Steam Machine: all about Valve's game console


We have talked a lot in this blog about Steam Machine. A game console from Valve Corporation, a company that has been on the side of Linux for a long time, both providing video game titles for the penguin platform, and promoting the world of digital entertainment from its online video game store, Steam, by the way, one of the best that exist.

Now Valve also brings us interesting hardware, like Steam Controller, a fairly sophisticated controller that we will talk about later, the Steam Link, a revolutionary and cheap product that can change the way we play, in addition to the Steam Machine console, the central topic of the article. In addition, Valve also surprised us with the launch of a distribution specially designed for video games such as SteamOS.

valve corporation


To give us a background, say that Valve is an American company focused on the world of video games and that became famous with her first video game, Half Life. Then he would release a modification of it with great success, Counter-Strike. But if it was revolutionary in something, it was in its graphics engine or game engine Source, on which many of its video games are based. An engine that unlike those of the competition, which make big evolutionary leaps, Source follows, allow me the comparison, a development system similar to the Rolling Release distros, that is, progressive.

Founded in 1996 by Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington, two ex-Microsoft workers who had worked on operating systems such as Windows and OS / 2, Valve resurfaces strongly for the quality of its games and for its commitment to the community, with expansions and mods to expand the capabilities of its games. Then other famous titles would come like Portal, Left 4 Dead, etc., more than 92% of them available for Linux. The successes would continue to open their Steam online store in 2002 and now have millions of active users.

But Valve has not only focused on software and services, it has also promoted some hardware projects such as Steam Controller and the Steam Machine that we will talk about extensively. In the same way, he surprised us all by pulling out his Steam Link, a cheap product (barely € 50) that allows us to bring games from any computer to your TV wirelessly so that you can play as if it were a console, regardless of the platform.

What is a Steam Machine?

Alienware Steam Machine (Dell)

Steam Machine, or Steam Box as it was also known during its development, it is more than a video console, indeed, I would not dare to say that it is a console. It is more about a hardware platform, something like it can be PC or Mac, what's more, Steam Machine looks like a console, but it is a PC. Why am I saying this? Very simple, Xbox, Wii or PlayStation are consoles, the first from Microsoft, the second from Nintendo and the third from Sony.

However, although this platform was created by Valve, Steam Machine is distributed, that is, many different manufacturers can create their Steam Machine and sell it, with different features and different hardware, although some things such as functionalities and the operating system are common. That is why I compare it more than with a console, with a platform, which like a PC can be manufactured by Sony, Samsung, Xiaomi, HP, Dell, ASUS, ..., the Steam Machine can also have different brands. Even you can create your own.

we steamos

What do they have in common? Well, they all work with different controls, but the control par excellence that Valve brings us is called Steam Controller and we will talk about it later. In this sense, it is more flexible than video consoles from Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo, allowing total flexibility in terms of hardware. In addition, they all have your SteamOS operating system, a Linux distribution based on Debian and designed for video games with the Steam platform already pre-installed.

In addition, Valve has done a job with SteamOS so that the official drivers of manufacturers of AMD and NVIDIA graphics cards to offer the maximum performance in graphics, in addition to other hardware, and of course optimized to be able to use the Steam Controller as a controller for your games. Likewise, entertainment platforms such as Netflix or Spotify will also be present on SteamOS so that you do not get bored for a moment and you can access audiovisual content.

Portable Steam Machine

It is also likely that a portable version of the Steam Machine (Smach Z, something like Sony's PSP or Nitendo's DS. A pocket console with the peculiarities of the STeam Machine. Rumor has it that it may be released during 2016, so we'll be watching the scoop. At the moment we know that it will cost about $ 299 and that it will most likely cost about € 300 in Europe for this bloody mania of converting $ = €, hurting European users.

We know that the Steam Machine Portable or SMACH Z will integrate an AMD G-Series SoC "Steppe Eagle" with Jaguar cores and integrated Radeon GPU with GCN support. It will also include 4GB of RAM, 32GB of internal flash memory for storage and the ability to be expanded using SD cards. USB-OTG will also be supported, a 5-inch 720p touch screen, configurable and touch gamepads to play, HDMI output, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and 4G connectivity.


Capabilities of a Steam Machine

Steam Machine inside

Gabe Newell, one of the founders of Valve, has deeply criticized other platforms like PlayStation, Xbox and also Nintendo, considering them bad in some respects, however, Valve has created video game titles for all of them. That is why perhaps the idea came to create its own platform for video games, the Steam Machine, where Valve's thought and philosophy has been embodied.

Let's see if these reviews and rectifications on the Steam Machine platform have really created a functional platform. First of all say that the Steam Machine can support multiboot to start both SteamOS and accessing all video games for Linux, such as those of the Windows operating system. It is even easy to install other different operating systems without great restrictions (just as you would on a normal PC) as on other platforms such as Xbox, where hackers have managed to install a Linux distro with a lot of effort, and the same happens on PlayStation.

Steam OS 2.0 Preview

Apart from this flexibility both when installing / expanding hardware and operating systems, they provide the Steam Machine with wider compatibility than its competitors, in addition to making it easier for video game developers not to have to make major modifications to port their titles, since they serve the same games as for the aforementioned operating systems, without the need to buy specific titles for Steam Machine as is the case with the Xbox, Wii or PlayStation.

