). If they make the PC smallish and able to get sound and video through HDMI, and target consolers, than many people could use their TV monitor instead od thinking they need to buy a new PC monitor. Plus it would reduce cost of the system. And valve needs to emphasize that games tend to be less expensive on PC and they have great sales.

There's other things valve could do too. Its not perfect, and I doubt it will convince a huge number of consolers, but I think it could easily convince some.
This comment was edited on Mar 4, 2012, 17:27.
 
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102. Re: Steam Hardware Plans? Mar 4, 2012, 15:54 Prez
 
CJ_Parker wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 14:22:
Fibrocyte wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 11:45:
If done right, the SteamBox will sell well and increase Valve's profits substantially. I'd be surprised if they didn't do this right.

If Valve's profits are your only worry and concern then I don't know what to say except: Nice to meet you, Gabe .


You don't have to be a shareholder to be interested in a company's bottom line. I understand you're not a fan of Valve, but it is so hard to understand that people who like a company's products or services generally want said company to make lots of money so that they can continue to make the stuff they like for the foreseeable future?

Netflix's major setbacks last year affected me not at all, since I don't own their stock and I'm a streaming-only customer, but they still bother me because anything that hurts their bottom line hurts their ability to afford the ever-more expensive TV shows and movie contracts they need to expand their content catalog.

 
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101. Re: Steam Hardware Plans? Mar 4, 2012, 14:22 CJ_Parker
 
Fibrocyte wrote on Mar 4, 2012, 11:45:
If done right, the SteamBox will sell well and increase Valve's profits substantially. I'd be surprised if they didn't do this right.

If Valve's profits are your only worry and concern then I don't know what to say except: Nice to meet you, Gabe .

 
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100. Re: Steam Hardware Plans? Mar 4, 2012, 14:13 NicklePop
 
Controllers literally ruin games.

It forces developers to gimp their games.

Also, consoles are for poor people and idiots. FACT.
 
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