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Full Steam Machines Ahead at CES

This week's CES will feature looks at Steam Machines from various partners in Valve's hardware initiative. Engadget reports a dozen companies have announced plans to show off SteamOS machines at the show: Alienware, Falcon Northwest, iBuyPower, CyberPowerPC, Origin PC, Gigabyte, Materiel.net, Webhallen, Alternate, Next, Zotac, and Scan Computers (thanks Destructoid). On a related note, CyberPowerPC sends along specs for two of their SteamOS-powered machines to give a sense of what to expect:

CYBERPOWERPC Steam Machine will come in several pre-configured options priced from $499 to $699 with the ability customize all models.

CYBERPOWERPC Steam Machine A CYBERPOWERPC Steam Machine I
Base Price $499 $699
Case CYBERPOWERPC Steam Machine Gaming Chassis
Graphics AMD Radeon R9 270 2GB GDDR5 Video Card NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 2GB GDDR5 Video Card
Processor AMD A6-6400K 3.90 GHz Intel® Core™ i3-4330 3.50 GHz
Storage 500GB SATA-III 7200 RPM HDD
RAM 8GB DDR3 1600MHz Dual Channel Memory
Chipset mITX motherboard w/ 802.11 WiFi + Bluetooth mITX motherboard w/ 802.11 AC WiFi + Bluetooth
Accessory Steam Controller
OS SteamOS
Availability ETA: 2H 2014

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57. Re: Full Steam Machines Ahead at CES Jan 9, 2014, 10:17 Verno
 
Krovven wrote on Jan 8, 2014, 17:20:
My understanding of those face buttons is they are not intended to be the A/B/X/Y or O/X/^/[]/ buttons on the 360/PS controllers. Those buttons are for the lesser used functions. The buttons on the top, back and buttons functions of the pads themselves provide those functions, allowing you to keep your thumbs on the pads moreso than the current analog sticks of gamepads.

Interesting. I really need to get my hands on one and play with it. I have an open mind though and I'll definitely be checking it out, I just think they have an uphill battle with others preference for the traditional controller setups.
 
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56. Re: Full Steam Machines Ahead at CES Jan 8, 2014, 17:20 Krovven
 
Verno wrote on Jan 8, 2014, 13:08:
You don't take one look at that thing and recognize the problem with the face buttons? You need to take your hands off not just one side like with a traditional analog setup but both sides to potentially hit multiple face buttons. There is no resistance for movement like a traditional analog input on the left, that is going to be something many people hate. I think a smarter approach here would have been an analog stick on the left for movement and a pad on the right for aiming. The face button placement really needs to move somewhere else too.

I do a lot of gaming and I will definitely try it before passing judgment but I can see problem areas already.

My understanding of those face buttons is they are not intended to be the A/B/X/Y or O/X/^/[]/ buttons on the 360/PS controllers. Those buttons are for the lesser used functions. The buttons on the top, back and buttons functions of the pads themselves provide those functions, allowing you to keep your thumbs on the pads moreso than the current analog sticks of gamepads. See the Portal 2 control setup.
There is absolutely a learning curve, but I can see myself using the Steam controller moreso to play turn based and other slower paced games (Civ5, Shadowrun) from the couch without having to awkwardly use a mouse and keyboard.
 
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55. Re: Full Steam Machines Ahead at CES Jan 8, 2014, 14:12 Beamer
 
1.1 million units, in one extra week, without Japan, is a pretty big deal.

Contrary to what people here keep saying, both systems are about equally limited by supply issues, so it's hard to sell. The PS4 and Xbox One are about equally easy/difficult to find.

But 1.1 million without your home turf is a very strong start. Not sure how people argue otherwise. Is it meaningful long-term? No, look at the Wii. Things will fluctuate often and rapidly. But it's a really strong start out the gate.
 
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54. Re: Full Steam Machines Ahead at CES Jan 8, 2014, 13:56 Verno
 
They break records everywhere (including the contested markets you keep going on about) and you see nothing but problems. I give up on the sales stuff dude, you're off your rocker there

In terms of the Steam pad, I think you're assuming too much in terms of the market and users shifting to suit it but I guess time will tell. I haven't used one personally so I don't feel like arguing for pages about it, I do however see it easily being a sticking point for many users.

Reguarding exclusivity I think you miss my point, no one goes to the store and says "Man i really want to buy a gaming system that only runs 1/3 of the software in this store". Going there to buy halo or other exclusive software is a problem they created in the first place, if it goes away you don't think consumers would be happier?

