5 reasons Valve's Steam Machine dream is still very alive

Steam Machine
Steaming Windows

Steam Machines? More like has-been machines, am I right? Actually, no: while many people are giving Valve's PC-console-hybrids the cold shoulder, this gamer reckons they'll be worth the wait.

I realise that I'm part of a shrinking group still backing Valve's SteamOS-powered Linux boxes, and it's not difficult to see why the hype around them has all but evaporated. Several controller-related delays, U-turns by seemingly committed hardware partners and a lack of news from the top has made many think that Valve is blowing hot air.

But with a big reveal looming, ongoing support from developers and the fact that Valve has billions in its coffers to get Steam Machines off the ground means that they still have a bright future ahead. Don't believe me? Direct your eyeballs at the following:

1. The biggest Steam Machine launch yet is just around the corner

Steam Machine controller

Valve's controller's still lacking a final form

It seems like an eternity since Valve announced that Steam Machines wouldn't be seeing the light of day until 2015, but the wait is almost over.

The company is gearing up for a big push in March, when it will show off a whole new fleet of systems at GDC 2015 which takes place on March 2 - 6 in San Francisco. Make no mistake about it: Microsoft has raised its game by allowing PCs to stream Windows 10 games to consoles, but running games natively on Linux is cooler -- and Valve needs to bring the fight.

Expect it to go all-guns blazing by showing off an eclectic range of systems ranging from entry level options geared for 1080p gaming all the way up to power-guzzling 4K-ready battlestations.

Oh, and you should also get to see the final version of THAT Steam Machine controller...

2. Half Life 3, Left 4 dead 3 and Portal 3 could launch at GDC


A portal to another world of living room gaming?

If you're struggling to think of a reason to own a Steam Machine, I've just given you three. TechRadar News Editor Hugh Langley put it best in his summation of why Valve's big reveal could provide one of the most mind-blowing moments of any gaming expo, like, ever:

"Just imagine it: Gabe Newell takes to the stage, the crowd falls silent. He doesn't say a single word, he just rips off a black tablecloth to reveal a line of Steam Machines.

"He then opens his mouth and simply says: 'Half-Life 3. Portal 3. Left 4 Dead 3. All available on Steam OS right now. I am your saviour.' The crowd goes wild, we quit our jobs. Life is glorious once again."


3. More game developers are onboard than ever before

Metro: Last Light is on SteamOS

Metro: Last Light is on SteamOS

Slowly but surely, developers are getting onboard with SteamOS, the Debian-based Linux distribution that will run on Valve's Steam Machines.

Texas-based Aspyr Media, which has already ported titles including as Civilisation V, Civilisation Beyond Earth, Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel to Linux to the platform, is a major player and recently stated on Reddit that it is making a "long bet" with Steam Machines, which are "the only way Linux gaming will move forward".

Other game studios are similarly supportive: Epic Games' Unreal Engine and Crytek's CryEngine feature Linux support, and the companies behind Metro 2033 Redux and Metro: Last Light Redux -- 4A Games and Deep Silver -- recently released dedicated Linux versions that they claim "rival the DX11 Windows versions in terms of graphical fidelity and performance".

Perhaps one of the best signs for Linux gaming yet came just this weekend when Valve announced that big-ticket zombie shooter Dying Light is landing on SteamOS at the same time as Windows. While the OS may pose any danger of dethroning Windows just yet, it's putting up a good fight considering it hasn't even launched.

4. SteamOS is free and may provide smoother gameplay than Windows


SteamOS is designed to maximise your FPS

The allure of kicking back in the living room playing games on a Steam Machine with the graphics cranked up beyond anything the Playstation 4 or Xbox One could muster is still strong -- and you shouldn't have to break the bank to do it.

SteamOS is free, meaning you can ditch Windows and put the money you would have spent on a license toward a slightly better Steam Machine. Sure, Windows 10 is being offered as a free upgrade for one year, but you still need to have previously purchased Windows 7 or Windows 8. Additionally, Steam games are often cheaper than their console equivalents, with sales and free-to-play sessions cropping up throughout the year.

And then there's the potential performance benefits. Valve's operating system is designed to be like a console's in the way that it takes up as little resources as possible to ensure games are played with the highest-possible frame rates. I'll be keeping a keen eye on benchmarks between Steam Machines and equivalent-spec Windows rigs to see how they square up, and you should too.

5. Steam Machines encourage competition in the market


SteamOS is taking on the big boys

Steam Machines aren't only going up against each other, they're also bringing the fight to consoles, PCs and mobile devices. It's essentially a massive free-for-all that will shake up competition at every price point -- and that's great news for consumers.

You can't play down just how exciting a "third option" will be when it comes to choice. Need a keenly-priced Steam Machine for playing RTS games and steaming services to the living room TV? Take your pick. Or how about a sleek-looking mid-range system for bouts of CS: Global Offensive? Then peruse benchmarks and shop around for the best bang-for-buck spec. Perhaps you're dreaming about a high-end rig hooked up to a 4K TV showing GTA V in all its glory. Don't worry: they'll exist.

It's taken a while for it to get here, but Valve's Steam Machine future is far from a pipe dream.

Kane Fulton
Kane has been fascinated by the endless possibilities of computers since first getting his hands on an Amiga 500+ back in 1991. These days he mostly lives in realm of VR, where he's working his way into the world Paddleball rankings in Rec Room.