The era of console-like PCs is about to begin.
Valve, along with its hardware partners Alienware and Cyberpower, plans to release the first Steam Machines starting Oct. 16. That’s when people who preorder should start receiving the first units. Retailers, however, won’t start stocking Valve’s SteamOS-powered PCs until Nov. 10. The PC gaming boxes start at $450. That is also when the Steam Controller and Steam Link in-house game-streaming device debut. After this first wave, other Valve hardware partners should start releasing their take on the Steam Machine. This is all part of Valve’s attempt to create a viable ecosystem for gaming that stands apart from Microsoft’s Windows while simultaneously giving consumers an easy-to-understand alternative to buying a console or building a PC.
The Steam Machine concept is something that Valve has worked on for a long time. These boxes run on SteamOS, which is a custom version of Linux built around Valve’s Steam digital-distribution service. While this keeps SteamOS open, it also means that a large portion of the library of games available on the service won’t run on Steam Machines. Linux compatibility is still rare in triple-A releases. And even games that do support it don’t include every graphical feature since Linux drivers for graphics cards are not as mature.
But Valve has built in a solution to the Linux problem. Gamers who also own a powerful Windows-based gaming rig can stream their games from that system to the Steam Machine so they have full support of their library. For this, Valve is targeting full 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second. This is the same technology that powers the Steam Link, which only costs $50 — and is therefore a solution that many people with powerful gaming rigs may choose to go with instead.
Preorders for the Steam Machine systems are live now on Steam and through the retailer GameStop. You can also preorder the controller and the Steam Link.
GamesBeat’s Dean Takahashi got a good look at the latest on Steam Machines in May.