Valve’s Linux-based Steam Machines gaming initiative could struggle to make a big dent in the vast PC gaming space so far. That hasn’t deterred Dell, though, which is introducing new Steam Machines with more powerful graphics hardware through its Alienware line this week.
As reported by IT World, a $749 Alienware Steam Machine system will include an Intel Core i5 Skylake CPU, an Nvidia GTX 960 GPU, 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. For $899, you can upgrade that base configuration with a Core i7 CPU and a 1TB hard drive.
Alienware also sticks with the current, ultra-low-end, $449 Alienware Steam Machine, which has a Core i3 processor, 4 GB of RAM, and a custom Maxwell graphics card that “performs similar to the NVIDIA® GeForce GTX 860M.”
In an interview with ITWorld, Alienware Senior Marketing Manager Chris Sutphen admitted that Alienware’s Steam Machines weren’t as popular as their Windows-equipped twin in the Alienware Alpha line (which is also being upgraded to support high-end CPUs and GPUs). Still, Sutphen was optimistic about the future of SteamOS, saying that “we expect the SteamOS catalog to get stronger by the end of the year.”
Sutphen put his trust in Vulkan, the recently released graphics API that he says should narrow the performance gap between SteamOS and DirectX-powered Windows games. Vulkan will also “speed up [the] transition for SteamOS to AAA content” compared to the previous OpenGL standard, Sutphen said.
That would certainly be a big help for a platform that has attracted hundreds of indie games, but not many big budget blockbusters. But unless something drastic changes, for the remainder of 2016 (and beyond), the lineup of new SteamOS releases will remain a strict and much smaller subset of those released for the established Windows gaming marketplace. All it takes is a few games that launch on Windows but not SteamOs (eg Nobody’s Heaven and Battlefield 1to name a few) to leave potential customers wondering why they should miss out on some of PC gaming’s biggest releases by giving up on Windows.
Of course, you save a bit of money thanks to the lack of a Windows license for Steam Machines. Still, we don’t see much that will convince the average consumer to buy a Steam machine rather than a Windows box that can do all the same things and more, gaming-wise.