Valve : A Third Way?
Amidst the noise and bluster of this week’s big release, an arguably more intriguing piece of news hit the waves: Valve look as though they’re finally about to reveal their long-awaited Steambox gaming-PC.
Once a developer of genuinely ground-breaking titles; Valve have long since put their gaming credentials on the back-burner in favour of becoming the purveyor of the industry’s most respected and widely distributed digital platform: Steam. PC gamers have all but foregone boxed sales over the last console generation thanks to Steam – embracing it with open arms. Whilst I’ve been out of the PC-gaming-sphere for a number of years, I have many friends and family still firmly entrenched – and not once have I ever heard a bad word about Steam.
Well, other than it’s perhaps taken Valve’s focus off making games. I say games; I mean Half-Life 3. Sigh.
So when a company that’s completely nailed two unique yet inextricably linked disciplines, announces that it’s about to reveal its plans to master a third, you stop and take note.
The ‘Piston’ PC – a vision similar in form to the Steambox?
On the surface of it, you might balk at the idea of a Linux-powered gaming PC plonked next to your TV. PC gamers are arguably quite happy as they are – mostly sat at their dedicated desks in their dedicated rooms – and console gamers are equally content with their platform exclusives, closed ecosystems, fan-boy wars and game-pads. So where exactly would a Steambox fit in?
Well, if the iPad is anything to go by, I think that with careful timing, Valve just might find themselves as creators of a ‘third way’. As with Steve Jobs’ finest moment – one that spawned an entire market of its own despite earlier attempts by others – the idea of a TV-based-gaming-PC has been a reality for some time, but never more than a niche experience for a select few.
PC gaming has reached a level of visual fidelity that is arguably beyond ‘necessary’ and many may be content with a slight retrograde step – with console gamers being ripe for the picking as well. Those once addicted to the purchasing of physical products are slowly moving into a realm of purely digital-distribution – lead somewhat ironically by the platform holders themselves. I’m quite sure that Microsoft would like nothing more than to ditch optical discs (and the used-market) and have customers download games directly – with Sony’s remarkable Instant Game Collection absolutely steering gamers towards an increasingly digital reality.
So with perceptions and expectations arguably shifting: could Valve strike at the perfect moment?
Grounds for divorce.
In a nutshell, I’d say: yes, absolutely.
Take myself: an experienced PC gamer and rig-builder of old who turned his back on the seemingly endless tinkering that was required in favour of a plug-and-play philosophy. PC gaming may have become more user-friendly in the meantime, but nothing beats the power-disc-pad-couch style of gaming-fu after a hard day’s graft. Then again, the high prices of console games coupled with the closed-platform mentality – and now seven-year life-cycle – has left me feeling somewhat jaded. Where there was once an unquestioned thirst for the next console in line, there’s now more of a hesitant pondering as to whether or not I actually want to sign-up for more of the same.
So if someone was to come along and offer me a reliable, open, cheap and stylish alternative with access to a comprehensive library of games, would I make the switch and merge the two parts of my gaming history together?
Yeah – I reckon I would.
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Husband. Parent. Gamer. Go figure.