Community Answers: What do you want in a Steam Machine?

1 Posted by - October 25, 2013 - Opinion

We asked. The community answered.

After years of speculation, Valve finally lifted the curtain on their first hardware offering, the Steam Machines. And we’re only just starting to get a hint of what they might actually be like, since the prototypes will apparently ship with wildly different specs.

Since Valve decided to crowdsource the design of their console, we decided it’s only fair we add our community’s voices to the discussion as well:

And leave it to Liquid-X to say what we were all really thinking:

Curiously, not one single person shouted out “Half-Life 3.” Perhaps that dream has finally died. But it didn’t take long for the community to find consensus on two major points, and it’s possible that you’re all dreaming on the first.

Nobody wants a cheap Steam Machine, but the phrase “a good price” came up with almost ridiculous consistency. Not a low price…a reasonable one. Jason Roberts on Facebook insisted on value for money, adding that, “I want it to beat my current PC for gaming, otherwise I don’t really see the point.” A dozen others agreed, with Stefan Dumitru offering his personal triumvirate: “Good pricing, component interchangeability, and Windows support.”

The other major point of agreement? What Valve will give you for that good price. Not surprisingly, the PC gamers eagerly offered a few specs to benchmark:

Others even specified the graphics cards they wanted. Nathan Shigeki Maruyama made his list and checked it twice: “The ability to put in the most up-to-date parts, a ton of USB ports, and more than one hard drive.”

There, at least, Valve seems ahead of the curve. It’s already invited people participating in the beta to crack open and mod their prototype Steam Machines to their hearts’ content. The implication is the retail boxes will feature a similar level of customization. That should suit Peter Bustraan. “Upgradability,” he wrote, calling out his top requested feature. “I don’t want to buy new ones if I can just slip new hardware in.” Dragos Boston also wanted, “More control over the OS and game settings.” Considering he’s referring to the new open-source, Linux-based Steam OS, that seems likely, too.

Dragon added his desire for, “a more accurate controller than its competitors,” and he wasn’t alone in mentioning Steam’s strange, control-stick-free controller. “I want the new controller to surprise me with how perfect for gaming it is,” sayd Jordan Blyth, “Bit unsure about it at the moment, though.” Jeffery Brock Taylor, however, felt that, “Shooters seem to be the steam controller’s weak point with no joysticks,” adding that “I would still like it to be compatible with my other controllers (like my Xbox controller) without much modification.”

A few people threw “to be in the public beta” at the top of their wish list, but we prefer to stick closer to the realm of possibility. David Costin, for example, offered “World of Warcraft playability,” which seems like a given by comparison. Clint Westwood only wanted his Steam Machine to reload his gun for him. Sounds reasonable to us.

But if these are all pipe dreams, it’s worth taking a few nightmares into account. Fortunately, Clay Dana stepped up to voice our greatest fear: “Ouya is already out.”

It seems unlikely that a Steam Machine would prove that lightweight, given how it will likely feature the entire Steam catalog. But it does outline the tricky needle those Machines need to thread. It has to bring the power at a price tag that doesn’t feel inflated. But the fact is that while a few people dismissed it on the basis of possible spec issues, nobody claimed Steam Machines were a wasted effort. The buy-in is already there.

Now Valve just has to deliver the goods.