How Valve’s SteamOS Can Save Console Gaming
While I started out as a PC gamer, I’ve been primarily a console gamer since the SNES. It’s simply more convenient to play games on a television and know that whatever I plug in to my system is going to work. After surviving multiple console life cycles, my love affair with consoles has lost some of its luster. Steam has gradually pulled me back into the PC fold by offering a platform that greatly simplified game installation and digital rights management, but playing games on a TV proved to be rather clunky, so my PC gaming has been limited to an uncomfortable home office. With the introduction of SteamOS, I can safely say that I’ll be strictly a PC gamer for this next generation.
SteamOS will potentially provide the same level of convenience that console games have mastered for years, while retaining the freedom and flexibility of PC gaming. Freedom is the key theme of Valve’s new direction. The open operating system allows any manufacturer to build their own Steambox. Hell, consumers can even build their own Steambox. As someone who has been building PC’s for years, this is very exciting. I have a secondary tower that inherits the parts that get replaced in my primary computer. It’s the perfect candidate for SteamOS. What’s especially exciting about this is the ability to stream games from another system. You can have a tricked out desktop computer in one room that streams to a lower end media center in the living room.
Like a desktop computer, you can swap out parts in a homemade Steambox when you need a little more power. This essentially ends console generations. PC games are generally built with scalability in mind. You can still run new games on fairly old systems, they just won’t look as pretty. Because of this, you get to decide when and how to upgrade your system. You aren’t forced to use whatever hardware Valve gives you.
Which leads me to my next point. With SteamOS, you won’t be locked into a single input device. If you don’t like Valve’s controller then don’t use it. You’re free to use a mouse and keyboard, an Xbox 360 controller, or whatever else you feel most comfortable with. This is very exciting for a console gamer. I tried to love the Playstation 2 and Playstation 3, but I could never get used to the horrible controller. With a Steambox, you wouldn’t have to settle for bad peripherals.
Perhaps my favorite thing about Steam is the ability to play your games on any platform. A game built for SteamOS is automatically Linux compatible. It’s also likely that developers would port their games to Mac OS and Windows as well, so your collection isn’t restricted to one machine. Buying a game once unlocks it on any system that can run Steam. That’s an incredible value that console manufacturers simply cannot touch.
When Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft showed off their respective consoles, I was rather dismayed. I just didn’t care about them. I was struck by the realization that my Xbox 360 soon wouldn’t see much support and I’d eventually lose my games when I got tired of storing an additional system and sold it for peanuts on Ebay. What I find most alluring about Steam is the timelessness of your game library. Because the games aren’t tied to a specific piece of hardware, you always have access to them. Always and forever. Well, at least until Valve tanks, but that doesn’t seem likely.