If nothing else, Steam is a company that knows how to market a product to their target demographic. Their videos for Portal 2 and Team Fortress 2 are some of†the†best†video†game†advertising†material Iíve ever seen. And to follow it up, they announced†SteamOS†and†Steam Machines,†decked out with a fancy new controller seen above,†to the overwhelming joy of fans and press. Seeing all the progress Steam has made in turning PC gaming into a legitimate rival to consoles, the advent of SteamOS and the Steam Machine counterpart seem to be a natural evolution in their plan to win the hearts of all gamers. Moving closer towards console gaming, however, sets Steam precariously close to all the things that it really distinguishes itself from, such as the Xbox, PlayStation, and Wii. Due to this, I am still eagerly awaiting a couple details before turning my currently restrained excitement into all-out schoolgirl giddiness. Here are the big reasons why I am keeping all my fingers and toes crossed about the new Steam system.
Profile Binding to Controllers OK, I understand that I may still be a little dated with my philosophy on this one, but I still really enjoy the idea of sitting down on a couch with friends physically beside me to play a video game. There is still something inherently missing for me when you switch to online play that feels a bit disjointed. Think like†The Social Network†but not about†Candy Crush Saga†or whatever other junk is on there. Yes, you meet and get to hang out with friends online, but in the end youíre still alone in a room talking to a computer. Whatís my point? Well, profile binding of course!†This is an idea that I had when the last generation of consoles came out and I was disappointed that it never happened. How amazing would it be if Steam allows you to sign in locally to your account just by connecting your controller to your friendsí PC. Share achievements, take screenshots, upload them to the Steam community (does anyone really do that?), and track your gameplay time all while over at your friendís place. Or even sign into Steam using your controller and download some new game for your friends to try out.†Another big point to make along with this is controller layouts. Valve released a†demo video†of the controller which shows off a ton of potential, but I could see the setup of the controller to be somewhat difficult. So, if your controller could remember the control scheme you use for a given game, jumping into the game at a friendís house would be as simple as plug and play. Thereís a lot of potential to be found here, and I think Valve is just the company to start exploiting those at the expense of my bank account.
Permanent Backwards Compatibility Mainstay console companies like Sony and Nintendo have gotten into the habit of creating all new interfaces for controllers and accessories when a new system is released. Granted there can be some good reasoning behind this like adding extra functionality or improving their design, but it usually feels like a marketing ploy to consumers like myself. If I get a new PS4 and I want to have enough controllers around for my friends to join in on a game, I would have to dole out another $180 to make that happen. Thatís the cost of three new games just to have my friends play with me. I mean I like my friends, but $180? Itís a tough sell. So I would love to see Valve tackle this problem by maintaining as much backward compatibility with the current controllers and future models as possible. Valve already has an advantage given the PC naturally has a universal accessory port in the USB, so the interface will not change anytime soon. All I would ask for, when newer controller models do come out, is that we keep the old ones functional as long as possible. Moving away from this idea severs many of those all-important distinctions that PC gaming has over consoles. And given Gabe Newellís distaste of console gaming, I think itís fair to say this idea will likely happen, much to my delight.
What things are you looking to see in the upcoming Steam Machine? Anything that will be a dealbreaker to you?
Image courtesy of Valve Corporation. This post is an early edition of a post on my website Suburban Gamers. Go check it out sometime.