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Apple the biggest threat to Steam Box success says Gabe Newell

by Mark Tyson on 31 January 2013, 15:00

Tags: Valve, PC

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In a lecture at the University of Texas' LBJ School of Public Affairs, Valve’s Gabe Newell spoke about how PC gaming needs to get into the living room before Apple takes over. He added that the biggest threat to the future of the Steam Box is from Apple rather than the next generation of consoles.

“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,” said Newell at the lecture. Looking at the console competition, present and future, he said that “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?”

PC’s have a lot of strengths and these aren’t being sold properly, argues Newell. The customisation and openness of PCs would help them dominate the big screen TV in your living room if the right parties can cooperate and make the right software / hardware combination at the competitive prices the PC component industry is known for.

Newell mentioned in passing about Miracast screencasting products that can show your high powered PC’s content/games on the living room TV with nerdy grunt work behind the scenes. Also he offered up the Steam Box as a gaming solution which will bring Steam’s Big Picture mode to any would-be purchaser “at an affordable price point”, according to the lecture report on Polygon Gaming.

Newell compared the Steam Box with consoles using what he mused would be a reasonable buyer’s thought process: “Well, I could buy a console, which assumes I'll re-buy all my content, have a completely different video system, and, oh, I have a completely different group of friends, apparently. Or I can just extend everything I love about the PC and the internet into the living room.”

Let us hope we see the launch of the Steam Box system soon. Also I hope they remember the “affordable price”. The Xi3 systems shown at CES 2013 look good, but is starting at $499 cheap?

HEXUS Forums :: 20 Comments

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The biggest threat to Steam Box for me isn't Apple, it's the nature of Steam. I am not forking out a shedload of cash on content, be it games or anything else, where being able to access it depends on the on-going co-operation of a foreign company on the net …. or a home-grown one for that matter.

I know I'm in a minority, but while Steam works the way it does (and I'm not expecting any change) they won't get business from me. That includes buying games, and it sure as hell includes buying a $500 device for the lounge.

So …. as I don't see Apple being any better, this fight will pass me by entirely.
I'm very unconvinced by Mr Newell's arguments, and (cynic mode on) have a suspicion that Apple was mentioned purely to get some headline copy.

Way I - a mere consumer - see it, we've got three markets here:
1. The l33t overclocked-to-the-max PC gamer, either on RTS or FSP titles.
2. The casual gamer - Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Cut The Rope, etc
3. Consoles - ideal for those who want a fuss free blast, but something more than the casual gamer.

Now Nintendo is king of the #2 part - but they're hemorrhaging share to the #3 (consoles) and - more importantly - tablets and smartphones. And yes, Apple IS doing real well here with iPod Touch, iPhone and iPads.

But there's no way that an Apple product is going to go for the #1 hard-core crowd, sorry that's a Windows only club. And unless Apple have got a vastly improved Apple TV waiting in the wings then I can't see them causing the console kings (Microsoft/Sony) any loss of sleep.

Conclusion being that Apple are only a threat to the casual living room gamer - they've zero chance of drawing in the CoD, MoH, GranTurismo, Forza crowd.

And if his Steam box is purely for those casual games, then yes, Apple IS a threat. I got the impression though that it was pitched more as an alternative to the XBox/PS3. If the SB is a casual only/Wii alternative then it's doomed - why should I spend $450 for an SB, when I can do most of that (and more) on a cheaper tablet?

Plus his comment about PC gamers being an island to themselves isn't necessarily true since I thought the game publishers and Microsoft were trying to draw PC gamers into XBL too?
Apple? Really? I have a fair amount of Apple kit, including an AppleTV which is jailbroken and running Plex, and a MacMini which acts as a HTPC and transcoder for the AppleTV.

As far as I am can see the Steam Box is not aiming at anything like the same market. They're looking at competing with gaming consoles, with maybe a little bit of HTPC. Apple does not have anything in that space at all.
I find Steam is it's own enemy at times. For instance, I buy 2 games on Steam, one is Lego Harry Potter and the other is Modern Warfare. I can only play one at a time, which in my opinion is completely pointless, the Lego game is for my daughter, if I physically bought the disc it would be installed on her computer while I would be playing Modern Warfare on mine.

I can completely understand the argument about playing the same game at the same time, obviously its reasonable that you cannot play the same game if you have only bought one copy but you should be allowed to play different games under the same account name, I am pretty sure that Steam could detect it is running on the same subnet for instance
It's not a complete solution, but for some scenarios you could try running Steam in offline mode while playing games. It won't necessarily work of the game uses additional DRM like some versions of SecuROM, or phone-home for DLC ownership checking (didn't realise Mass Effect 2 does this until I was without broadband for a while and tried to play).