Valve's Steam Machines aren't gaining steam, but they inspired wonderful creations

The Steam Machine is an interesting concept, but it's not the device PC gamers are looking for.

The Linux-based Steam Machine platform hasn't exactly picked up steam.

Valve recently reported that it had sold more than 500,000 Steam Controllers since November, when they rolled out alongside Steam Machines rolled out. Valve later confirmed to Ars Technica that those 500,000 controllers included ones that were sold as a package with new Steam Machines.

Assuming some controllers were sold separately, it appears less than 500,000 Steam Machines from hardware makers such as Dell’s Alienware, Scan, and Zotac have been sold since November. Seven months. That is not a promising sign and throws into question the future of Steam Machines as a viable gaming platform.

The concept of the Steam Machine was simple enough: Create a PC that looks like a console, give it a console-like operating system designed around controller usage, and gamers get a PC-quality machine that actually looks like it belongs in the living room.

But that dream isn't winning over hordes of converts. The biggest issue may be the fact that Steam Machines are sold running the Linux-based SteamOS. Using Linux immediately restricts the number of games you can play and eliminates many hot AAA titles, even though Linux gaming has exploded since Steam Machines were revealed.

Further reading: 35 great games for Linux PCs and Steam Machines

Embracing the wider ecosystem

That may change in the future, however, if the hype train over the Vulkan graphics API continues. Vulkan is the open source, cross-platform alternative to the Windows-only DirectX 12. Right now, DX12 is the default for PC gaming, which means the center of PC gaming is Windows. For Linux to grow in any significant way Vulkan would have to either replace or become just as popular as DX12. Vulkan’s predecessor OpenGL never gained that kind of traction, but you never know.

On top of the Linux issue, as our fearless games reporter Hayden Dingman pointed out, there’s also a healthy number of gamers simply who don’t want to buy another high-powered PC to complement the one in their gamer cave. They’d rather just stream their PC games to the living room instead.

In fact, Valve also sought to win over those gamers with the $50 Steam Link, a set-top box capable of streaming your Steam library from your PC straight to your TV. When we reviewed that device Dingman said, “With a strong network and a powerful PC already in your home, the differences between Steam Link and a full-fledged Steam Machine are negligible.” Why spend several hundred dollars on a Steam Machine when you can just capitalize on the PC you already have for an extra $50? Valve even released the Steam Link alongside Steam Machines and the Steam Controller.

Moving 500,000 Steam Controllers in half a year is certainly encouraging for the revolutionary peripheral, however. It would also be interesting to see if Steam link is proving more popular than Steam Machines. If so, that would suggest that PC gaming in the living room is a viable proposition, but dedicated Steam Machines may not be the right device for the job.

The lasting legacy of this experiment might just be Valve's own hardware.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Steam MachinePCSteam

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?