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'Steam Machines' beta launches this year, full release in 2014

Valve's second "living room" announcement came today, taking the wraps off of its "Steam Machines" initiative. It will be sending out 300 prototypes to users this year, in preparation for a formal launch in 2014.

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The second in Valve's trifecta of planned announcements came today. Continuing the theme of Steaming up your living room, today the company took the wraps off the long-rumored Steam Box. Now dubbed "Steam Machines," they will run on the Linux-based SteamOS that the company announced on Monday.

The announcement laid out a roadmap for their release in 2014. The prototype will be shipping out this year to 300 users. To have a chance at testing one of the machines, you have to follow some instructions on the announcement page, including joining a special group and making 10 Steam friends. The entry period ends on October 25.

The FAQ states that the boxes will be coming in 2014, from a variety of manufacturers. You'll be able to build your own boxes using SteamOS, naturally, but Valve promises images of its own box sometime "soon." It also cautions you not to create multiple accounts to up your chances, because that simply won't work.

Valve had previously promised Steam Box prototypes would be due in 3-4 months, but that was six months ago. This came just as the company distanced itself from the Xi3 Piston, which was initially dubbed a "Steam Box" when it debuted.

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From The Chatty
  • reply
    September 25, 2013 10:10 AM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, 'Steam Machines' beta launches this year, full release in 2014.

    Valve's second "living room" announcement came today, taking the wraps off of its "Steam Machines" initiative. It will be sending out 300 prototypes to users this year, in preparation for a formal launch in 2014.

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      September 25, 2013 10:13 AM

      Can the Linux-savvy sections of the Shack hivemind clarify something for me? I'm assuming, since SteamOS is Linux-based, that these boxes won't be able to play Windows games. Or is that incorrect?

      I'm interested in playing my Steam collection in my living room, but I wonder if I should just build a computer of my own and load Windows 7 onto it so I can play, well, the vast majority of my Steam games.

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        September 25, 2013 10:16 AM

        It will be able to play windows games via streaming from your main gaming pc to the steambox, but not natively.

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          September 25, 2013 10:18 AM

          In theory, some less resource intensive games can be played in Wine's Windows emulation, but yes, it looks like they will support in home streaming from your Windows or Mac PC

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            September 25, 2013 10:56 AM

            Wine's issues have nothing to do with "less resource intensive" and everything to do with whether that particular game uses elements of D3D Wine doesn't support well.

            Wine is not "emulation" in the sense most people understand and does not have an inherent performance penalty.

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        September 25, 2013 10:16 AM

        They can't play Windows games, no. However, if you have Steam running on a Windows machine on your network, you can stream the games to your "Steam Machine", apparently.

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          September 25, 2013 10:29 AM

          What do you think the network speed requirements will be to pull of this streaming? I cannot imagine most peoples wireless setup will be fast enough.

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            September 25, 2013 10:34 AM

            If wireless can handle NetFlix to the Xbox or PS3, why couldn't it handle a game?

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              September 25, 2013 10:45 AM

              I think most people will be hoping for 1920x1080 at up to 60 frames with low latency. That will be a stretch in most scenarios, I think. Personally I'm just hoping that will be possible in a wired situation, since I can do that in my home.

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              September 25, 2013 11:11 AM

              Latency doesn't matter for a Netflix movie where it is crucial for games.

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              September 25, 2013 11:26 AM

              Netflix gets streamed from the internet the games in this case will be streamed locally over Wifi or Wired LAN. Totally different situations.

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                September 25, 2013 11:39 AM

                I agree. Internet connections are generally lower bandwidth and higher latency than Wired Lan connections, with Wifi somewhere in the middle. In either case, streaming locally should give higher bandwidth and lower latency than streaming over the internet.

                If many people were happy with OnLive, this should not be any worse, and it has the potential for being much better as you can stream a less compressed video over the higher bandwidth with lower latency as the streaming computer is at most 2 hops away instead of several.

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                  September 25, 2013 5:13 PM

                  Yeah, it's basically like Onlive but the data center is your house! I don't think latency will be much of an issue unless you have REALLY bad wireless. Even Onlive wasn't bad when the data center is pretty close.

