The Implications of GameStop Being the Exclusive Steam Machine Retailer

Earlier this week, GameStop announced that they have partnered with Valve and will be the only brick-and-mortar retail store to sell Steam...
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    Earlier this week, GameStop announced that they have partnered with Valve and will be the only brick-and-mortar retail store to sell Steam Machines and related accessories. While this may sound like a good thing for both of the companies involved, this deal is really a double-edged sword.
    Whether you realize it or not, Steam Machines have a huge role in the future of gaming and, even more importantly, operating systems. Every machine comes with Valve’s custom SteamOS pre-installed. SteamOS is based on the Debian Linux distribution, and it actually isn’t too different than the vanilla version of Debian aside from some pre-installed software. This means that every Steam Machine owner is a Linux user. Valve has already shown great efforts in promoting gaming on Linux, but there is nothing like the success of SteamOS that can increase Linux adoption.

    The biggest impact of this sort of adoption will have is an increased focus on Linux game support. If you think of reasons why most people don’t switch to Linux, it’s probably because of the lack of software support. One of the worst culprits of incompatibility is video games, and this is because of Microsoft’s DirectX API. While DirectX is certainly capable of doing great things, being locked down to Windows is a huge weakness. Having more users on different operating systems will encourage developers to use more multi-platform APIs like Khronos’ Vulkan.

    Now how does this GameStop deal affect the outcome out of all of this? On the surface, it seems like a great move for Valve. GameStop is one of the largest game retailers out there, so having them stock Steam Machines will certainly help the sales. It’s also important to remember that Valve’s main demographic is console users, and GameStop is mainly used by console gamers. This also means that GameStop’s promotion of the hardware and software will be reaching people it may not have reached otherwise.

    While all the above can be true, there are some negative implications that must be considered. The most obvious one is the fact that unless a consumer shops at GameStop, they will rarely be exposed to Steam Machine in person. Of course, the internet is still a huge tool that can be used to spread awareness, but Valve seems to be eliminating a lot of potential sales by limiting themselves to GameStop. The deal itself is also a bit strange since you would think GameStop would carry the products regardless of an exclusive deal.

    The other and even more important issue is all of the promotional power Valve is giving GameStop. How exactly to pitch Steam Machines is a bit of a fragile subject. You have to remember that the entire point of them is to offer a console-like gaming experience with all the power and choice of PC gaming. The problem is that a lot of console gamers have an unreasonable amount of prejudice towards PC gaming. This means that having Valve’s products pitched as PC hardware is a bit counter-intuitive. Unfortunately, it’s not too hard to imagine this happening. For instance, if a customer asks what a Steam Machine is, the simple response of “it’s a gaming PC” seems like it would be a common one. While this isn’t technically wrong, it may turn off some customers who may be otherwise interested in the product. Similarly, having Valve’s hardware sold in the PC sections of stores rather than the console sections could have a big effect on sales. I’m not saying this sort of thing could only happen at GameStop, but that the exclusive deal means it only takes one retailer with mediocre promotion to hurt the sales of the hardware.

    Whether you view it as a good thing or not, the sale of Steam Machines will greatly increase Linux adoption rates. While GameStop has the ability to really make this possible, it’s just as likely that they will not deliver Valve’s bottom line of their machines being both PCs and consoles. If the latter happens, it’s not a complete loss since they will still promote Linux, it will just be a much slower growth of the operating system and PC gaming.

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    About Author

    Monopolyman
    I am a young writer who is passionate about gaming and technology. PC is my preferred platform, but I appreciate all forms of video games. I enjoy voicing my opinion in the articles I write, but also like to keep our readers informed on the latest news.
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Comments

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  1. 3xTiNcT
    Saw them at GameStop the other day.
  2. VinnyHaw
    They already ****ed up by having too many versions of the steam machine. The point of the steam machine was to persuade console gamers to change to pc. A way to help, but how is it helping when you try to sell someone who has no idea about pc's.
    Imagine, they walk into a GS, and they see 6 machines. Priced from $500 to $5,000. They'll be lost. Thinking "well how is this different". They can't read the back of the box and understand.
    Valve should have 1 moderately priced PC. That would definitely have been a better outcome.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Monopolyman
      Stonerzard The whole tone of the article is that there are a few franchises that are only on PC that are extremely popular. This does not mean developers and publishers see PC as an equal platform (in terms of sales) when it comes to making games. When looking at something like this, context is very important. You have to remember how diverse PCs are as gaming platform and what you (and developers) really consider as a "PC gamer" to be.
    3. Monopolyman
      Also, the real way for Steam Machines (and SteamOS) to succeed is to pitch it to console gamers. Buying a Steam Machine doesn't really make sense if you already have a gaming PC and there's a small chance people will buy Steam Machines over other pre-builts because of Windows (in the current state of APIs). I very much agree with you about there being way to much of a choice. I think they should have just had one base system and then offer upgrades for that system.
    4. Monopolyman
      However, I'm not sure if that system will actually be put in place for all Steam Machines.
  3. televisedfool
    Steam machines are not going to sell nearly as well as valve hopes. Microsoft and Sony have the console market locked and people will overlook them 10/10 when looking to purchase a console.
      Salus likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. televisedfool
      But Valve are going about it all wrong. To be competitive in this market, they should have been hyping up and advertising these machines more. And starting out the gate nearly $200 more then it's competition is not going to help either. Also, from what I have heard, the cheapest model is on Par with or even slightly weaker then 8th gen consoles. Sure, the steam machine can be upgraded. But how many are going to want to drop $500 then have to upgrade in 2-3 years or sooner?
    3. televisedfool
      Where as on consoles, users don't have to worry about their hardware not being up to par to play the games they love at the level of detail they expect with the 8th gen consoles. The $500 steam machine is only going to suffer in performance since it's playing pc games and not the games catered to console hardware so there isn't an issue.
    4. Stonerzard
      The thing is about these machines are they are of much better quality than the PS4 and Xbone. They can handle so much better graphics at a much faster frame rate.
  4. Chazay
    If this helps PC gaming to become adopted as more of a "couch" experience then I am all for it. Too long people have looked past the PC because "I like to just plug and play".
    1. Stonerzard
      It'll sure help, but I've never witnessed anything more "plug and play" than my gaming laptop. A mouse is additional and needed for shooters for sure. But I've made do with my laptop, and I've played CoD4 for years and Arma 3 too for the good ol' Day Z mod.
  5. Gamerjackiechan2
    Nice article, but I have never seen someone while playing with random who abhors pc gaming the way described. The little things. Other than that, solid article.
      Jigoku Shonen likes this.