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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Aggie Arcade

Full Steam Ahead

I’ve spent quite a bit of time writing about the impending release of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One this holiday season, but now we have yet another upcoming platform to discuss: the Steam Machine.

Video game company Valve made headlines a couple of weeks ago when it revealed the Steam Machines, a series of consoles designed to bring PC gaming to the living room. In addition, Valve announced its own Linux-based operating system — SteamOS — and a unique controller that features trackpads instead of analog sticks and uses haptic feedback technology.

It all sounds a little unusual and perhaps Valve will fall flat on its face, but I found myself surprisingly optimistic following the news. I’ve been playing PC games regularly for just a few short years due to past limitations, and though I enjoy the experience, part of me still prefers sitting on the couch with a controller in my hands.

Valve already tried to cater to audiences like myself with Steam’s Big Picture mode, which allows players to use the TV and controller to play games. But that involves me plugging a HDMI cord from my computer to the TV, and let’s just say that’s not entirely doable in my current setup. But if I had a dedicated console for Steam games in the living room … now that’s a different story.

The Steam controller also plays a pivotal role with its trackpads, which appear to mimic analog sticks, mice and buttons simultaneously. I’ll admit the design looks a bit silly, but if it can successfully transition mouse/keyboard games to the big screen, then Valve may be on to something truly special.

All of this is a bit presumptuous, and some gamers even think Steam Machines will rival the PS4 and Xbox One. I find that a bit preposterous — first off, Valve’s console won’t be out until next year. Secondly, not all audiences are the same — people interested in the PS4/Xbox One may not be interested in a Steam Machine, and vice versa. Not even Valve has garnered enough goodwill to top mega-giants like Sony and Microsoft.

Nevertheless, Valve has a chance to capture the hearts and minds of a large gaming audience, something the company has already done in the past. Just look at the popularity of Steam now — believe it or not, but people used to hate the platform (trust me, I was there in the beginning and it was … not good). Valve ultimately convinced the skeptics over the course of a few years, and I would not be surprised if it does the same thing with the release of the Steam Machines in the next year.

 

ANTHONY LABELLA can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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