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                  September 25, 2013 10:09 PM

                  Onlive has massive backend infrastructure that is doing high performance frame compression. Onlive transmits at 720p. Realtime encoding of a 720p stream is a significant burden on i7-920 class servers adding ~500ms latency. This is on a wired network.

                  Arguably streaming from a windows pc will better than no access at all, but its still a pretty terrible 'solution'

                  http://www.iis.sinica.edu.tw/~swc/onlive/onlive.html.

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                    September 28, 2013 11:54 PM

                    I don't think it'll be nearly as bad as you think. I've managed to do decent real-time streaming of games over LAN using nothing more complicated than a VNC variant, and that's probably one of the dumbest ways to do it. Even Wireless-G has more than enough bandwidth to transmit barely compressed or even raw video at 720p with enough room left over to handle control inputs and whatnot. A properly optimized streaming app should be able to make this quite feasible over most house LAN connections.

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            September 25, 2013 11:25 AM

            With Powerline network devices becoming better and better, I'd just go for one of these systems to your TV. Some people have their machines very close to their TV as to be able to run a cable easily, but for those of us with Houses, I'll be running a powerline setup vs a wireless one. I'm not much for games that require ultra low latency, so I'm not going to be bothered by a very slight lag(a lag which would only be noticed by crazed fps fans)

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            September 25, 2013 12:09 PM

            Valves is smart peoples. I can't imagine they would bet the farm on their LAN streaming service if they didn't have the latency issue solved.

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              September 25, 2013 12:11 PM

              We finally know what happened to PowerPlay!

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        September 25, 2013 10:16 AM

        Steam OS will run some games natively, but not all games - however, you can stream over your network from a Windows PC to a box running Steam OS, effectively playing any game on Steam on it.

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          September 25, 2013 10:26 AM

          Would that mean I need to have a sufficiently powerful Windows PC to run those games - they won't be able to utilize the steam box hardware for graphics or anything like that right, just streaming?

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            September 25, 2013 10:31 AM

            As far as we know so far, that's correct

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            September 25, 2013 10:46 AM

            That's a pretty safe assumption. The upshot is that the streaming hardware on the receiving end could possibly end up being pretty cheap. These Steam machines that play games natively will need decent graphics/CPU though.

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              September 25, 2013 11:38 AM

              Yup, What I'm anticipating is $100 variations that are just built for indie games, streaming and online content streamnig, then 199 devices that are built for your older PC titles/low req games, then a 299-499 device depending on need. Since 1080p isn't too tough to render most games in high settings on a decent 200-250 video card, these devices don't have to have massive internals. RAM however atm is very expensive so it'll be interesting to see how they deal with current fluctuations in pricing.

              Personally I feel the Xbox and PS4 would benefit from this type of system, user upgradable parts, especially how close they have become to PC's this upcoming gen. The Steambox devices may make them go this route if there's enough demand.

              Just as the ios/android markets have had iterative performance increases year over year, there's no reason why they can't sell upgrade "kits" for their current systems. CPU performance hasn't had a huge increase in the last few years(i5-750 is not too far from a haswell i5-4670k if clocked equally) so allowing a user to slip in a upgrade to the GPU/amount of RAM would lengthen device's shelf-life while allowing developers room to improve their game complexity with turning on additional features for upgraded devices while still allowing non-upgraded devices to have their own render paths.

              Chair's Infinity Blade 3 comes to mind here. They are still supporting the iphone 4 which is a HUGE step down from the 5S, but the game isn't any different mechanically. Many games coming out had cut off support to the 4, including Limbo which is far less complex graphically than IB3, but IB3 built the correct render pathing system to allow for the 4 to still be supported, a 3 year old device.

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        September 25, 2013 10:59 AM

        Thanks for the answers, everyone. Another question: Is there any advantage to buying a Steam Box that runs Linux, or should I stick with my original plan and just build a Windows PC? I imagine streaming games would result in a loss of visual quality -- not a big deal if I'm playing classics like Quake or Doom, but not exactly ideal for newer games.

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          September 25, 2013 11:07 AM

          I dont think there's an advantage to getting a steam box over a pc right now since we don't know the price. You might be limited to only games that are ported over to SteamOS if you dont have a gaming pc to stream from.

