The Potential Good and Bad of Valve’s Steam Box

If you are one of those fans who feel like Valve is on our side, you must get a sense of vindictive gratification in the fact that they are planning to release their own ‘console’ next year. I’ve got to give it to you: this generation, the existing console-makers have really stretched the limits of how far they can push gamers in their fight for our dollar. It seems like each day some asshole thinks up a new way to charge us more money for less content, and we’ve had to either comply or spring for a good PC and move our business to the less noob-friendly gaming scene. Welp, starting next year, that option will become a lot more accessible and it will also crawl out of the basement right into our living rooms, aiming for that spot where the ‘nintendo’ should be. Is that good or bad? Let’s look at the effects the potential success of the ‘Steam Box’ can have on console gaming:

The Good

Making It More Ridiculous To Jack Up Prices For Junk That Should Be Cheap

The cheapest Sony HDMI cable is $25. That’s twenty five (real) American dollars. That’s a HDMI cable that doesn’t also work as jumper cables or anything; just a fucking cable… And Microsoft’s “high capacity” 250GB hard drive is $115 on Amazon, as of this writing. You know how much a 500GB (that’s twice as many GB) PC hard drive costs there? Half that. And I couldn’t even find a 250GB one because nobody pays money for those anymore.

Perhaps they are”antique prices”

When another console comes in and charges normal prices for those accessories, more people will laugh at the big three for their bullshit. Valve confirmed that ‘Steam Box’ will be that console, when they called it a “living room-friendly PC”. Gabe Newell further stated that “if you want more flexibility, you can always buy a more general purpose PC.” In other words, you will always have an alternative to Steam Box, in form your personal machine with Steam installed on it. What that means is that it will make absolutely no sense to charge ridiculous prices for the unit or its’ components/upgrades because then one would rather invest in an upgrade/component for their PC, getting a lot more bang for their buck.

No More Laughable Digital Pricing

Valve might introduce another trend by example, that Microsoft/Sony/Nintendo will have to follow, when their respective online stores start looking like some of those crazy eBay auctions.

What a deal! It’s… wait a minute… $15 shipping?! Bullshit!

The big three seem to think that the mere fact that they upload a major game on their online network is both a personal favor to you and an achievement of the century. You should be thankful for the fact that you only have to pay the same price as for the physical copies.

As I type this, Steam has a random deal for Street Fighter X Tekken at 75% off. You know the last time it was 75% on Xbox Live or PSN ? Never. One reason that’s possible is because game developers get more money on Steam…

Better Game Support

Developers love Steam because they don’t get charged up the ass for their games. Not only do they have to pay a hefty portion of the asking price to Microsoft/Sony/Nintendo, on top of retailer fees and everything that’s associated with delivering physical copies of games to us, they are also charged for updates and patches. Ever wonder why PC games usually get more love?  Reportedly, Microsoft, for example, charges $40,000 for a patch!

“All that dough… and money too!”

According to this guy named Math, if Valve’s Team Fortress 2 received as many updates on Xbox 360 as it did on PC (that’s 334), it would have cost $13,360,000. Don’t get me wrong, Valve loves you but not that much.

Not only will it possibly give Steam quite a few volunteer-exclusives, game developers will find it easy to give their fans some love via updates, which will make any sane individual choose Steam versions of multiplatorm titles. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo will need to loosen up if they hope anyone will put up with their shit, especially indie developers.

Better Online

First, yet another console that offers free online gaming should make Microsoft feel bad. Just kidding, but it should push more consumers to really think for a minute and ask themselves “what the fuck?” With the things that PSN is doing, paid Xbox Live is looking like bullshit already, but when Steam Box comes in, it will reaaally need to do something special to get us to pay.

Something reaaaally special…

Another positive effect that Steam Box might have on the console online scene is possibly putting an end to the online pass crap. You see, one advantage of the next gen consoles from the big three is that they might keep the physical media. If they ditch the online pass and play up the fact that that you really own their games, as opposed to “elsewhere”, they might help themselves against Valve. It may not sound like a big deal anymore but one thing we should never underestimate is the power of communicating to the casual crowd that you keep things simple. “Put it in and enjoy” should be their motto, just work on the wording.

The Bad

More Online Pass Crap

The Steam Box might have the exact opposite effect too because there is no used games market on Steam and developers probably like that. They will probably make the big three aware of the fact that they like that, and that in turn might provoke them to introduce a whole bunch of measures to hurt the second-hand market even further, including possibly switching to digital distribution as well.


And a very special plan for Gamespot…

At the very least, the value of used games might go down further.

First Party Games More Spread Out

It will be very interesting to see what happens to the respective first-party titles. Sure, Xbox and Playstation have been competitors to Steam already, of sorts, but when Valve starts competing with the big three for the living room, will they keep making their games for them?

Look closer ’cause no refunds. 

Sounds pretty crazy but most Valve games have been PC games or mostly-PC games so it’s not impossible. You might have to start buying 4 consoles to play all of the top games soon. Unless you have a good PC.

Valve’s Dark Side

Generally speaking, Valve has been good to us, and is a big fan as of this writing (we like to think that we promote Steam with our game rewards), but it is not as innocent as most think. Sure, they have done right by us, with their awesome service and deals, as well as fantastic games that they supported better than anyone else but what will happen once they do fuck up? They do have a history of being the bad guys.

Above: the dark past.

They were among the first (and probably the first major developer) who started pushing heavy DRM with Steam and required an Internet connection to activate Half-Life 2, causing a wave of hilariously hopeful boycotts.  And did you ever look at the terms that they require you to agree to? Not too long ago they updated it with a bit where you must–and I’m not shitting you here–agree not to sue them, and if you disagree, they will deactivate your account and disallow you to access the games you purchased. Shitty? You bet. There is no telling if we might see Valve’s dark side once we are on their “controlled” hardware. Who knows what they’ll introduce.



2 comments on “The Potential Good and Bad of Valve’s Steam Box

  1. MartinB105 says:

    Another good possibility is to see more widespread support and adoption of Linux as a PC platform, since there’s a chance that Steam will choose Linux as the platform for their console.

    Less Windows would be good for everyone.

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