After years of rumors, Valve spent the last year — beginning at CES one year ago — speaking openly about its desires to bring PC gaming from the office into the living room.
In September, the company announced its three-pronged approach to making this happen: dedicated boxes called Steam Machines, a Linux-based operating system called SteamOS and a dual trackpad-equipped game pad called the Steam Controller. Today, at CES, Valve founder Gabe Newell revealed its "first generation" lineup of Steam Machines, coming from familiar names like Alienware and Digital Storm, as well as lesser-known brands like Zotac and Next Spa.
These machines start as low as $499, putting them squarely in the console price point; however, being the PC market, the range on this first lineup goes as high as $6000, for the highest tier of Falcon Northwest's Tiki system. While the Tiki is already on the market, what makes this model a Steam Machine is its inclusion of Valve's Linux-based SteamOS and the Steam Controller.
During a Q&A session following a brief presentation, Newell said that while Valve would sell Steam Controllers itself separately, they weren't ready to share details on pricing and availability. He also said that other companies would create Steam Controllers, though it's not clear how that will work and Newell didn't elaborate.
In all, the presentation was exactly what you might expect and not a lot of the unexpected. Valve has hardware partners excited about getting into the living room gaming market, and it has an existing platform with 65 million users. Valve believes that the time is right for PC gaming to continue to expand, and go head to head with the gaming consoles that have come to define "gaming" for much of the world.
But there are still plenty of things that weren't at the event, including the absence of a Valve-branded device, the absence of the streaming-only devices Valve initially discussed as well as Steam home streaming in general, and any game announcements, an expectation that accompanies everything the company does.
This "first generation" of Steam Machines will be released in "2014," a vague window that we'll hopefully get more clarity on throughout the week at CES.
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