Valve: Streaming-only box would be "awesome," but native SteamOS support is priority

Tyler Wilde at

Buying a Steam Machine right now—if they were available—would be a curious decision. You'd have an attractive, compact gaming PC meant to go under your TV—a good thing, but pricey—with a Steam-modded version of Linux that you'd be best off uninstalling. SteamOS might be better-designed than Windows for your TV, but a GTX 780 is a bit overkill for the small portion of Steam's library that runs natively on Linux. That's Valve's challenge, and expanding Steam's native Linux library is its priority, says Product Designer Greg Coomer, who spoke with PC Gamer at CES 2014 today.

"All [Valve's] content partners are so interested in extending their reach by having native support on Linux," says Coomer. "That's really the picture we're working towards."

Coomer calls the ability to stream games from a Windows PC to a SteamOS PC—which is currently in closed beta—a "transitional feature," though one which is still "super meaningful."

"Being able to sit down and seamlessly just press 'play' on the complete Steam catalog, but do it in the living room with the Steam Controller—it's pretty awesome," says Coomer. "It's pretty transformative once you're able to do that. It's so much better than either having to put up with only a fraction of the catalog, or having to do something like choose between machines with different OSes just because I want to play a different game."

Coomer also says that "lower-spec boxes that are cheap, streaming-only devices" would be an "awesome" addition to the current lineup of Steam Machines. "There isn't a desire to delay that kind of device...it's kind of just development bandwidth that has kept us from doing that sooner. The ones that have been unveiled this week really are supposed to be, and are, devices that are quite powerful to run games natively under your TV."

"Ultimately, native support is more important [than streaming]," concludes Coomer, which explains the high-end machines unveiled this week. A SteamOS streaming box might currently make a better addition to your living room, but Valve's priority is to change that. When we find out who Valve's "content partners" are and how many new games are coming to Linux in 2014, we'll understand better whether or not it makes sense to put SteamOS on a $600+ system.