On the other hand, PlayStation, Xbox or Wii, to give a few examples, have provided their online store platforms to acquire apps that extend the functionalities of their platforms beyond video games. But StemOS, being a distro, you can count on more freedom, installing all kinds of softwareEven programs that have nothing to do with the world of digital entertainment or multimedia, for example an office suite, a compiler, or virtualization software to give a few examples. And of course continue to have the titles from the Steam store. In other words, having a Steam Machine means having the modularity and flexibility that a PC allows.

Prices, Steam Machine vs competition

Alienware Steam Machine

Apart from the above, another of incentives to purchase a Steam Machine compared to the platform of the competition, it is its price. Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft put certain prices on their equipment, but with different Steam Machine distributors, this means greater competition and the availability of multiple models and different prices. For example, Alienware (Dell's high-performance division) has released models ranging from $ 599 to $ 919, while Syber has released configurations from $ 499 to $ 1419. And remember that you can always create your own ...

La Sony PS4 you can find it from € 339 to about 400 or more depending on the capacity and if it is an offer pack that includes a video game. Microsoft has also put its Xbox One at prices around € 469 in its version with a larger hard drive capacity, but you can also get them for around € 350. Therefore the prices do not vary too much with respect to the Steam Machine if you do not take a top version that exceeds these prices by far, although you will also have much more powerful hardware.

In addition, by paying this (the sellers have prices from $ 499 to $ 6000), you can have, as we have been repeating, a much more flexible platform, which can serve you beyond a simple living room console, much more than a Media Center, a whole multipurpose PC for your living room. The distributors or sellers They will offer you many alternatives, you can see the products of Alienware, Materiel.Net, Alternate, Next, CyberPowerPC, Origin, Digital Storm, Scan Computers, Falcon Northwest, Webhallen, GigaByte, Zotac, iBuyPower, Maingear (and there will be more) or yourself .

PS, Xbox and Steam Logos

As we have been saying, Xbox has a operating system based on the Microsoft Windows NT kernel called Xbox OS. PlayStation also has an operating system developed by Sony and called Orbis OS, based on FreeBSD and with a modular kernel, and although it is based on an open source operating system, remember that the BSD license allows you to create closed derivatives (see Mac OS X ) and therefore Orbis OS is also closed. Lastly, Nitendo also uses an exclusive, proprietary operating system fully developed by the company from scratch, without relying on anything.

On the other hand, in the Steam Machine we already know that we can have both Windows and SteamOS with official support, in addition to being able to install any other operating system and even Mac OS X with a hackintosh image of the Apple system, Android, etc. A whole open world to have the software and of course the video games of these platforms. You can even install certain emulators to play classic video games or other platforms just as you would on your PC.

Steam Controller

Steam Controller on table

The powerful Valve knob, Steam Controller, was presented with some tactile gamepads, something that astonished many. The first impression that it can give you is that it is a fusion between a video game controller and a mouse, with a good weight to improve the sensations during the game, ergonomic so that you do not damage your hands during your hours of play and with a response optimal. They come with a step-by-step manual, but tell you that they are extremely easy to use. If you don't have one, you can buy it also for your PC in the Steam store, where you will find offer packs for the Steam Controller remote.

Its hapatic pads are very sensitive to the touch, substitutes for the two analog joysticks of the conventional controls. These pads have a vibration in response to your actions, and the controller itself is very configurable, so you can map the keyboard buttons to work from your Steam Controller in your favorite game. On the other hand, it has a trigger to point and shoot, a double action that will be selected according to the force with which you press it. But the best thing about Steam Controller is that if you don't like it, you can choose to use any other controller, mouse, keyboard, joystick, steering wheel, or whatever you want.

Games for the Steam Machine

SteamOS screen

The last section, and not least, deals with the video games available for Steam Machine. As we have already said, you can have a multitude of software for Windows or SteamOS, depending on the version of Steam Machine (there are also dual-boot models) and the operating system that you install. A multitude of titles available on the Steam store await you, as well as from other different stores that are compatible with Steam Machine. On Steam there are more than 1000 titles for Steam Machine and on the rise… (over 1500 games for SteamOS / Linux).

Also, Valve's give you facilities for your pocket with Steam Play, which will allow you to buy a video game for one platform and play on any other without additional costs. For example, if you buy a game for Mac OS X and you want to play on Windows or Linux without buying the version for these operating systems again, you can. Something that other platforms do not include, and that if you buy a title for a specific system, you will have to pay again to have the title on another platform ...

But Valve has not stood still, it is also making efforts to attract developers. An example was your open source ToGL project, which facilitates porting videogames made for DirectX to OpenGL in a simpler way, allowing developers to publish multiplatform titles in a simpler way. Valve's Steamworks API also allows porting SteamOS games to other GNU / Linux distros without major modifications, making it easier to focus resources on releasing more titles and not on major efforts to port them.


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  1.   Halos said

    The Steam Controller is simply wonderful, I also have the one for the 360 ​​which is also a genius, but this one makes me incredibly comfortable, manageable and precise.

    With hardware like this this man has conquered me XD

  2.   g said

    very interesting publication now the debian that brings can be used as a normal debian too? I would like a publication on how to enter debian mode if you can and the big pinture mode of the normal game something like a small basic tutorial on using the steam machine

  3.   priscillian said

    I understand the positive bias, as SteamOS favors the GNU-Linux ecosystem, but Valve has done two things wrong, the first being unable (or unwilling) to convince large companies to join the project, in part surely because although the base is Debian, what you see is a Steam client that is closed and controlled by Valve. And the second is the quality of the graphics card drivers, although that may change in the medium term with the appearance of Vulkan.

  4.   Noctis said

    Valve is doing a great job, of course.