Of course people would be happy being able to run everything but no platform does so people instead choose based on the games that appeal to them.
 
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53. Re: Full Steam Machines Ahead at CES Jan 8, 2014, 13:26 descender
 
I don't see how it matters that they are outselling MS in uncontested markets at all. In contested markets (where they are having supply issues because they launched in too many countries) they are only outselling MS by <5% of sales. They could have pushed all of that supply to the same markets that MS launched in, sold the same total number of units (outselling MS by 20% instead of 5), and then still launched in the other countries ahead of the game. They have given MS a chance to make up those sales numbers very quickly. Sony are also coming off of the weaker previous generation and their userbase was more apt to upgrade quicker.

Reguarding exclusivity I think you miss my point, no one goes to the store and says "Man i really want to buy a gaming system that only runs 1/3 of the software in this store". Going there to buy halo or other exclusive software is a problem they created in the first place, if it goes away you don't think consumers would be happier?

"You don't take one look at that thing and recognize the problem with the face buttons?"

No, and I think what you just did is what the majority of people demo'ing this thing do. They aren't making new "standard gamepads" and trying to use it like one is making the first mistake. They moved the face buttons to the back of the controller specifically so you don't have to take your thumb off the pads (and the right pad presses as face buttons if you desire anyway). You are only going to press those buttons on the face (or the touchpad in the center) for non time intensive actions like inventories and maps. I am a bit surprised that the new back buttons are large and not split into 2 buttons, but I don't really think it's that big of an issue.

"There is no resistance for movement" I think that's simply a matter of programming. Why would they have that huge trackpad capable of any varying degree of movement you want, and then limit it to 4 hotzones and simple WASD button presses? I think you are confusing what gamepad games and what unsupported M+KB games will play like on the controller. New games are not going to use simple WASD movement control, only older games.

This comment was edited on Jan 8, 2014, 13:40.
 
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52. Re: Full Steam Machines Ahead at CES Jan 8, 2014, 13:08 Verno
 
descender wrote on Jan 8, 2014, 12:57:
Point was they only outsold MS in the US by 200k units with an entire extra week of sales, WHILE dealing with low supply issues.
They should be vastly outselling MS at this point, but their wider launch has not actually allowed that to happen. They had a chance to stand on MS's head and bury them and they didn't capitalize on that. Outselling MS in uncontested markets is not impressive to me.

Uh yes it has, they outsold them widely by 1.1 million consoles. No one delivers a knock out punch at launch but it's still the fastest selling console in the history of gaming right now. They haven't even launched in Japan yet. The US is a Microsoft stronghold so the fact that they outsold them at all is pretty remarkable. The majority of console sales don't happen at launch anyway. Whether any of this impresses you or not, your initial comment said Sony was "losing" and I was just pointing out that is totally incorrect.

I don't really think software exclusivity is a reason that people buy consoles, but a result of the lack of choice they are given.

Of course it is, buying exclusive software is one of the primary purchase motivators. People have a ton of choice, there are several different gaming platforms now and thats without going into mobiles and other stuff.

I am still on the fence about the controller reception, every review I've read so far about someone holding or using the thing was written by some mope that obviously doesn't spend much time gaming in a serious fashion.

You don't take one look at that thing and recognize the problem with the face buttons? You need to take your hands off not just one side like with a traditional analog setup but both sides to potentially hit multiple face buttons. There is no resistance for movement like a traditional analog input on the left, that is going to be something many people hate. I think a smarter approach here would have been an analog stick on the left for movement and a pad on the right for aiming. The face button placement really needs to move somewhere else too.

I do a lot of gaming and I will definitely try it before passing judgment but I can see problem areas already.
 
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51. Re: Full Steam Machines Ahead at CES Jan 8, 2014, 12:57 descender
 
Point was they only outsold MS in the US by 200k units with an entire extra week of sales, WHILE dealing with low supply issues.

They should be vastly outselling MS at this point, but their wider launch has not actually allowed that to happen. They had a chance to stand on MS's head and bury them and they didn't capitalize on that. Outselling MS in uncontested markets is not impressive to me.

I don't really think software exclusivity is a reason that people buy consoles, but a result of the lack of choice they are given.

I am still on the fence about the controller reception, every review I've read so far about someone holding or using the thing was written by some mope that obviously doesn't spend much time gaming in a serious fashion.
 
