With the recent announcement of the Xbox One, we now have a complete look at the main players who will vie for supremacy in the eighth generation of video games systems. That said, there are definitely a few players in the wings who will consistently avoid the usual console generation classifications. The Wii is still outselling the Wii U some six months after launch, and Microsoft have recently promised to continue supporting the 360 for some time after the Xbox One launches.
The biggest mystery is how Valve’s Steam Box will fit into the picture. A micro PC running a linux-based operating system, Valve’s foray into hardware is designed to merge the versatility of PC gaming with the simplicity and comfort of the console experience. Though Valve have pulled their innovations through to resounding success before, there are ten very important reasons why the Steam Box might not be the major player we assume it will be.
Limited Motion Controls
I’m not the biggest fan of motion controls, and the folks at Valve clearly don’t get it either. They have accordingly claimed that they will avoid shoe-horning motion controls into the Steam Box and, whilst this is definitely a smart move, it makes the Steam Box a very different beast to the other eighth gen consoles. The Wii U, PS4 and Xbox One all support motion controls right from launch, and their games and interfaces are likely to offer innovations that Steam won’t be able to emulate without waggle-based control mechanisms. I’m all for controller purity, but the options may be limited because of this.
Valve have said they’re more interested in pursuing biometric data features with their control systems over the motion controlled shenanigans of their competitors. Collecting data such as pulse and sweat levels could allow Valve to create some fascinatingly adaptive AI and level designs, but it might be a hard sell to the general consumer. We can all understand touch screens these days, but convincing someone to let a controller take their pulse may be difficult.
The focus on sharing and streaming gameplay clips has been a big part of the PS4 and Xbox One announcements. Microsoft in particular seem to be gunning down the TV and multimedia route, and even Nintendo are offering TV services through the Wii U in certain territories. Whilst the PC base of the Steam Box obviously offers limitless multimedia potential, the UI of Steam is much less concerned with video and music and making it easily accessible, and this is something that may prevent the Steam Box from achieving mass appeal.