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Steam Machines are dead in the water according to Ars, not quite

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Ars Technica has written up an article about Valve's Steam Machines and how they seem to have sold less than 500,000 units in around seven months.

Valve's recent announcement about how many Steam Controllers sold was stated at over 500,000 units, and Ars are claiming Valve has told them directly that includes units sold with a Steam Machine. I have no reason to question that Valve told Ars that, but the problem is the comparison used here. Ars are directly comparing a niche PC platform with behemoths like Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's Playstation 4. Both of which had multiple previous generations with people already hooked into the platforms and both have massive advertising budgets. If you are going to compare it with those platforms, then yes, it will look bad. Steam Machines were not supposed to be console killers anyway, so I feel like this is comparing apples to oranges. It's meant to be an extension of the PC platform.

I'm going to be blunt here, who honestly thought they would sell like hot cakes? I didn't. I've said it time and time again that both SteamOS and Steam Machines were never going to be an overnight success and it will take a long time for them to gain any real traction.

Another problem is that the mainstream gaming press has almost never been fond of the idea anyway, and the amount of articles out looking down it probably wouldn't have helped things. Ars hasn't exactly been kind about it at all in previous articles. Hell, even certain Linux websites like to use sensationalist article titles talking down Linux popularity on Steam. When actually, it's doing pretty well all things considered.

I do fully agree with other things Ars and others say though. We are facing real issues, like a lack of bigger platform-pushing titles and performance. Valve do need to up their own advertising a bit too, not just of Steam Machines, but of new Linux releases. They give big homepage banners to plenty of new Windows releases, but only a few SteamOS releases have been graced with such advertising. Valve haven't even managed to get their own VR device with HTC on Linux yet, they need to up their own game.

No matter what, SteamOS and Steam Machines have boosted Linux gaming immeasurably and will continue to do so for quite some time. Thanks to games we already have and games we expect to see in future.

SteamOS hasn't had time to truly mature, Vulkan has only recently been released (which should help with the performance issues) and hardly any developers are using it yet.

It's still too early to consider it a failure. Valve are one company who can afford to take their time, and it seems they are. It hasn't even been a year yet.

Windows is still a threat to Valve, especially with Windows 10, the Windows Store and Microsoft's plans for it with the Universal Windows Platform. I don't see them dropping SteamOS any time soon. They lose nothing by supporting Linux, but have the possibility in future to gain a lot from it. It's like a security blanket for them.
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Kimyrielle 2 June 2016 at 7:01 pm UTC
Basically sums it up. You can't enter an established market with a new, unproven product and hope to gain any significant share over night.

I don't -quite- agree on the assessment that they are not actually competing against the consoles. They are. Well, I know some hardcore gamers have a whole collection of consoles, but for most the decision will be XB1 OR PS4 OR SteamMachine.

What's definitely true is that Valve needs to push them harder if they want to see them growing. Steam Machines have some distinct advantages over the other consoles. Which other new console ever launched with a library of 2,000 games AND allowed you to just access many games you already own for desktop gaming AND doesn't slap a significant markup on games compared the same game on PC? The PR guys should really exploit that.
zeb 2 June 2016 at 7:06 pm UTC
What Valve need to do - if they have the cash, and surely have - is to support financially the porting of games (especially AAA) to SteamOS/Linux for a release on day 1. It is the only way to get the traction.
Incidentally, their premature announcements that Batman and Witcher 3 would be available on SteamOS did not help and gave the feeling they broke their promises. Of course there were some successes this year, with titles like XCOM 2.
But if they want to enter the console market, they definitely need to get deals with editors and finance the porting, for instance via Aspyr or Feral.
Nyamiou 2 June 2016 at 7:09 pm UTC
I hope we will not see lot of articles on the Web brainlessly copying the Ars Technica article like with the last one (with badly made benchmarks), because I think those numbers are actually encouraging (given the bad press and the lack of marketing and that it's actually hard to buy them outside the US and UK) and that Ars Technica are either assholes or idiots or both.

Is Ars Technica deliberatly trying to kill the Steam Machines, I don't know what they can win by doing that, but it certainly looks that way.


Last edited by Nyamiou at 2 June 2016 at 7:11 pm UTC
crt0mega 2 June 2016 at 7:15 pm UTC
Ars Fatuus
Linas 2 June 2016 at 7:15 pm UTC
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I have never sold half a million of anything. If I did, I would consider that a success.
Ehvis 2 June 2016 at 7:20 pm UTC
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I've seen this suggested in other places. Valve holds the key to success in their hands. If they wave a substantial portion of their fee for games that have proper SteamOS support, then the amount of money that developers/publishers could save would make creating a good port instantly viable. This could break the cycle.
mirv 2 June 2016 at 7:27 pm UTC
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I've never personally considered Steam Machines to be the main point - especially not yet. Maybe, if games will run on day one with SteamOS, they will. Otherwise, a lot of people are probably going to build their own.
Dedicated machines might well help in testing, but I agree that it's going to be a slow buildup. Valve have a lot of work to do, but they can afford to take their time and let that buildup happen.

I also don't read anything by that author of the ars post. Too many things in the past didn't pass the smell test. If I see them as the author, I stop reading - and that was before they started at ars. Strangely, ars picked up another writer that I have the same opinion about, so I've actually stopped going to ars in general as well.
Solar 2 June 2016 at 7:37 pm UTC
Let's not forget Gabe personaly coded (some of) Windows, and he is the one mostly responsible for turning it into a major gaming platform, both with his work at Microsoft and later with Valve and his games.

It took him/them years, he didn't do it overnight. Anyone that expects them to do it within a year on Linux, are just plain Ars(e) holes.
Mountain Man 2 June 2016 at 7:41 pm UTC
Ars Technica has been down on SteamOS pretty much from the beginning. I really don't care what they have to say.
Mountain Man 2 June 2016 at 7:44 pm UTC
EhvisI've seen this suggested in other places. Valve holds the key to success in their hands. If they wave a substantial portion of their fee for games that have proper SteamOS support, then the amount of money that developers/publishers could save would make creating a good port instantly viable. This could break the cycle.
Could Valve do that without getting hit by an anti-trust suit?
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