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          September 25, 2013 11:21 AM

          You could always just build a Windows HTPC and install SteamOS later if you think it's worth it. Or vis versa. There aren't enough details to be able to make an informed decision yet.

          I've been holding out on building an HTPC for a while, so I'm planning on building one to try SteamOS with and will switch to Windows later if I don't like it.

          If you're more attracted to the simplicity of buying a pre-built Steam Machine then you'll need to wait for more details.

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            September 25, 2013 12:07 PM

            Depending on what kind of pricing these come in at it sounds like you can grab a steambox and install windows on it. Might be a few great options for cheap HTPC's.

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          September 25, 2013 11:24 AM

          Stick with your Windows PC, and then install the SteamOS over when it is released. If you don't feel like SteamOS adds value at that point, switch back.

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          September 25, 2013 11:44 AM

          SteamOS is just Linux running games that are developed for OpenGL. Windows can play OpenGL games, though maybe not as fast as a dedicated Linux Distro(with the caveat of full driver support from Nvidia and AMD) but the difference may not be significant enough.

          I will say though, that MANY dev houses have been asking for something like this to come out for years so many of these dev houses may drop any new games being developed for DirectX so the NEED for Windows as the main gaming OS will dwindle away as new games fully switch to only a OpenGL system that is optimized for a Linux environment.

          At PAX, I attended a panel with Chris Roberts, Chris Taylor, DayZ dev and a dev from Uber and they all were saying that they would all drop DirectX if they felt there was a system with enough of a userbase to change to. Welp, here it comes with 50million users.

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          September 25, 2013 11:46 AM

          This stuff doesn't' sound like it's going to be ready for prime time for at least half a year. If you're building something now, go Windows.

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          September 25, 2013 12:09 PM

          High end windows PC in the office, cheap steamOS machine in the livingroom to bridge the gap. That seems to be the way most of us will wind up going.

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      September 25, 2013 12:21 PM

      I immediately thought of building a new rig when they announced the OS. Now... not sure. *shrug*

      Either way, I'd love to get into the beta... And some free money as long was we're wishing.

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        September 25, 2013 12:58 PM

        If wishes were beggers, riders would horse.

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      September 25, 2013 1:08 PM

      Nothing about when SteamOS will be available for download so we can test it on our own boxes?

    • Ziz legacy 10 years legacy 20 years
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      September 25, 2013 2:04 PM

      I launch a game with my gamepad in big picture but nothing yet... how long do you need to play before getting it?

      • Ziz legacy 10 years legacy 20 years
        reply
        September 25, 2013 3:14 PM

        I got it! Didn't even notice till I looked again and seen it was completed.

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      September 25, 2013 2:43 PM

      I'm feeling cautiously pessimistic that they can pull off the streaming without any lag. :( I hope they can but it seems very unlikely.

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      September 25, 2013 3:46 PM

      Does anyone else feel that this announcement is a bit underwhelming? After the PS4/XO reveals with hardware, flashing lights, big conferences, bumping music and everything this just doesn't feel like big news. Not saying it isn't big news, it just doesn't feel that way to me. Besides the OS, I don't know if they told us anything we didn't know - basically a steam box is coming and no you can't see it or learn anything other than the fact that we plan to bring it out in 2014. Maybe MS and Sony have jaded me, I don't know.

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        September 25, 2013 3:50 PM

        An open platform that anyone can make hardware for? Seems pretty great to me. I hope there's some great options for hardware. It will certainly be an interesting experiment, hopefully it works out.

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          September 25, 2013 5:19 PM

          Sounds a bit like 3DO when you say it that way... that didn't work out so well. (I know - this is completely different)

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        September 25, 2013 3:56 PM

        It just seems like a half thought out move. Okay so it'll have it's own OS and games will start to support it. But without a set standard in hardware, the performance will be up in the air. You shouldn't be able to own a STEAM box that can't run a goddamn game you own on steam.

        I just see zero advantages to this other than if you don't want to physically move your desktop PC near your TV. I immediately think of Gabe as L Rob Hubbard moving us onto a cruise ship.

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      September 25, 2013 5:16 PM

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