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50. Re: Full Steam Machines Ahead at CES Jan 8, 2014, 12:25 Verno
 
descender wrote on Jan 7, 2014, 15:26:

Edit: Verno, those are global sales numbers where PS4 is available in something like 2 or 3 times the number of countries The gap is considerably closer in the US and I believe they only passed MS in the last week of the year (while also having an extra week on the market). At the least they could be selling many more, and more likely they should probably be crushing MS right now.

Errr of course they're global sales, why would I post US only sales? It is a total sales comparison. Microsoft cherry picked the markets it thought it would do the best in and so did Sony. Sony is available in more markets and yet still sold out so I don't think Microsoft being in the same number of countries matters or not when they aren't sold out in the 8 or so major markets they chose to launch in.

If Valve accomplishes nothing here but forcing MS and Sony to open their systems up and get rid of software exclusivity... then we are all winners.

That is never, ever going to happen. It erodes too many of the reasons that people buy consoles for in the first place.

Personally I would love to see Valve succeed here and create a niche but I think this approach is too messy and I don't think their controller will win anyone over.
 
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49. Re: Full Steam Machines Ahead at CES Jan 7, 2014, 15:26 descender
 
I agree with what you are saying.

The underlying structure to have games developed directly for it was basically what I meant as Valve/Steam needing a stable platform. Valve has won over indie developers everywhere, and I imagine supporting SteamOS natively will be a huge selling point going forward for those who wish to sell things on Steam. These same people are all tomorrows big-game developers, programmers, project managers and CEO's. What I meant as an environment is like you said, that Steam already handles distribution and social aspects of Windows and Linux games. How long will it be before Steam adds Android or iPhone games to that list? I would argue that handling the distribution is a better first step than most, and the one that MS and Sony made advances on last generation, and are now trying to lock down completely.

Aside... I didn't mean to blame MS directly, Sony shares in this blame as does Nintendo to a degree. Their decisions to continually release closed game systems rather than unifying software under one language is the main problem. This redirects focus from "let's program to the limits of current technology, then scale it back for everyone else" to "let's see what we can squeeze out of this same piece of hardware for 8 years" and definitely stalls advances in graphics, gameplay, control, peripherals... you name it.

DirectX is and should have been the great unifier of gaming. Both new consoles run it and I see it as SteamOS's greatest hurdle. If Valve accomplishes nothing here but forcing MS and Sony to open their systems up and get rid of software exclusivity... then we are all winners.

Edit: Verno, those are global sales numbers where PS4 is available in something like 2 or 3 times the number of countries The gap is considerably closer in the US and I believe they only passed MS in the last week of the year (while also having an extra week on the market). At the least they could be selling many more, and more likely they should probably be crushing MS right now.

This comment was edited on Jan 7, 2014, 15:45.
 
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48. Re: Full Steam Machines Ahead at CES Jan 7, 2014, 14:55 Verno
 
descender wrote on Jan 7, 2014, 14:11:
Sony's PS4 is currently losing to the XBOne not because of an inferior product, but because of supply problems. Stores are filled to the brim with XBOne's and get new shipments every day (I wonder if they learned that from the Wii launch), while stores are barely sent enough PS4's to actually put one on a shelf.

This is a digression from the main discussion but Sony isn't losing anything, they've sold 4.1 million PS4s to the Xbox Ones 3 million. Judging by those numbers their supply chain is fine, the problem is that demand was so insanely high that they couldn't realistically hope to meet it. That's a good problem to have

How did Sony get access to utilize DirectX on a closed, directly competing platform? Valve will need to take a similar step to make their machines truly viable and reduce fragmentation among developers.

They licensed it from Microsoft. Valve won't do the same thing because they want to get away from Microsoft dependency, not increase it. The Windows 8 store really pissed Gabe off.
 
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47. Re: Full Steam Machines Ahead at CES Jan 7, 2014, 14:47 Beamer
 
descender wrote on Jan 7, 2014, 14:38:
What you state as MS and Sony's "plan" is basically to move to something that Steam already does. Accessing your library on multiple platforms. Steam already exists as a pretty stable and viable "environment", what Valve lacks is control of their own platform. SteamOS gives them that control.

