In the second of three total announcements, Valve has revealed the hardware component to their living room entertainment suite. With Monday’s announcement of a SteamOS, news of the SteamBox of legend was not far off. Today, Valve unveiled the Steam Machines: Steam gaming machines powered by SteamOS and designed for living room gaming. Rather than announce a “one-size-fits-all” console, it sounds like Steam Machines will be a line of computers optimized for gaming and tailored to the needs of each individual gamer.
Consumers who chose to buy a Steam Machine when they release in 2014 have a world of options. SteamOS powered machines will be made by different manufacturers, with several different specifications, sizes, prices, and levels of performance. The machine is yours to do with as you please; don’t like SteamOS? Install Windows, OSX, Linux, or whatever you want on your machine.
The most exciting part about this Steam Machine announcement, at least in my opinion, is the reveal of a free beta. 300 lucky users will be chosen as beta testers for the Steam Machines. The beta machines will be high-performance prototypes, completely open to upgrades but optimized for living room gaming right out of the box. Anyone can sign up by following the directions on the Steam Machine page. 30 or less beta testers will be chosen based on past beta participation and community contributions, but the remaining ~270 will be drawn at random from the pool. Roughly 30,000 people have already signed up at the time of my writing this and it’s only been a couple of hours.
Most of the answers to the questions on the announcement page were pretty vague. Valve promised numerous times that more information would be available soon. One observation I made on the whole announcement was the stone cold avoidance of the word ‘computer’. I mean, today’s reveal was essentially about a line of gaming computers, but the word was never used once. Valve seems to want to push out the idea that the Steam Machine is neither a console or computer, but rather a end-all answer to the question of living room gaming.