Gabe Newell Says Apple is Steam Box's Biggest Problem
January 31, 2013 6:58 PM
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Steam Box has to beat Apple into the living room
Gabe Newell said that Apple may be
the main problem
with getting the Steam Box into living rooms.
Newell, Valve's co-founder, told a class at the University of Texas' LBJ School of Public Affairs that Apple could be a threat to his company's upcoming Steam Box if it gets to the living room first.
Steam Box is Valve-developed hardware that aims to broaden the reach of Steam, which is Valve's digital distribution and multiplayer/communications platform. Right now, Steam delivers a variety of games to a user's desktop computer, but Steam Box will bring these games to the living room -- such as on a TV with Big Picture mode.
Not much else has been disclosed about Steam Box, other than the fact that it's Linux-based and will be an open system (Newell even said that it'd be possible to install Windows onto the Steam Box). While no release date is in sight, Newell worries that Apple may launch a similar platform for the living room -- thus beating Valve to the punch.
"The threat right now is that Apple has gained
a huge amount of market share
, and has a relatively obvious pathway towards entering the living room with their platform," Newell said. "I think that there's a scenario where we see sort of a dumbed down living room platform emerging — I think Apple rolls the console guys really easily. The question is can we make enough progress in the PC space to establish ourselves there, and also figure out better ways of addressing mobile before Apple takes over the living room?"
While Valve is looking to offer the best hardware for the best possible price point, Newell worries that Apple may make a move first and offer a closed platform that will lack the user-generated content that Valve (through Steam Box) would offer.
"The biggest challenge, I don't think is from the consoles," Newell said. "I think the biggest challenge is that Apple moves on the living room before the PC industry sort of gets its act together."
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I would love whatever he is smoking
2/1/2013 2:08:05 AM
because to just outright dismiss Sony & MS, when they are light-years ahead of Apple in the living room who are themselves light-years ahead of Valve, sound like the ramblings of a man tripping balls.
There are just so many hurdles Valve would have to overcome to have a prayer it is just insane to think they could take over the living room. Frankly I think Blackberry has more of a chance surpassing Android than Valve has of becoming even 3rd in the living room.
Even if we assumed Xbox vNext or the PS4 were lackluster hardware wise (doubtful), Valve would have to get the Steam Box hardware down to a reasonable price to even have a chance. Meaning they either use lower performance parts thus negating one of PC's biggest advantages or they would have to subsidize the hell out of it (does Valve have that kind of money to burn?).
Then they have to make sure all the games their users would care about 1) work on Linux 2) play well on a big screen TV 3) work with whatever controller solution Valve comes up with because keyboard & mouse on my couch? lolz.
And finally after those 2 major issues they have to convince either current consoles players to switch to Steam Box/PC gaming OR they have to give current Steam users a compelling reason to want to play on their TV with a PC other than their own and with a new controller.
Oh and lets not forget the other little issue that if Sony or MS actually had any fear of Valve they could lock up exclusive rights on all the major game releases since they have insane amounts of money, esp MS, to just throw at people. It is awesome that indies can thrive thanks to Steam but it is the major releases that drive hardware sells.
RE: I would love whatever he is smoking
2/1/2013 3:26:03 AM
Remember when the "established consoles" were SNES and Genesis? Thinking that Nintendo and Sega couldn't be uprooted was just as naive as thinking Sony and Microsoft are here to stay.
I do agree with you about software being the driving force for a platform. That said, Sony/Nintendo/Microsoft have already been spending money to pay for exclusivity or buy up studios for years now. How much worse can forced exclusivity get? Nobody has enough money to keep the CoD or Madden franchises tied to a single system. Cross-platform games were still common enough where owning any single system still worked out.
RE: I would love whatever he is smoking
2/2/2013 1:15:12 PM
Remember when the "established consoles" were SNES and Genesis?
That was pre-world wide web and broadband in every home though. You bought a console and played some games. There was no "ecosystem" to sink it's hooks into you.
Those early consoles..technology just passed them by too fast. Things today are going much slower. Plus SEGA made some REALLY abhorrent decisions over and over again that kinda doomed the platform.
Not saying Sony and Microsoft cannot ever ever be uprooted. But come on, it's going to take a massive effort to do it combined with unrealistic laxness on their parts.
RE: I would love whatever he is smoking
2/3/2013 4:13:10 AM
Certainly. The point is that taking Microsoft and Sony's dominance as a given also seems presumptuous. Things are moving incredibly fast and right now the opportunity is there to get cheaper "good enough" devices out there.
Will it be enough to erode the hardcore console market? I don't know for certain. What I do know is that the majority of people who use the XBox and PS3 do it for.... Netflix.
If a cheaper box from another company, be it Valve, Apple, Roku, whoever, came out with an inexpensive box with Netflix, cheaper and simpler games, BT pairing with a gamepad, it might be enough to hit console sales in the same way that handheld console sales were hit by smartphones.
The selection of games doesn't even need to be that "simple". Consider that The Walking Dead that was available on 360/PS3/PC/Mac sold a quarter of its units on iOS, and that titles like Bastion also sold very well on mobile. Put some of that same hardware in a $100 box that plugs into a TV and pairs with a gamepad, and that's potentially one less person buying a $500 console.
To be clear, the hardcore console guy is
going to buy a console, just like a hardcore PC guy like me is always going to have a good PC. Both markets are not the mainstream though, and the hardware requirements for mainstream usage are
lower than they used to be. This is why cheaper tablets and smartphones are flourishing at the expense of desktop and handheld console sales.
Just like Sega/Nintendo missed the "plugged in ecosystem" train, I think Gabe is right to worry that the current establishment may get sidelined by cheaper devices that do most of what once required expensive 2006 era hardware.
"This week I got an iPhone. This weekend I got four chargers so I can keep it charged everywhere I go and a land line so I can actually make phone calls." -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
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