Microsoft Xbox exec is 'not sweating it' when it comes to Steam Machines

Valve used CES 2014 to show the first wave of third-party Steam Machine PCs that will use the Linux-based SteamOS. The idea is that these computers will be small enough to be hooked up to a big-screen TV in a living room. In theory, they could be considered competition for dedicated game consoles like Microsoft's just-launched Xbox One.

However, if Microsoft is worried about Steam Machines taking some of its Xbox business away, the company isn't admitting to it. In a chat with Engadget, Microsoft's Xbox Chief Product Officer Marc Whitten said, "I think there's space for both. I'm not sweating it."

Whitten did state that he didn't quite know what to make of Valve's Steam Machine/SteamOS initiative yet, but was quick to say that he was not trying to criticize Valve's plans either. He said, "I continue to think that PC gaming – the sort of uber configuration and I can change everything and I can mod – that's an important thing and there's a lot of people that wanna do that."

Whitten was a bit more enthusiastic about the chances for the Oculus Rift VR helmet, which showed off a new and improved prototype at CES 2014. While Whitten said that he has used the devices and liked it so far, he stopped short of saying if Microsoft has any Oculus Rift dev kits of their own. He also doesn't think that sales of the helmet, which currently does not support any game consoles, will detract from Xbox One sales, stating, "It's just gonna increase the surface area, and I think that's an incredible thing."

Source: Engadget | Image via Valve

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One word come to mind with steam box. Fragment. Different PC with different configuration and drivers (if that's the term Linux used).

I guess we'll have to see how invisible this is to the end user. Maybe valve will only let them use Steam branding if it has approved and tested hardware? It can only get as fragmented as gaming on Windows, right?

@Geezy
So it's a possibilities that Logitech, Thrustmaster, or ATI, even MS own peripheral line able to write driver for Steam Box.
The point is, what's steam box for? It's already been done on Win PC. Unless Steam box is locked down strictly for console but that's not how Linux work.

Steam Box is for people who want plug and play, a dedicated machine, and a set of software/updates that are geared towards gaming and stay in the background. A consoleized PC that has a dedicated purpose and does it well, where OS patches and driver updates will be tested against the games and try not to break them.

We shall see how this steam box play out. I am thinking, if and only if, this steam box is popular, Asus, Dell, Acer, Samsung would build one on their own. The OS is open so anything can happen.

While i don't think the Steam Boxes gonna succeed the fact MS execs are not sweating worth nothing as they were not sweating for the iPhone either and the rest is history. I love Microsoft but the giant is sleeping if he doesn't have a plan just in case then i'm speechless. People who don't learn from their own mistake are doomed to fail.

How are they doomed to fail? They already have a console, and they have the OS where everything runs on it. SteamOS is nice and all but as soon as a gamer looks at the selection (almost 9400 on Windows versus a bit over 700 on Linux, and that's just Steam, there's a lot more elsewhere too), it's pretty much game over. Bases are already covered.

Sony' E3 press event will likely re-use their youtube clips to poison the valve PR machine just as they did with MSFT by pointing out all the DRM restrictions steam machines have.

As MSFT found out, console gamers have a love relationship with gamestop used games and steam just does away with that. If the visceral reaction to MSFT plans caused the company to retreat, valve's entire business model will taste like crap to console gamers.

Every time I accidentally hit the "big screen" button on Steam I want to stab my monitor. I can't get it back fast enough. Not sure who would want this that doesn't already have a pc.

Either these will be too expensive or have borderline components that will be lacking in short order.

techbeck said,
I wonder when the anti STEAM adverts will be coming out from MS. Or is Google just special.

Why? To run the overwhelming majority of the games you'll still need Windows anyway (ignoring the ton of games not available through Steam), they don't need to advertise anything. People who don't buy it will already have their console of choice. Good odds for them.

techbeck said,
I wonder when the anti STEAM adverts will be coming out from MS. Or is Google just special.

