Behold, The Steam Machine
Steam isn't going to save us before Xmas 2013, but the company that changed PC gaming shipped a few early products to the media. This approach is enough to plant the seed, the Steam Machine is coming and it's going to be huge.
Our regular readers already know that PC based gaming is in many ways superior to console gaming. While console gamers receive hardware updates every five to eight years, PC users can update a video card every six months for small advances in frames per second or graphics detail, if they wish. Advances in storage technology offers decreased game loading times and with PCIe based storage on the horizon, we estimate a 1/3 reduction in load times from a single, low cost component.
Components just make upgrading easier because you can reach in and pull out the outdated component and replace it with something new. If your optical drive starts making popcorn sounds, you can replace it without exchanging the entire system. Computer components also have longer warranties in many cases over consoles.
Computers are also complicated. You have the operating system, drivers, specifications to consider, compatibility and having someone with the knowledge to pop the top. Most of those reading this might laugh at these complications, but we're talking about mainstream gamers and not seasoned computer gurus.
The answer to many issues that surround computer gaming is unification. That's where Steam comes in. With a dedicated operating system based on Linux, driver support built-in or updated like a minimal click through game update and preconfigured hardware from system builders, Steam is starting something we want to see.
Imagine, all of the performance that we use every day, but with an interface that a ten year old can navigate, update, install games on without running to dad to wipe the finger prints off of and an easy upgrade path on your schedule.
I'm not saying Steam will kill the console market, but it will have a larger impact than whatever Nintendo just released.
If you need to fill a space under the tree for a special someone or even yourself, a retail purchased Microsoft Xbox One is the safest choice at this time. Before I started researching this article, I was leaning towards PS4, but after doing the leg work, the Xbox One is simply a better choice before Christmas.
If you are like me and need your Gran Turismo fix, you are fine with the PS3 version of GT6, PS4 doesn't even have a PS4 title yet. That takes some of the edge off and will allow Sony to fix whatever they have going on with the quality issues.
Looking forward, both Sony and Microsoft have a strong competitor lingering in the shadows. Steam's Linux equipped, computer hardware based gaming machine should change the way casual gamers look at PC gaming. For many, the Steam Machine will be a first step into a world where customization is possible.
I think the mainstream will love it and it will be good for the computer industry as well.