In a recent lecture at the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs, Valve co-founder Gabe Newell talked about the future of console and living room gaming. Valve and Steam have brought a lot of great games to Mac and PC desktops alike and Newell would like to Steam’s reach extend into the living room with a SteamBox, but only if they can launch something before Apple steps into the fray.
Yes, he’s talking about an Apple TV that allows for apps and games to run directly on the device. Sure, if you have an iPad or iPhone you can mirror the screen to your Apple TV to play games. Sure there are some dual-screen games that take advantage of the iOS device as controller and the your TV as the primary screen. However Apple is, for the time being, not really playing in the space. The landscape could change in an instant if Apple were to release an updated Apple TV that could run apps and had a little local storage (for settings and things). It’s a threat that Gabe Newell sees looming large, and one that could threaten any chance of a SteamBox becoming a reality:
“The threat right now is that Apple has gained a huge amount of market share, and has a relatively obvious pathway towards entering the living room with their platform,” Newell said. “I think that there’s a scenario where we see sort of a dumbed down living room platform emerging — I think Apple rolls the console guys really easily. The question is can we make enough progress in the PC space to establish ourselves there, and also figure out better ways of addressing mobile before Apple takes over the living room?”
Personally I think there will be plenty of room for a SteamBox and an Apple TV-powered game console, but…a SteamBox would almost certainly be a niche device from the start.
Niche’s aren’t bad though. Niche’s can work and you can make lots of money within them. But if Valve wants a SteamBox to have a chance at a larger uptake, Newell’s right, they will need to hit the market before Apple hits the market with a device that can install apps and play games.