Why would they bother? Steam Machines will appeal to PC gamers, but I doubt it encroaches even a little bit on the console gaming market and console gamers. They're two separate things.

techbeck said,
I wonder when the anti STEAM adverts will be coming out from MS. Or is Google just special.

they will come from console gamers. you know making fun of the fact that with PS4 and Xbox you can trade in, lend and sell your games but with steam, you can't...just watch the PS E3 press event and think of the steam box.

Well Microsoft can't loose even if Steam Machine takes off.

It will still make profits from games it makes. Plus they know full well the first thing most people with a Steam Machine will do is install windows (that means buying a licence, what might lead to users buying other stuff like MSOffice.)

Vester said,
Well Microsoft can't loose even if Steam Machine takes off.

It will still make profits from games it makes. Plus they know full well the first thing most people with a Steam Machine will do is install windows (that means buying a licence, what might lead to users buying other stuff like MSOffice.)

I'm not sure I understand. There's no royalties for developing and selling PC games. And honestly, since SteamOS is Linux based, not Windows, there's also Libre Office to consider.

A Steambox is pretty much Microsoft free. You should be able to *add* Windows later if you like, but its not a default.

Chikairo said,
I'm not sure I understand. There's no royalties for developing and selling PC games. And honestly, since SteamOS is Linux based, not Windows, there's also Libre Office to consider.

A Steambox is pretty much Microsoft free. You should be able to *add* Windows later if you like, but its not a default.

the cost of windows to a gamer is the only selling point and if you already own it, there is nothing the steam machine offers other than less compatibility with games and peripherals. because valve is making it simpler, they are also taking away capabilities. PC gamers appreciate that they can do anything, plus games. Dual booting is a pain so at that point you'll just do plain windows which does everything the steam box will do and everything else a pc can do.

neufuse said,
all the ones I've seen so far are WAY too much money... I'd rather build my own custom desktop

Might be wrong, but I think Steam boxes are aimed at people not comfortable making their own machines.

Chikairo said,

Might be wrong, but I think Steam boxes are aimed at people not comfortable making their own machines.

Bingo. Those of us in the know and capable of rollin' our own system cheaper and faster are not the target audience. No way I would buy one of these myself, I'm a picky hardware guy and can build one faster, cheaper.

ir0nw0lf said,

Bingo. Those of us in the know and capable of rollin' our own system cheaper and faster are not the target audience. No way I would buy one of these myself, I'm a picky hardware guy and can build one faster, cheaper.

man if only there were PC companies that made game pcs. let's start one. there isn't anything like that already.

neonspark said,

man if only there were PC companies that made game pcs. let's start one. there isn't anything like that already.

The existing gaming/boutique PC makers are all grossly overpriced and you have to deal with tech support issues and often times crappy warranty lengths. That and limited configuration choices. But some people aren't savvy enough to build one.

The $500 machines I have seen for Steam boxes are not that bad, the $1500+ ones just don't seem fit here.

ir0nw0lf said,
The existing gaming/boutique PC makers are all grossly overpriced and you have to deal with tech support issues and often times crappy warranty lengths. That and limited configuration choices. But some people aren't savvy enough to build one.

The $500 machines I have seen for Steam boxes are not that bad, the $1500+ ones just don't seem fit here.

There are hordes of small computer shops that can help to build a custom gaming PC for any price range, and a quite a few sites that regularly figure out the "best bang for your buck" -- like tom's hardware.

The problem with PCs has always been that if you buy a decent PC today, you can play all of the games made today pretty well, but in 3 years, most of the new games play poorly, because technology has marched on.

Conversely, games made for XB360 or PS3 are MUCH better today than at console launch, even though the hardware hasn't gotten any more powerful. Because the game vendors are targeting the old tech, but figuring out better ways of optimizing for it, the consumer experience grows over time.

I do not see Steam taking off.

The sole reasons consoles are popular (ok maybe a big reason :-) ) is developers target it because of piracy concerned. If you are just running pc games with no DRM then why bother porting? Unless I am mistaken and these are not wine ports to desktop oriented games?

