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Steam Machine on Track to Switch Up Video Gaming

Steam Machine on Track to Switch Up Video Gaming

There may be a new game console in town -- at least, there may be a prototype or two in the works. Photos and specs of iBuyPower's Steam machine have leaked to the tech press, though the company is officially keeping mum. This could be the very early stages of a parade forming. Valve's SteamOS, which is open source, is expected to inhabit a number of new Steam boxes as 2014 unfolds.

By Richard Adhikari
11/30/13 5:00 AM PT

iBuyPower Steam Machine Prototype
iBuyPower's Steam Machine Prototype (Image Courtesy of Engadget)
iBuyPower is working on prototypes of a commercial Steam machine, Engadget reported.

Valve recently announced that it was working with multiple OEMs to bring Steam gaming machines to market in 2014. All will run its Linux-based SteamOS.

The iBuyPower device is the first Steam machine prototype unveiled by a third party so far -- Valve is working on its own prototype, according to The Seattle Times.

Steam Machines will "collectively pose the most significant threat to the hegemony of Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony in the living room that has been mounted to date," Lewis Ward, a research manager at IDC, told TechNewsWorld.

"Steam already has 55 million accounts, and its gamer base consists of hardcore gamers," Ward explained. "That's radically different from what Apple TV or any other smart TV gaming platform out there can do."

What the iBuyPower Device Might Be Made Of

iBuyPower has two versions of its prototype, one codenamed "Gordon" and the other "Freeman," according to Engadget.

They are identical except that the light bar around the middle of one is clear and the light bar in the other is black when they are not illuminated.

The hardware apparently will run all Steam titles in 1080p resolution at 60 fps.

The iBuyPower Steam Machine will be priced at US$499, according to The Verge. It will come standard with WiFi, Bluetooth and a 500-GB hard drive. It will have a multicore AMD CPU and discrete AMD Radeon R9 270 graphics.

The iBuyPower Steam Machine will be bundled with Valve's Steam Controller.

Critique of Pure Reason(ing)

"Considering the current state of AMD and ATI Linux drivers, I don't think they are the right choice for this console, if it exists," Linux gamer Maxim Bardin, founder of Linux Gaming News, told TechNewsWorld.

"AMD and ATI never invested much into their Linux drivers, so while their hardware might be good, the drivers are buggy," Bardin continued. "However, AMD recently said they would drastically improve their Linux drivers."

AMD released its new Catalyst 13.11 Beta 1 video driver for Linux in September, but it only supports the Linux Kernel 3.10. Lack of clarity about which build of the kernel it supports has sparked some concern.

Stuff of Legend?

It's not clear whether iBuyPower's prototype is a working model or still in the conceptual stage.

The notation "CES 2014" on some photos suggests the prototype might be displayed at that show, which will be held in Las Vegas Jan. 7-10.

iBuyPower has not officially announced the device.

"I have never heard of this console or prototype before," Bardin commented.

Costing Issues

The $500 price reported by The Verge seems to be a bit low, IDC's Ward observed.

"The original estimates were $700 and, in some cases, over $1,000 for the bill of materials, so either somebody is taking a bath over the economics involved or there's some serious margin reduction in the cost of the components," he explained. "Cutting the price in half from the original estimate seems a bit drastic."

However, game systems historically do not sell for more than $500, so the price could be a bit high for a new entry, Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld.

"The odds of this system being successful are low due to its price and the move away from consoles to mobile," Enderle added, "but I'm excited that someone's trying to buck the trend."


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