Weekend Short-Takes: 1/10/14

Gabe Newell Unveils 13 Steam Boxes

 

Simon Wu:

Even if Gaben gave away every single title on Steam available to new Steam Box owners for free or 90% off, it would still be pretty disappointing because so many major and new titles are not available on Linux, and Steam OS is a forked Linux distribution. That's why I don't know what the value proposition is for a custom gaming box maxed out to high-end gaming PC specs is yet. Of course, it is also entirely possible that Gaben could simply announce right before widespread commercial availability day one new title parity and 90% of the entire back catalog could be ported.

Jonathan Tung:

Honestly, I feel a little disappointed about what we've seen so far with the Steambox at CES. Sure, we have 13 different models to choose from (with many more to come in the near future), but to be honest, I'm not that excited for what Valve has shown off so far. I mean, this is the company that literally paved the way for digital gaming, yet somehow, I still feel that the Steambox is rather, shall we say, underwhelming. When they first announced the SteamOS, I actually thought it would be an actual computer OS, similar to other Linux variants and the like, but seeing this as a dumbed-down attempt at entering the console market seems to make me wish that Valve used the time to make SteamOS with something a little more productive, like making Half-Life 3 for example.

Max Gruber:

My only real concern with the Steam Machines is that it sounds like there will be a lot of miscommunication about specific versions of the Steam Machine. If someone wanted to buy one, they have to select from 13 different variants, rather than simply one version of a console. It doesn't help that they're all so ugly to look at. I'm slowly starting to think that the Steam Machines are not going to overtake the console market as easily as I originally thought.

Alex Miller:

The Steambox seems to be heading the way of Google's Android OS where there will be many different configurations with different specifications all under the broad umbrella term of "Steambox". However, the problem with this is that your new console begins to run into one of the single biggest issues with PC gaming: having to ask yourself "can my machine run it?" You could say that console gaming's single biggest advantage over PC gaming is the fact that it works right out of the box. No messing with drivers, graphics cards, or anything else. When you take that away, you start to wonder what the point of this console is? Why not just buy a PC (which, as Simon points out, will actually allow you to access the entirety of the Steam catalogue) to play Steam games on?

Kotaku

 

Sony Announces Game Streaming Service, PlayStation Now

 

Simon Wu:

Again, Playstation is the console for the gamers. But this caters to a very small segment of the population right now, as Max rightly points out. The idea for the service makes sense: it's more of a subscription service to all games, rather than purchasing any one, playing through, and then setting it

down to let it gather dust. All the games right now are PS4 games, however, and as such are graphically no better than their disc or digital download counterparts. Therefore, part of the allure of streaming is taken away. The idea behind services like OnLive was that you could have any crappy computer with a good Internet connection and play anything. Only when games technically eclipse the PS4's hardware will I consider it a sound investment.

Jonathan Tung:

Well folks, this is what we've gotten out of Sony's Gaikai acquisition: a brand-new video game streaming service for TVs, tablets, and PlayStation consoles. However, despite my utter excitement for this new service, a few questions still linger on in regards for the service, such as whether or not any game saves you have through PS Now carry over to physical media, and vice versa.

Max Gruber:

The future of cross-compatibility, right here! This is their Gaikai streaming service that they talked about last year, in case anyone wasn't sure. I do like the idea that I can play titles like The Last of Us on a tablet or even my PS4, but my only concern with it is the recent news about the recommended download speed needed in order to have a good experience—which is 5MB/s. The barrier begins to crumble when most people have download speeds that are nowhere close to that. I have a 16 Meg (2 MBs) download speed, and that's not even close to the recommended speed needed to use PlayStation Now efficiently.

Alex Miller:

This has been coming for a while. What with the splashes OnLive and Gaikai made a few years ago, and the frustration over lack of backwards compatibility on both of the new consoles, this was always going to come. The interesting thing will be seeing how they map console controllers to a tablet, and how well they are able to stream a PS3 game like The Last of Us to your phone.

Polygon

 

PlayStation 4 Sales Hit 4.2 Million, Tops Xbox One's 3 Million

 

Simon Wu:

And the tit for tat continues! First, part of this is Microsoft's doing. As Alex mentions later on, Xbox has launched in fewer markets. This might be a holdover from when they had always-online plans which decreased the number of markets they could launch to, which subsequently artificially lowered their supply orders. Remember that orders and production started long before the DRM issue was resolved; the massive day one patch is what removed those restrictions. But, unless Microsoft reduces price (unlikely to happen), or somehow makes services an inextricable and nonnegotiable part of the console experience, expect this gap to widen soon. The PS4 will launch in Japan in February, because Sony was so confident of a monopoly on home turf that they didn't even bother risking supply constraints in the more contested European and North American markets.

Max Gruber:

Need I say it once more? I think people just want to play vidya gaems on their vidya gaem console, not use their vidya gaem console as a multimedia device.

Alex Miller:

While I think its way way way way waaaaaaaaaay too early to even consider thinking about who could potentially be the "winner" between the two consoles, I take this as a promising sign that the future of gaming looks secure, with plenty of people willing to take the step into console's next generation. While Microsoft's limited global launch (only 13 regions got it initially) might very well be the reason for the slight gap, at this point all one can say is that these two are definitely competing and as such we will all reap the benefits, meaning it’s a good time to be a gamer.

 

Former Bungie Employee Joseph Staten Rejoins Microsoft Studios

 

Simon Wu:

Joe Staten isn't the only big name that 343 have managed to poach recently, although he is a very big catch. They've also secured the services of Tim Longo, formerly of Lucasarts and Crystal Dynamics. He was the creative vision behind such great titles as Republic Commando and the new Tomb Raider reboot, among others. Staten was the driving force behind the story development of Halo, and was the writer of one of the novels, Contact Harvest. I don't know how far Halo 5 is in terms of story development, but the addition of significant reinforcements suggests that they need some help moving forward.

Max Gruber:

Very interesting that he would team up with Microsoft once more. As Alex wrote, he could be returning to Microsoft to work on Halo 5, or he could be working on that Halo TV show—who knows what he'll do.

Alex Miller:

Definitely a big score for Microsoft. With a massive push from them for in house new IP, having a creative mind like Mr. Staten will certainly help. As he was involved in every one of Bungie's Halo games, it's hard to believe he won't have some impact on "Halo 5", but who knows. Maybe he's going to work on Spielberg's Halo TV show?

cnet

Solifluktion's picture

@Max 

I agree. You'd think they'd manage to at least get one Steambox to look like something you'd want to sit next  to your TV, it being the purpose for its existense and all. Still, I'm not willing to give up on the Steambox, after all it's the 'console' I've always dreamed about.

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