Steam has all but revealed they are working on what is said to be a state-of-the art home video game console set to compete with the industry at large. Does this mean Steam will go up against Sony and Microsoft’s upcoming creations, currently dubbed PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720? If so, what exactly could this entail?
1. Graphics and Gameplay – The graphical and gameplay of Steam’s console will depend on the parts that are included in the SDK kits as well as consumer finished units. If you don’t have the power you can’t do certain things, as Nintendo’s limitations in hardware have taught us along the way. If Steam is meant to compete with the Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4 then it will have to be rocking multiple core processing units and serious graphics setups.
2. Online Infastructure – Steam’s network of social and competitive gaming already exists on the PC and is a huge hit bridging the gap from players on Desktops, Laptops, even Macs together for gaming. This online infastructure can be a huge plus for Steam. Imagine being able to play against friends on other platforms. If this feature is not put to good use it will perhaps be harder for Steam to stand out and compete with the strength of existing brands PSN and XBL (PlayStation Network and Xbox Live).
3. Quad HD and 3D HD – Will the Steambox take advantage of the fact that many of Steam’s computer games (in its digital retail marketplace) already utilize high graphics resolutions and 3D capabilities? This will surely be a great selling point, as if to say that you have the PC graphics without using the PC! With the coming standardization of HDMI 1.4a through next generation hardware this will have to remain cutting edge. The Quad HD standard in the not-too-distant future (better known as 4K) will also need to be implemented with this machine at some point as well.
4. Exclusives – Indie titles, PC classics, up and coming exclusives otherwise relegated to the Steam PC experience will have to shine their hardest as a Steam home console would be in need of many exclusive experiences to compell people away from their existing third party and exclusive content. Valve has an advantage here because they utilize smart business practices of hiring mod developers from within their own game communities. If they are willing to take risks, invest in upcoming technologies such as User Generated Content, not only could they come away with some pretty amazing and unique games but also the online environment could be full of creativity.
5. Third Party Support – With a huge existing relationship with many publishers and developers already, one might think third party support for a Steambox would be a no brainer. However, this is where it’s going to get tricky. Just getting games to release on your system isn’t enough anymore. As seen in the current generation of PS3 / 360 / Wii U there needs to be some sort of exclusive content offering, and/or exclusive spin-off titles and approaches to development to allure the consumer into a unique feeling product. Valve will have to think long and hard about exactly how they want their brand to feel and function before releasing their next generation console and they will want to have a natural fit for developers eager to participate in Steam’s movement.