Valve's initial fears (publicly anyway) were the walls MS started building with Windows 8, and that is what really pushed them to pursue SteamOS. SteamOS by itself could never really become viable solely dual-booting on desktop PC's, so I see launching pre-built SteamBox's as the inevitable next step in expanding that user-base.

I don't care what MS's "plan" is for stagnating game development for another decade. These are problems in the market they created for themselves. I wouldn't be surprised to see MS and Sony consoles running SteamOS (and becoming simply another hardware vendor, rather than a developer of a closed gaming system) in the future.

Steam isn't an environment. Steam is a distribution mechanism. Even SteamOS doesn't appear to be an environment.

If Steam were truly an environment, it would be something you run on any system (without requiring a reboot) that people code games directly for and it handles making sure they run. It would be wholly platform agnostic.

This is what Microsoft is working on with Xbox (which isn't entirely platform agnostic, but will run on anything running a Microsoft OS, be it a tablet, desktop, laptop, phone, or whatever else they plan.) This is what Gaiku does for Sony (in a way that will very truly be platform agnostic - if it connects to the internet it can be a Playstation device.) Steam does not do any of this.



Also, as an aside, are you saying MS stagnated game development graphically, or just in gameplay?
 
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46. Re: Full Steam Machines Ahead at CES Jan 7, 2014, 14:38 descender
 
What you state as MS and Sony's "plan" is basically to move to something that Steam already does. Accessing your library on multiple platforms. Steam already exists as a pretty stable and viable "environment", what Valve lacks is control of their own platform. SteamOS gives them that control.

Valve's initial fears (publicly anyway) were the walls MS started building with Windows 8, and that is what really pushed them to pursue SteamOS. SteamOS by itself could never really become viable solely dual-booting on desktop PC's, so I see launching pre-built SteamBox's as the inevitable next step in expanding that user-base.

I don't care what MS's "plan" is for stagnating game development for another decade. These are problems in the market they created for themselves. I wouldn't be surprised to see MS and Sony consoles running SteamOS (and becoming simply another hardware vendor, rather than a developer of a closed gaming system) in the future.
 
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45. Re: Full Steam Machines Ahead at CES Jan 7, 2014, 14:21 Beamer
 
descender wrote on Jan 7, 2014, 13:29:

Valve's "game" is not to directly compete with the XBOne or PS4... but their successors. By the time the next gen comes around, Valve should be positioned as a major player competing for the living room.


Well, if that's their "game," they kind of already lost. Or won, depending on how you look at it. Microsoft is making it pretty clear that their plan is being on every screen. Sony today announced what will be their next console.

Basically, we're moving to an environment, be it on a cloud (Sony's solution), or just something that exists on every device you buy (Microsoft's solution.) Given that both companies expect an 8-10 year lifespan for their new generation, these are both feasible.

Valve's play could be that these environments run on their machine, or it could be trying to prove Steam as an environment, but this seems an unnecessary step in that direction.
 
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44. Re: Full Steam Machines Ahead at CES Jan 7, 2014, 14:11 descender
 
First a location will have to actually sell it, do you see Target and Walmart selling steam machines?

Why not?

You used to have to go to a special store to buy Apple products, until they released one that everyone wanted.

There are many factors that will ultimately determine the fate of the SteamBox/OS... Even established veterans can fumble console launches.

Sony's PS4 is currently losing to the XBOne not because of an inferior product, but because of supply problems. Stores are filled to the brim with XBOne's and get new shipments every day (I wonder if they learned that from the Wii launch), while stores are barely sent enough PS4's to actually put one on a shelf.

Nintendo flooded stores and ultimately homes with Wii's, and then completely flubbed the launch of the Wii U with no game library.

There isn't some magic way of doing it all right, but there are plenty of ways of doing it wrong. For Valve, Supply shouldn't be an issue with multiple companies supplying the hardware and game library isn't "really" an issue, as the library of games that Steam runs natively in Linux is already larger than the library of any current generation console can probably ever be.

Those are two pretty big X's avoided, and they haven't even really gotten started yet.
 
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43. Re: Full Steam Machines Ahead at CES Jan 7, 2014, 13:57 descender
 
I don't think that's a magical bandaid that will undo decades of branding

I'm sure somewhere, someone at Nintendo said the same thing when MS stepped into the ring.

I think the biggest draw for current PC gamers, which are a very different core group than mainstream "gamers"... is the game streaming, and the controller. This is of course assuming the controller natively supports XInput and I don't have to use x360CE on every lazily ported game anymore.

