For years now, video gamers have been divided into two distinct camps—PC gamers and console gamers. Those who prefer PC gaming argue that computer games are cheaper, and that the keyboard and mouse offer greater functionality. Those who stick with gaming consoles like Sony’s Playstation series or Microsoft’s Xbox line say that these consoles are better because they are built specifically to run games—and so the RAM is better utilised and the graphics are better. Now, however, there’s a new console coming out that stands to bridge the gap between the two camps and, in the process, pose a very real challenge to Sony and Microsoft. Valve, the company behind Steam, the highly popular online marketplace for games, has moved into the hardware space with 300 of its Steam Machine prototypes being sent out for testing. The move seems decisive, since it also recently released its variant of the gaming controller, an essential requirement for console gaming.
The Steam Machines will make thousands of PC games accessible to people who want to play them on their large-screen TVs, thus bringing together the low costs associated with PC gaming and the high graphics provided by dedicated gaming consoles. In addition, if you already have a great gaming PC, a Steam Machine can also act as a conduit for you to stream your game from the PC to the TV over Wifi. Sony and Microsoft should be worried. Though Valve itself doesn’t release sales figures, several market experts estimate that it accounts for 70-75% of PC games sold. This is a huge market that suddenly has access to gaming in the living room—earlier considered the sole domain of consoles. Finally, the fact that the new controllers do away with the traditional joysticks will attract gamers for sheer novelty’s sake, if nothing else.