With a console the game maker has just 1 target for hardware mixed with piracy. The consumers who not all are computer geeks just like to plug it in and play.

sinetheo said,
I do not see Steam taking off.

The sole reasons consoles are popular (ok maybe a big reason :-) ) is developers target it because of piracy concerned. If you are just running pc games with no DRM then why bother porting? Unless I am mistaken and these are not wine ports to desktop oriented games?

With a console the game maker has just 1 target for hardware mixed with piracy. The consumers who not all are computer geeks just like to plug it in and play.

Steam has already taken off in the gaming world.. this is just a new venture with their already highly-successful platform.

Yea Steam itself is wildly successful, no doubt about that. The "Steam machines" though.. I'd be honestly surprised if they do even remotely well in sales. It's probably not going to be attractive to console gamers, and PC gamers, well, they've got a bajillion options already. Although I do hope they sell that controller standalone.

Max Norris said,
Yea Steam itself is wildly successful, no doubt about that. The "Steam machines" though.. I'd be honestly surprised if they do even remotely well in sales. It's probably not going to be attractive to console gamers, and PC gamers, well, they've got a bajillion options already. Although I do hope they sell that controller standalone.

I think they are trying to go in the middle. The machines are higher powered than the consoles, with all the gaming currently available on the linux side of steam.. so they cost more than the consoles.. but they are specifically built allowing cheaper than gaming PC Costs. Not that I think there needs to be anything in the middle, but I think that's where they are aiming.

sinetheo said,
I do not see Steam taking off.

The sole reasons consoles are popular (ok maybe a big reason :-) ) is developers target it because of piracy concerned. If you are just running pc games with no DRM then why bother porting? Unless I am mistaken and these are not wine ports to desktop oriented games?

With a console the game maker has just 1 target for hardware mixed with piracy. The consumers who not all are computer geeks just like to plug it in and play.

I think the idea is that they use their Steam Big Picture app to run the games through and that would be DRM. And they claim games will run faster on them as they are optimized more for graphical performace and whatnot.

I also dont see it taking off personally. But it might. I still think its valve's way of hedging against a failed Windows 8/beyond OS possibility and they want to have a foot in the console/gaming door just in case. But I think 8.1 has improved the user experience enough, and with full tablets coming out, it will catch on now and I think Steam OS will continue to remain in the shadows.

But what do I know =).

firey said,

Steam has already taken off in the gaming world.. this is just a new venture with their already highly-successful platform.

success in the PC space doesn't translate to what they are doing. the console market is not really compatible with their digital only distribution model. just ask Microsoft how well that went.

Max Norris said,
Yea Steam itself is wildly successful, no doubt about that. The "Steam machines" though.. I'd be honestly surprised if they do even remotely well in sales. It's probably not going to be attractive to console gamers, and PC gamers, well, they've got a bajillion options already. Although I do hope they sell that controller standalone.

I have an Xbox 360 controller for my PC, but I almost never use it. There are very few games where controller works better than keyboard/mouse, and not a single FPS game that I can think of where kb/mouse doesn't destroy controller.

The two exceptions that come to mind are driving and fighting games. However, driving games are far superior on racing wheels, and fighting games require a heavy, arcade-quality joystick if one wants to be competitive.

neonspark said,

success in the PC space doesn't translate to what they are doing. the console market is not really compatible with their digital only distribution model. just ask Microsoft how well that went.

It's not about success, it's about expanding the reach and versatility of what the PC platform can do.

Some games might suit a sofa+controller setup, but not mesh with the restrictive console ecosystem. (Modding etc)

Agreed, I see the steam box as filling in the gaps in your library. Use the major consoles for the popular games, and Steam Box for niche/indies that don't come to consoles. Plus the Steam box will potentially let you access a huge back catalog that the new consoles can no longer play, even the lower end steam box will let you play all these. A lot of games that run on dosbox or some other emulation will easily make the transition.

Snake89 said,
But the real question now is what is a console? Since both PS4 and Xbox1 are just PC's with lower end parts.