How did Sony get access to utilize DirectX on a closed, directly competing platform? Valve will need to take a similar step to make their machines truly viable and reduce fragmentation among developers.
 
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42. Re: Full Steam Machines Ahead at CES Jan 7, 2014, 13:53 HorrorScope
 
descender wrote on Jan 7, 2014, 02:03:
What about purchasing these is overly complicated?

1. Mom walks into store to buy her child a game system with zero prior knowledge.
2. Mom sees XBox, PS4, and 8 different SteamOS boxes on the shelf.
3. XBox and PS4 get ignored while Mom is trying to figure out which SteamBOX would be the best bang for her buck.

First a location will have to actually sell it, do you see Target and Walmart selling steam machines? I don't. But if they did, what if they limited it to one choice? Now at Best Buy does SM's get located at the console area or PC area? Then it depends on how many they stock and how they market it. We really don't know this yet. So it is hard to say how complicated or not this is. But I've noticed tablets have done quite well with even more choice. The thing here is if there is a market for this.
 
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41. Re: Full Steam Machines Ahead at CES Jan 7, 2014, 13:48 Verno
 
descender wrote on Jan 7, 2014, 13:29:
Hey, if the only thing holding them back is a marketing campaign... sounds like an easy fix doesn't it You are the second or third person here that has for some reason assumed that they won't advertise their new product. Why? What other way are they going to win this battle against mega-corporations MS and Sony? Not only will Valve directly market SteamOS, but every company making SteamBox's will be marketing their own hardware as well.

No I think they will advertise it but I don't think that's a magical bandaid that will undo decades of branding from other companies. The controller is going to be a major adjustment for people too and there's also the issue with platform fragmentation when you have this many vendors involved. I really like this idea but where we disagree is that I think their implementation is more niche than it is mass market.

But hey if its a massive success then that's great for me either way
 
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40. Re: Full Steam Machines Ahead at CES Jan 7, 2014, 13:29 descender
 
Hey, if the only thing holding them back is a marketing campaign... sounds like an easy fix doesn't it You are the second or third person here that has for some reason assumed that they won't advertise their new product. Why? What other way are they going to win this battle against mega-corporations MS and Sony? Not only will Valve directly market SteamOS, but every company making SteamBox's will be marketing their own hardware as well.

As an added bonus they are launching in the softspot between console generations, not directly competing with them. As MS and Sony spend less and less on advertising as you move farther from the launch date, every dollar Valve does spend on PR becomes more effective.

Valve's "game" is not to directly compete with the XBOne or PS4... but their successors. By the time the next gen comes around, Valve should be positioned as a major player competing for the living room.

The "steambox" will basically see new releases and updates to the hardware every single year between now and then, allowing for constant media and PR bombardment into "Mom's" brain every Xmas season... while the old consoles will seem stale in comparison. "Hey wasn't that same thing on the shelf last year?" Who purposely goes out to buy their kids last years toys?

Edit: I totally agree that children should be brought up on Nintendo games and not purchased ANY current gen hardware until they are older.

This comment was edited on Jan 7, 2014, 13:43.
 
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39. Re: Full Steam Machines Ahead at CES Jan 7, 2014, 12:59 Beamer
 
HorrorScope wrote on Jan 7, 2014, 00:13:
Beamer wrote on Jan 6, 2014, 20:43:
Every steam machine won't run every steam game,

Every Steam Machine Game will run on any Steam Machine (which is what I said, you added in every Steam game). Tell me to stop...

At some point that isn't true. At some point a game will come out that the $499 Steam Machine A can't run but the Steam Machine I can run.

It happens with the change of console generations, but it's a clearly defined point. It won't be with these.
 
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38. Re: Full Steam Machines Ahead at CES Jan 7, 2014, 11:01 Verno
 
1. Mom walks into store to buy her child a game system with zero prior knowledge.
2. Mom sees XBox, PS4, and 8 different SteamOS boxes on the shelf.
3. XBox and PS4 get ignored while Mom is trying to figure out which SteamBOX would be the best bang for her buck.

All they need is 1 SteamBox on the shelf that matches the price point of the other consoles and they will win this war in a laugh-er.

Mom has no way of knowing that these things exist and goes with what the television told her is good.

I agree with most of your other points but when it comes to video games parents think of what has been heavily marketed to them or what their kids ask for. I would not buy one of these for a kid either, get them a Wii U or something.
 
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