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Tech Talk: Steam OS - the game changer

PHUKET: On September 23, Valve announced their next move in the highly competitive PC and console gaming market: Valve’s Steam OS.

By Byron Noel

Tuesday 15 October 2013, 06:02PM

While not yet as big as the upcoming releases of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, Steam OS has the potential to replace both consoles and PC.

Valve is currently best known for ‘Steam’, the online gaming distribution platform, as well as the Half-Life game series. All of which have proven to be great successes.

So why does Steam OS matter? In layman’s terms, an OS (operating system) is the programme that allows the use of computers, tablets, and cellphones (think Windows and iOS).

For years Windows has dominated the PC gaming market as the OS of choice, simply because there has been little choice. Various alternative OS systems, such as Ubuntu, have tried to break into the market with little success.

One of the major reasons for this is that games, like all software, have to be designed for the intended OS. Microsoft’s Windows has so wholly dominated the market that it hasn’t been worth it for developers to create games that work outside of it.

Valve’s Steam OS announcement is a strong indication that they plan to take the fight to the big boys on not only the PC front, but on the console side as well.

Gabe Newell, co-founder and managing director at Valve, has made it no secret that he would like to see Valve change the status quo.


Valve first announced the Steam Box near the end of 2012, and has been relatively quiet until now, with the announcements of Steam OS and the Steam Controller. All of these are currently under development with possible release dates in mid-2014.

It is estimated that Valve, through the Steam distribution system, could hold up to 70 per cent of the online PC gaming distribution market. Steam OS, with native support for a few AAA gaming titles, could seriously entice Windows users to switch, especially since it will be free.

Considering the success that the Steam distribution platform already enjoys, console users could switch too.

Imagine, any game available on Steam instantly playable on the PC and TV via the Steam Box. Gamers would be able to play with friends around the world, both PC and console users.

Still, the company has yet to officially release much of this new technology, but will make more announcements in the coming weeks.

If one of these announcements are that the highly anticipated Half-Life 3 is to be a Steam OS exclusive, which wouldn’t be a big surprise, it would mark the start of “the game” getting a lot more interesting. Until then, watch this space and buy a few Valve shares.

A special thank you to Leon Human from Prince of Songkla University for his input.

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