Valve's rivals dismiss the company's plans for Steam consoles

Online games distributor claims console owners already have the system they want

Games developer and publisher Valve will struggle to make a major impact with its strategy to bring its PC-based platform to the living room, according to a major rival.

Trevor Longino, the head of PR and Marketing at gog.com, says gamers who are very strongly attached to playing games on TV already have consoles.

He believes it would be very difficult for Valve, which operates the games distribution channel Steam, to break the dominance of Sony and Microsoft which, he says, are far larger and more experienced in the console market.

Valve made three announcements last week. It unveiled plans for a Linux-based operating system dedicated to running games called SteamOS and it followed it up with details of the Steam Machine, a set of games consoles with different prices and specifications which are intended to be connected to large screen televisions.

The company also showcased its Steam controller which replaces traditional thumbsticks with twin trackpads and that Valve claims can even serve as a stand-in for mouse and keyboard controls.

But although Valve is looking to build on the 75 per cent of the PC digital distribution market it currently holds, its rivals claim that Windows-based gaming will continue for some years.

“I don't think it will pose a threat to services like [us],” said Mr Longino, who believes Valve's latest venture will have only a small impact on the existing PC market. "One of the reasons that PC gaming remains such a robust market is because people want to play games on the devices they own: be it a phone, a PC, or nearly any other electronic device.

“As such, gamers will likely continue to play PC games on a traditional PC simply because that's the hardware they own. I believe gamers who are very strongly attached to playing games on TV probably already have consoles.

“SteamOS combined with the controller and SteamMachines is biting more into the console piece of the pie than the PC one, but barring a killer app such as the Halo franchise was for Xbox or the Uncharted series for PS3, I don't see how Steam Machines are going to grab a big portion of the market from other consoles.”

However, this is perhaps ignoring the possiblity that Valve will restrict the release of the much-anticipated Half Life 3 to their Steam Machines. In addition, the company has more than 2,000 paid-for titles, all of which will be available to their console users. The new system will also allow for 'in-home streaming' to share games between a main PC or Mac to TVs elsewhere in the house.

Valve described its announcement as being empowering for gamers. “Users can alter or replace any part of the software of hardware they want,” it said. Valve added: “In SteamOS, we have achieved significant performance increases in graphics processing and we're not targeting audio performance and reductions in input latency at the operating system level.”

But Mr Longino said: “I'm not even sure if PC gamers want to play their games sitting on a couch with a controller on their lap. Unless SteamOS grows to where it has market dominance for PC users - as in the OS becomes popular on a level of MacOSX or even Windows."

He told The Independent that he had looked at data from VGChartz, which has been tracking sales since 2005, and noted that Steam's growth curve was “much flatter than it used to be”.

“If you want to expand your business, you move into a new marketplace, and it seems to me that Steam may be setting their sights on consoles as the next market to expand in.

“I do think that Steam machines is an interesting idea, but I'd also note that many software companies have tried to make the jump to designing and releasing compelling hardware, and it's a tough thing to do well.

“I wish the guys at Valve the best but given what I know at the moment and what I suspect from looking at the data, it looks less like this is a move to threaten platforms like us and more like it's a move to shake up console gaming like Valve did for the PC market.”

Comments