My definition of a console is something that can't be upgraded in the same way a pc can be.

kaotic said,

My definition of a console is something that can't be upgraded in the same way a pc can be.

I'd say a console is a fixed piece of hardware and software with games and accessories designed just for it.

kaotic said,
And there's no reason they should be since Steam Machines aren't "consoles".

more importantly, gamers rebelled against DRM and steam is more DRM intrusive than any "console" out there. Therefore fundamentally incompatible with console gamer's DNA.

i agree, fixed for developers and gamers and offering true plug in and play functionaility.

The steambox is more a consumerisation of pc gaming, interesting, however i don't think it's going to displace any of the major consoles but instead live alongside it.

PC gaming has been stuck in the shadow of console ports for a long time and this will continue, however indie gaming has really given the pc platform a second wind, seperating it from the smartphone app/tablet market and the console market. However with the recent next gen launch indie titles are getting onto the consoles quite easily so it makes sense that the PC marks inroads into the living room more so.

mnl1121 said,

I'd say a console is a fixed piece of hardware and software with games and accessories designed just for it.


So wouldnt that also mean a laptop an tablets are also consoles? Sure in a laptop u can upgrade ram and the HDD, but u can also upgrade the HDD in the PS4.

Snake89 said,

So wouldnt that also mean a laptop an tablets are also consoles? Sure in a laptop u can upgrade ram and the HDD, but u can also upgrade the HDD in the PS4.
I think to be a console you have to have a set device thats not going to change and can be developed specifically for. Laptops are far to saturated and 90% of them cant play any good games. Steam Box is just a PC, as it only plays PC games its just an attempt to make it more consumer friendly and understandable. Xbox,PlayStation, Nintendo etc. have their own ecosystems and software and games that are specifically developed for them.

mnl1121 said,

I'd say a console is a fixed piece of hardware and software with games and accessories designed just for it.


Exactly. Once you open something up to varying degrees of performance, where games can have significant differences in performance, it is no longer a console...

Snake89 said,
But the real question now is what is a console? Since both PS4 and Xbox1 are just PC's with lower end parts.

a static config of hardware allowing devs to make games that work on a single machine, at their optimal performance. That would be my definition of a console.

steam machines seem good, but are also full of variables (not as many as PC's obviously) but still variables.

I'm interested how all this pans out, but I've seen far too much stuff go down to call either way. Its a case of the more you know the more you know you don't know, I'm humbling un my old age

Snake89 said,
So wouldnt that also mean a laptop an tablets are also consoles? Sure in a laptop u can upgrade ram and the HDD, but u can also upgrade the HDD in the PS4.

You can upgrade a lot more than just the HDD and RAM in a laptop.

mnl1121 said,

I'd say a console is a fixed piece of hardware and software with games and accessories designed just for it.

The operative word is "fixed piece of hardware". The capabilities for a console have to be determined at its inception, and must not change during the lifetime of the console. There may be multiple versions of the console, but a newer version can't outperform the older version. The benefit to game vendors is that they know what they're writing for, so the game experience can be identical on every machine.

Contrast to tablets, smartphones, and PCs, where the game experience varies wildly from one to another, and from one year's devices to another year's devices.

Secondly, profits on consoles are now almost always made on software, with hardware sold at near manufacturing costs (effectively, a loss). Contrast with most other computing devices, and certainly nearly all PCs -- the manufacturer of the device may have post-sale revenue streams, but they always make a profit on the sale of the device.

Snake89 said,
But the real question now is what is a console? Since both PS4 and Xbox1 are just PC's with lower end parts.

One of the main things that I've always loved about consoles, is that you get your new game home, stick it in the machine, and start playing straigt away, no ****ing around. That beautiful trait has been eroded further and further with each successive generation, and that makes me a sad panda

Snake89 said,

So wouldnt that also mean a laptop an tablets are also consoles? Sure in a laptop u can upgrade ram and the HDD, but u can also upgrade the HDD in the PS4.

No, a laptop is neither a fixed piece of hardware or software. There are dozens of laptop models out there and billions of software combinations on all of them.